The University of St. Thomas School of Law has named Robert Vischer as its new dean, effective on January 1. 

Vischer, now associate dean for academic affairs, has taught at the Roman Catholic-affiliated law school since 2005. He replaces Thomas Mengler, who stepped down in May to assume the deanship at St. Mary’sUniversity School of Law. Professor Neil Hamilton has been serving as interim dean.

“I am confident that Rob will lead the school to a new educational destination during this critical period of time for legal education,” said university executive vice president Susan Huber. “His belief in keeping the mission of the school authentic and vibrant balances well with his concern for openly addressing the challenges facing all law schools today.”

Vischer said he was prepared to address declining applications and diminishing job prospects for law school graduates. According to data from the American Bar Association, just 44 percent of St. Thomas’ class of 2011 had obtained long-term, full-time jobs that require bar passage. Applications dipped by nearly 20 percent this year, after falling by 29 percent in 2011. In response to the trend, the school reduced the size of its incoming class this year by about 10 students, Vischer said.

“We have built an innovative program of legal education with a distinctive mission, which is a big draw for students,” Vischer said. “We take professional formation seriously, equipping our graduates to excel in teamwork and building relationships, and impressing upon them the importance of developing a foundational moral commitment to serve others.”

Because the law school was founded in 2001 (an earlierincarnation operated between 1923 and 1933), its curriculum already reflects many of the trends in legal education, including practical training and smaller class sizes, he said, but reducing tuition will be a top priority.

Before joining the St. Thomas faculty, Vischer taught at St. John’s University School of Law. His scholarship centers on the moral formation of lawyers and the role faith plays their professional development.

Vischer said he was drawn to St. Thomas because of theschool’s integration of faith into its mission to improve the legal system overall and produce effective lawyers.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.