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For next UM Carey dean, a homecoming of sorts

A longtime law professor at the Ohio State University’s law school will return to his Maryland roots as the new dean of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Donald B. Tobin will succeed Dean Phoebe A. Haddon, who announced in June that she would not renew her five-year contract and would leave the leadership post at the end of this academic year.

“What you are trying to do is build on the great strengths this school already has,” Tobin said. “This is a challenging time for everyone in legal education, but we can do great things as a legal institution in these challenging times.”

Born in Columbia, Tobin has spent the last 13 years teaching at Ohio State’s Michael E. Moritz College of Law in Columbus, Ohio.

He will become dean of UM Carey on July 1.

“We want to have a law school that other law schools around the country point to and say, ‘Look at what they are doing at University of Maryland. Look at how they are preparing their students. Look at how they are responding to the marketplace and the environment,’” said Jay A. Perman, president of University of Maryland, Baltimore. “We look to Professor Tobin for that kind of leadership.”

Tobin said his highest priorities will be attracting students in the face of declining law school applications nationwide, and helping those students find jobs once they graduate.

“Those are two great challenges,” he said.

He hopes to strengthen employment and fellowship opportunities at businesses, nonprofits and law firms, he said, pointing to several programs at Ohio State that place students at companies or in the public service sector for a year.

“The idea is to help students find exactly what job they want,” Tobin said. “The second goal is, if they do not find that, what opportunities are available to transition them into jobs they want?”

About 58 percent of UM Carey’s 2013 law grads found traditional legal jobs (those requiring bar passage) within nine months of graduation, while another 18.5 percent found jobs where a J.D. was an advantage, according to employment data the American Bar Association released last week.

Perman said the university was looking for a dean who would concentrate on helping students find jobs, even if they are not traditional jobs in the legal sector.

“He is somebody who was an educator, who understands the new environment, who can be responsive to the marketplace and responsive to the economy,” Perman said.

In addition to helping students find jobs, Haddon, whose last day is June 30, said the biggest challenges Tobin will face are declining enrollment, fewer resources, and adjusting to the culture of the law school and Baltimore.

“You always want to make sure your program continues to grow and develop,” Haddon said. “There are less opportunities to grow given the declining enrollment in law schools. From my vantage point, that will be — if not a structural change — certainly a long cycle.”

‘Engaging personality’

Haddon’s announcement last June triggered a nationwide search for her replacement. A 16-member search committee — made up of members of the school’s Board of Visitors, the University of Maryland Baltimore Foundation Inc. Board of Trustees, several sitting judges, alumni, one student, a staff member and faculty members — worked with an external search firm in the dean application process, Perman said.

Of about three dozen qualified applicants, a small group came to Baltimore for initial interviews. Five applicants were asked to visit the campus for more interviews with the law school’s leadership and faculty, Perman said.

“It’s very important we have someone who has an engaging personality,” Perman said. “In fact, someone engaged enough to be capable of making people part with their money if they have the capacity and if they have compelling reason to give a hand.”

Tobin is the John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law and has served as the associate dean for faculty and associate dean for academic affairs and is the founding co-director of the Program on Law and Leadership.

Tobin, a member of the Maryland Bar, is also an expert in the intersection of tax and campaign finance laws.

He graduated from Oakland Mills High School in Columbia. After graduating from Duke University in 1989, he moved to Charles Village and worked for U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

He then moved to Washington, D.C. to work out of Sarbanes’ office there as a legislative assistant on tax and budget on Capitol Hill.

Tobin then worked on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee and then the Senate Budget Committee. He took law school classes at night, eventually graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1996.

After law school, Tobin clerked for then-Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, followed by a four-year stint as an appellate staff attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division.

Haddon, the first African-American and second woman to serve as the law school’s dean, will take a brief leave before returning as a faculty member of the law school in fall 2014.

“I am feeling both happy at [the school’s] success, but it’s always bittersweet because you always want to do something more,” Haddon said.

Tobin said he eventually plans to teach at UM Carey, but not during his first year as dean.

“You can’t forget what made you want to be in this line of work in the first place,” Tobin said. “That is teaching students and being involved with students. They are the magic that makes this worthwhile.”


– Undergraduate Degree: Duke University, Economics, 1989

– First job out of college: Aide to U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.

– Law Degree: Georgetown University Law Center, 1996

– Clerked For: Former Judge Francis D. Murnaghan Jr. in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

– Expert In: Business Law, Campaign Finance, Election Law, Taxes

– Coming From: The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law

– Has lived in: Columbia; Durham, N.C.; Charles Village in Baltimore; Washington, D.C., Columbus, Ohio.

– Start Date at UM Carey: July 1