Photo provided by the law school
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Dean Craig Boise was a nontraditional student who made a habit of seeing and seizing opportunities – jumping, for example, from studying piano to a job in his Kansas City, Mo., hometown police department, and from a police academy where he learned about the law back to college (University of Missouri) and then into legal academia itself. He earned his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and an LL.M. in taxation from New York University School of Law. He now leads an institution that has described itself as being a school of opportunity.
Boise became dean in 2011 after two years at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, where he led the graduate tax law program. He practiced tax law at private firms before taking his first job as a professor in 2003 at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
Lawdragon: What drew you into legal academia?
Craig Boise: After graduating from the University of Chicago and clerking for a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, I practiced for nearly nine years at firms including Cleary Gottlieb and Akin Gump in New York. A law school classmate who had entered academia first piqued my interest in teaching, and in 2003 I joined the faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. I became Graduate Tax Program Director at DePaul University College of Law in 2009, and then Dean at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 2011. What I found attractive about academia was that I had the freedom to pursue the answers to my questions about the law, rather than those of clients.
LD: What distinguishes Cleveland-Marshall College from other law schools?
CB: Rather than focusing on academic centers, concentrations and programs, we help our students create meaningful and satisfying careers for themselves with the legal knowledge and problem-solving, communication and collaboration skills that they obtain while in our law school. This is particularly critical as law has become more diffuse throughout the economy, and the requirements of law-related jobs change rapidly.
A major component of this is our requirement that students complete a semester-long “engagement experience” that involves actual law practice — either in a clinic or a closely supervised externship placement. We are among fewer than two dozen law schools in the country with such a requirement. We are also one of the first dozen or so law schools in the country to create a Solo Practice Incubator — office space made available for a two-year period following graduation to our students who elect to build a solo practice. In addition to space, we provide support through programming about how to handle particular types of legal matters, specialized CLEs, mentors, access to a listserv of experienced solo practitioners, discounted health insurance and malpractice insurance, and case research software.
LD: What are your biggest challenges as dean and how are you meeting them?
CB: Virtually all law schools are dealing with the challenge of declining applications, and that is a concern for us. However, we're fortunate to have proactively reduced our entering class size 30 percent in 2011, from 200 students to between 135 and 140 students. We did this principally through operating budget cuts and faculty attrition, but we also modestly increased our tuition, which remains among the lowest of the nine law schools in Ohio. We have met our target enrollment in the last two years without a significant decline in entering class credentials.
LD: Are you seeing trends in the types of jobs your students take after graduation?
CB: More students are taking positions other than those in traditional law firms, such as with not-for-profits. Law students nationwide are taking a greater number of contract and staff attorney jobs, both within law firms and through legal process outsourcing companies. In Ohio, we've also seen a number of our students take jobs related to the shale oil extraction industry.
LD: What do you do outside the law school when you’re not being dean?
CB: The demands of the job don't allow much free time, but when I'm able I enjoy sailing, scuba diving, riding my Harley, playing piano, salsa dancing and travel abroad.