The longtime head of Valparaiso University School of Law is moving on, but he isn't leaving the law school leadership game.
Jay Conison, dean of the Indiana law school since 1998, will become dean of Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, N.C., on April 15.
Conison is credited with having improved student and faculty diversity at Valparaiso and overseeing the construction of a building to house the school's clinics.
"I'm really proud of building diversity at Valparaiso. We've had student diversity in the 30- to 35-percent range in recent years," Conison said, noting that the population around Valpariso, Ind., is not very diverse to begin with.
Conison last year informed Valparaiso University president Mark Heckler of his intention to step down at the end of the 2014 academic year because he thought it was time to try something new. Charlotte's dean search announcement caught his eye in the interim; the school was specifically looking for candidates who would put student interests front and center.
"They emphasized the value proposition of law school, in terms of what it is promising to students," Conison said. "They also are deeply concerned about job placement, bar passage and student satisfaction. We came to an agreement that this would be a good fit."
Those are areas that Conison has emphasized at Valparaiso and has written about as a Huffington Post blogger.
"He truly embodies the character, experience and vision necessary to work collaboratively with our faculty and students to enhance and expand upon the school's mission pillars and strategic initiatives," Charlotte School of Law President Dennis Stone said.
The six-year-old Charlotte School of Law operates on a for-profit basis one of three owned by private equity firm Sterling Partners LLC. (Florida Coastal School of Law and the Phoenix School of Law are the other two.)
Conison said he doesn't anticipate any significant difference in heading a for-profit school, given that Charlotte must meet the same American Bar Association accreditation standards as nonprofit schools. In fact, the three affiliated schools are collaborating on a curriculum overhaul intended to emphasize writing and problem solving, he said.
"One nice feature of the Charlotte business model is that they're able to take a long-range view, and there is a tremendous willingness to invest in the law school," he said.
In addition to his duties as dean, Conison has been active in the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. He serves as the reporter, or secretary, for the ABA's Task Force of the Future of Legal Education.
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