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Musical Chairs: Dean Chen To Step Down at Louisville Law

A few years ago, at a conference hosted by Penn APALSA, I had the pleasure of meeting Dean Jim Chen of the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law. He gave a luncheon keynote address that was deeply thoughtful and inspiring. Attendees of the conference were quite impressed.

Students and staff at U of L have also praised Dean Chen. And he does have achievements to crow about (besides, of course, his glittering résumé and impressive record of scholarship). In the most recent U.S. News law school rankings, the Brandeis School of Law climbed 11 spots (from 100 to 89).

When law schools fall in the rankings, their deans often follow. But U of L fared well in the latest rankings. So why is Dean Chen departing?

It’s not clear. Here’s what one tipster originally told us:

It was abruptly announced in class [earlier this week] that Dean of University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law Jim Chen is resigning effective in one month. No one knows why. I was wondering if you guys knew anything. He is a really accomplished guy…. a Harvard grad, Fulbright scholar, and former law clerk for Clarence Thomas. People seemed to like him and our rankings have been moving slowly but steadily upwards.

We reached out to the law school for comment. A spokesperson issued this statement to Above the Law:

Jim Chen is resigning as dean of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law effective June 30.

Dean since 2007, Chen plans to take one year of administrative leave. He will retain his appointment as a member of the law faculty.

“It’s been the privilege of my professional life to serve as dean of the UofL law school,” Chen said.

University Provost Shirley Willihnganz credited Chen with several key accomplishments, including converting the night school to a part-time program, establishing a legal clinic and improving fund raising.

“Dean Chen has a strong legal background,” Willihnganz said. “We hope he will agree to share his extensive knowledge of commerce and health law to help us move forward with key initiatives in other areas of the university.”

Based on this statement, it sounds like the decision to step down was made by Dean Chen. Running a law school can be a stressful and demanding job, especially in these trying times for the legal profession. Perhaps Dean Chen just needs a chance to recharge (which he hopefully should be able to do during his year of administrative leave).

Congratulations to Dean Chen on his successful tenure, and good luck to the Brandeis School of Law as it works on filling his large shoes.

Dean Jim Chen [University of Louisville – Brandeis School of Law]
University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law moves up in the rankings [University of Louisville – Brandeis School of Law]

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