Open Letter from Dean Kathryn Rand
Rand Announces Her Decision to Conclude Service As Dean to Return to Faculty Position
To the Alumni and Friends of UND School of Law,
It has been my honor and privilege to serve as dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law. I am, and always will be, proud of the School of Law and its service to the state of North Dakota and its people, as well as to the bench, bar, and legal profession. I have been reflecting for some time on our accomplishments over the past several years. In many ways, I have completed what I promised when I was entrusted with the deanship of North Dakota’s law school; additionally, we have navigated successfully through the steepest budget cuts in recent memory. I feel strongly that the School of Law is well positioned for the next dean, and that this is the right time for me to return to my faculty role at the law school. I have informed the University’s President and Provost of my intent to conclude my service as dean of the School of Law and return to my faculty position as a tenured professor in the School of Law effective August 1, 2018 or, if a permanent dean is not yet in place by that date, effective January 1, 2019 or the date on which a permanent dean is in place, whichever is earlier. I gave notice of my intent at this early date in order to facilitate a successful national search in early 2018 for the next permanent dean of the School of Law.
Through all of our accomplishments and challenges over the last nine years, I have been grateful for the unflagging support of North Dakota’s law school from our alumni, friends, and the bench and bar. So many of you have made gifts to fund the building, student scholarships, and academic programs; or called me with constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement; or volunteered to guest lecture, judge moot court, or mentor our students; or sent a “kudos” email to our faculty or staff on a job well done; or simply shown up at an event sponsored by the law school. Whatever your contribution, please know how much it has meant to me and to the School of Law. Along with our faculty, staff, and students, you deserve accolades for every success during my time as dean, as none would have been possible without your collective contributions. This is truly an exceptional professional community, and the next dean will be lucky to join it.
Leading the School of Law since February 2009 has truly been a privilege. I have been honored to serve the School of Law, the University, the legal profession, and the state in the role of dean. When I was selected as permanent dean via a national search in 2011 (following successive appointments as acting and interim dean), I promised to be guided by the distinctive character and mission of the School of Law and the values of public legal education: to focus our educational program on producing competent and ethical attorneys; to make legal education accessible to a broad cross-section of students; to prepare graduates for responsible leadership in the legal profession and our communities; to contribute teaching, scholarship, and service that is responsive to the needs of our state and society; to fully invest in the professional and personal success of our students; and to ensure that all law school operations reflect the highest standards of professionalism and integrity. I also promised my best efforts to accomplish three critical goals for the School of Law during my term as dean:
- Secure state and private funding for, and successfully complete construction of, a major addition to and renovation of the existing law school building. Since the 2007 reaccreditation report put the School of Law on notice that the physical facility required dramatic improvement to meet the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation standards, the building project was the law school’s highest priority goal, as recognized by the University. In 2013, the state invested $11.9 million in the building project; we raised another $2.5 million in private funding to fully fund the project design. The project was ambitious both in scope relative to the budget, and in deadline—we promised students (and the ABA) that they would be displaced only for a single academic year. With an extraordinary collective effort, the building project was completed on budget and on time in August 2015. Along with many colleagues and supporters, I worked to make the building project a reality, including cultivating the support of the bench, bar, and public officials; collaborating with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, as well as the design team, on ensuring the project’s scope would meet and exceed accreditation requirements and our teaching and learning needs; and seeing the project through to successful completion, including a complete move-out, a year in displacement in multiple locations across campus, and an on-time move-in. The result has transformed the School of Law into a state-of-the-art professional education setting that serves our students and befits our character—modest, yet accomplished. We would not have a new and improved School of Law without your support, and for that I am eternally grateful.
- Maintain the School of Law’s status as an ABA-accredited law school. The law school’s continuing accreditation is necessary to our success—without it, our graduates cannot sit for the bar and become licensed attorneys. Our regularly recurring reaccreditation visit was in Spring 2014; the resulting report conditioned reaccreditation on the timely completion of the building project. It is not an exaggeration to say that our continuing status as an ABA-accredited law school hinged on the successful completion of the building project, and I am both proud and humbled to have led the team responsible for such a critical effort on behalf of the future of the School of Law. It also is notable that no other significant issue was raised in the report—our educational program, student services, faculty, and library all met the required standards. After documenting the start of classes in the new and improved law school building in August 2015, the School of Law received notice of our successful reaccreditation in February 2016.
Facilitate development and implementation of an enhanced, current, and impactful curriculum. The School of Law faculty are on legal education’s forefront in terms of effective and innovative teaching. We were early adopters of a “unified tenure track,” the hallmark of emphasizing legal writing and research and experiential learning in the curriculum, and since then have integrated both areas into more traditional “doctrinal” courses in inventive ways. The School of Law’s originative Curricular Mission inspired development of a progressive curriculum that includes the innovative Professional Foundations course, dramatically expanded field placements and externships, heightened requirements in writing and experiential courses, purposeful ordering of required courses, new academic support courses, and increased attention to maximizing student learning through best practices and creative teaching techniques. At the same time, we undertook other curricular initiatives:
- Assessment of the relationship among academic performance, course selection, and bar passage with goal of using that data to further refine graduation requirements and the breadth of elective courses in the curriculum.
