Patricia D. White, Dean of the University of Miami School of Law, is the most influential woman in legal education in the United States, according to a poll of her peers by the National Jurist.
Dean White's top ranking appears in the January 2013 issue of the magazine, which features a photograph of her on the cover alongside images of three colleagues who also made the list of 2012's Most Influential People in Legal Education. National Jurist says that Dean White and the others "are influencing the ongoing debate about legal education" at a time when applications to many law schools are trending downward and the landscape for legal careers is uncertain. The authors of the article accompanying the list call Dean White a "passionate advocate for improving legal education."
In its top-25 list, National Jurist includes a dozen law deans, 11 law professors, a legal education advocate and, holding down the list's tenth spot, the entire faculty of Washington and Lee University School of Law. The top rung on the list is held by Brian Tamanaha, Professor at Washington University School of Law, followed by William Henderson, Professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Frank H. Wu, Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law; Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law; and Kyle McEntee, co-founder of Law School Transparency. Dean White is in sixth place. (Read the article here.)
The magazine quotes Dean White as highlighting the "special training and capacities and obligations that lawyers have to help solve problems and help our society work well."
The article goes on to describe two of the groundbreaking programs she has spearheaded since taking the reins at Miami Law in 2009: LawWithoutWalls, which draws on the talents of students and faculty from 18 academic institutions around the world to discover innovations in legal education and practice, and Legal Corps, a unique fellowship program that places Miami Law graduates in non-profit and public sector organizations nationwide and overseas. National Jurist also notes that Dean White has increased significantly the number of clinics at the law school, boosting the outreach work that students perform beyond the campus as a way of increasing the variety and depth of their skills.
"We need lawyers who are thinking about changes in the legal profession and what that means for legal education, so that the people in legal education are educating people for the world of 10 to 20 years from now," Dean White told the magazine. The article says that Dean White seeks to change funding models for legal education so that students do not graduate with such heavy loads of debt.
Dean White spent a decade at the helm of the Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law before moving to Florida to become became Miami Law's eleventh dean. In 2011, she was cited by University of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter as one of the country's nine most transformative law deans, an accolade inspired in large part by her determination to adapt to the evolving legal landscape by making new ideas and technological innovations available to law students. Dean White's is the only name that appears on both the Leiter and National Jurist lists.
The magazine asked 350 people in legal education, including many law school deans, to rate legal educators and advocates based on how much he or she had influenced them in the preceding 12 months. The editors announced the final 25 in early December, but not their ranking. The more detailed list, with Professor Tamanaha at the top, was released last week.