Year of the female dean

Call it the year of the women dean. Eleven of the nation’s 28 new deans this summer are female, an unprecedented number. It brings the total number of female deans at the nation’s ABA-accredited law schools to 59, or about 30 percent, which is an increase of 21 percent from 2008.

While the number still pales in comparison to the number of female J.D. students, which is 47 percent, the dean numbers are inching closer to the percent of female full-time law faculty, which is 34 percent.

Notable deans who took over July 1 include:

Suzanne Reynolds, who earned a J.D. in 1977 at Wake Forest University School of Law, was appointed to lead her alma mater after serving as its executive associate dean for academic affairs from 2010 to 2014. Following a year of work as the interim dean, she is now the first woman ever appointed as the school’s head. Along with her duties at Wake Forest University, Reynolds serves on the Advisory Board for the Task Force on Domestic Violence for the N.C. Administrative Office of Courts, as well as the state’s Uniform Law Commission. She has received numerous accolades, among which was the H. Brent McKnight Renaissance Lawyer Award, presented on June 19 for her contributions to the legal profession.

After 25 years in higher education, including 11 years as a law school administrator, Jennifer Rosato Perea joined DePaul University as its new College of Law dean. No stranger to leadership, she previously served as the dean of Northern Illinois University’s College of Law since 2009 and was acting dean of Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law during its opening year. Perea is one of the few U.S. law deans who are both female and Latina, as well as the first in her family to attend college, earning her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The University of Florida’s Levin College of Law appointed Laura Ann Rosenbury as its new dean. Previously teaching at the Washington University Law School in St. Louis, Rosenbury became the first female permanent dean in Levin’s 106-year-long history. Before her academic career, she practiced law in New York City and later became a visiting professor at Stanford Law, University of Chicago Law School and Harvard Law School, her 1997 alma mater. Rosenbury received the David M. Becker Professor of the Year Award while at Washington University.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Vice Dean Melanie Leslie was promoted to full dean. She is the seventh dean, the first female and also the first Cardozo graduate to hold the post. Graduating magna cum laude in 1991, Leslie joined the NY State Bar and joined McCarter & English as an associate before becoming a visiting professor at New York University and Columbia Law School. She later started teaching several courses at Cardozo in 1995 and eventually rose to vice dean, working with Matthew Diller to expand the school’s intellectual property program and launch the Fashion, Arts, Media & Entertainment Law Center this spring. 

Hailing from Texas Tech University, Jennifer S. Bard moved to replace the University of Cincinnati Law School’s current dean as the first woman to permanently hold the position. As a Yale law school graduate with both a Masters of Public Health and a Ph.D. in higher education, Bard will also hold a secondary faculty appointment in the UC’s College of Medicine. She had previously served on the faculty of numerous universities, as well as a Scholar in Residence Fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2013. Bard is currently an elected member of the American Law Institute. In the course of her 30-year career, Bard has been admitted to the bar in four states and several federal jurisdictions on top of that.

Danielle Conway assumed her new role as the new dean of the University of Maine’s School of Law on July 1. She has more than 20 years of active and reserve duty service with the U.S. Army and previously worked at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. Conway is the seventh dean to lead Maine Law, succeeding Peter Pitegoff, as well as the first African American named to the position. Her alma maters include the Stern School of Business at New York University and the Howard University School of Law, also earning her LL.M. degree from the George Washington University School of Law.

Kathleen Boozang, Seton Hall University School of Law’s previous associate dean and founder of the school’s health law program, officially transitioned into her new position as full dean. She is the eighth dean and the third female to lead Seton Hall Law, which also appointed the first-ever female dean of an ABA-accredited law school in 1951. After receiving her J.D. from Washington University School of Law and an LL.M. from Yale Law School, Boozang joined Seton Hall as an assistant law professor in 1990. She served as vice provost of Seton Hall University from 2010 to 2011 and has held various administrative posts at its law school branches, creating the school’s Division of Online Learning. Additionally, Boozang is a fellow of the Hastings Center and serves on the Journal of Health and Life Sciences Law.

On the opposite coast, at the UCLA School of Law selected Jennifer Mnookin to succeed Rachel Moran as the ninth dean. Serving on the UCLA faculty since 2005, including as vice dean for two departments from 2007 to 2013, Mnookin will take office on August 1. As a regular instructor in evidence and tort courses, she received the 2014 Rutter Award for Excellence in Teaching. Prior to joining UCLA, she taught classes at the University of Virginia Law School as well as Harvard Law School, and Mnookin has also written several articles regarding forensic science. She earned her J.D. from Yale Law School and a doctorate from MIT before pursuing a career in academics. 

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