Eric S. Janus

William Mitchell president and dean announces plan to return to teaching; search to begin for new law school leader

Eric S. Janus has announced that he will conclude his role as president and dean of William Mitchell College of Law in June 2015 to return to the Mitchell faculty. He will have served as president and dean for eight years, and as a member of the Mitchell faculty for more than 30 years.

Eric S. Janus

Eric S. Janus

Janus was named president and dean in 2007 after serving as a highly respected teacher, scholar, and administrator at Mitchell. He holds the Stephen B. and Lisa S. Bonner Distinguished Chair, created in 2011 to support the leadership of the college’s president and dean. Under Janus’ leadership, the college has achieved historical high water marks in alumni engagement, fundraising, its endowment, experiential learning, and innovative teaching methods.

“I love Mitchell, its history and mission of public service and practical wisdom,” said Janus, who will be 69 when he steps down as president and dean. “I am looking forward to teaching and interacting daily with our students. Fortunately, this college includes an outstanding faculty, an engaged and committed board of trustees, and a talented staff. I look forward to the college’s continued commitment to innovation and quality in our teaching and in preparing students for careers in service to the profession and the community.”   

“Eric’s contributions to Mitchell’s accelerating success are world class. He has been at our helm as legal education has entered an exciting transformation, and he has positioned Mitchell to be even stronger,” said Stephen B. Bonner, chair of Mitchell’s Board of Trustees. “We are indebted to Eric for his visionary leadership, his courage, and for his tireless commitment to everything that we stand for. He has guided the college with integrity, compassion, and innovation, and the great news is that he will continue to be a part of the Mitchell faculty.”

Under Janus’ leadership, Mitchell became the first ABA-approved law school in the country to offer a hybrid, on-campus/online enrollment option that will expand access to legal education to people from all walks of life. The new program, announced in December, has been lauded as a long-overdue innovation in the world of legal education.

Mitchell also has expanded its experiential learning, which provides students with hands-on training in  the practice of law. New clinics were added in child protection and Indian law, and more than 300 students, up from 134 in 2011, now have the opportunity to practice their legal skills through externships with companies, law firms, and government agencies. In addition, Mitchell has doubled the number of alumni engaged in mentoring students and in helping students network to find jobs.

Under the leadership of Janus and the board of trustees, Mitchell launched the “If Not for Mitchell Campaign,” a four-year fund-raising drive that began in July 2010 and has raised more than $22 million for scholarships, faculty, and innovation.

“Eric’s continued involvement and his wisdom, skill, and passion will be invaluable as we launch our first class of students in the hybrid program in January 2015 and complete the ‘If Not for Mitchell Campaign,’” said Helen M. Meyer, retired justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, a member of Mitchell’s board and head of the search committee that will select Mitchell’s new president and dean.  “While his will be difficult shoes to fill, we are optimistic that we will find another dynamic leader in legal education and the legal profession to build on Eric’s achievements.” 

Over the next year, Mitchell’s board, in partnership with the faculty, will oversee a national search for Janus’ replacement.  Janus will continue to lead the college until his successor is named and assumes the leadership role in 2015. After a one-year sabbatical, Janus will return to the classroom.

Janus’ career in law spans more than 40 years. After graduating magna cum laude from Carleton College in 1968, and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1973, he became an attorney with the Minnesota Legal Aid Society in 1973. He joined William Mitchell as a professor in 1984 and has been a recognized scholar on the interaction of law with psychiatry and other health sciences. His latest book, published by Cornell University Press, is Failure to Protect:  America’s Sexual Predator Law and the Rise of the Preventive State.

Janus was appointed by Lucinda E. Jesson, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, to the Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force in 2012. He has received various awards for his teaching and public service, including the 21st Century Leadership Award from Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services in 2012 and the David Graven Public Service Award from the Minnesota State Bar Association in 2001. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute.