Marc Miller, Dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Marc Miller, Dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Here is some news from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law: They have a new dean.

The white smoke emerged from 1201 East Speedway Boulevard yesterday, and here’s how the announcement begins:

“In an email to law faculty and staff, Provost Andrew Comrie said, ‘Marc has the vision and experience to move the college forward in a decisive manner at the dawn of its second century.’ Miller is the 12th permanent dean to occupy the position since the law school was founded in 1915.”

I have met and worked with Dean Miller on numerous occasions, and I look forward to his leadership.

More and more, it’s a challenging time to be a legal education leader. Challenging budgets are perhaps the least of law deans’ worries. More troubling is the declining interest in the law exhibited by the smartest university graduates. Law schools try and try, but demonstrating the J.D.’s value to potential applicants is an increasingly tough sell. And don’t get us started on law school debt.

I always enjoy my conversations with Arizona’s law school deans, which we reproduce as Q&As in Arizona Attorney Magazine (here’s our most recent, with ASU Law Dean Doug Sylvester). Knowing Dean Miller, it will be a robust dialogue.

So get your questions ready or send them to me now. What should I ask Dean Miller about the law school, law education or the legal profession generally?

And be sure to read the complete news story about Dean Marc Miller here.

Last week, we received an announcement about new leadership at an Arizona law school.

The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law announced that Marc L. Miller had been selected as dean. It is on an interim basis while the school conducts a national search, but the UA method is that Marc is the Dean, capital “D,” no “I,” until we hear otherwise.

UA Dean Marc L. Miller

UA Dean Marc L. Miller

In its selection, the school found a dynamic, funny and smart man. And in that regard, he is similar to the man he replaces, Larry Ponoroff. Let me speak for a moment to Dean Ponoroff’s leadership time there.

As I’ve written before, deaning in this day and age is no picnic. The budget challenges are rough ones, and they are exacerbated by the (sometimes wise) hesitancy of potential applicants to plunge into an expensive three-year endeavor, whose outcome is uncertain.

In a recession, deans must make difficult and sometimes unpopular choices. Their legacy will rarely be that of those who glided through law school on the easiest of streets.

Larry Ponoroff has now returned to the ranks of the faculty, where he will reside in a well-deserved lower profile. But from this outsider’s view, his legacy is this: He was unfailingly upbeat, courteous and visionary. And, perhaps most important, he was (and is) one of the funniest leaders I’ve ever met, in law or out.

Former UA Law Dean Lawrence Ponoroff

Former UA Law Dean Lawrence Ponoroff

As law schools try to move forward in a boggy economy, there are worse things than having a sense of humor. Good luck and thank you, Dean Ponoroff.

As I opened, though, the school has chosen someone else whose wry muscle is fully developed. Besides being funny, Marc Miller is involved in more varied initiatives than a black-ops team. I have worked with Dean Miller on a few endeavors, and I am confident that the school will benefit from his vision—if it can keep up with his legal velocity.

Here is part of what the school announced about Dean Miller:

“He is the editor of two leading casebooks, one on criminal procedure and the other on the law of sentencing. He co-founded the Federal Sentencing Reporter, the leading journal on sentencing law and policy that for 20 years has focused on nurturing an ongoing conversation between scholars, judges, lawyers, probation officers, and policy-makers.”

“Dean Miller currently serves as a series editor for Summits—books focused on issues at the intersection of environmental law, science, and policy. The Summits series is a collaborative effort between the law school, the UA Institute of the Environment, the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, Biosphere 2 and the Biosphere 2 Institute. The first two books in the series are Conservation of Shared Spaces: Learning From the United States and Mexico, and Navigating Climate Change Policy: The Opportunities of Federalism. A third volume, Stitching the West Back Together: Conserving Working Landscapes and Biodiversity in the American West, is forthcoming. University of Arizona scholars have played the central role as editors and authors.”

You can read the school’s entire announcement here. Congratulations, Dean Miller. Break a leg.