Law Schools

Law school benefactor resigns from its executive board to protest surprising news of dean's ouster

The longtime dean of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law will be out the job in May, a decision that comes as a surprise to some members of the law school’s executive board.

Law dean John Attanasio learned in mid-December that his contract will not be renewed when it expires in May, the Texas Lawbook (sub. req.) reports. Attanasio got the news from SMU Provost Paul Ludden, who wrote in an internal memo that it is time for a new individual “to provide leadership for the challenge necessary in the current climate of legal education.” Attanasio will continue at the school as a constitutional law professor after an opportunity to take a one-year leave of absence.

A member of Dedman’s executive board, Dallas lawyer Leslie Ware, has resigned in protest, while two other board members are considering resigning, the story says. They say they disagree with the decision and were not informed ahead of time. Ware had donated $1 million to the law school in December.

Attanasio, who has served as law dean since 1998, is also getting support from alumni and law professors. A majority of the law school’s faculty wrote a letter supporting Attanasio. Fifty-six alumni have also signed a letter that asks the school to reconsider. The letter says Attanasio has raised the school’s profile, increased fundraising,and garnered better-qualified applicants.

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