Jean Holloway had to laugh when she heard that one of her peers had called this “the worst time in history” for U.S. law schools.
Sure, applications have dropped by a third nationwide since 2010, and they’re still falling.
But to Holloway, that’s no reason to be discouraged. “I actually thought it was a really exciting time to be going into legal education,” she said.
Next week, she’ll be installed as dean of Hamline University’s School of Law — her first job in academia after 30 years as a practicing attorney.
Holloway, 57, was tapped in December to succeed Donald Lewis, the outgoing dean, and she’s technically been on the job since January. So the May 8 ceremony is largely a formality.
She seems be taking her transition from corporate lawyer to college dean in stride.
“Running a law school,” she admits, “feels more like a business to me than, quite frankly, I had expected.”
Holloway, who earned her law degree and MBA simultaneously at the University of Chicago, has spent much of her career in the med-tech industry — most recently, as vice president and general counsel at CR Bard.
Now she’s stepped into a changing landscape that has shaken up law schools across the country. Since 2010, Hamline’s first-year law class has dropped from 231 to 92, prompting cutbacks in the faculty and staff.
While applications have dipped again this year, “I feel that it’s stabilizing,” she said. And the law school is finding creative ways to adapt, such as launching its first online master’s degree program this fall.
“We’ve got a lot of positive momentum, a lot of positive energy within the law school,” she said.
For now, she said, the slow job market has put a damper on law school applications. But she doesn’t think the legal profession has lost its luster. “I’ve loved being a lawyer,” she said. “It’s still a great career and a great profession.”