After 43 years at John Marshall, you are about to retire. Tell us about your time here.
I’ve been busy since the day I arrived as an assistant
professor in 1973. I originally taught Family Law and Civil
Procedure and then Evidence and Professional Responsibility.
I also ran the Moot Court Honors Program here for a number
of years and coached with Professor Randall Peterson the
client counseling team that won the national championship.
In 1998, I became the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
and was appointed Vice Dean under former Dean Pat Mell.
I became Interim Dean in 2005 and was appointed Dean in
What do you remember most about your first years as a professor?
I remember teaching students and how much fun it was to
get paid for doing something I really liked. And I remember
preparing and grading exams as being very hard. And it
seemed to take forever to grade all those essay exams. But
somehow we did.
What did you like most about teaching?
I liked talking with the students about important legal issues,
which are generally the most exciting issues of the day. I
was, and still am, curious about these issues, and they were
pertinent to the courses I taught. The give-and-take was really
enjoyable and satisfying.
What has been the best part of being at John
The best part has been the students and interacting with them in the classroom and outside of it. Working with the faculty, the Dean’s Advisory Groups on operations, the Deans and the senior staff, and the Board to make the law school more sustainable over the last four years has also been satisfying. Also choosing people for leadership positions and seeing them become great at what they do. I’m very pleased with the leadership team we have now.
How has the school changed?
When I started, the school was basically just the 315 S.
Plymouth Court building with a two-story building next
door. We called it the Annex. It is where the Chicago Bar
Association is now, and we used it for a few classes, a few
offices, and law review offices.
Right after I came on board, then-Dean Noble Lee admitted
what we called the bulge in the pipe—approximately 1,600
students, in classes going morning, afternoon, and night. The
entire library was just the front part of the 315 building, where
room 503 is now. We somehow made do.
But things changed rapidly after that because of the boom
in students wanting to go to law school. We expanded
everything. Our full-time faculty grew from 19 to 80 in 2010.
We expanded the campus. First, we leased three floors in the
Rothchild Building in 1975 for the library, and then we bought
the whole building a few years later. We had Walgreens as a tenant on the first floor of the 304 S. State Street building for at
least 30 years. In the 90s, we later bought the top nine floors of
the 16-story building at 321 S. Plymouth Court. The first seven
floors are owned by the Chicago Bar Association.
About four years ago, we gave notice to Walgreens, which was
a wonderful tenant, that we would not renew their lease on the
first floor of 304 S. State Street, because we needed that part
of the building for student space and a new entrance on State
Street. Shortly thereafter, the school purchased and renovated
19 W. Jackson Boulevard, which was a three-story building
between 315 S. Plymouth Court and 304 S. State Street.
So there has been a tremendous change in the physical
facilities. But the students and our faculty were good then and
are still good today.
Technology also changed. Computers and email came in
about 1988. Our first computers had about 64k of memory. We
were told we could never use up all the space on the disks we
had, but we all did fill them up in a remarkably short time and
adjustments had to be made.
As for the students and teaching, I don’t think too much has
changed with regards to good teaching since the time of
Socrates. The real job of teaching—making sure learning is
occurring—is basically the same. And as we all know, educating
is not just transmitting knowledge, but making sure our
students know how to apply that knowledge and learn how to
become effective, responsible, and ethical lawyers.
What do you think are the major challenges that
John Marshall is facing?
The biggest challenge is continuing to enroll good students in
a competitive market and continuing to adapt our programs to
meet the needs of an ever-changing law practice. Increasing
our fundraising is another important goal. It’s much harder now
to be a tuition-dependent school than it was five years ago. And
except for maybe 30 of the 200+ ABA-approved law schools
in the U.S., all schools are significantly dependent on tuition to
What accomplishments are you most proud of
This is really for others to determine. Time will provide the
ultimate answer. But no law school dean does anything without
the help and support of the faculty and the governing Board of
the school, and I am no exception in that regard.
The past five years have been the most difficult in the last
40 years from a financial standpoint for all ABA-accredited
law schools. It has been very important for the law school to
get through this period in a stable and sustainable financial
condition. And I believe I have been able to help the law school
do this and be ready to move from a position of strength to
meet the challenges of what we might call the “new normal.”
Also, I have been very pleased with the new entrance on State
Street, the adjoining student commons, and clinic space on
the first floor of 19 W. Jackson Boulevard. The law school is
really an attractive space and is a real asset to us in recruiting
I’m also very pleased with the leadership team, and the faculty,
and the faculty’s teaching and scholarly efforts and outputs.
We’ve added numerous clinics, including our Veterans Clinic,
and have continued to be ranked nationally in Legal Writing,
Intellectual Property Law, and Trial Advocacy, which is further
evidence of the strength of our faculty.
What’s next for you?
I’m telling people that the one thing I will do is have fun. Exactly
how, I’m not sure. I have a year off on a dean’s sabbatical and
then I’m looking forward to continuing to teach.
Any parting words of advice for our students?
If you are in law school, you are a talented and accomplished
person with a great opportunity to develop your skills and
knowledge in a way that can open the doors to opportunities
that can expand your life and provide satisfactions that you
cannot really grasp now, but the opportunities are there.
As a lawyer, you will be asked to help people decide what to
do about issues that may affect hundreds or thousands or just
one person. But to that person, those issues will be the most
important in the world and may involve finances or, literally, life
This is the privilege and responsibility you will have as a
member of the bar. Recognizing that privilege and using your
knowledge and skills to help people in the unique way that only
you can, can make for a very satisfying life.
And to our alumni?
Many of our alums have been very successful in law and in life.
I would ask them to think about how it was when they were
struggling to get through law school along with those that
helped them along the way and all that their degree has since
allowed them to do.
I would also ask them to think about helping our students by
hiring them, mentoring them, or supporting them through our
law school scholarship fund.