Lawrence E. Mitchell has resigned his position as dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, effective March 1.
Mitchell has been on a voluntary leave of absence since November, a move he made to minimize distractions relating to a lawsuit filed against him and the university alleging retaliation against a member of the school’s faculty.
In a letter to the university, Mitchell wrote: “Upon thorough reflection, I have concluded that I cannot return to my job as dean with the same energy and enthusiasm that characterized my earlier service. At this point, it is in the best interest of the law school for me to step down as dean. I will retain my position as a tenured professor and continue to seek to serve the school however I can.”
Mitchell noted that he chose to resign now, rather than at the end of the academic year, to alleviate uncertainty surrounding his status and demonstrate his personal support for the progress that Acting Deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf have made since their appointment following his leave.
“Jessica and Michael have done an outstanding job of continuing the school’s strong momentum,” Mitchell said. “I cannot thank them enough.”
Mitchell’s decision to step down to support the best interests of the school is the most recent of a series of examples that demonstrate his dedication to the institution, which Mitchell will continue to support as a faculty member and scholar at the school.
Appointed as dean in 2011, Mitchell increased the school’s international engagement by forging educational partnerships with nearly two dozen schools around the globe. Mitchell also supported expansion of the school’s existing LLM degree program, and the development of online academic programs.
In addition, he worked to expand the school’s fundraising and enhance the diversity of the student body. As part of his efforts to encourage diversity within the school and profession, Mitchell also launched the Women’s Law and Leadership Institute, which has held a successful annual conference series as part of its efforts.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, Mitchell led a faculty-driven process to revamp the school’s curriculum in response to dramatic changes in the national legal landscape. Through an intensive analysis of its existing academic offerings and broad engagement of alumni and legal employers, the school developed a program for students that significantly increases writing requirements, deepens management and professional preparation, and expands hands-on learning experiences. Under the new model, students will have the opportunity to work with clients in their first semester of law school, and also complete a months-long experiential capstone project before graduation. The school’s faculty overwhelmingly approved the program in principle in August 2013, and then reinforced their support with similarly strong positive votes on its details in December.
The university plans to conduct a search for a new law school dean, and will consult widely with students, staff, faculty and alumni regarding the experience and qualities the next leader will need to continue and build upon the school’s recent gains achieved during Dean Mitchell’s leadership.
The university believes strongly in the ability of the judicial system to provide due process and a full and thorough presentation by the university and Mitchell of the facts. In that context, the university will continue to refrain from public comments regarding the case.