- Refinement of the Indian Law Certificate Program, including incorporating experiential education. The School of Law boasts one of the richest Indian law curricula in the nation; this is important both because the law school is located in a state with a large American Indian presence and because of the legal needs of American Indian communities and the concomitant growth in career opportunities for well-trained lawyers in this area.
- Redesign, based on student demand and alumni input, of energy law course offerings, including Oil & Gas Law, Natural Resources, and International Petroleum Transactions, to meet the state’s legal needs in this area.
- Integration of student skills competitions into the curriculum. Students receive faculty instruction as well as coaching in trial and moot court competitions, including the National Energy & Sustainability Moot Court Competition, Cyber Crime Competition, Gaming Law Competition, Civil Rights Competition, National Native American Law Moot Court Competition, and the National Trial Competition.
Not only did we successfully accomplish each of these critical goals, but in each area we exceeded our initial ambitions. The building, and its positive impact on students, outshines what we had imagined; our reaccreditation was the smoothest in recent memory in terms of the quality of the School of Law’s educational program; and a corollary of the ongoing implementation of the new progressive curriculum is a renewed faculty investment in continuing pedagogical experimentation and innovation.
The School of Law, and its students, staff, and faculty, have been recognized for numerous achievements since 2009. A few notable awards and recognitions illustrate the excellent work of our School of Law community: our most senior faculty member was featured as among the nation’s best law professors in the book, “What the Best Law Teachers Do”; the Rural Justice Program was nominated for the ABA Louis M. Brown Award; faculty members were invited to present their scholarly work at national and international conferences; faculty members published dozens of law review articles that were cited by other scholars as well as state and federal courts, and were quoted in national media outlets; faculty members were elected or appointed to the American Law Institute, ABA and AALS committees, national boards and task forces, and state-wide committees; and students served on state, regional, and national bar committees, placed in regional and national skills competitions, and won national scholarships and internships.
Further, we have worked very hard to sustain and build on these efforts in the face of state and University budget cuts as well as national challenges in legal education. The School of Law has a long-held reputation for “doing a great deal with very little.” We took that ethic to heart in implementing the hard decisions necessitated by the budget reductions and in leading by example that an affordable and accessible program of legal education can also be a high-quality program:
- While other law schools have experienced dramatic enrollment declines or significant downturns in student admission profiles, the School of Law largely has met our enrollment targets. With the exception of only two years since 2009, we have met our target for first-year enrollment—one of those years was the “dislocation” year during the building construction, and in the other year, we met our target for overall student enrollment by attracting a large number of transfer students. In the context of law school downsizing, mergers, closures, and ABA sanctions, this is no small feat.
- Since 2009, we have worked to create a welcoming environment that fosters the success of all of our students. This includes our increased efforts in academic support and bar passage.
- The School of Law continues to be the law school of choice for the state’s bench and bar. Of licensed attorneys who reside in North Dakota, the vast majority are UND Law graduates. In the law school’s most recent reporting, 75 percent of new graduates stayed in North Dakota for their first job. Of the currently licensed attorneys and judges outside of the state’s eight largest cities, more than 70 percent are graduates of UND Law, indicating that UND Law graduates are more likely to stay in the state and practice in the communities that most need attorneys. Four of the five North Dakota Supreme Court Justices are UND Law graduates, as are 41 of the 50 district court judges in the state. And in a 2014 survey of regional employers, 93 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they would hire a UND School of Law graduate without hesitation.
- For seven years in a row, the School of Law is ranked among the top 150 law schools in the nation (to my knowledge, this is the longest continuous “run” for the School of Law in the U.S. News rankings).
Nowhere is my professional and personal commitment stronger than here at UND. I am a third-generation alumna of the University of North Dakota. Three of my grandparents, both of my brothers, great aunts and uncles, and countless cousins graduated from UND. My father, Tom Rand, served as an associate dean in UND’s College of Arts & Sciences for over 40 years. My grandfather, Al Rand, graduated from UND School of Law in 1921. My first full-time academic appointment—and dream job—as a new Assistant Professor, was at the School of Law in 2000. I have dedicated my professional career to UND, and have been honored to give back to the University that has given so much to my family and me. I look forward to continuing to demonstrate my commitment to UND and the School of Law as a full-time faculty member.
With heartfelt gratitude for your support during my time as dean, and with confident anticipation of great things to come for North Dakota’s law school, I remain,
Very truly yours,
Kathryn R.L. Rand
Dean & Floyd B. Sperry Professor