Being a law school dean is a pretty sweet gig. Sure, it comes with headaches and stresses: overseeing ego-filled law school faculties, sucking up to rich alumni, and fending off whiny students. But at least law deans are paid very well for their trouble. Their positions are extremely prestigious, too.

It’s not surprising, then, that law school deanships attract strong talent. And lately California law schools have been making dean selections that are interesting as well as impressive.

Earlier this month, Pepperdine Law announced its selection of Judge Deanell Reece Tacha (10th Cir.) as its new dean. And this week brings news that Chapman University School of Law has selected a former U.S. congressman as its latest leader.

Which ex-congressman? Rep. Christopher Lee, perhaps? (He’s a Chapman University alum; he got an MBA there.)

Alas, no. Although the new dean is a Republican, he knows how to keep his clothes on….

The Orange County Register reports:

Chapman School of Law has selected former Congressman Tom Campbell as its new dean, betting on the prominent academic and veteran politician to continue the 15-year-old school’s ascent among the nation’s law colleges.

Campbell, 58, served as dean for the premier Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, and prior to that was a tenured law professor at Stanford University. Campbell accepted a visiting professorship at Chapman School of Law and moved to Irvine from the Bay Area in 2009, part of a strategy of to broaden his geographic base for a statewide political campaign.

The Republican then launched a campaign for governor before switching to the U.S. Senate race, in which he lost the primary to former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. But Chapman is keeping him in town.

The Register notes Chapman’s impressive ascent. It opened in 1995, and it’s already #93 in the U.S. News rankings. Will it go higher under its new leadership?

Quite possibly. Campbell, who got his J.D. from Harvard and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago, has a track record when it comes to rankings:

“One thing Tom Campbell will bring is recognition,” [Chapman University President James Doti] said, noting that Haas under Campbell’s deanship went from 15th to second in the Wall Street Journal’s ranking of business schools. “I’m quite confident in Tom recruiting the best and the brightest faculty, and the best and the brightest students.”

Doti got to know Campbell during the course of Campbell’s impressive political career (which included five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives):

Campbell served as a Bay Area congressman from 1989 to 1993 and 1995 to 2001, and served in the state Senate from 1993 to 1995. Doti first met Campbell during Campbell’s failed 1992 bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. Doti said the two got to know each other better when they both served on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council of Economic Advisors. Campbell went on to serve as Schwarzenegger’s finance director from 2004 to 2005.

Former Congressman and future dean Tom Campbell

The Chapman alum who brought the O.C. Register article to our attention gave the Campbell pick a positive review. “Students are excited about Dean Campbell,” the tipster told us. “I believe some of the media sources failed to note that he was a clerk for Justice Byron ‘Whizzer’ White.” (Tom Campbell’s status as one of the Elect is noted in the Chapman press release.)

Congratulations to Tom Campbell on his new position, and congratulations to Chapman Law on its new dean. This seems like a most auspicious match.

P.S. Personally I’m a Campbell fan because he’s right of center, in a libertarian rather than socially conservative sort of way. For example, as noted by the O.C. Register, Campbell is opposed (at least as a policy matter) to Prop 8 — unlike former Chapman dean John Eastman.

Ex-congressman Campbell tapped for Chapman law school dean [Orange County Register]
Former Congressman and UC Berkeley Dean, Tom Campbell, Named Dean of Law School [Chapman University]

Earlier: Musical Chairs: Judge Tacha To Take Over as Dean of Pepperdine Law


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