Admit It, After Reading This You Want to be Our Dean

The University of Miami School of Law’s official Dean search announcement is not your run-of-the-mill boilerplate document:

University of Miami School of Law

An invitation to apply
for the position of


University of Miami School of Law


Miami mirrors the modern world.  It reaches to Latin America, to Europe, and to Asia.  Its people are migrants and immigrants and speak multiple languages.  It grows rapidly.  It is the seventh largest metropolitan area in the United States. The University, like its city, is young, ambitious, appealing, and diverse.    

The University of Miami (UM) is the largest private research university in Florida.  It has had excellent leadership.  Donna E. Shalala, its fifth President, has harnessed the future of the University to the strength of the community.  With impressive support from her Board, she launched a billion dollar capital campaign in 2001, immediately after September 11.  By 2007, she raised $1.4 billion, an unprecedented number for the University.  She has recruited an academically distinguished, exceptionally ambitious team of senior administrators and deans who have driven the University’s status steadily upward over the last seven years.  The University of Miami has become one of the most interesting and dramatic stories in the American academy.

The University seeks a new Dean for its School of Law who will bring the same academic ambition and personal enthusiasm to the School that the team has brought to the University. 

In 2007, the Law School Dean and faculty completed their own strategic plan.  As a direct response, the University has committed unprecedented resources to the Law School’s future.  For a faculty of 45 tenured and tenure track professors, the School will have the opportunity to replace all of its facilities with a completely new home, to recruit 5 faculty for current vacancies and to fill 12 new faculty lines.  Without a single retirement or resignation, the School will add nearly 40% of its faculty.

A Dean with a deep commitment to academic excellence, skill at recruitment, and talent for leadership can transform the University of Miami School of Law, creating one of the great academic legal centers in the country.   

The University has retained the national search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist in this important search.  All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be to Isaacson, Miller to the address indicated at the end of this document.  All inquiries will be held in strict confidence.


The University of Miami 

The University of Miami, located in Coral Gables, is one of the great success stories of American private higher education.  It was founded in 1925 at the peak of the Florida land boom by a group of citizens who felt that South Florida needed an institution of higher learning to support and develop their young and growing community.  A year later the area was devastated by a hurricane, and before it could recover the nation was plunged into the Great Depression and then World War II.  The University survived primarily due to the vision and persistence of its first president, Dr. Bowman F. Ashe (1926-52) who, after leading the institution through the war, oversaw the School’s first period of explosive growth and expansion immediately following World War II.

Today, the University enrolls 15,600 students, including 10,500 undergraduates and 5,100 graduate students.  The student body is highly diverse:  Hispanics comprise approximately 23% of the student population, African Americans represent 8%, and Asians are about 7%.  The University has nearly 1,400 international students from 114 countries around the world.  UM has more than 2,200 full-time faculty.

The University has expanded from its main location in the beautiful City of Coral Gables to include the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine in downtown Miami, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science on Virginia Key, and the South and Richmond campuses in southwest Miami-Dade County. The University comprises 11 degree-granting Schools: Architecture, Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Communication, Education, Engineering, Law, the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine, the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music, Nursing and Health Studies, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The University currently receives more than $260 million annually in external research funding. 

In its earliest incarnation, the University had an unofficial, quasi-public identity.  The state university was in North Florida, nearly a three hundred and fifty mile drive away. UM was the only large university in the Miami area serving the community broadly and readily available to local students.  It had a modest residential program and the campus had a distinctly utilitarian feel.  As Florida boomed and as South Florida became the essential North American link to Latin America, the University of Miami carefully adapted, altering its own ambitions.  Over the last half century, Florida has become one of the fastest growing states in the nation both in population and GDP, and now ranks 4th in population.  Miami is the 7th largest metropolitan area in the United States and one of the world’s most vibrant, multicultural centers.  The University grew with its city, adapting and changing.  Today, the University has multiple international programs and affiliations with strong linkages to Europe and Latin America. It has become one of the largest and most ambitious private research universities in the Southeast and the only major private university in the state of Florida.

In 2001 Donna E. Shalala became only the fifth President of the University of Miami, in a succession of long tenured and highly successful presidents. The longest serving Secretary of Health and Human Services in U.S. history, she served in the Clinton Administration from 1993-2001 and oversaw a $600 billion budget. Prior to that she was Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, Madison for six years, the first woman ever to head a Big Ten University. President Shalala also served as president of Hunter College of The City University of New York, for seven years.

