Dean and President Search

C. V. O’Boyle

Search Counsel for
Higher Education

C. V. O’Boyle, LLC
305 Brook Street
Providence, RI 02906-1144


President and Dean Search Specification

Our Mission

William Mitchell College of Law is an independent law school that lives its mission every day:

We serve the law. We teach it, study it, practice it, and work to make it just. This is our mission.

Our students come to William Mitchell with diverse traits, talents, and experiences, yet they have in common a desire to transform themselves into skilled and ethical legal professionals. They learn from us and from each other. We challenge and support them, and we are responsive to their family and career commitments.

We study law and the legal profession as critical observers and active participants. Our legal education incorporates scholarship and practice, maintains a strong connection to the profession, is intellectually rigorous, and instills an ethic of service to clients and community. Our students graduate with the practical wisdom to put the law to work.

Our Vision

To pioneer a demanding legal education so engaged with the profession that our graduates have an enduring advantage as they meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world.

Practical Wisdom


William Mitchell College of Law, a pioneer in affording access to premium, practice-ready legal education, seeks a new President and Dean, who will hold the Steven E. and Lisa Bonner Distinguished Chair. The college is an incubator for the bar, bench and civic leadership in its region. And, as the only law school authorized by the American Bar Association to offer a hybrid, 50-percent online JD course of instruction, it now also serves a broader national and international market. The new President and Dean will lead the implementation and promotion of this groundbreaking on-campus/online Hybrid Program (whose first cohort commences study in January 2015) as a new model for legal education. He or she will lead a nimble, independent institution with an engaged and resourceful board and a shared sense of mission across all constituents, whose alumni play an outsized role in the affairs of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. With the successful conclusion of its $25 million “If Not for Mitchell” campaign now in sight, the college has laid a strong base for continued growth in private support from alumni, friends, and the broader community.

The College’s History and Distinctions

In 1900, five notable St. Paul lawyers had an entirely new idea for legal education. They founded a night law school for people who, because they were earning a living and supporting a family, needed an alternative to daytime law school. The founders pulled together a group of students, many of them clerks in their law firms, and taught the classes themselves, bringing a real-world, practical perspective to the classroom. The college flourished, buoyed by the practical wisdom of the founders and the workaday ethic of the students.

That maverick law school, along with four other area schools that shared its practical approach, became William Mitchell College of Law in 1956. Fittingly, the merged institution, so closely tied to the legal profession, took its name from Justice William Mitchell of the Minnesota Supreme Court (1881–99), one of Minnesota’s finest judges, known for opinions that were models of brevity and sound reasoning.

As the law school’s emphasis on practical legal education continued, its graduates, such as Warren E. Burger ’31, the 15th chief justice of the United States, and Rosalie E. Wahl ’67, the first woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, stood out for their legal expertise and sound judgment. Mitchell and its predecessors produced the first woman African-American lawyer in Minnesota, the first Minnesota Court of Appeals Chief Judge, the first woman Minnesota attorney general, the first Somali law graduate in Minnesota, and the first openly gay American Indian state legislator in the country. Currently, 120 Mitchell graduates serve on the Minnesota bench, including nine on the Court of Appeals.

William Mitchell developed a clinical program in 1973, one of the first law schools to do so, and it led the way with its legal writing, advocacy, and practicum programs. In 1980, the college, always responsive to the needs of students, began offering daytime classes and the option of full-time enrollment, in addition to its night classes. Day or night, William Mitchell’s classes were filled with a cross-section of students coming from established careers or straight from the undergraduate classroom.

Today, William Mitchell is still pioneering practical legal education and is recognized for its flexible, intellectually independent, experimental character established more than a century ago. Its 12,000 alumni are leaders in the profession, working in the region’s largest law firms, Fortune 500 companies, judiciary, government, and nonprofit organizations.

Access, and support of an outcomes-based curriculum rooted in the real-world needs of lawyers, anchors the strategic focus and priorities for Mitchell’s board, rather than rankings. But several rankings merit notice. For ten consecutive years, Mitchell’s clinical programs have been the top ranked in Minnesota; currently U.S. News ranks them 23rd nationally. A recent survey of more than 1,750 lawyers in Minnesota found that Mitchell graduates rank number one among those from the state’s four law schools in “preparedness for practice.” The National Law Journal ranked Mitchell 18th among all law schools for the percentage of students awarded state clerkships. The ABA ranked the college first among Minnesota’s private law schools for employment in 2013 and among the top 20 percent nationally (just above Harvard) in its percentage of alumni giving (17.4 percent) the last year the ABA compiled this information in 2012. William Mitchell has produced more Super Lawyers in Minnesota than Harvard, Yale, Hamline, the University of St. Thomas, Iowa, and Drake—combined.

