Law School Deans, Law Schools

A Law Dean Switches Schools — Not At The End of the Year, But Right Now, Weeks Before Classes Start

When the music stops, will your law school have a dean?

Earlier this year, we wrote about Jeremy Paul, the dean of the University of Connecticut School of Law.

UConn Law has dropped a number of spots in the U.S. News law school rankings over the past few years, and in March, Dean Paul announced that he was stepping down as dean at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

Paul is an interesting case. After he tried to explain UConn’s performance in the most recent U.S. News rankings, we caught an email from a law professor trying to cheer up the beleaguered dean.

But Paul doesn’t need anybody’s pity. He’s ready to blow this popsicle stand, and he’s set to do it in the middle of the summer….

The season for “free agent” law dean moves is long over. It’s highly unusual for a dean to move in July for the upcoming academic year. But that’s exactly what Dean Paul is doing. In March he told the community that he would stay on another year, but today he let everybody know that something came up:

Never have I more fully appreciated John Lennon’s famous quip that life is what happens to you while you are making other plans. Just a few short months ago I looked forward to a final year as dean of the Law School and was already planning how I would spend my research leave in 2013-14. Sometimes, however, opportunities arise that are simply too good to pass up, even if one must sacrifice an orderly path in order to seize the day. For me, this is one of those times.

Baller. Maybe UConn thought they could sacrifice Dean Paul to the altar of U.S. News, but he’s showing them that nobody puts Paul in a corner.

And by the way, the “opportunity” Dean Paul is leaving for is not to join some think-tank or foundation or wherever law deans go when they’re put out to pasture. No, Paul is leaving in the middle of the summer to be dean of a different law school this fall:

I write to let you know that I have been appointed the next dean of the Northeastern University School of Law effective in mid-August. Those who share my passion for the inseparability of theory and practice will understand precisely why I am excited to take the helm at the nation’s leading center for experiential legal education.

Is it me, or does this line seem like a big “Eff You” to the powers-that-be at Connecticut and to anybody at the university who had a conniption over the school’s U.S. News rank? Northeastern is well-known as a school that emphasizes practice-ready skills; it feels like Paul is saying, “Peace out haters, I’m going to a better place where my talents will be appreciated.”

But UConn is an honorable school. You can read Dean Paul’s full letter on the next page. In it, he says a lot of nice things about the school on his way out of the door.

Still, you can’t miss the objective fact that he heading for the door in the middle of the summer, when most schools feel their leadership is set for the coming academic year. UConn already has a succession plan in place, so the transition shouldn’t be too tough, but the timing is still odd.

We wish Dean Paul the best of luck at Northeastern.

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