On Wednesday, November 5, I delivered the following remarks at a faculty lunch devoted to reflecting on the passing this summer of Paul R. Dean, who served as dean of Georgetown Law from 1954 to 1969. Although we were honored to have four of Dean's children with us, the audience I principally had in mind were my colleagues, especially those who had little opportunity to meet Dean and to learn of his contribution to the Law School. I drew heavily upon The First 125 Years: An Illustrated History of the Georgetown University Law Center (1995) and an oral history that my colleague Peter Byrne and I conducted with Dean in 1991.
In the annals of the history of American legal education, the year 1870 is almost invariably associated with the start of Christopher Columbus Langdell’s deanship at the Harvard Law School. That it was also the year the Georgetown Law School was founded usually goes unremarked. And that’s not really surprising: what might be called the “Harvard synthesis” has long dominated the history of legal education in the United States. This interpretation takes the reforms of Langdell and his disciple James Barr Ames as the One True Way to run an American law school. You get a sense of it from the titles of two chapters in Robert Stevens’s excellent Law School: Chapter 4 is “Harvard Decrees the Structure and Content”; Chapter 5 is “Harvard Sets the Style.” The pull of the Harvard synthesis has been so great that each time Fred Konefsky and Jack Schlegel picked up another in the series of law school histories they reviewed in their 1982 essay “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” they had the “feeling of inevitability, akin to reading a whodunit novel for the second time.” Once whatever law school they were reading about established high admissions standards, a graded, sequential, and cumulative curriculum devoted to “pure law,” teaching via the case method, and a self-governing, full-time, scholarship-producing faculty, they observed, “the force of the narrative was spent” and the author was left to grope for a new theme. Konefsky and Schlegel thought this very odd, because, as they put it, “only in the silliest, deterministic sense was the Langdellian revolution ever inevitable.” If it were inevitable, it would mean that modern law schools could only be organized one way, and that struck them as a very unlikely proposition, especially in a polity and society like those of the United States, in which lawyers perform so many different tasks for so many different kinds of people.
I mention all this so that you won’t take it the wrong way when I say that Paul Dean founded the modern Georgetown law school. In fact, Dean was responsible for our adoption of many of the attributes of an elite law school, but he wasn’t interested in making Georgetown a Catholic Harvard. He thought Georgetown could be excellent in its own way. He didn’t envision some of the ways in which we’ve subsequently tried to be excellent, but his struggle to establish the principle of faculty governance and the open-endedness of his concept of a “Law Center” nonetheless made it possible for us to pursue excellence in our own way.
Paul Dean was born in 1918 and raised in a small town southwest Youngstown, Ohio. His mother had a eighth-grade education; his father, Edward, a fourth-grade one. Edward Dean started working as a water boy in a blast furnace at the age of twelve, advanced to become a manager of two blast furnaces and hundreds of coke ovens, before losing his job in the Depression. He still managed to provide a college education for all of his sons, including Paul; who graduated from Youngstown State and then enrolled, in September 1940, at Georgetown. Initially rejected by his draft board, he got in two years of law school before leaving for the Navy. During this time he compiled an excellent academic record–in an interview with Peter Byrne and me he called it, with characteristic modesty, “pretty good”–and was named Editor-in-Chief, which, to hear Paul tell it, was “no big deal.”
For over two years Paul served in the Pacific as the Supply Officer on the minelayer USS Monadnock. After leaving his sea duty the Navy picked him as one of 38 people to take a course at the Harvard Business School on terminating war contracts. He lived in a dorm and for four and a half months spent eight hours a day in classes devoted to business school cases. He learned the elements of accounting, finance, and marketing from the business school’s eminent faculty. He was then assigned to Detroit, where he took law classes in the evening at the University of Detroit. At the urging of the brother of a shipmate, Paul tried and succeeded in persuading Dean Blythe Stason to admit him to Michigan’s law school. In the end, he decided to return to Georgetown to complete his legal education. After graduating in 1946 he clerked for a judge on the D.C. Circuit and was offered a job in the Washington office of Cleary Gottlieb, after having impressed no less imposing a legal personage than Hugh Cox. At the same time he was pursued by Notre Dame’s dean and the regent of Georgetown’s law school; the regent, Father Francis Lucey prevailed with an offer $500 a year more than Cleary Gottlieb’s–that is, about $4500 a year--not a small sum to a married man and father.
Dean was one of a group of four young lawyers hired as members of the full-time faculty around 1947. Particularly after his teaching load settled down and he started coaching Georgetown’s moot court teams he was–as he put it–“happy as a stump.” Four years in a row he took teams to the national finals, winning twice and, after one defeat by split decision, having the satisfaction of being told by one of the dissenting judges, John W. Davis, that only some unspecified treachery had kept them from prevailing. In addition to raising the reputation of the law school, the wins also marked Paul as the law school’s ablest young professor. When in the spring of 1954 the school’s long-serving and increasingly feeble dean, Hugh Fegan, stepped down, Father Lucey asked Paul to take the job.
