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October 12, 2017

Forum Gathers Faculty, Staff Input for Law School Dean Candidate Search

When selecting a new dean for the School of Law, said David A. Harris, John E. Murray Faculty Scholar and professor of law, “First, do no harm. We have a good thing going here, despite our many challenges.”

Harris and other law school faculty, staff and students, who were attending the first public search forum for a new school dean on Sept. 29, noted that the school had downsized its class numbers in response to the shrinking national job market for lawyers. The current dean, William M. Carter Jr., announced in July that he plans to step down from his leadership role and return to teaching in 2018.

“In the environment law schools are in now, we have less tolerance for risk, or we should,” Harris said at the forum. Each dean candidate should have “experience running something,” he added. “I want to know how that person manages and I want to know how that person gets along with people.”

The school should only consider candidates who have already looked closely at Pitt’s School of Law and devised a plan for its future, Harris said.

Many forum participants agreed that such a plan is needed.

“The clearest need is to determine what the goals are of the law school,” said Charmaine McCall, assistant dean of admissions and financial aid.

“If we want to increase the class size,” she added, “we’re going to need more resources,” including a greater number of scholarships offered to prospective students.

New Dean Will Find ‘Very Functional Environment’ Here

“One thing that would be very attractive to candidates is that this is a very functional environment,” noted faculty member Lu-in Wang, who said she had not always found such an atmosphere at other institutions where she taught. “That’s not something to be taken for granted.”

She suggested that the new dean be “someone who can engage in a frank discussion of how best to allocate our resources.”

“Someone who can negotiate” with the University administration, added Pat Roncevich, the school’s acquisitions librarian, “because they’re going to have to negotiate on behalf of the law school.”

Arjang Assad, Henry E. Haller Jr. Dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, is chair of the search committee, which hosted the forum. The committee also held three additional forums, focused on gathering input from faculty, staff and students, on Oct. 10 and 11.

John Amer, senior client partner in the executive search firm Korn Ferry, which was hired to conduct the search, oversaw the Sept. 29 event. A job description for the law school dean will be available on the search website “shortly after” the Oct. 11 forum, Amer said. [Editor’s note: A job description was not available at the time of publishing this story.]

The committee will then recruit and review candidates and select a group for brief interviews. In February 2018, a smaller group of candidates will be chosen to come to campus to meet with the University community. Amer expects a candidate to be chosen by summer.


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


Filed under: Feature,Volume 50 Issue 4

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