How Martin J. Katz ended up as a legal academic is an amusing story and a cautionary tale for aspiring law students,. The lesson: Lots of people will tell you how to get on a certain career track. You don’t need to listen to them. Katz, dean at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, grew up thinking that he wanted to be a lawyer largely because his heroes were lawyers.
Anthony Crowell often refers to New York Law School as “New York’s law school.” The moniker derives less from location than from a history of educating some of the city’s most influential citizens. The school’s president and dean since 2012, Crowell himself has long been a quietly influential figure in New York City government.
It was the late 1960s and Aviam Soifer, an undergraduate at Yale, was a student activist protesting the war in Vietnam. “Even then, I knew I wanted to teach,” said Soifer, now dean of the University of Hawai‘i’s William S. Richardson School of Law. Precisely what and where he wanted to teach was another matter: Law was one of several alternatives.
There is a certain satisfying symmetry in the fact that Steven J. Kaminshine, dean of Georgia State University College of Law, entered law school to maintain his accreditation to teach, that he entered legal academia to sustain his love of law, and that the interweaving of the two strands have led to a career aimed at improving legal education.
Much of the legal career of Lucy S. McGough, dean of Appalachian School of Law, has pivoted on her being in the right place at the right time with people who believed in her talents: her own choice to pursue a legal degree, for example, as well as her acceptance at Emory University School of Law.
Annette Clark, dean of the Seattle University School of Law, understands more than most the importance of a good fit in careers and law schools. Growing up in a “medical family,” she opted for a career in law only after her own experiences in medical school school convinced her that she didn’t have the aptitude to excel as a doctor.
The career-turning points for María Pabón López, the dean of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, came in the form of a person and a job. The person was a teachers-union lawyer whom López encountered as a science teacher, an attorney who took the time to explain how the law affects people in their everyday lives. The job was as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Criminal Division, for the District of Puerto Rico, where she prosecuted illegal immigrants.
If perseverance, selfless service and a can-do approach to personal growth are Rachel Van Cleave’s watchwords – as even brief conversations with the Golden Gate University School of Law dean confirm – then the veterans of the Bay Area and their military values are her touchstones and guides. “Veterans bring with them a wealth of leadership knowledge, particularly in the face of great adversity,” Van Cleave says. “Through them I’ve come to recognize that mindfulness, humility and grit are what generate true leadership adaptability. Because of them I’m continually working to apply this lesson in my own small way.”
Ward Farnsworth, the dean of the University of Texas School of Law, is a man of distinctive passions and choice words. All of which makes sense when you know that he devours old movies, barbecue and live music; loves baseball; is expert in rhetoric and chess, and is the author of “The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking About the Law,” whose tools he teaches students to use across practice areas.
Matthew J. Wilson, dean of The University of Akron School of Law, says he’s “all about non-tradition.” Tracing Wilson’s path to and through legal academe suggests he may be more about following tradition in surprisingly unconventional ways. The pattern starts with his decision to become a lawyer, when he was 4 years old.