Penn State dean to leave for China amid period for change

Philip McConnaughay is leaving Penn State University Dickinson School of Law at the end of this semester to take over as dean at Peking University’s School of Transnational Law in Schenzhen, China.

McConnaughay, who has been dean at Penn Sate Law since 2002, steps down at a time of transition for the state school.  It announced in November that it would split into two different schools — one located at the main university in State College and one in Carlisle, Penn.

Both campuses expect smaller enrollments and the university is in the process of lowering costs and downsizing faculty and staff to accommodate for an expected $6 million budget shortfall.

McConnaughay had hoped to consolidate the two campuses, but a regional government body declined to allow it to cease offering a full J.D. program in Carlisle. He was disappointed with the outcome. 

McConnaughay is also dean of the university’s School of International Affairs and said the university will look for someone to fill both positions.

“The synergies are fantastic,” he said. “The relationship between the two schools deepens our international curriculum and puts our graduates in the best position to get work globally.”

The National Jurist named Penn State as one of the most innovative law schools in the nation this past summer for its integrated approach with the School of International Affairs.

McConnaughay has been a leader in transnational legal practice and previously lived in Asia for more than nine years. He worked in both Tokyo and Hong Kong while a lawyer with Morrison Foerster.

Peking University’s School of Transnational Law is an American-style law school. It had sought ABA accreditation, but the ABA recently decided it was not ready to expand its reach beyond the U.S.

“I think that will change in due course,” he said. “For the U.S. to remain a leader in the global legal practice, the ABA sooner than later will have to get into the business of advancing the approval of law schools outside of the U.S. It is in the interests of American lawyers and U.S. foreign policy. “

While dean at Penn State, McConnaughay has worked with Peking University and traveled to Asia extensively. Peking uses both residential faculty and U.S. law professors who visit and teach 5- or 6-week modules.