MU School of Law dean to step down after 10 years

Thursday, August 4, 2011 | 6:12 p.m. CDT; updated 8:11 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 4, 2011

COLUMBIA — R. Lawrence Dessem, dean of the MU School of Law, told alumni in his latest newsletter that he will step down after the upcoming school year.

This will be his 10th year as dean at MU, where he teaches classes in pretrial litigation and civil procedure. He was recruited in 2002 from the Mercer School of Law in Macon, Ga.

He intends to return to full-time teaching at the conclusion of the 2011-12 school year.

"Although I am proud of all we have accomplished, there are still things I would like to accomplish in my own teaching, scholarship and service — at MU, within legal education and within the profession," he wrote in the letter.

"One of the many attractions of the MU deanship is the tradition of deans moving to full-time teaching at the conclusion of their service, and I now look forward to following in that tradition."

Dessem noted that he has experienced challenges during his time at MU. He cited decreasing employment opportunities in law and continuing budget cuts in higher education as issues facing the institution.

He listed efforts to address the employment situation at the law school, which include:

  • Two new positions in career services to further develop outreach to students and employers.
  • Law school teleconferencing facilities for students to use for job interviews or to talk with student law clerks.

To help meet budget shortfalls, he said the law school has raised more than $17 million in MU's For All We Call Mizzou Campaign and more than $21 million in other contributions.

Other developments include the addition of four new faculty members this summer and plans to hire two more faculty in the 2012-13 school year and another in 2013-14.

MU also has endorsed a plan that will allow the law school to reduce the size of entering classes by 10 percent, from 150 to 135, with loss of tuition revenue covered for four years.

Dessem said it would enable the school to provide smaller courses and hands-on experiences. A smaller number of graduates would also be more realistic given the current job market.

Dessem received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1976. Afterward, he was a law clerk in Ohio before he served as assistant general counsel for the National Education Association.

Then, he became a trial attorney and senior trial counsel for the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

From 1985 to 1995, Dessem was a faculty member at the University of Tennessee College of Law, serving as associate professor, professor and then associate dean for academic affairs. He then moved to the Mercer School of Law and ultimately MU.

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Jon Stephens August 5, 2011 | 10:22 a.m.

Best of luck to him. Hopefully MU Law will get a great new Dean who can help build the reputation of the school. It has certainly taken a tumble in recent years, and is rather embarrassing for the flagship school in the state.

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