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Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, one of the nation’s leading authorities on family law, is leaving her tenured faculty post at the University of Pennsylvania Law School to teach at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. At Florida, Woodhouse will hold an endowed chair and have the opportunity to found a center on children and the law. She has taught at Penn since 1988 and currently serves as co-director of the Center for Children’s Policy Practice and Research, a joint undertaking of the university’s schools of law, medicine and social work. While Florida does not have Penn’s across-the-board national reputation, Woodhouse said the school already has a number of excellent faculty in the area of family law and was looking to build on that strength. In particular, she said she was drawn by the chance to establish a new children’s law center. “The University of Florida was looking to start a really ambitious family law program,” she said. “They were recruiting, and they focused their recruitment efforts on me. It was a great opportunity.” Woodhouse has written and spoken extensively on legal issues related to children and families. She is the author of a forthcoming book on children’s rights and has authored dozens of papers on issues ranging from adoption, divorce, child custody and related issues. She has also appeared on “20/20,” “CBS This Morning” and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Penn Law Dean Michael Fitts said that he tried to get Woodhouse to stay at Penn but that he could not compete with Florida’s family-law program. “I very much wanted Barbara to stay,” he said, “but I think Barbara was attracted by the program being set up in Florida with a large number of family law people.” Among those family law people, Woodhouse cited Christopher Slobogin as one Florida faculty member with whom she looked forward to working. Slobogin, an expert on juvenile justice issues with a secondary appointment in the department of psychiatry, said that the school has “a nice critical mass” of faculty members interested in families and the law. “We’re thrilled to have her coming down here because she’s such a well-known expert on children and families,” Slobogin said. “She’s hitting the ground running.” One reason for Florida’s superiority in family law, Woodhouse said, is that as a public university, it can charge lower tuition than Penn and comparable private law schools. As a result, more students can enter low-paying fields, like family law, instead of being forced by financial considerations to join the big firm rat race. “My area of specialty is training lawyers to represent children and families,” she explained. “It’s a real plus having a public university where the students don’t have such a large debt load.” While Woodhouse is just one of several faculty members to leave Penn in recent years — most notably, the husband-and-wife team of Michael Moore and Heidi Hurd departed last spring for the University of San Diego — Fitts emphasized that the school’s faculty is larger than it has ever been. Nine new professors have been hired to start in the fall: one faculty member each from the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California, in addition to six scholars entering their first faculty posts. A search has been approved for a new professor in family law. A visiting professor, Catherine Ross of George Washington University, will teach Woodhouse’s family law classes next year. “In legal academia, there’s a lot more movement than there was five, 10, 20 years ago,” Fitts said. “It’s sort of the same thing that’s going on in law firms — and sports.”

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