The Board of Trustees recruited President Shalala to undertake an ambitious plan to expand and improve the University’s research programs, the scholarship of its faculty, and the academic experience of its students. One of her first initiatives was to launch the Momentum Campaign – a campaign to raise $1 billion by 2007.  Begun in the aftermath of 9/11, the Campaignwent public in 2003 and reached its goal 18 months early. When it closed in 2007, the University had raised $1.4 billion. This Campaign is the first successful billion-dollar Campaign by a private research university founded in the 20th century. It has fueled a sweeping transformation of the University by attracting superb new scholar-teachers, creating new centers and institutes, enhancing research initiatives, and providing new student scholarships. In its National Universities Ranking for 2009 US News & World Report, which had ranked the University 67 only five years earlier, increased its ranking to 51, one of the fastest trajectories of improvement in the country.

On May 2, 2008, the Board of Trustees formally approved a new strategic plan, entitled “Accelerating Ambition.” The plan, which the University is committed to implementing despite the current economic uncertainty, calls for an investment of $2.75 billion over the next ten years in faculty, research infrastructure, graduate programs, undergraduate education, and facilities. These investments will enable UM to attract and sustain world-class faculty, build a broad range of nationally prominent graduate programs, and develop a distinctive and more residential undergraduate experience for its diverse and increasingly talented and accomplished student body.

To realize the vision, the President has recruited a new and exceptional generation of academic leadership.  Over the last three years, Miami has brought in a new Provost and recruited 8 of its 11 Deans.   They are a distinguished group of scholars from excellent institutions.  With a new generation of academic leadership in place and with the vision and guidance of an extraordinary president, the University of Miami is poised to achieve its goal of becoming one of the country’s top research universities. 



The University of Miami School of Law was founded in 1928. Like the rest of the University, it had a tenuous start and then acquired its identity and size in the immediate post-war years. The Law School has been led by a notably diverse succession of strong, formative deans (among seven deans over the last forty-six years, three have been women and one, African-American). All have been committed to building a school with a national reputation based on the highest quality scholarship and professional training. The deanship of Soia Mentschikoff, one of the nation’s leading legal scholars, marked an important turning point for the School. Serving from 1974 to 1982, she was responsible for much of the growth of the school and personally recruited most of the school’s current senior faculty members.

Neither the University nor the Law School had much of an endowment.  Both were tuition driven.  Miami was, however, in a good location for student recruitment.  In the immediate post war, the city grew and students were attracted to the University.  The Law School chose to recruit a good and large student body and used the tuition revenues to provide the resources for an unusually strong and prominent faculty. 

South Florida is the gateway to Latin America. The region’s economy and social life are firmly tied to international trade, immigration, and tourism, blurring the line between the local and the international in a manner emblematic of the globalized world.  Its international population has created a cosmopolitan environment with unique racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity.

The School has capitalized on these circumstances to develop a depth in international and comparative law that is truly distinctive among law schools.  Over half the faculty members teach or write in the area, with a particular focus on Latin America and Europe.  The School’s strengths in this area draw students from around the country and from Latin America, Europe, and Asia.  The School has also developed highly-regarded programs in tax (consistently ranked in the top 10 in the nation), in real property development, and estate planning.

The School has also emerged as a leader in interdisciplinary work focusing on law and public policy. The law and society orientation of much of the faculty’s work cuts across a wide range of areas.  Faculty members have built research expertise, both legal and interdisciplinary, on the ways law and legal doctrine relate to contemporary social issues including immigration, poverty, domestic violence, crime, labor, democracy and constitutionalism, and the Internet. Because regional and international regimes governing trade, the environment, labor, and human rights increasingly exert a major influence on such domestic legal issues, this strength has made an ideal environment to study globalization and its local, national, and international effects. 

The Miami location is a major attraction to prospective students. Nearly two-thirds of the students come from outside the state and approximately half speak one or more languages. The median LSAT score of this year’s incoming class was 157. The School has a remarkably diverse student body.  Twenty-five percent of the law students are minorities. The School is one of the main producers of bilingual law graduates in the country and Hispanic Business Magazine has consistently ranked the University of Miami School of Law as one of the top ten U.S. law schools for Hispanics, often in the top 3.

The Miami location is also major enhancement to current student’s experiences.  The diversity of the community in terms of ethnicity, language, economic class, and citizenship status helps prepare students for practice in the 21st century.  The Miami metropolitan area provides students — and faculty — with a rich variety of opportunities for meaningful involvement in the life of the community.  Miami’s bar has a sophisticated legal practice that offers students significant opportunities for practice experience through clinics, externships, and clerkships with law firms and judges.  It also provides the School with a large pool of federal and state judges and highly experienced attorneys, many of whom serve as adjunct faculty.

