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Oregon Lawyer Online

A New Era

Oregon Law welcomes 20th dean and fresh approach to legal education

At the time of publication, Michael Moffitt will have been at the helm of the University of Oregon School of Law for a little more than two months. He has hit the ground running.

Dean Moffitt, a nationally recognized expert in mediation and dispute resolution, officially took the Oregon Law reigns on July 1. The announcement of Moffitt’s selection as dean was made in December, following a nationwide search.

“Michael Moffitt brings all the qualities we contemplated when our search began for the next law school dean,” said UO Senior Vice President and Provost Jim Bean. “He is innovative, dynamic and has demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively to broaden our academic successes. We fully expect that he will lead the School of Law to new heights.”

Since July 1, Moffitt has connected with School of Law alumni and bar leaders in cities around the state and region. He also has taken the time to connect with the school’s faculty, admissions staff, career services staff, and staff and constituents in Portland. He even successfully navigated his first Oregon Law Reunion celebration.

“There’s a tremendous number of great people affiliated with this school,” Moffitt said. “It’s an absolute joy to get to work with them in this new capacity.”

Moffitt is no stranger to the School of Law. He joined the law school in 2001 as a faculty member. In 2007, he was among the first group of recipients of a five-year award from the Oregon Fund for Faculty Excellence, presented by the university provost. The Oregon Law faculty awarded Moffitt with the law school’s Orlando John Hollis Faculty Teaching Award in 2004. That same year, he also was the recipient of the university’s Ersted Award for Distinguished Teaching. During his time on the Oregon Law faculty, Moffitt served as the associate director for the school’s Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center, and has served as associate dean for academic affairs.

His accomplishments as a professor and associate dean are impressive and boast such highlights as publishing three books and more than 20 articles in law reviews and specialty journals, The ADR Center in which he worked actively also grew its activities, created a new degree program, and raised more then $700,000 in private philanthropy.

At the outset of his deanship, Moffitt identified five key areas (see Message from the Dean) of focus for the law school.

Whether in the traditional practice of law or not, Moffitt says, a law degree adds an incredible value to an individual’s professional life.

“From entrepreneurs to public servants, a law degree prepares students to be professionals; and it strengthens one’s ability to be– a better engaged citizen, and contribute to the economy and the community” he notes.

Moffitt is of a generation that, perhaps more so than many law school deans, can truly understand the career landscape for recent graduates and current students. Since graduating from Harvard Law in 1994, where he was president of the Harvard Mediation Program, Moffitt has worked in seven different positions and in 20 different countries. He has worked in public service and government, in non-profits and for-profits, and in negotiation and mediation. He understands that today’s graduates are no longer living in an era in which the job they enter after earning a law degree is necessarily where they will remain until retirement.

“The kind of career trajectory I have had is increasingly typical,” Moffitt says of his personal resumé. “Those varied experiences prepared me for a full professional life.”

Looking forward, Moffitt says a strong alumni base is critical to Oregon Law’s success.

The school will look to its alumni as private philanthropy becomes more and more imperative in the future. “Alumni are of great importance in this context in which budgets are tightening.”

Alumni are also a huge resource for the law school’s students, faculty, and staff. Alumni are increasingly critical to the law school’s success in career services, professional development, and even admissions and outreach.

“By engaging more actively with the network of Oregon Law alumni,” says Moffitt, “the law school will thrive in the coming years.”