Friday, September 8, 2017
Today marks my 100th day as Dean of Pepperdine Law School. Since my first day, I have loved working towards our shared goal to become the nation's premier Christian law school by combining academic and research excellence with a deep-rooted commitment to our Christian mission that welcomes people of all faiths and backgrounds. When I sought the deanship, I laid out my three priorities in achieving that goal.
My top priority is to increase our students' return on their investment in a Pepperdine legal education in today's changed legal landscape. As readers of this blog know, since 2010 law schools have suffered a 38% decline in applicants (and a 45% decline in applicants in the highest LSAT band Pepperdine seeks to attract), which has led to declining credentials in incoming classes and to declining bar passage and job placement results for graduates. Most law schools have responded by reducing the size of their incoming classes. This fall, with the full support of the university, Pepperdine reduced the size of our entering class by over 20% and increased our median LSAT (160) and UGPA (3.62).
We are right-sizing the law school in a financially sustainable way by paring our budget while investing in areas of excellence, ramping up our fundraising efforts, and expanding our non-J.D. enrollment in areas of our historic strength. We are leveraging our #1 ranked (for 12 of the past 13 years) Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution by expanding our Masters and LL.M. degree programs. Last month, we launched a new LL.M. degree program in Entertainment, Media, and Sports Law to capitalize on the opportunities for our students in the Los Angeles market, the university's partnership with AEG, and our great faculty in those areas. In addition, we are leveraging our faculty's nationally recognized strength in teaching through our new online master of legal studies program, which we launched in August with enrollment 67% higher than our projections.
We also have hit the ground running on my other priorities to:
- Pursue ambitious and accountable excellence in everything we do
- Build a community in which all students, faculty, and staff are loved, nurtured, and challenged to grow professionally, personally, and spiritually
Over the summer, my wife and I hosted 20 dinners with faculty and students, and will over the 2017-18 academic year host dinners for the entire first year class. I met with staff departments to discuss the critically important ways they contribute to the school. My Dean of Faculty, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and I met with each member of the faculty to discuss how we can support them to help achieve our shared ambitious goals for the school.
I am proudest of simply working on a daily basis over these first 100 days with an amazing collection of faculty, students, administrators, and staff. Mine has been an unusual journey to the deanship, and my biggest surprise is how much I enjoy the new aspects of my life in alumni relations, advancement, and university administration. In fact, I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of the job, except one: