The Law Dean Series

Wendy Collins Perdue

University of Richmond School of Law
Wendy Collins Perdue
University of Richmond School of Law

The University of Richmond School of Law is located on one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. It boasts a low student to faculty ratio to give law students individual attention, and it prides itself on a law library that ranks among the top 20 in the nation in terms of spending for student information. The law school's goal is to "create a particular type of lawyer: one who models the best of her profession when it comes to professional standards and values; one who, by the way he practices law, makes the justice system work better; one who demonstrates a true passion for the profession." One of the ways it does this is through a mandatory second-year law skills course; Richmond Law is one of the few law schools in the nation to require law skills in the second year.

In 2011, Dean Wendy Collins Perdue left the Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as Associate Dean and Professor of Law, to take the helm as Dean of Richmond Law. Dean Perdue has served on or chaired numerous committees of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS), the Editorial Board of the Journal of Legal Education, and the Committee on Law School Administration for the American Bar Association (ABA) Section on Legal Education. These leadership positions demonstrate her commitment to legal education.  
As part of our law deans series of interviews, we reached out to Dean Perdue, who graciously took the time to answer our questions.

What is the biggest challenge facing new law students?

The biggest challenge facing law students is the same challenge that all young people face: the economy and the job market. It's not because there aren't enough jobs out there, but because there's not always a simple path from school to career. You have to make your own way. You have to be entrepreneurial.

What is the single biggest challenge that you face as Dean?

Running a law school is much like running any mid-sized business and that means that the dean must be prepared to handle all of the challenges that any CEO faces. For me the biggest of these challenges is time management and assuring that the urgent doesn't displace the important.

Which areas of the law do you think will experience the biggest growth over the next few years?

I anticipate continued growth in the intellectual property field, particularly in response to technological developments. Health law is a huge part of the economy that will also continue to grow, as will all areas of administrative compliance.

Is teaching law now different compared to when you were a law student?

The biggest change that I've witnessed is the increased emphasis on connecting the law school experience with the "real world" of legal practice. This happens not only in clinics but throughout the curriculum.

How do you think technology will impact criminal defense?

There are some changes in courtroom practice with computer-aided presentations, but I think the biggest impact is in the growth in new types of scientific and technological evidence. Between our Fitbits, smartphones and surveillance cameras, along with DNA and other scientific evidence, there are many sources of information that were never previously available.

What do you think are the biggest legal challenges facing the Supreme Court?

I think the biggest challenge facing the judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular is a growing diminution in respect for the rule of law. People increasingly see judicial decisions as simply another form of politics in which political and policy preferences control. In the long run I think this threatens the legitimacy of our judiciary system.

Are there any aspects of practicing law you miss due to being in education?

I loved the variety that came with practicing law. One never knew what interesting issue the next case or client might bring.

If you could invite any three legal or governmental identities (living or dead, real or fictitious) to a meal,  whom would you invite?

John Marshall, Abraham Lincoln, and Myra Bradwell, who went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in her effort to be allowed to practice law.

What is your favorite legal movie?

Erin Brockovich, about a feisty woman who pushes for justice and won't stop till she gets it.