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law school deans


In July of 2007, having served nearly seventeen years as a United States District Judge with chambers in Sacramento, California, I moved to Durham, North Carolina, to become the fourteenth dean of the Duke University Law School. I would concede that in the grand scheme of things such a transition must be deemed unremarkable. Lawyers have become soldiers, presidents, artists, and inn keepers. Judges have left the bench to do much the same. Nonetheless, in the somewhat closed worlds of the federal bench and the legal academy, at a time when the two worlds have seemed to drift apart, such a shift in careers may have seemed surprising. And the surprise was from two points of view: it was surprising that a federal judge would leave a position of such prestige, importance, and security, and it was equally surprising that one of the great law schools in the world would contemplate a judge as its next dean. In this Essay, I take the opportunity to reflect on a few of the everyday aspects of this transition, pointing out some of the differences and similarities in the life of the judge and the life of the legal academic. But my ultimate goal is to take a step back and explore whether there might be some unifying theme within which we might see the roles of the judge and the dean as in harmony with some greater purpose and as part of some greater tradition.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Law schools, Deans (Education)