A 35-year-old tax law scholar who joined Columbia Law School's faculty in 1998 has been selected as the school's new dean. David W. Schizer is the youngest of a quartet of professors recently promoted to head the Northeast's top law schools: Columbia Law, New York University School of Law, Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. Schizer -- known for his wry humor -- replaces David Lebron, who has accepted the presidency of Rice University.
By Thomas Adcock|June 23, 2004 at 12:00 AM
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David W. Schizer has been picked as the dean of Columbia Law School. On July 1, he will officially succeed Dean David Lebron, who last December accepted the presidency of Rice University in Houston. A 35-year-old scholar of tax law who joined the Columbia faculty in 1998 and whose wry humor is often noted by colleagues and students, Schizer is the youngest of a quartet of professors recently promoted from their faculties to head four of the Northeast’s top law schools: Columbia Law, New York University School of Law, Yale Law School and Harvard Law School. “I have energy and enthusiasm, which is not exclusively the province of youth — but it’s helpful,” Schizer said in an interview. Besides, he added, “The Constitution says I’m old enough to be president of the United States.” Michael Dorf, professor of constitutional law at Columbia, who headed a nine-member faculty search committee, said new deans at the other northeast institutions are all “relatively new and young, and all have bold ambitions to compete with us for faculty and students.” That becomes a fund-raising challenge, said Mr. Dorf, “and a challenge to keep Columbia continually exciting.” Elena Kagan, 44, was appointed Harvard Law dean in July 2003. Last November, Yale Law appointed Harold Hongju Koh, 48. Richard Revesz, 46, became dean of NYU Law in June 2002. According to Columbia Law’s press office, Schizer is the 14th dean since 1858, and the youngest in the institution’s history. Dean Lebron said he had been impressed by Schizer’s sense of the school’s future as chairman of the faculty entry-level appointments committee. “He’s been tremendously organized and creative in recruiting younger faculty members,” said Lebron. In addition, said Lebron, “He has a knack for how to present things. “You know, academics understand things in a sophisticated way — and that’s good,” said Mr. Lebron. “But trying to convey that understanding in an interesting way to [non-academics] is not so easy. David is particularly good at that.” Mr. Schizer himself suggested an example. “I teach tax. I think [students] take the course because they feel they need it, not because they’re thrilled by the subject,” he said. “Then they find out it’s about allocating resources of society and structuring the economy, and other kinds of deep and important questions — and it turns out that it’s a delightful intellectual experience. “So there you have it, the power of low expectations.” Schizer comes from a family of professionals who have collectively spent some 40 years studying at Columbia. His parents, Hazel and Zevie B. Schizer, are partners in the estate planning and family law firm Schizer & Schizer. He is an alumnus of Yale Law. She is a Columbia Law graduate who happened to have hated tax law in school. “I went to those exams crying,” Ms. Schizer recalled. Of her son’s legal specialty, she added, “So I’m glad someone in the family understands it.” Ms. Schizer said she is proud of her son’s appointment as law school dean because “I personally believe Columbia has intellectual brilliance and honesty and a humane character matched by no other place. It’s the greatest college. Certainly in the East. Stanford I don’t know about.” CHALLENGES AHEAD Before joining the Columbia Law faculty, Schizer was a tax lawyer at Davis, Polk & Wardwell. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from 1994 to 1995, and Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1993 to 1994. In his vision statement to the faculty committee, Schizer emphasized two broad themes in his plans as the new dean of Columbia Law:
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