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Law School dean search committee chair describes ideal candidate

Laurence Helfer, Harry R. Chadwick Sr. professor of law, is the head of the committee searching for a replacement for David Levi, who will step down in 2018 after 11 years as dean of the School of Law. The Chronicle's Reeya Gupta spoke to Helfer about what the committee is looking for in a potential replacement. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Chronicle: How is the search process going so far? 

Laurence Helfer: Well I can’t comment in detail. We have been working throughout the summer to identify promising candidates. We are reaching out to a wide variety of candidates to provide them with information about the Law School and to encourage them to apply. That process is going very well, we have a deadline for applications of candidates of Oct. 27, so we will continue to reach out to promising candidates until that deadline. Once we have received and have had a chance to review all the applications we will then begin to select the top group of applicants to consider more seriously for the position. 

I would like to add that the search committee is composed both of Law School faculty as well as faculty from other parts of the University and one member is a active alumnus of the Law School and the University, so we have a very diverse range of perspectives on the committee and we are similarly very focused on identifying candidates who themselves bring a diverse range of experiences, backgrounds and perspectives. So we have diversity on the committee in a wide variety of respects, and we are soliciting a wide and diverse range of candidates. 

TC: What criteria are you looking for in the new dean? 

LH: We are interested in a dean who can build on the many accomplishments of our current Dean David Levi, who has been leading the Law School for more than 10 years. We are interested in someone who understands the challenges that legal education faces in the current environment and someone who can build on the existing strengths of the Law School in terms of teaching, scholarship and service to the community and so forth. 

There are multiple dimensions that we are interested in, but of course the dean is critically important in a variety of different roles including intellectual vitality, preserving and promoting the Law School’s collegial culture, developing relationships with other parts of the University and in general setting the strategic plan for the next several years of the Law School.  

TC: How much are you looking to continue Dean Levi’s legacy versus pave a new path forward? 

LH: Dean Levi was an unusual candidate for the deanship years ago because he was a sitting federal judge who had not been a university faculty. He has been an outstanding dean. He has built strong connections to the judiciary, Duke alumni and practicing attorneys. Those are strengths of the Law School that we hope to continue.

We are also interested in considering candidates that are nationally known scholars—who are opinion/thought leaders who have influenced debates about the role of law in society, the influence and structure of legal institutions and so forth. So we are open to a very broad range of candidates including those who are currently in positions in universities as well as those who are a part of legal practice. But we are especially interested in trying to identify someone with a national or international reputation in one or more fields of law and we think that that would be an appropriate way to build on Dean Levi’s legacy.

TC: What vision do you see for the future of Duke Law? 

LH: There are a couple of different visions and these are more building on our existing strengths than making radical changes. I think that the Law School aspires to produce cutting edge scholarship and aspires to train students for practice in the highest levels of the legal profession—in government, private practice, working for judges and working for international organizations. So we want to continue and strengthen the training that we provide for students as well as advancing our scholarly mission. 

We are also very interested in strengthening our relationships with the other parts of the University where we collaborate with our colleagues in the economics and political science departments and Duke’s interdisciplinary institutes to enrich the kinds of course offerings that we offer to our students as well as broaden and deepen the kinds of research that the faculty of the Law School carry out.

TC: When do you expect the search to be over? 

LH: President [Vincent] Price hasasked us to do the bulk of our work as a search committee this fall.  We are hopeful that we can compete the search process this semester so that the president will be in a position to announce the dean in early 2018, hopefully sometime in January.


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