As an independent, not-for-profit law school, among the oldest and now arguably the best established in this category, Mitchell has the nimbleness and flexibility for innovation and low-cost risk-taking in responding to the changing needs of the legal profession: its leadership answers to a supportive board, rather than a university bureaucracy.


The Faculty

William Mitchell has a full-time faculty of 32, including the President and Dean, an Associate Dean for Administration, and an Associate Dean for Faculty. It also appoints a Distinguished Jurist in Residence, currently retired Justice Helen M. Meyer ’83 (who is chairing the President and Dean Search Committee), and several visiting faculty.

Regular faculty members have served on the bench and worked in the region’s top law firms, public service, government, and corporations. Every faculty member is admitted to the bar and has imbedded in her or his teaching an orientation toward practice. Mitchell does not segregate faculty according to teaching methods. Most faculty members incorporate skills and doctrine into their courses beginning in the first year, and clinics and externships are part of most teaching loads. Mitchell’s professors are exploring new ground in Indian law, cyber law, child protection, preventive detention, the future of solo and small law firms, intellectual property, family law, and food safety. A digital archive of faculty scholarship is available through Mitchell Open Access. Links to the William Mitchell Law Review, Journal of Law and Practice, Cybaris, and Law Raza can be found in the bottom navigation of this website.

In a typical year, the college also employs 100 adjunct faculty members drawn from a pool of 200 judges, prosecutors, public defenders, in-house counsel, and lawyers in private practice. Most adjuncts have an on-going relationship with Mitchell (some dating back to more than 20 years). In a focus group convened for the search committee, adjuncts reported that they feel well supported by the college staff and the Blackboard classroom management system. They also avowed their own affinity for the college’s mission. They cited the quality, maturity and diversity of Mitchell students, and service to the profession as primary motivations for their adjunct teaching.


The Students

Mitchell currently enrolls 817 students; 32 percent are part-time. Forty U.S. states and 28 foreign countries are represented. Fifty-one percent are female, and 15 percent are students of color. The class entering in the fall of 2013 numbered 238, with a median LSAT of 154, a median age of 24, and an age range of 20–63. Mitchell regards all students, even first-years, as colleagues, and faculty members routinely praise their maturity and curiosity.

Indeed, the college touts “The Mitchell Mix” as a distinguishing feature of its pedagogy. Its students come from all walks of life. Many are pursuing second careers. Mitchell is a favored law school for older students, military veterans, GLBT students, and those interested in public interest law. It is one of only ten law schools to receive the “Diversity Matters Award” from the Law School Admissions Council and is the only law school to maintain an Office of Multicultural and International Inclusion. Mitchell’s commitment to recruiting and assisting military students earned the college the distinction of being a Military Friendly School for 2013.

Busy with studies, jobs, and family, William Mitchell students still find time to donate thousands of volunteer hours every year. Almost 50 percent of its students earn recognition at graduation for donating 50 or more hours to public service, even without a pro bono requirement.

Student Profile

The Curriculum

The purpose of Mitchell’s academic program is to give students the analytical and practical skills necessary to practice law, or “practical wisdom.” Consistent with the college’s commitment to provide educational access to non-traditional students, the college offers both full-time and part-time scheduling options. In recent years, four first-year sections met during the day and one met at night (with all classes beginning after 6 pm). The Hybrid Program will form a fifth section beginning in January 2015.

Concurrent with doctrinal courses, students progress through a Professional Skills Curriculum, beginning with two semesters of Writing and Representation: Advice and Persuasion in their first year. During the first semester, they learn fundamental research, analysis, and writing skills, as well as techniques for counseling clients. During the second semester, they take up contract negotiation, dispute resolution, and motion practice. Students take Advocacy in their second or third year. The course introduces them to advanced research skills, fact and case theory development, conducting discovery, questioning skills, making opening statements and closing arguments, writing appellate briefs, and presenting appellate oral arguments.

