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    A Conversation with Dean McGreal

    Dean Paul E. McGrealPaul E. McGreal joined the University of Dayton School of Law as dean in July 2011.

    Before arriving at Dayton Law, Dean McGreal was director of faculty development and professor of law at Southern Illinois University School of Law. He also served as interim associate dean for a year at SIU.

    Prior to joining the SIU faculty in 2006, Dean McGreal established the Corporate Compliance Center at the South Texas College of Law, where he also taught for 10 years. He also has taught in Texas A&M University’s Executive MBA Program since 1999.

    Prior to entering legal education, he worked in the Dallas office of Baker Botts LLP. He also served as law clerk for Justice Warren Matthews of the Alaska Supreme Court.

    Dean McGreal earned an LL.M. from Yale Law School, a J.D. from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Williams College.

    Why did you want to become a law school dean?

    I didn’t just want to become a dean of a law school or a dean at any cost. I wanted to be a dean where I feel like there is a fit between me and what the law school is and would like to be. I wanted to become a law school dean at the right place and at the right time.

    Law schools are facing very serious challenges and are being questioned about whether they’re a good return on investment, and about jobs, starting salaries and the cost of legal education. I felt the University of Dayton School of Law is a good place to address these challenges. Its faculty is open to considering new ideas and new approaches to legal education, as seen in the Lawyer as Problem Solver curriculum. It has a dedicated staff that works very hard on bar passage and career services. It’s important to be open to change and focusing on making sure our graduates succeed, both on the bar exam and in job placement.

    Why else were you attracted to the University of Dayton School of Law?

    I was also attracted to the commitment to community of both the School of Law and the university. When I arrived on campus, I was impressed by how the idea of community is lived out among faculty, staff, alumni and the student body. They support one another, living out the Catholic Marianist mission and making it a wonderful place to work and to live.

    So when I was deciding not just where I would work, but where my family and I would live, it was important that we came to a place where we felt there was community, where we felt comfortable and where we felt welcomed. The University of Dayton School of Law was just that place.

    What are your immediate priorities for UDSL?

    Our first focus is making sure that we’re doing everything reasonably within our power to prepare our students to take the bar exam and be successful in their job search.

    As the nature of law practice changes, I expect that new demands will be placed on law schools to prepare students for the types of legal jobs that will be available. We need to make sure we’re updating the curriculum to meet those changing demands.

    What specific initiatives do you have planned at this time?

    A number of initiatives fit within the area of student support and career services. For instance, we’re working with the faculty to expand academic support to help make sure that students who struggle during the first semester of law school have the support they need to improve their study habits and ultimately pass the bar exam.

    When it comes to jobs, I think our Externship Program has been successful in providing students with practical experience as well as giving them opportunities to network and meet with employers. We will further develop this strong asset.

    We also need to recognize that, consistent with national trends, a significant percentage of our alumni are going into small firm and solo practice. We’re working on an initiative to provide an online network where our alumni in solo practice can mentor one another and seek advice from one another. Beyond that, we’re considering other initiatives like a potential solo practice incubator.

    You officially became dean in July. How have you found your experience at UDSL so far? What have you been hearing from alumni?

    I hear a lot of enthusiasm and excitement from alumni. For example, a number of alumni have found real satisfaction from participating in the Externship Program by supervising externs, and expressed interest in participating in the admissions and enrollment processes by helping to recruit strong students to the law school.

    At the same time, alumni have talked to me about what we can do to improve our reputation and our standing, including improving our bar pass rate. I’ve spoken to alumni about our plans for academic support, and solicited their input about what else they think we could do.

    What have you been hearing in Keller Hall from students, faculty and staff?

    Our students are enthusiastic, hard-working and very supportive of the law school. But they also have their concerns and interests, and I’ve been glad to hear about those. Students themselves have been talking about the growing number of graduates who have been going into small law firm and solo practice, and asking what the law school can do to support those graduates.  I have made sure to share what the faculty and staff are considering, and to listen to listen to what our students think would be helpful.

    I have also been excited to work with faculty members who have a wide range of expertise, who are nationally and internationally known in their field, and who are committed to helping students in their classrooms.

    Why did you want to be a lawyer?

    One of the reasons I wanted to become a lawyer — and it predates me ever hearing the phrase Lawyer as Problem Solver — is that’s what lawyers do — you are solving your clients’ problems, you are helping someone achieve something that’s important to them.

    When and why did you decide to pursue legal education as a profession?

    I decided I wanted to teach while I was in law school. I had the opportunity to be a tutor in the first academic success program at my alma mater, SMU’s Dedman School of Law. Working with students in the classroom, even as a tutor, was a wonderful and rewarding experience. I knew then that I wanted to teach law students.

    After law school, I clerked for Justice Warren Matthews of the Alaska Supreme Court because I wanted to understand how judges made decisions. I then went for my LL.M. so I would have a chance to start my academic research, and then I went into law practice to see the law in service of clients.

    But I knew all along that I wanted to end up teaching law. To this day, working with law students is the most fulfilling professional work I have done. 

    You have taught in the Executive MBA Program at Texas A&M University since 1999. How do you think your involvement in that program will influence your tenure as dean?

    It has given me a chance to see how a law degree can be used in new and emerging roles in business organizations. For example, I teach corporate compliance and business ethics to business school students, and UDSL has a number of alumni who work as compliance and ethics officers. Corporate compliance is an under-recognized field within the legal profession because a compliance officer is not required to be a licensed attorney. We can work with the University of Dayton’s School of Business Administration to develop this competency in corporate compliance and ethics programs.