Brandeis University has made a major free-agent signing in the legal world. The George Washington Law School dean, Frederick M. Lawrence, is leaving GW to become president at Brandeis. And the good people at Brandeis couldn’t be happier. As one Brandeis tipster put it:
Finally, a president that will make Jewish grandmothers (read: Brandeis undergrads) proud: “He’s a lawyer!”
No, but really, the trustees at Brandeis are thrilled….
President-elect Lawrence is widely recognized as one of our nation’s top civil rights experts. He has written eloquently about a broad range of important legal and constitutional issues and is the author of “Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law.” Fred also has co-authored a number of Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs, including the brief on behalf of civil rights groups in Virginia v. Black (2003) concerning the constitutionality of Virginia’s cross-burning statutes. He has served as chair of the National Legal Affairs Committee of the Anti-Defamation League and is a trustee of Williams College, his alma mater. From 1988 to 2005, he was a member of the faculty and academic administration at Boston University School of Law, and in 1996 he received Boston University’s Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest of the university’s teaching awards.
Fred impressed the members of the board with his strong record of academic scholarship and administration, as well as personal ideals and professional accomplishments that reflect the values of Justice Louis Brandeis and the university’s commitment to social justice and social action.
Oh, how quickly fortunes change. It wasn’t all that long ago that some people were worried about Dean Lawrence’s job security. When the U.S. News law school rankings came out last year, George Washington took a major tumble. The school fell all the way to #28 (a drop that was in part due to U.S. News changing the way it calculated part time students).
The drop was so bad that Dean Lawrence felt the need to send out a school-wide memo:
To the GW Law Student Community:
I am sure that you have heard by now that in the U.S. News ranking of law schools released today our position moved from 20 to 28. I want to assure you that this change in rank is a result of a change in the magazine’s methodology, not a change in the quality of our institution or the education that we provide to our students…
I am confident that this will also be reflected in rankings and that this year’s disappointment will be a short-lived one.
It turns out that Dean Lawrence was right. This year, GW Law rebounded to #20 in the U.S. News rankings.
And now it appears the Dean Lawrence’s reward for stabilizing GW’s U.S. News reputation is the opportunity to get away from GW.
Unlike, say, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, GW President Steven Knapp was very gracious towards Dean Lawrence as he left the law school:
To The George Washington University Community:
I write with mixed emotion to inform you that George Washington Law School Dean Fred Lawrence has been selected as the eighth president of Brandeis University, effective January 1, 2011.
Since his arrival at our university in August 2005, Fred Lawrence has been a truly transformational dean and an exemplary university citizen. His commitment to recruitment brought in the strongest five classes in the Law School’s history, and his fund-raising efforts resulted in five of School’s most successful years in that arena, despite challenging economic times…
Brandeis will be well served by Fred’s exceptional qualities as a leader, administrator, and educator.
Do George Washington law students have any info to share with Brandeis about their new president? Good luck to GW Law as they search for a new dean.