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Prep the White Smoke! NYU School of Law Has a New Dean

The thousands of NYU faithful crowding Washington Square park last night unleashed a torrent of cheers upon seeing plumes of white smoke arising from Furman Hall, signaling the selection of a new dean for the School of Law.

The hiring comes after former Dean Ricky Revesz announced that he was stepping down from the post he held for the last 11 years (though Revesz will remain on faculty at NYU, sort of a Dean Emeritus).

So let’s meet the new dean…

It’s Trevor Morrison, recently the Liviu Librescu Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. He’s from British Columbia, but we’re not holding the fact that he’s a dirty, fur-trapping puckhead against him. Morrison graduated from Columbia Law in 1998 and went on to rack up a string of accomplishments:

From 2003 to 2008, Morrison taught at Cornell Law School, and he was a visiting associate professor at NYU Law in 2007. Before entering academia, he was a law clerk to Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (1998-99) and to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court (2002-03). Between those clerkships, he was a Bristow Fellow in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of the Solicitor General (1999-2000), an attorney-advisor in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (2000-01), and an associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale) (2001-02).

Trevor Morrison

Morrison joined the faculty at Columbia in 2008 and served a year before taking a leave of absence to work as associate counsel to President Obama. While working at the White House, Morrison counseled the President on “national security law and constitutional law matters” (meaning Morrison either loves him some targeted drone strikes or the President systematically ignored him).

Morrison earned some celebrity in these pages recently as the professor who rode to the rescue during ConLawGate. The effort of taking on a 200-person course actually crosses into Herculean territory, and it’s a testament to Morrison that no one seemed to complain once the course got rolling.

Going by the contents of our inbox, no one has anything bad to say about Morrison. From a former student of Morrison’s:

I generally don’t have nice things to say about professors, but it couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Really happy for him. He’s the rare guy who’s both astoundingly brilliant and also down-to-earth.

Slightly less happy for him is this Columbia student:

He’s a superb teacher – I’m glad for him. I just think it’s a bit of a waste to take one of those rare legal scholars who actually has a gift for teaching and set him to raising funds and presiding over administration. Comparative advantage and all that. Surely someone else can do the can-rattling at least as well; but few other legal professors seem to match his quality as a lecturer and professor.

In fairness, while I went to NYU, John Sexton continued to teach a section of 1L Civil Procedure, so it’s possible to be the Dean and continue teaching if you manage your schedule right. Hopefully, Morrison will follow Sexton’s example and not deprive the students of his teaching acumen.

Finally, one tipster quipped:

Even in picking their successor, Revesz (outgoing dean) and Sexton (NYU president, previous dean) can’t pass up an opportunity to poach CLS faculty

That’s one way of looking at Morrison’s move downtown. Another is to recognize that cream rises to the top. NYU! NYU! NYU!

Trevor Morrison, Constitutional Scholar, Named 15th Dean of NYU School of Law [NYU Law]
Professor Trevor W. Morrison ’98 Named Dean of NYU School of Law [Columbia Law School]
Professor Trevor Morrison: From the Classroom to the White House and Back Again [Columbia Law School]

Earlier: NYU Law Dean To Step Down At The End Of the School Year
Columbia Con Law Debacle Creates 200-Person Class That Angers Students
Behemoth Constitutional Law Class To Have Two Curves

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