Jean Holloway, a longtime corporate attorney, has been named the first female dean of the law school at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Holloway has spent the past decade as general counsel for a trio of medical device firms, CR Bard Inc., Medtronic and Boston Scientific. Before that, she was in private practice.

"For us to land somebody with her business acumen, that's outstanding," said Dave Jarzyna, assistant dean for marketing and recruitment. "You're seeing a lot of schools that are going outside the academy for their law deans," he said.

Holloway, who succeeds outgoing dean Donald Lewis, will take on the job at a time when law school enrollment has been dropping dramatically in Minnesota and nationwide. Hamline's first-year law class declined from 231 students in 2010 to 92 this year.

Linda Hanson, Hamline University's president, cited Holloway's "demonstrated record of success in the practice and business of law" as one of the reasons for her selection.

She said the new dean would bring "considerable knowledge and passion for developing new approaches to legal education."

Holloway is a past president of Minnesota Women Lawyers and the Hennepin County Bar Association. She spent a year as general counsel to the Children's Defense Fund of Minnesota and was in private practice with Dorsey & Whitney, a Minneapolis law firm, from 1990 to 2001.

A graduate of Yale University, Holloway earned a joint MBA and law degree from the University of Chicago. She will begin Jan. 6. Lewis is stepping down Dec. 31 after five years as dean to return to private practice.