Miami remains one of the largest law schools in the country; it currently enrolls 1,250 students (including about 100 LLM students). Its size is a blessing and a curse.  It allowed the School to recruit a 45 member faculty, about the size of most private law schools at universities that belong to the Association of American Universities (AAU). Only 9 or 10 schools in the US News top 50 have a larger faculty.  Over the past half century, it built an intellectually ambitious and challenging scholarly culture. The peer evaluation component of the US News rankings places the School in the mid 50’s, roughly the ranking of the University and consistent for many years.  At the same time, the overall ranking of the School has ranged in the last five years from 84 in 2004 to 65 in 2007 and to 82 in 2009.  The high degree of variability from year to year is almost entirely a function of large class sizes, a high student-faculty ratio, and a placement record that, while increasingly successful in recent years at national placement of students at major law firms, remains too local and too focused on jobs with relatively low pay.

The tenure of the last Dean saw a fundamental improvement in the School’s finances. The Law School endowment grew from $21 million to $51 million. In the four-year capital campaign that ended in 2007, the School raised over $22 million, significantly exceeding its $16 million target, strengthening both endowment and operations.  Revenue from operations produced a net surplus each year which was added to a quasi endowment.  The School’s Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning — the most successful law school CLE program in the country — also brings considerable revenue to the School. Despite the improvement, more remains to be done. The University of Miami Law School remains under endowed and for the foreseeable future, constantly improved fund raising will rank high on the School’s agenda. 

In 2007, in response to a presidential and provostial challenge, the Law School faculty undertook a comprehensive strategic planning effort. The School’s Strategic Plan report focuses on ways to address major issues affecting faculty productivity on the one hand, and, on the other, student recruitment, the culture of student service and the need for improved career placement.  The report concludes that virtually everything in the Law School would be improved with the addition of a significant number of new faculty and the construction of a larger and much more appropriate facility. 

The President and the Provost have responded decisively.  The President personally selected a prime piece of University land on the main campus that can be readily developed and designated it for the construction of a new law school facility.  The planning has begun but will be greatly influenced by a new Dean.  The new facilities will require significant fund raising, an effort the President and the entire University will support.

The University agrees that the Law School must increase the size of its faculty.  After careful evaluation, the School and the University have concluded that reducing the size of the Law School class will not substantially improve the quality of the class and would fundamentally reduce resources.  The President and the Provost have agreed to add significantly to the size of the faculty.  The Law School is recruiting distinguished faculty to fill five current vacancies.  Jan Paulsson, the  world-renowned arbitration practitioner with a major scholarly reputation in his field, has just agreed to join this emerging cohort.

In addition, the University leadership has agreed that the Law School has adequate resources not only to fill currently open lines but also to hire six additional faculty members. Because improving the Law School’s posture is perceived as essential to the University, the Provost has agreed, as well, to match the Law School’s effort with six more faculty lines to be paid for out of central resources.   

The current faculty contains 45 tenure or tenure track faculty members.  In the near future, and in the tenure of the next Dean, the Law School will hire 17 new faculty, roughly 40% of the existing faculty.  In addition, the School anticipates retirements over the next few years.  In any reasonable tenure, the next Dean will have the rare opportunity – in a major, national law school, in an emerging and powerful, private research university – to build an iconic new facility and recruit great new faculty members to transform the School into an AAU quality institution.


The University seeks a new Dean who will be a distinguished peer in an exceptional group of new and ambitious leaders.  The School seeks a colleague who will embody and enhance the values of a strong and intellectually committed faculty.  The Dean will have the opportunity to build a great law school in what has always been an ambitious institution. The Dean must have demonstrated the ability to be a successful fundraiser and to recruit exceptional faculty members to succeed. The Dean has a clear and simple set of challenges, each of which is an impressive opportunity.

Lead the Law School’s effort to recruit and retain world class faculty.

The School understands that each faculty recruitment represents a strategic choice.  The President and the Law School faculty will expect the Dean to provide a strategic framework to recruit and retain an exemplary faculty by carefully allocating recruitments of senior and junior faculty and by competing aggressively — nationally and internationally — for the most distinguished faculty scholars.

Work with the president and senior leadership to raise funds for the new law school building.

The School eagerly anticipates an entirely new facility.  It will greatly aid the mission of the faculty and student recruitment.  Next to the size and quality of the faculty itself, the building will have a greater impact than any other activity.  Fund raising in the next couple of years will be difficult, but it is critical to begin now.  Miami launched its last historic capital campaign immediately following September 11, 2001, despite the difficult time to raise money.  It was a declaration of intent that signaled the University’s serious purpose.  The Dean will work closely with the President and the University community, starting immediately, to raise funds for the new facility.

Work with the faculty and administration to increase scholarly productivity and the academic influence of the faculty.

