SAN FRANCISCO — Drucilla Ramey is back in the Bay Area, this time to head a San Francisco law school.
Golden Gate University School of Law has appointed the former longtime head of the Bar Association of San Francisco as dean-elect. She will take over the reins from acting dean Alan Ramo on Aug. 1.
The school has been searching for a new dean since Frederic White left last March to head Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.
Legal observers say that Golden Gate will benefit from Ramey’s fund-raising prowess, as well as from her reputation as a champion of diversity.
“She is an icon in the city, a real force of nature,” said Bingham McCutchen partner Raymond Marshall. “People just don’t say no to Dru, even when you know what she’s coming to ask for, which a lot of times means money.” Marshall said that he personally, as well as his firm, have over the years given money to Ramey’s causes.
On diversity issues, he added, “She has a national brand and that can only be good for Golden Gate University.”
GGU President Dan Angel said that the law school narrowed its pool of applicants from about a dozen to four in the final round. Ramo didn’t apply to be permanent dean, Angel said.
He added that Ramey brings “instant visibility,” saying that there was “comfort and excitement concerning her candidacy.”
Another local dean said that the economy will present serious fund-raising challenges for Ramey, at least initially. “There’s no question that people are watching what’s going on very carefully, and even if they’re willing to make donations, they’re deferring commitments,” said Jeffrey Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law. There’s also the challenge all new deans face: a smaller donor pool than they’re used to in the wider legal community. “Some deans have brand names that make it much easier, but you’re dealing with a smaller community here.”
While Ramey concedes that the bad economy could be challenging, she seems undaunted. “If you can convince people that you could do with their money what they could do if only they had the time, there’s no limit on the resources that they will move over to you,” she said. “Even in the Great Depression people had money and were giving money.”
Rather than stashing money away in an endowment fund, Ramey said, she’d like to put it to work directly in the form of scholarships, and to expand the school’s Environmental Law & Justice Clinic and its tax and IP programs, as well as to help start new ones. Ramey also said she plans to leverage her connections to build new collaborations with bar associations and the National Coalition of Women Judges, to pave the way for externship and mentorship opportunities for students. In the area of diversity, Ramey said that she’d be open to exploring alternative admissions standards, “using indices of likelihood of bar passage and excellence as a lawyer that don’t have a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities.”
Ramey also said she’d like to develop a joint degree program in nonprofit law and management with Angel, the GGU president.
USF’s Brand said Ramey comes to GGU at a good time. “Golden Gate has made great strides over the last few years,” he said. “Fred White deserves a lot of credit in turning around the bar pass rate and other issues,” he said. (Under White, the school’s July pass rate for first-time bar takers went from 32 percent in 2004 to 77 percent in 2008.) “I know that it was a struggle, and they should be proud of what they accomplished.”
For Ramey, the appointment is a return to old stomping grounds.
She served on the GGU law school faculty from 1978 to 1985.
Before that, she had been a civil rights lawyer at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, she served as the first female chair of the board of the ACLU of Northern California. She joined BASF in 1985, where she remained executive director and general counsel until 2002.
Ramey is credited with leading BASF during its transformation into a social and political force, one that acted less as a preserve of larger firms and more like an all-inclusive professional organization. The association’s Volunteer Legal Services Program also grew during her tenure.
Ramey moved to New York seven years ago, where she most recently served as executive director of the National Association of Women Judges, a position she said she stepped down from last October.