Quinnipiac University School of Law has named a new dean, a professor with expertise in alternative dispute resolution and legal issues concerning sexual orientation.

Jennifer Gerarda Brown, a New Haven resident, has been a Quinnipiac faculty member since 1994 and, for nearly 15 years, has served as the director of the School of Law’s Center on Dispute Resolution. Brown will become dean on July 1.

"Jennifer was selected from a pool of outstanding applicants following an extensive national search," said Quinnipiac University President John L. Lahey. "Quinnipiac is fortunate to have someone with Jennifer’s extensive teaching, research, administrative and legal experience to serve as the next dean of the School of Law."

That the new dean has a background studying and teaching dispute resolution points to a continued focus on one of the school’s best-known strengths. U.S. News & World Report repeatedly ranks Quinnipiac in the top 20 law school programs in dispute resolution. Last year, Quinnipiac law school, which has about 400 students, was rated 107th overall by the magazine.

"The evidence is quite clear that more lawyers are representing clients in neogotiating their cases to settle," Brown said in an interview. "So the work we do in the Center on Dispute Resolution is preparing our graduates to practice in that new environment."

Moving forward, Brown expects to expand the dispute resolution program by encouraging more mediators to participate in student workshops on a wider range of topics, such as health care and employment law. Brown also plans to expand upon the career counseling students get. "I think we will be looking at ways to work with students more intentionally and directly to help them start their careers," she said.

Sense Of Community

Brown will take over for Brad Saxton, who was Quinnipiac’s dean for a little more than a decade. Saxton announced last May he would leave the leadership post, but would continue to teach at the school. At the time, Saxton was praised for increasing the diversity and quality of both the student body and the faculty at the Hamden law school, as well as strengthening relations with the state bar.

"Under Brad Saxton’s leadership, our sense of community and student service has only strengthened, and I plan to maintain that focus," Brown said. "We will be looking for new ways to work with our students as they plan their careers."

One of the first projects Brown will undertake as dean is leading the law school’s move from the Mount Carmel Campus in Hamden, where it has been since 1995, to Quinnipiac’s North Haven Campus, which also is home to Quinnipiac’s schools of medicine, nursing, health sciences and education.

"The opening of the medical school in the fall of 2013 will give us some fantastic opportunities for cross-disciplinary learning," Brown said. "Someday, we might have a joint JD and master’s of social work, or even a JD and medical degree."

Brown received her JD from the University of Illinois College of Law, clerked for a federal court judge in Illinois and worked as an associate at the law firm of Winston & Strawn in Chicago from 1986-1989.

Prior to coming to Quinnipiac, she was an associate professor at Emory Law School in Atlanta, and over the course of her career she has taught at law schools including the University of Chicago, Georgetown University, Harvard University and Yale University.

Brown has been a senior research scholar in law at Yale University since 1998. Her husband, Ian Ayres, is the William K. Townsend Professor of Law at Yale.

At Quinnipiac, Brown currently teaches alternative dispute resolution, civil procedure, and professional responsibility.

Her research focuses primarily on dispute resolution, lawyers’ professional responsibility, and gay rights. In the ADR field, she has published articles that have explored the theory and practice of negotiation, focusing on apology, creativity or the use of email.

She has also written about judicial bias on the basis of sexual orientation and about the applicability of consensus building to debates about equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. She is a co-author of the book Straightforward: Mobilizing Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights, published in 2005.

Back in 1990 or so, Brown explained, she and her husband were thinking about getting married. "Our concern was that so many of our [gay] family members didn’t have the same rights that we had to get married," she said.

As a result, she got involved in researching and advocating for gay marriage and testified on behalf of the advocacy group Love Makes A Family during the push for same-sex marriage in Connecticut. "I tried to explain some of the concerns people had, to explain the need for equality under the law," she said.

Brown said that she will continue her teaching duties until the school year ends. She will then attend a conference and immerse herself in learning all she can about being the new dean.

"One advantage of already being here is I can begin learning all of these aspects of the dean’s job right away," she said. "Maybe the learning curve won’t be so vertical."