By: Annie Beckstrom
The fall semester at Paul M. Hebert Law Center has been one of transition. With the departure of Chancellor Weiss, students, faculty, and the surrounding legal community speculate as to the individual bestowed with the task of filling the current void and leading LSU Law into a new era of development. Dr. Jane Cassidy serves on the search commission responsible for selecting the new dean and has provided helpful insight into the nature of the search process.
Before directing focus to prospective candidates for the position, assembling a representative search commission was essential. The selection of members to serve on the search committee proved to be a careful and deliberate process. It was important to choose faculty who offered unique perspectives and diversity, representatives of the staff and students, as well as alumni who have been supportive of the Law Center. The committee incorporates professors versed in civil law, common law, and those involved with the energy center, in addition to research faculty, clinical faculty, and administration. For dean searches, LSU also includes at least one dean from another institution as they contribute to a strong peer group on the leadership team of the university.
The search committee faces the challenge of balancing the weight of academic and leadership qualifications on the forefront with the proven ability to connect with a student population. Dr. Cassidy elaborates, “The person we hire as dean will have a JD and substantial experience in higher education. The most interesting candidates are those who have professional experience in the legal community, have made significant scholarly and teaching contributions such that they are eligible for the rank of professor with tenure, and have experience in a leadership role within a college or university. Aside from the academic requirements above, the successful candidate will have a deep knowledge of the matters facing legal education which will help place LSU in the position to recruit and retain outstanding students who receive an affordable and relevant education, an understanding and respect for scholarship and shared governance, and a commitment to maintaining excellent relationships with alumni and community partners.” Experience the committee finds particularly valuable involves time served as a dean or associate dean at another law school, first hand knowledge of problems and solutions in legal education, and a demonstrated ability to connect with the external community for fundraising purposes.
Since the selection and announcement of the search committee, the members have met on four occasions. During the first meeting, the committee heard from the Provost as he addressed the committee’s responsibilities and overall process of the search, the Office of Human Resource Management (HRM) regarding the support they provide for the committee, and discussed the recruitment timeline. The second meeting concentrated on LSU’s commitment to diversity, informing committee members about the best practices to insure a diverse pool of applicants and candidates. The committee reviewed the applications of those who had applied by the October deadline in the third meeting, although the job will remain open for applications until an individual has been selected for the position. The committee was most interested in gathering more information on the candidates in the fourth meeting and conducted interviews via Skype with six candidates.
In January, LSU Law will invite multiple candidates for separate two-day, on-campus interviews with faculty, staff, and students as well as the campus community at large, alums, and external partners. The committee will receive and consider feedback from constituents, then make a recommendation to the Provost and President as to the adequacy of each of the candidates. The Provost and President will then make the final selection and extend an offer.
The search committee must select a new dean by the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, 2016. However, Dr. Cassidy purports that LSU Law may receive an announcement significantly earlier. “We are well ahead of that deadline. We are on track for the announcement of a new dean sometime in the early months of 2016. When that person assumes the responsibility will depend on their commitments to their current institution and the needs of LSU. Barring unforeseen circumstances, we will meet the deadline of July 1.” With a plethora of highly qualified candidates vying for the top spot at LSU Law, the future of the institution appears promising for current and prospective students.