Photo provided by the school
Leading the long-accredited University of Mississippi School of Law as dean is a slight change of pace for Richard Gershon, who made a mini-career of shepherding law schools through the American Bar Association approval process. He guided Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (now Texas A&M University School of Law) to full accreditation in 1994. As founding dean he took the Charleston School of Law to provisional accreditation; it was fully accredited in 2011. A graduate of the University of Georgia with a JD from the University of Tennessee, Gershon’s professional focus is tax law; he earned an LL.M. from the University of Florida and has written extensively on the subject.
His academic career began at Stetson University School of Law and included four years as Academic Associate Dean. Among Gershon’s current commitments to service are the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, the Mississippi Bar Professionalism Committee and the Diversity Committee of the Law School Admissions Council.
Lawdragon: What drew you to academia and to the field of legal education?
Richard Gershon: My main area of practice was taxation and estate planning, and I still consult in those areas, mostly on a pro bono basis. But I am a teacher at heart, and I still love being in the classroom. The greatest reward for any educator is when a former student says “I used something you taught me today.”
I never thought I would be a dean, but my colleagues at Stetson asked me to serve as associate dean. I learned a great deal doing that job, and found joy in helping other members of the law school community succeed. From there, I have been fortunate to serve as the dean of three very different institutions.
LD: What distinguishes your institution from other law schools?
RG: Ole Miss is consistently rated as one of the top values in legal education. Additionally, we have nine clinical opportunities for students, including a newly added Mississippi Justice Clinic in partnership with the Roderick MacArthur Foundation. The clinic will allow students to take part in impact litigation affecting the state’s criminal justice system.
Our required two-week skills session features classes such as “How to negotiate a film deal,” or “Taking depositions.” It is the only program of its kind in the country. Our new LL.M. program in Air and Space is also unique and takes advantage of the expertise and resources of the National Center for Remote Sensing Air and Space Law housed at Ole Miss.
LD: What are your biggest challenges as dean and how are you meeting them?
RG: I want to make sure that our students have employment opportunities in a tough market. One of my top priorities is raising money for scholarships, so that we can reduce student debt loads. By lowering debt, we increase the range of options available for students after they graduate.
LD: Are you seeing trends in the types of jobs your students take after graduation?
RG: I am really proud of this generation of law students. Many of them are taking jobs related to public interest law. They are using their law degrees to make a difference in society.
LD: What do you do outside the classroom, when you’re not being dean?
RG: I enjoy spending time with my wife and two teenage daughters. My wife is an editor of Garden & Gun magazine, and she is way cooler than I am! My daughters are trying to help me be cooler.