School of Law leads efforts to diversify law school deanships

Jennifer Rosato, Dean, Northern Illinois University College of Law, Annette Clark, Interim Dean, Seattle University School of Law, Leroy Pernell, Dean, Florida A&M University College of Law

Seattle University School of Law, the largest and most diverse law school in the Northwest, is dedicated to preparing a diverse group of students to enter the legal profession and leads the way in nurturing professors from underrepresented groups for law school leadership.

For the second time, the School of Law hosted a workshop on Promoting Diversity in Law School Leadership Sept. 25 and 26. A joint project of the law school's Fred T. Korematsu Center on Law and Equality and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), this biennial workshop assists members of underrepresented groups to pursue deanships and other university and law school leadership positions.

"It is increasingly important that law schools - and thus the legal profession - reflect the diversity of our communities and our world," said Professor Robert Chang, director of the Korematsu Center.

The Association of American Law School reports that of 200 schools it has data for there are 65 are women or persons of color.

"It's imperative that potential dean candidates, particularly women and persons of color, have access to mentors and advisors who can assist them in deciding whether and when to enter the dean market and in preparing to be a successful dean candidate,"said Annette Clark, interim dean at Seattle University School of Law. "This conference helps to create those connections as well as provide information on how to negotiate the application and hiring process."

Professor Tayyab Mahmud, a past president of SALT who is helping organize the conference, says no other law school in the country has embarked on such an endeavor. For that matter, business schools, medical schools and other graduate and professional schools should do the same, Mahmud said.

Past participants applaud the law school's efforts.

Kevin R. Johnson was appointed dean at University of California Davis School of Law in 2008, after 10 years as an associate dean. He was one of the participants in the law school's inaugural conference in 2007.

"The conference was inspirational because of the super group of participants who were energized to become law school deans and literally change the 'face' of law deans across the United States," he said. "We need a diversity of law school deans for the same reasons that we need a diversity of law school students, faculty, and attorneys. Efforts like this conference help ensure that the ranks of law school deans begin to more 'look like America.'"

The Korematsu Center works in many ways to promote equality and mentor minority faculty members. The school sponsored the Lutie A. Lytle Black Women Faculty Writing Workshop for current and aspiring black women law faculty and black women law students considering going into law teaching and is launching a two-year teaching fellowship to train an aspiring professor and address the lack of diversity in the legal academy.

The Korematsu Center also houses the National Voting Rights Advocacy Initiative and the Defender Initiative. The School of Law also has a Center for Global Justice and an active Access to Justice Institute that contribute to the law school's mission to educate outstanding lawyers to be leaders for a more just and humane world.

A nationally recognized Academic Resource Center and Access Admission Program also ensure that students who don't meet traditional admission criteria but show promise are provided a legal education.

Read more about the conference.

Reporters interested in a story should contact Katherine Hedland Hansen at 206-398-4108 or hedlandk@seattleu.edu.