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One of the more vocal internal critics of legal education is stepping down as dean of the University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. Jim Chen will end his five-year tenure on June 30, when his contract expires. “I’ve completed a term in the job the university asked me to do, and I’m looking forward to finding other ways to advance the cause to which I have passionately devoted my professional life, which is legal education and the legal profession,” Chen said in a telephone interview on April 23. In announcing the news on April 20, university Provost Shirley Willihnganz credited Chen with converting the law school’s night offerings into a part-time program, increasing fundraising and establishing a legal clinic that helps domestic violence victims secure protective orders. He also saw the school move up in the U.S. News & World Report rankings; it gained 11 spots this year, landing at No. 89. “Dean Chen has a strong legal background,” Willihnganz said. “We hope he will agree to share his extensive knowledge of commerce and health law to help us move forward with key initiatives in other areas of the university.” Chen will remain on the law school faculty, but plans to take a one-year leave of absence. Before joining the faculty as dean in 2007, Chen taught at the University of Minnesota Law School. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. More recently, Chen gained attention for his research into the financial reality of a law degree in today’s market. In a paper titled, “A Degree of Practical Wisdom: The Ratio of Educational Debt to Income as a Basic Measurement of Law School Graduate’s Economic Viability,” Chen concluded that it makes financial sense to go to law school only if you can count on earning at least three times your annual tuition, assuming you’re borrowing the money. He argued that prospective lawyers should ask whether they’re likely to qualify for a home loan while paying off student debt. “I was very privileged to have a chance to work as a law school dean, and I have been able to communicate the essence of urgency of making legal education more responsive to the people who rely on it most: students and their future clients,” Chen said. Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.

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