2009 Archive


Reliving the Dream

Dean Edley looks back with satisfaction and forward with confidence.

Dean EdleyThis July will mark the completion of Dean Edley’s first five years at Boalt Hall’s helm. The timeline highlights major milestones of a heady, invigorating, and enormously productive period in Boalt’s history—a time when words like dream and vision have seemed less like ephemeral ideals and more like unequivocal marching orders. Transcript managed to catch up with Edley—not as easy as you might think—to get his assessment of how we’ve done so far and what the future holds.—J.S.

Jared Simpson: You joined Boalt with a very ambitious agenda for change and growth. Do you feel that after the first five years, we’re on track to realize all of your hopes and dreams for the school?
Dean Edley: We are on track and we’ve exceeded any reasonable
expectations—although not mine, I confess. Our strength and competitiveness have improved in every respect, from faculty to facilities, and from student services to summer fellowships. There’s a giant hole outside my window, and almost nonstop construction noise that shouts “Progress!” rather convincingly.

A comprehensive answer would be quite lengthy, but tell us in broad strokes what you think the economic downturn means for the law school’s future?
I’m most worried for our students and recent graduates. The tighter private and public interest job markets will require more aggressive and flexible job-hunting strategies, and therefore more support from Boalt. Paid summer positions for 1Ls and 2Ls will be fewer in number, which means more demand for summer fellowships from Boalt and more debt upon graduation. So we need to find the resources to invest in our students—from financial aid to career counselors. At the same time, we are expanding services for alumni job-seekers.
Our challenge is on the revenue side. Alumni and foundation support is doing a stutter-step, as nervousness and portfolio declines are forcing folks to hold back. But our needs are up at the same time that donors are feeling squeezed. There’s no pretty way to describe it.

What will the school look like after your tenth year as dean? What will we be adding to the timeline in the spring 2014 issue?
Oy! I can’t wrap my mind around that premise. Hard enough to believe I’m closing in on just five. But I can tell you with absolute confidence that we’re going to be stronger. Our important innovations in curriculum and real-world research will be the envy—and model—across legal education. Our facilities will be dramatically improved, from the South Addition to a major overhaul of the interior of our 55 year-old structure. Our students will be far too smart, but our faculty will love them as much as we do today. Couldn’t possibly love them more.

When you announced in your message in Transcript (spring 2008) that you were going to stay, you mentioned—-a bit wistfully, it seemed—that you hoped to sail more. Have you realized that vision?
That’s been a total, abject failure. But a good dean must be a dreamer, don’t you think?

Interviewed by Jared Simpson

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3/1/2009