Eleven client representation clinics are offered regularly, and the college also offers nine externship courses with faculty supervision. Most of these are at the two or three credit level, in order to make them accessible to working students and to maximize opportunities for all students.

During the 2007–08 academic year, the college’s Curriculum Committee developed Pathways to the Profession of Law, an online mapping tool that enables students to plan their course of study in 14 doctrinal areas, including civil procedure, criminal law, and family law. Students use the Pathways to view recommended sequencing of courses; whether classes are designated as skills or statutory courses; the names of faculty who teach in their areas of interests; and links to other resources. Each Pathway concludes with a Keystone course that represents both the culmination of law school learning and a transition to law practice and a lifetime of self-directed learning.

With other members of the Consortium for Innovative Legal Education, the college offers a month-long summer program in London for its JD students. The college’s LLM program introduces foreign law graduates to the legal system of the United States and provides the opportunity to learn and apply advanced legal concepts in specialized areas of law such as intellectual property, international and comparative law, corporate law, and other areas.


The Hybrid Program

Beginning in January 2015, William Mitchell will offer the first hybrid on-campus/online JD program offered by an ABA-accredited law school. The first-of-its-kind program (and the only one permitted by the ABA, through a special variance) will feature two interrelated elements: intensive, in-person, experiential learning and online coursework that integrate foundational doctrine and skills.

Students who enroll in the new Hybrid Program will be on campus for at least one week each semester, participating in 56 intensive hours of realistic simulations and other coursework. Students will prepare for their on-campus work through an e-learning curriculum designed by William Mitchell faculty to integrate legal doctrine with practical legal skills. In addition, students will have the opportunity to complete externships in their communities under the supervision of practicing attorneys.

This innovative hybrid of on-campus and online learning will provide new access to those seeking a rigorous, experiential JD degree from an ABA-accredited law school. Offering it will extend William Mitchell’s reach well beyond the Twin Cities. Applicants admitted to the first cohort already include non-traditional students in Arizona, Germany, New Jersey, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas, as well as the rural Midwest.

The Hybrid Program

Governance and Alumni

A 30-member, self-perpetuating Board of Trustees oversees the college’s business and strategic directions in the context of shared governance with the faculty. The new President and Dean will interact with this board and its leadership on a daily and weekly basis. Daniel P. O’Keefe ’78, General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Aon Benfield, has just been elected Chair, succeeding Stephen Bonner ’72, formerly Executive Chairman and now member of the board of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The board, composed of alumni and non-alumni leaders in business and the legal profession, provides valued and engaged leadership in strategic planning and priority-setting, and in giving back to the college. Every board member gives back each year, and the board as a whole donated more than a third of the dollars raised for the Campaign.

Alumni are an active, visible, and vital part of the college community. The concentration of accomplished Mitchell alumni in the Twin Cities and the Upper Midwest region is one of the college’s most valuable assets. Notable alumni include U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger ’31, pioneers who overcame discrimination, governors, members of the U.S. Congress, CEOs of multinational corporations, and defenders of the disenfranchised. The Alumni Association Board of Directors includes partners and shareholders of leading law firms and leaders in government, public interest organizations, corporate law firms, and business.

Alumni involvement enriches the student experience and creates paths to student employment. Students have many formal and informal opportunities to meet and learn from recent alumni. First-years who sign up for the Mitchell Mentors program are assigned to a group of 3–4 students, two alumni co-mentors, and one upper-class student (peer) mentor. Alumni also assist students in their pursuit of employment through the Hachey Initiative, which connects students to alumni willing to provide informational interviews and networking advice, as well as work-shadowing opportunities. Alumni also teach and coach students in William Mitchell’s skills-based program, which includes simulation courses, clinics, externships, and workshops.

Alumni are generous in their financial support of the progress and academic priorities of the college. As noted above, William Mitchell ranks among the top 20 percent of law schools in alumni giving. Seventy-five percent of the donors in the comprehensive, “If Not for Mitchell” Campaign are alumni.

Board of Trustees

The Campus and Community

The college occupies a seven-acre campus on Summit Avenue, St. Paul’s most renowned street and “the best preserved American example of the Victorian monumental residential boulevard.” The campus is a short drive from Minnesota’s capitol, with both Twin-Cities downtowns—St. Paul and Minneapolis—close by. The Warren E. Burger Library, completed in 1990, affords students access to state-of-the-art legal research technology. A $15 million Campus Enhancement Project, completed in late 2004, gave the college new and renovated classrooms, a new student center, and updated infrastructure.