To appreciate what Paul did in the next fifteen years as dean, you have to imagine a law school governed very differently than we are today. From its founding through the late 1920s, the law school was, speaking generally, the project of a group of prominent Catholic lawyers of the same religion, political affiliation, and ancestry as Roger Brooke Taney. Since 1928 the law school had been overseen by a Jesuit regent; since 1931 that regent had been Father Lucey. At the time of his appointment Lucey had a doctorate in sociology from Georgetown but no law degree–a situation he would remedy between 1934 and 1941 by taking a few courses a year in the evening from faculty members whose salary he set. With his degree in hand, he published several contributions to the neo-Scholastic case against the mainstream of American legal thought. (He had especially harsh words for the legal realists and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.) Along with most of the university’s board of directors, Lucey lived in the Jesuit community in the Jesuit Community in Georgetown University’s main campus, and, like the deans of the foreign service and medical schools, he governed his domain much like a feudal baron.
By the 1950s Lucey relied heavily on the registrar, Marie Stoll, a registered nurse, to run the school; Fegan had long been cowed by the regent and had neither a secretary nor files. Stoll scheduled classes, admitted students, made out payrolls, ordered supplies, maintained alumni files, prepared catalogues, and organized the graduate school. She also was a member of the executive faculty, a common institution at Catholic law schools, which permitted regents to govern through a handful of handpicked faculty members. No professor had tenure; teaching loads were high; the faculty was overwhelming Catholic and graduates of Georgetown. The faculty’s publications were, with a few notable exceptions, such as Walter Jaeger’s edition of Williston on Contracts, limited to casebooks–often distributed in mimeo–and bar journal articles. Lucey prepared the budget without any input from the faculty. When faculty members pushed for a formal guarantee of academic freedom, they were permitted to speak their minds about the subject of their classes, but only insofar as their views were “consistent with the moral principles and religious beliefs to which Georgetown University is dedicated.”
Much about how Dean won control of the school for the faculty during what he later called “the extremely difficult years from 1954 to 1961" is quite obscure. Many members of the faculty wore their identity as a university professor lightly and were hard to organized, but the associate dean for the graduate school, Frank Dugan, was a reliable second. Probably decisive was support from Hilltop. As I have it from my colleague Sherman Cohn, who was a student at the law school in the 1950s, the head of the Jesuit’s Maryland province was deeply concerned about the financial condition of the university and appointed a president, Edward Bunn (pictured at left), and an academic vice president, Brian McGrath (pictured at right), to put things right. The law school would be a significant part of any solution Bunn found.
At Paul’s suggestion, Bunn convened meetings of the law school’s executive faculty in his office and slowly Dean made progress. At first, Lucey would simply call Paul in and tell him what he thought Paul needed to know about the budget. (Paul told Peter and me that from these sessions he became an expert at reading upside down and at a distance.) By 1957 the law school had a budget committee and Paul could report that Lucey had made “a full disclosure” of the school’s finances. In the same year, with President Bunn’s support, the executive faculty resolved to hire faculty who weren’t Georgetown alumni so as “to avoid inbreeding.” The new hires pressed for more support for scholarship and for ending the exclusiveness of the executive faculty. In a tortuous process, a constitution was drafted and debated; one of its main provisions would make the dean the “sole administrative head and official representative”of the law school.
Matters appeared to come to a head in 1960. Bunn appointed another Jesuit, Dexter Hanley, to the law faculty, over Lucey’s bitter opposition, and he directed Marie Stoll to report to Dean, although she continued to resist. After a meeting that summer, Paul was convinced that Bunn was about to intervene decisively with Lucey and fire Stoll; instead the Jesuit community and the Maryland province announced a series of celebrations of Lucey’s life and work. Lucey accepted the praise lavished him during these public events but declined to relinquish power. Then in April 1961, an extremely critical accreditation report strongly sided with what its authors called Georgetown’s “able, respected, forthright, and diplomatic decanal staff” and disputed the representations of the regent. At last, in the summer of 1961, the Jesuit provincial directed Lucey to step aside and let Brian McGrath serve as regent. President Bunn announced the change and the appointment of two members of Dean’s second championship moot court team, Kenneth Pye and Richard Gordon, as Associate and Assistant Dean. He also fired Marie Stoll, who had remained at her post despite requests for her resignation.
When Paul took stock of the law school in his first year as the undisputed leader of the law school, he thought of it as a kind of “wheel of misfortune.” When you mentally spun it, whatever phase of the law school came up needed an enormous amount of work. The student body was academically weak. Faculty salaries were too low. The student-faculty ratio was too high. Without sabbaticals the faculty could not meet “the research obligations of a major law school.” Relations with alumni were “not good.” The library was “clearly inadequate.” The school had no full-time placement officer; the graduate school lacked “substantial intellectual content.” The curriculum had no required course in legal research and too few electives. High attrition and the admission of students at times other than in the fall were damaging student morale. But his highest priority was a new home for the school. “Aesthetically,” Paul told Bunn, the existing buildings were “a nightmare.” The row houses used as dormitories fell so far short of the fire and housing codes that they would have to be closed, and the library sprawled over thirteen floors in three different buildings.
