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UB Law names five finalists for dean

The University of Baltimore School of Law has named five finalists in its search for a new dean, including a big-firm lawyer, an assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, and three academic candidates.

None of the finalists is currently at the school. Interim Dean F. Michael Higginbotham, who has served since the controversial resignation of Dean Phillip J. Closius, did not apply for the permanent post, according to the search committee’s chairwoman.

The finalists are Nicholas Allard, who chairs the lobbying and political and election law practice at Patton Boggs LLP in Washington, D.C.; Penelope Bryan, dean of Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif.; Alfredo Garcia, a professor and former dean of St. Thomas University School of Law at Florida University; Patricia Salkin, associate dean at Albany Law School; and Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legislative Affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The five finalists will arrive on campus over the next two weeks to meet with administration, faculty and students, said professor Michele E. Gilman, who chairs the 14-member search committee and also directs the school’s Civil Advocacy Clinic.

“They are all very different,” Gilman said. “They bring different strengths to the table. All of them are lawyers of national stature. We feel they are all people who in their own way could help UB move forward in the future. They strike us as people who can articulate and carry out a strong vision for the school.”

The candidates will be on campus from March 26 to April 5 for about two days of meetings, Gilman said. They will present their vision for the law school to the faculty, host open forums with students and meet with law school leadership, she said.

“They will really get a chance to know us and we will get a chance to know them,” Gilman said. “It’s an important chance to figure out if the candidates are a match for where University of Baltimore School of Law is right now. It’s a very in-depth process. “

The search committee will then make recommendations to the faculty and faculty will vote on the candidates. University President Robert L. Bogomolny will make the final selection, which the law school expects to announce by mid-April, Gilman said.

The search committee, which includes faculty, alumni and two students, has been working with consulting firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, Inc. of Miramar Beach, Fla.

“I think it was a very thorough process nationwide …,” said alumnus Marie Van Deusen, vice chair of the University of Baltimore Foundation and a search committee member. “I think people will be pleased and proud to have any of the candidates be our leader.”

The committee was formed after Closius resigned his position as dean last July amid controversy over the amount of law school revenue the university kept for itself.

Closius claimed the university was treating the law school as a cash cow, keeping 45 percent of the revenue it generated. Bogomolny responded that, while the university did retain 42 percent of the law school’s revenue, it ultimately kept only 13.7 percent after “allocating costs related to the law school’s regular operation,” such as human resources, lighting and technology. A review this year by a legislative budget analyst, which looked at the same numbers but allocated them differently, put the retained figure at about 30 percent.

In the wake of the controversy, the university reassessed its finances and allotted an additional $5 million for the law school over the next five years.

The choice of a new dean comes at what Gilman called a “transformative juncture” for the law school.

“We have made a lot of strides in recent years,” Gilman said. “There is some buzz about us in the legal academy and this is seen as a great opportunity to take the law school to the next level.”

U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Baltimore School of Law 113 this year, up four spots from 117 the previous year and from 170 when Closius arrived.

The law school is also poised to open a new $107 million, state-of-the art building in January 2013. Gilman and other search committee members said they were looking for a dean to continue this momentum.

“One of things we are hearing is that UB is doing all these great things and no one knows about it,” said third-year law student David Muncy, a member of the search committee. “I want someone to come in and publicize what we are doing.”