Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder announced today that the Board of Trustees has approved the appointments of Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf as deans of the School of Law. The two have led the school on a temporary basis since the fall of 2013; since then, the school has made significant gains in fundraising, reputation and admissions applications.
“Jessica and Michael worked closely with faculty, staff, students and alumni to create a sense of community and possibility,” President Snyder said. “The results have been outstanding, and we look forward to the school’s continued progress.”
Over the past two years, the school has achieved an all-time record for annual fundraising; moved up nine slots in U.S. News & World Report rankings; and grown the number and quality of student admissions applications.
This month, meanwhile, the school tied with Notre Dame’s law school for the 25th position in a ranking of the scholarly impact of the nation’s top 70 law schools. Case Western Reserve’s position this year is 13 slots higher than in the previous study of faculty citations, completed in in 2012.
“We are honored by this opportunity to continue to work with such an amazing community,” Berg and Scharf said in a prepared statement. “Everyone—faculty, staff, students and alumni—has come together to support one another and the school at large. Thanks to all of them, we feel great optimism about the future of this law school.”
Last spring, the school celebrated the largest commitment in its history: a $4.5 million anonymous contribution to endow a professorship and support law student scholarships. The gift, announced at the university’s annual Momentum celebration, helped the school achieve a new record for annual attainment, at $8.9 million. In light of the increasingly promising philanthropic results, the school has increased its original campaign goal by $10 million, to $42 million.
Also last spring, the law school improved five positions to 59th in U.S. News’ rankings, the largest increase of any school in the university that year; the previous year, the school climbed four slots, to 64th from 68th. Between the two years, the school improved its results in average GPA and LSAT scores of entering students, percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation and bar passage rates. In addition, the school’s acceptance rate dropped from 49 percent to 33 percent.
In the spring of 2014, President Snyder and Provost W. A. “Bud” Baeslack consulted with faculty and senior staff regarding the timing of a new search for law school leadership. Their feedback aligned with comments received throughout the academic year from students, graduates and other stakeholders—namely, that the school’s best option was to continue its current course for 2014-2015, and then revisit the question this year.
This summer, a search committee including faculty, staff, students and alumni led the selection process, which President Snyder and Provost Baeslack limited to candidates from within the school. In 2011, the president and provost also restricted the search for a dean for the Case School of Engineering to internal candidates. Berg and Scharf were the only nominees; as part of the process they participated in committee interviews and open meetings of constituent groups.
“I want to thank the search committee, especially chair Max Mehlman, for the exceptionally thorough and thoughtful way in which they led this search,” Provost Baeslack said. “Their seriousness and commitment to the school bodes exceptionally well for its future.”