The City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law is turning into something of a finishing school for deans.
Just a few months after Albany Law School tapped CUNY associate dean Penelope Andrews as its new leader, the University of Massachusetts School of Law-Dartmouth named Mary Lu Bilek as it new top administrator.
Bilek will leave her position as associate dean for special projects at CUNY at the end of the month.
“Legal education is in a moment of change, and CUNY was out ahead of that change,” Bilek said, noting that more law schools are moving toward a curriculum that emphasizes practical skills, as CUNY has done for years.
Bilek said in an interview on June 8 that she plans to remain committed in her new position to providing an affordable legal education at a public institution and to continue to emphasize access to legal education.
U. Mass-Dartmouth is the product of a 2010 merger between the private Southern New England School of Law and the University of Massachusetts to create the state’s only public law school. There are seven private law schools in Massachusetts.
Southern New England was twice denied accreditation by the American Bar Association, but in May an ABA committee recommended provisional accreditation for the new iteration.
Bilek said she is confident that the school will achieve provisional accreditation in the “near future,” and that gaining full accreditation is one of her top goals. She said she also plans to emphasize the civil justice crisis and the need for more attorneys to serve the many people who need legal assistance but cannot afford it.
Although law school applications have been dropping nationwide for the past two years, Bilek hopes to grow enrollment by emphasizing Massachusetts’ relatively low tuition: $24,000 for in-state students.
She also hopes to create a more vigorous dialogue with practitioners and judges about what law school curriculum should look like, she said.
Massachusetts has been without a permanent dean since former dean Robert Ward resigned unexpectedly in October 2011 amid news reports that he made personal purchases on a state-issued credit card. Ward cited poor health.
The move to Massachusetts is somewhat bittersweet for Bilek, who has spent 25 years at CUNY after practicing for five years at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. She had just moved into a new office in CUNY’s glittering new headquarters when she received word that the dean job was hers.
Karen Sloan can be contacted at email@example.com.