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Dean Michaels finds time to teach amid busy administrative schedule

October 24, 2016 | Faculty

Alan C. Michaels’ deanship started in the spring of 2008, with the legal profession riding a decades-long wave of consistent growth and stability and the nation’s law schools in expansion-mode. The tides sure did change quickly.

“From a leadership prospective, challenging times are exciting times. Our focus has been on maintaining our excellence and focusing on career outcomes for graduates across everything we do,” he said. “This has been our ballast that has allowed us to sail through these very choppy waters with stability and excellence.”

In 2015, Moritz was ranked 16th in the nation for graduates employed in permanent, full-time bar required or J.D. advantage positions. The Moritz Corporate Fellowship Program and Public Service Fellowships have been signature pieces that embody Michaels’ innovative approach to handling the Great Recession’s impact on the legal profession.

“As the legal market changed, there was pressure for more practical training from law schools. But, when we looked at other professions, what they have is more post-graduate training, such as a medical residency. We projected that as companies became less willing to be billed for the work of first-year associates because they lacked experience, some sort of bridge would develop,” Michaels explained. “Looking where that could be was our approach. Seeing our graduates doing exciting work as general counsel sparked the idea of where to build one of those bridges.”

More than 70 graduates have served as corporate fellows since the program started in January of 2011 and they have built excellent career outcomes from that start. In addition, the Public Service Fellowship program, which is built off of a similar model, has launched more than a dozen public service careers.

STAYING TRUE

In addition to his dean duties, Michaels also continues to teach a core doctrinal course each year, something few law deans do.

“I love teaching students. It is why I became a law professor. It is my favorite part of the job,” he said. “Every time I come out of class, it is so energizing. Engaging with our young students and teaching is the passion that brought me here in the first place.”

Michaels added to his teaching schedule this past year when he co-taught a course entitled The Civil Rights Movement and the Supreme Court with Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake.

“It was a powerful experience to read those cases again and to revisit that part of our country’s history,” Michaels said. “President Drake grew up living it. He was able to bring some extraordinary perspectives on what it was like at the moment, both by incorporating the music of the times and reliving the civil rights era. I learned as much as I taught.”

COMING ABOUT

Another key component of Michaels’ position is working with alumni and fundraising. Before starting as dean, he was not sure what fundraising would be like.

“I immediately discovered that one of the joys of service as dean is working with people who are passionate about the law school and are willing to place their philanthropy in our hands,” he said. “It is a heavy responsibility, but it is one you take with joy and excitement. It is often the most inspiring part of an inspiring job.”