The Twin Cities have more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other U.S. city. 3M, Best Buy, Cargill, General Mills, Target, Travelers, and UnitedHealth are among the 18 Fortune 100 headquarters in the region. From origins in the Twin Cities or elsewhere in the state, each has revolutionized its industry in internationally impactful ways and created a local culture of visionary and civically progressive entrepreneurship that is very consistent with William Mitchell’s ethos.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce recently named the Twin Cities the top destination for young job seekers. The Twin Cities are also ranked as the most literate metropolitan area in America. Their venues for fine and performing arts are unsurpassed outside of New York and Washington, DC. These range from the Walker Art Center (contemporary art) and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (with its encyclopedic collection) to the Guthrie Theater and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts (host to The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Minnesota Opera and The Schubert Club), and the new Cowles Center for Dance. The Twin Cities also support popular NBA, WNBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, Major League Baseball, and college teams. National surveys continually corroborate the high quality of life in the Twin Cities. Forbes named MSP “The Most Relaxed Cities in America”; USA Today named them “The Fittest Cities in America.” The Twin Cities are unusual in their public transportation infrastructure and ease of commuting. More than four percent of Twin Cities’ residents bike to work year-round. Indeed, according to Bicycling magazine, the Twin Cities are the most bike-friendly metro area in the country.

As Minnesota’s capital city, St. Paul is home to the state legislature and supreme court. It is the older, smaller twin and also the seat of Ramsey County. The Ramsey County Courthouse and the Warren Burger Federal Courts Building are located in downtown St. Paul.

Life at Mitchell

Opportunities and Challenges

William Mitchell is, of course, subject to the challenges facing all law schools following the financial crisis of 2008: the weak employment market in the legal profession and pressures on enrollment and tuition revenue. The successful rollout of the Hybrid Program provides a path to restoring enrollment to previous levels of more than 1,000 students. It is not dependent on the new lawyer hiring in the region, but as the pioneer in legal education, it presents new intellectual property, pedagogical, and technology issues untested by the administrative experience of most. The new President and Dean will have to articulate the college’s value in a highly competitive local market but also to a broader national and international audience unfamiliar with Mitchell’s distinction. In occupying the dual roles of President and Dean, she or he must balance amplified external and operational responsibilities, while also providing faculty leadership in sustaining and improving a culture of academic distinction, collaboration, and collegiality. In fulfilling these expectations, the President and Dean will be able to rely on a highly functional, professional, and mission-driven staff.

The Ideal Candidate

For its new President and Dean, William Mitchell seeks a prominent leader in the legal academy and/or profession, who can be a visible, credible, and effective public advocate for the college as it rolls out its Hybrid Program and charts a new course for legal education. Candidates must have an earned JD and possess at least seven years of experience in the teaching or practice of law. Candidates are expected to meet the college’s criteria for tenure at the full professor rank. Candidates must embrace Mitchell’s historical access mission and practice orientation. The ideal candidate will have a deep investment in legal education and understand the importance of supporting legal scholarship. Both the William Mitchell culture and this historical moment call for an authentic, charismatic, competitive, and decisive President and Dean who finds Mitchell’s unique opportunity to re-shape law school pedagogy for geographically remote markets an energizing challenge. The ideal candidate will be possessed of candor and confidence, pragmatism, and a lack of pretension conducive to relationship building within the college and across the communities that is serves. Candidates should have a strong record of (or demonstrated aptitude for) leadership in public relations and a willingness and capacity to engage in on-going fundraising for the college.

Procedure for Candidacy

Review of candidate materials will begin immediately and continue until the appointment. A complete application will include a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae or résumé, and contact information for five professional references who can speak about the candidate’s qualifications for this position. Named references will not be contacted without the candidate’s prior consent. Expressions of interest, applications, nominations, and inquiries should be directed to William Mitchell’s search consultant, Chuck O’Boyle of C. V. O’Boyle, LLC, at Members of under-represented groups are encouraged to apply. AA/EOE.

Chuck O’Boyle’s retained search practice specializes in senior recruiting for colleges and universities. A graduate of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School, he is admitted to the New York bar and has been associated with the American Council of Education’s Executive Search Roundtable since 2002.