Does Law School's Appointment of Kirkland Leader as Dean Signal New Focus on Legal Jobs?

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The managing partner of the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis is on the verge of a significant career change, one that may also signal a growing new emphasis on legal jobs at the nation’s law schools.

Daniel F. Attridge will take the helm as law dean of Catholic University of America in July, the Washington Post’s College Inc. blog reports. He has been a partner of the law firm since 1985 and served as its managing partner since 1998.

It is the second time this year that a law school has made the unusual appointment of a practicing lawyer for its top job, according to the National Law Journal.

Brooklyn Law School announced in March that Nicholas W. Allard, who was then chair of the lobbying and election law practice at Patton Boggs, would be its next dean.

A third practitioner, trial lawyer Tom Keefe Jr., accepted a temporary appointment as law dean at St. Louis University earlier this year and said he plans to run his law practice concurrently.

“As a former law school dean, I know it is rare (and in these times, wise) to recruit a highly experienced practitioner and a senior partner of one of America’s most distinguished law firms to lead a law school,” said Catholic University President John Garvey in announcing the appointment of Attridge. “Our students and faculty will benefit immeasurably from Mr. Attridge’s decades of experience, his prominence in the profession, and his impressive administrative skills.”

Attridge told the legal publication that he plans to work collaboratively and use the same skills managing the law school that he used managing the D.C. office of Kirkland.

As numerous posts have detailed, many law schools are seeing a significant decline in enrollment and a number of their graduates have had difficulty finding legal work in recent years, due to the struggling economy and efforts by corporations to cut costs for the well-paid legal work that used to help fuel more law firm hiring.

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