Susan Westerberg Prager, a leading figure in legal education who once served as dean of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, will assume the top administrative position at Southwestern Law School next fall. 

Prager since 2008 has been the executive director of the Association of American Law Schools, the largest legal education organization in the country. She served as dean at UCLA, her alma mater, from 1982 to 1998, making her the school’s longest-serving dean.

"The [Southwestern Board of Trustees] considered Dean Prager’s stellar credentials and outstanding national reputation in the legal academy and higher education, her pragmatic and inspired vision for our law school, and the extremely enthusiastic support voiced by members of the Southwestern community," board chairman Thomas Hoberman said in announcing the move on Thursday. "We are delighted that Dean Prager will be joining us in the fall."

Prager will replace interim dean and chief executive officer Austen Parrish on the Los Angeles campus. Dean Bryant Garth stepped down in July 2012 after seven years.

"Southwestern is a remarkable place, with a rich tradition of making a difference in the futures of its students," Prager said. "The law school’s innovative and collaborative spirit is part of its DNA, and the faculty and countless graduates are committed to helping today’s students contribute to the complex and challenging worlds they will occupy as professionals."

While at UCLA, Prager spearheaded a new clinical wing and law library and boosted the international, corporate, environmental and public interest curricula. She later became provost of Dartmouth College and later president of Occidental College.

As executive director of the AALS, she helped organize legal educators as law schools faced more pressure then ever to recruit students and maintain revenues.

"Her leadership at the AALS has been especially remarkable and important, as it has coincided with one of the most turbulent periods in legal education," said AALS president-elect Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law. "There is no person with a greater commitment to the improvement of legal education than Susan, and the single best evidence of that is her willingness to get right back in the saddle and take on a deanship."

Prager will undoubtedly face those same challenges as dean, including recruiting students at a time when interest in J.D.s has waned and fighting a pending class action brought by recent alumni who claim the school inflated its post-graduate employment figures.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com. For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.