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June 10, 1999

New law dean Herring to focus on fundraising and improving standards for

incoming students

New law dean Herring to focus on fundraising and improving standards for incoming students

Recruiting higher quality students and boosting fundraising are the No. 1 and No. 2 priorities, respectively, of Pitt's new law school dean, David J. Herring.

"There are 181 accredited law schools, and we want to move up into the top tier of about 50 schools," said Herring, who had been interim dean since last July. "Based on the reputation of our faculty, we would place in the top 50."

But in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, published in March, Pitt was among the second tier law schools (54 through 89, unranked; U.S. News assigns individual rankings only to top tier schools).

"Three years ago," Herring noted, "we dropped to the third tier, mainly because of our financial resources and student quality."

However, Herring pointed to some encouraging recent developments:

* While next fall's class of first-year Pitt law students is not fully assembled yet, average LSAT scores for students admitted so far are up — from 154 last fall to 156 — after several consecutive years of 1-2 point declines. "A 1-point difference is significant on the LSAT," Herring noted.

* The Provost's office has increased the school's student financial aid budget from $530,000 last year to $880,000, which in turn has helped the school recruit better students.

* The school has raised $5.7 million toward its $10 million fundraising goal, part of Pitt's $500-600 million capital campaign.

Both the law school's drive and the University-wide campaign are still in the so-called "quiet phase" prior to the official kickoff scheduled for fall 2000. By kickoff, Pitt fundraisers hope to have raised half of the University campaign goal. Measured that way, the law school's campaign is running ahead of schedule.

Endowing faculty chairs is one of the highest priorities for law school fundraising (as it is for Pitt's capital campaign as a whole). The Pitt law school has no fully funded faculty chairs, although it has raised $1 million toward a $1.5 million goal to support the W. Edward Sell Professorship, named after the Pitt law professor and former dean who recently celebrated his 50th year at the school.

"To compete with top tier law schools, we should have 10 to 15 endowed chairs," Herring said. "The fact that we don't have any right now really hurts us in comparisons with our peers."

One of the school's long-term curricular goals, the dean said, is to shift resources from traditional lecture classes to practicum-type courses in which Pitt law students study with law faculty while working for agencies such as Neighborhood Legal Services, the ACLU and the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

Herring has substantial professional experience in clinical law, and was director of the Pitt law clinics from 1990 to 1998.

He was appointed dean on June 1.

Herring, who had been interim dean since July when Peter Shane resigned, won rave reviews for his interim service.

Kathryn Heidt, a Pitt law professor since 1995, served on the committee that did a national search for Shane's successor. She said: "Dave did a great job as acting dean, and he gets along very well with all of the school's constituencies — faculty, alumni, and so on. Personally, I was elated that he was selected."

Welsh White, who also served on the search committee and who recently completed his 31st year on the Pitt law faculty, said: "The other two finalists we recommended to the provost [SUNY-Buffalo Associate Law Dean Lucinda Finley and Syracuse law professor Sarah Ramsey] were excellent candidates. But certainly, David was my first choice and I think that was true for most of the search committee.

"This is the third law dean search I've served on here," White added, "and this is the first time I've been totally enthusiastic about the result."

Provost James V. Maher, in a written statement announcing the appointment, said: "I have confidence that Professor Herring will continue to provide the thoughtful academic leadership that is required to advance the School of Law to realize its goal of being recognized as one of the finest public urban law schools in the United States."

At age 40, Herring is slim and boyish, with an open but hardly a backslapping manner. If he weren't wearing a suit, he might look out of place in the spacious, impressive (by Pitt standards) dean's office.

But if he suffered from self-doubts in competing against a national field of legal scholars for the deanship, he didn't betray it in a University Times interview.

"I wasn't overconfident, certainly, but I felt I had a lot of faculty support and I guess I wasn't all that surprised" to be appointed permanent dean, Herring said.

"I also felt the faculty here deserved to have an internal candidate get the job this time around. Frankly, the strongest deans here have come from our own faculty — Ed Sell, [current Duquesne University President] John Murray, [Pitt Chancellor] Mark Nordenberg. Promoting from within is something that highly ranked law schools tend to do." It's also something that Pitt has tended to do University-wide since the mid-1990s. Herring is the latest internal candidate to be promoted to a Pitt administrative post.

Others have included Chancellor Nordenberg (and most of the Chancellor's office senior staff), Provost Maher, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Robert P. Gallagher, Vice Chancellor for Budget and Controller Arthur G. Ramicone, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean N. John Cooper, Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Ronald W. Frisch, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Management Ana Guzman.

Nordenberg said the trend of internal hirings during his chancellorship hasn't been deliberate. "In each of these cases," he said, "we have looked far and wide for the best possible candidate and come to the conclusion that that person is right here amongst us.

"Certainly, David Herring has done an outstanding job as interim dean during the last year, and I think everyone involved in the search process — not just the provost and me, but also the faculty and staff and alumni of the law school — are looking forward to his continuing efforts as the leader in that school."

Herring said he sees his role as being more of a facilitator than a leader.

"As dean, I see myself as facilitating what our faculty want to accomplish and helping to move the school in the direction the faculty want to pursue," he said.

"I think another of my roles is to help get the faculty feeling good about the school and, frankly, taking an entrepreneurial attitude and working hard to see that it succeeds."

Herring joined the Pitt law faculty in 1990 and was promoted to full professor in 1997. He was the school's associate dean for academic affairs from 1996 to 1998. Herring's research focuses on child welfare and family law, and his grants have helped to support the school's Family Support Legal Clinic, Elder Law Clinic and Health Law Clinic.

Before coming to Pitt, Herring was a Bigelow Teaching Fellow and law lecturer at the University of Chicago School of Law, assistant state's attorney in the Criminal Appeals Division of the Cook County, Ill. State's Attorney Office, and clinical assistant professor of law and supervising attorney in the University of Michigan Child Advocacy Law Clinic. He earned his B.B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Michigan.

Herring received the 1997 Children's Voice Award from the Allegheny County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program. He won a Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award in 1998.

–Bruce Steele

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