The School has a strong history.  In recent times, the twin burdens of large classes and governance responsibility have taken a toll on faculty research productivity.  The strategic plan highlights the importance of the issue and the School has turned carefully to the problem of faculty time.  The Dean will take a leadership role to work with faculty and other parts of the University to provide research support, to help convene useful symposia and small conferences that can spur productive writing, to build centers and programs within the law school, and to work with faculty to increase collaboration with other schools in the University, in particular the medical and business schools, and also to build relationships across the University with the Law School’s Center for Ethics and Public Service and the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. The School is eager for both cultural leadership and practical support for the broad task of faculty research success. 

Work with the administration to attract increasingly strong and diverse students and create a more effective and responsive culture for student support and engagement with the faculty and an enriched curriculum.

Because of large classes and a young student body, often straight out of undergraduate school, it has been difficult to build a culture of student service and satisfaction.  These are consequential issues.  The faculty is eager to attract an academically strong and diverse student body and to increase alumni support. To improve student recruitment and long-term alumni support for the Law School, the School will work to enhance the quality of student services and the degree of student satisfaction on an ongoing basis. The new Dean will work closely with the administration to offer more scholarships and financial aid to support the student body.  The Dean will also work with the faculty to expand the curriculum, to offer a more comprehensive array of upper level courses, and to enrich the student body’s intellectual and academic experience.

Strengthen the School’s relationship with the alumni and the local bar and bench.

Professional schools rely deeply on their relationships with their alumni and the leaders of their professional fields.  UM is the dominant law school in the metropolitan area.  The law firms employ its graduates.  The alumni are essential to all future support.  The Dean will take a leadership role in finding new ways to reach out to local, national, and international UM alumni, as well as leaders of the local bar and bench, to engage their interest and strengthen the relationship. The University of Miami School of Law should become the partner of choice for the most significant legal collaboration between the bar, the bench, and the academy in the region.  Building ever stronger ties will require decanal leadership. 

Work with the administration to build stronger national ties with the bench, the bar and the academy. 

Miami has a diverse community and offers a gateway to the world.  It is a wonderful locale and easy to visit.  The Dean will lead the effort to reach out to the legal community nationally to enhance the School’s visibility as a leading source of students of diverse backgrounds and bilingual capabilities, as a venue for collaboration and continuing legal education, and as an intellectual partner in academically and legally significant contemporary issues.  The School needs a Dean who is its national legal ambassador.  


This is a rare opportunity for a law school dean.  The University of Miami is on an impressive upward trajectory and it has put its resources behind this law school.  An academically ambitious leader and accomplished legal scholar can build a great law school at UM.  The new Dean should bring a record of distinguished scholarship, a collegial approach to management that builds a community of scholars, a record of hard work as a citizen of law schools and/or legal institutions, and the ability to manage a large, complex, and intellectually stimulating academic institution. Ideally, a new Dean will bring experience and talent in each of the following areas:

  • A strong commitment to academic excellence and a history of effective collaboration that inspires the scholarship of others. 
  • Excellent fund-raising skills and the capacity to succeed in working with the philanthropic community. 
  • Capacity to identify, attract, and retain distinguished faculty.
  • A broad commitment to diversity, including racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity, a capacity to prosper in Miami, and the ability to lead the School’s increasingly international efforts.
  • A commitment to building a culture of student service and satisfaction.  An understanding of the professional aspirations of students and the critical importance of both admissions and career services.
  • A commitment to a collegial model of governance allied to an innate sense of the value of community. 
  • A profound institutional commitment to fostering a rigorous and exciting legal education that prepares students for the highest levels of professional competence in the practice of law in a global environment.
  • A capacity to listen, to engage faculty in their intellectual and academic pursuits, to support research, and to develop their careers.  
  • A capability to reach out to and work effectively and collaboratively with alumni and the national and local legal community.


Send resume and cover letter by email or fax to:
John Isaacson, Managing Partner, Sue Gambaccini, Managing Associate
Gail Gregory, Senior Associate

Isaacson, Miller
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW Suite 710
Washington, DC 20009

202-682-1272 (fax)

Electronic submission of material in Word format is preferred.

For more information see:
All inquiries will be held in the strictest confidence.

The University of Miami is an Equal Opportunity Employer and encourages a diverse pool of candidates for this search.

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One Response to Admit It, After Reading This You Want to be Our Dean

  1. Matt says:

    It sounds very attractive. How confident are you that, in the present situation, you’ll be able to do all the hiring described? It would obviously become much less attractive if the main job turns out to be not hiring a bunch of bright new people and expanding but rather making budget cuts, giving people virtual pay cuts by increasing their work w/o salary increases when people leave and are not replaced, and so on, as seems to be happening at many, maybe most schools. On the other hand, if you can hire I can’t think of a better time. In this market surely there are people who would jump at a job a Miami who might not have gone there in better times, making it a great time to hire if one can. (I just wish more administrators saw things this way!)

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