Blake Morant. Photo: Ken Bennett.

The dean of George Washington University Law School will step down at the end of the semester, after five years in the job.

University leaders announced this week that Blake Morant will take a yearlong sabbatical after vacating the dean’s office and will return to teaching afterward. Morant is an influential leader in legal education, having served as president of the Association of American Law Schools in 2015, while leading George Washington.

“Blake’s leadership will be missed and felt for a long-time,” said University Provost Forrest Maltzman in an announcement of the decision. “He moved the school forward by pushing the school’s research mission, by convincing his colleagues to adopt a skills-based legal research and writing curriculum, and by expanding the school’s experiential course offerings.”

The law school last month announced an overhaul of its legal writing and research program, increasing the number of credits from four to six in the first year. The school is also moving to full-time legal research and writing faculty, replacing its longstanding adjunct-based model next academic year.

The changes are intended to place a greater focus on legal research and writing, providing more time for simulated client interactions, professional formation and writing practice. The school billed the new program as the “first major curricular change in more than a generation.” Six credits of legal research and writing is more than what most law school’s now require. Additionally, the school is adding a required course on legislation and regulation in the second semester of the first year.

“During his tenure, Blake not only elevated the status of the law school, but he also brought focus to great scholarship and practical experiences for our students,” said George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc.

The law school launched a New York Program under Morant’s deanship, where second- and third-year students can spend the spring semester in New York City taking classes on law and business while externing. George Washington has also seen applications for its J.D. program increase significantly over the past two years.

In an interview Tuesday, Morant said he was most proud of his work incorporating professionalism into more aspects of the curriculum. The restructuring of the legal research and writing program is just one aspect of that larger effort. The school also bolstered its Inns of the Court program—in which the first-year class is separated into smaller groups to allow them to bond and learn in more intimate settings—to further emphasize professional formation and practice.

Morant came to George Washington after seven years at the helm of Wake Forest University School of Law. He said that a dozen years leading law schools is enough, and that the time felt right to step down and devote more time to his other interests. He plans to write a book on professionalism, and pen more articles in the mainstream press about legal education, higher education, and other legal issues.

“I look forward to the next chapter,” he said. “Our law school is in a good, steady place now. There are some other things I’d like to do.”