I attempted to explain how Paul, with the help of Ken Pye, Dick Gordon, and, later Dave McCarthy, advanced simultaneously on all these fronts in the institutional history that Judy Areen commissioned for our 125th anniversary. Rather than try to go over that ground here, I’ll just discuss Paul’s rebranding of the Georgetown Law School as the Georgetown University Law Center in the 1950s. Paul told Peter and me that the older name had no real luster among lawyers. The “Georgetown Law School” was reputed to give its students an adequate preparation for the bar and occasionally to turn out an exceptional trial lawyer, such as Edward Bennett Williams, but that’s about it. Paul wanted Georgetown to be the venue for an exciting variety of professional activities and seized upon the term “Law Center” which recently enjoyed a certain among legal educators, as a rubric. In the academe, most “centers” usually don’t have one, and that was true of Paul’s. As he put it, “the center was just a device for me to attempt to” get various kinds of activities started up at Georgetown, sometimes on the initiative of a dean, sometimes on the initiative of a faculty member. He devoted much energy to turning a rather miscellaneous graduate curriculum into a coherent school of “Advanced Legal Education.” Institutes came and usually went: the Institute for International and Foreign Trade Law, the Nuclear and Space Institute, an Institute for Church-State Law, and an Institute for Law, Human Rights and Social Values,” headed by the Jesuit Dexter Hanley, who was assisted by Sherman Cohn. Paul told Peter and me that he was particularly proud of Hanley’s institute, because he thought that, as a law school in a Catholic university, Georgetown had an obligation to study the intersection of law, philosophy and religion. The bellwether of our clinics, the Prettyman program, dates from Paul’s deanship; and his associate dean Ken Pye brought in considerable grant money relating to the criminal justice and the war on poverty. Finally, five-year, million dollar grant from the Ford Foundation in 1965 funded the Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure and brought Sam Dash to the Law Center.
At the same time Paul continued to hire faculty who were, as he put it, “better than we were”–that is, the graduates of elite law schools committed to producing scholarship. Some hires helped where we lagged behind elite schools–Donald Schwartz and Ed Bradley plugged an embarrassingly large gap in corporation law--but others went to our more distinctive educational mission. Jack Murphy, for example, taught a seminar on poverty, and Addison Bowman helped staff a new, first-year course on criminal justice. The new hires created their own momentum for further change, and toward the end of his deanship Paul founded himself, as Pye saw it, caught between “an old guard, some of whom oppose any change at any time,” and “young turks, some of whom wish to reform the world yesterday.” Several respected and popular professors left in the summer of 1967 for various reasons; one complained about the pace of change and prompted talk of a “brain drain.”
That said, no single event or concern seems to have persuaded Paul to give up the deanship, which he resolved to do in November 1967 but wasn’t finally permitted to do until June 1969. In his oral history, he mentioned the general sense of weariness that settled upon him whenever he realized he was having the same discussion about the same curricular matter for the fourth time in his deanship. I also think he realized that the faculty he built needed a different kind of leader. “I’m not as much of a participatory democrat as a lot of deans,” he told Peter and me, “and there was a lot of that” in the 1960s. And I think that, after having seen Father Lucey confuse his own beliefs with the good of the institution, Paul wasn’t about to make the same mistake.
Before he stepped down, however, Paul had one more chance to argue that Georgetown Law could be great without being like any other great law school. Back in 1961, the accreditation report that precipitated Father Lucey’s ouster concluded that “at least one top-flight law school should be located in Washington,” that there was none at the time, and that the Georgetown Law Center could be it if it played its cards right. During the winter of 1968-69, it seems, the committee searching for Paul’s replacement concluded that the only way to make Georgetown a “top-flight law school” was to choose as dean someone with impeccable establishment credentials. Word that the committee was acting on advice to name some “Ivy-League Professor” and not “a Ghetto Catholic” provoked Paul to protest in unusually harsh terms about the “masochistic tendency” that that sentiment evidenced. “I detest those Georgetown alumni and faculty who seek some illusory form of external recognition or acceptance through self-deprecation, breast-beating, and carping criticism of our own achievements and our own personnel,” he complained.
In January 1969 the search committee unanimously recommended the appointment of Adrian Fisher (pictured at right), a graduate of the Choate School, Princeton University and the Harvard Law School, a protege of Felix Frankfurter’s, and a former Covington & Burling lawyer, among other things. He was exactly the kind of person Paul had argued against, but when asked his opinion of Fisher, Paul replied that the committee could not have made a better choice. “I await his arrival with joy,” he assured university officials, “and have promised to be unobtrusive the moment he dons the robe.”
I’ll close not with my own assessment of Paul but with that of someone who knew him much better than I did. David McCarthy, who succeeded Fisher as dean, called Paul Georgetown’s “Founding Dean” and said that he accomplished something “unique in the annals of legal education.” At the same time that he “committed Georgetown to becoming one of the nation’s elite law schools,” he retained and strengthened aspects of it that other elite schools had forgone, including an evening division, an unparalleled clinical program, and courses in trial and appellate advocacy. “In building for the future,” McCarthy concluded, Paul “did not sacrifice the treasures of our past. Indeed, he made them pillars of our present prominence.”