Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman will be leaving ASU this summer to accept the dean position at George Washington University’s Law School in Washington, D.C.
George Washington University’s law school is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation by U.S. World and News Report, 20 spots above ASU, making Berman’s selection notable within the law community.
Berman said he was not looking to leave ASU, but was contacted by GW.
“I was contacted by a large number of other law schools this year about entering their [dean] search, and I turned all of them down because I was very happy at ASU,” he said. “The GW opportunity was the only one that I pursued because it’s really a unique opportunity to take a school that’s already one of the top law schools in the country, and think about how to give it a distinct identity on a scope and scale that is only possible at a large school in the nation’s capital.”
GW President Steven Knapp said in a statement that Berman really stood out from the field of applicants.
“He brings to this position exactly the right combination of vision, legal scholarship and proven administrative achievement,” Knapp said.
ASU will choose an interim dean while it searches for Berman’s replacement.
Berman has been with the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law for only three years, but has made a significant impact, including boosting ASU’s ranking 12 spots from 52 to 40.
“He’s made tremendous strides here, and I’m not just talking about rankings,” law professor Michael Berch said. “I’m talking about programs, services and working with students and faculty. He’s been terrific.”
Berch, who has been at ASU since the founding of the law school and worked under eight deans, said Berman leaving will be a loss, but that the school will continue to grow.
“On all accounts it’s a loss, but it’s also something that helps the school,” Berch said. “George Washington is a terrific school, and the fact that they would take someone from our school says something … A very top school thinks something of us. That’s a plus factor, at least in the law world.”
During his time at ASU, Berman has earned a reputation for being open and available to students.
“He is a very pervasive presence around the school,” said first-year law student Ed Hermes, a law school representative for the Graduate and Professional Students Association. “If something was going on at the law school, he would be there … He also had office hours every week and any student could call him up and talk to him as long as they wanted to. We really appreciated that [as students].”
Berman is also responsible for the creation of a unique undergraduate degree in legal studies at ASU, which he hopes to see continue to grow after his departure.
“We have many courses on the schedule for next year and I expect that program to continue to grow in the years to come,” he said. “There is no other university in the country that has a undergraduate degree directly [in] a law school.”
In addition to the dean position at GW, Berman said he also expects to be teaching at least one course, but the details have not been worked out yet.
Although he is excited to move to GW, Berman said he will miss ASU.
“I have absolutely loved my three years at ASU. It’s been the most rewarding three years of my professional life,” he said. “I’m very excited, though it is bittersweet because, like I said, I have loved my time at ASU. My wife and I have a large number of friends and colleagues that we have become very close to and it will be very difficult to leave.”
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