Ensuring Equality in Legal Academia: Strategies to Dismantle Caste

Co-produced by the Sections on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research and Academic Support

Date: Monday, May 10, 2021, 2:00 – 3:30 PM EST

Webinar Description:

Moderated by AALS Past President Darby Dickerson, this webinar will explore the caste system in legal education and will discuss potential solutions to the problem, with a particular focus on legal writing and academic support programs and professors. The moderator and a panel of law school Deans (comprised of former academic support and legal writing professors) will discuss how their schools and others can address this issue by mobilizing institutional support for skills professors, capturing the value-add that skills professors bring to legal education, opening up pathways to tenure, and addressing inequities, among other topics.

Learning Objectives:


Click Here to watch the Webinar Replay




Dean Darby Dickerson, J.D., Dean and Professor of Law, University of Illinois Chicago John Marshall Law School

Darby Dickerson became Dean and Professor of Law at The John Marshall Law School in December 2016. In August 2019, she became the inaugural dean of UIC John Marshall Law School following the University of Illinois at Chicago’s acquisition of The John Marshall Law School. She served as President of the Association of American Law Schools during 2020 and is currently the organization’s Immediate Past President. In 2016, she was named one of the “most influential people in legal education” by National Jurist.

From July 2011 until December 2016, she served as Dean and the W. Frank Newton Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law. Before that, she served as Interim Dean and Dean at Stetson University College of Law in Florida from 2003–2011. She started her full-time academic career at Stetson, joining the faculty in 1995. At Stetson, she also served in a wide variety of other administrative roles, including Vice Dean, Associate Dean, Director of Legal Research & Writing, Moot Court Board Director, and Law Review Advisor.

A nationally known leader in legal education, Dickerson is active in the Association of American Law Schools. In addition to serving as President, she is a past Chair of several AALS sections, including the Section for the Law School Dean and the Section on Institutional Advancement. She chaired the AALS Deans Forum Steering Committee during 2019 and also has served on the Membership Review Committee.

She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, a Sustaining Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, a Past President and current Board Member of Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers, and a former Director of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. She is active in the American Inns of Court, having been part of four Inns: The Mac Taylor Inn in Dallas, the Ferguson-White Inn of Court in Tampa (where she served on the Executive Board and as President), the Texas Tech University School of Law Inn of Court in Lubbock (where she was a founding member and on the executive committee), and the Chicago Inn of Court. She has also been active in bar activities at the local, state, and national level.

Dickerson received her B.A. and M.A. from the College of William & Mary, and her J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. Following law school, she clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and then practiced commercial litigation with the firm now known as Locke Lord in Dallas, Texas. In 1995, she was named both Outstanding Young Lawyer in Dallas and Outstanding Director of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. In January 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the Darby Dickerson Award for Revolutionary Change in Legal Writing, named by the Association of Legal Writing Directors to honor her contributions to legal writing. In 2018, she received the AALS Section of Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning’s lifetime achievement award. She has also received a variety of awards for her professional, charitable, and community service.




Dean Michael Barry, J.D., President and Dean, South Texas College of Law Houston

Michael F. Barry is the 11th president and dean of Houston’s oldest law school, South Texas College of Law Houston.

For more than two decades, he has provided confident leadership, innovative strategies, actionable recommendations, and practical management to Fortune 200 clients, in higher education, and in community service.

Barry joined South Texas in fall 2019 after serving as assistant dean and practitioner in residence at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, Texas. Among his responsibilities were developing new programs; increasing outreach to partners, donors, employers, and alumni; supporting and fundraising for initiatives that benefited St. Mary’s University and its students and alumni; managing law school operations to support faculty and student needs; and developing and teaching courses and extracurricular programs. Bringing business acumen, budgeting, change management, and leadership skills from his years in legal practice and in business, Barry initially designed St. Mary’s University School of Law’s comprehensive Law Success academic support program, became a leader in using data to support student success, and directed operations and budget for the School of Law. An engaged teacher, Barry excels at bringing real-world experiences into the legal classroom.

After graduating from the University of Virginia with a double major in English and Religious Studies, Barry received his law degree from Yale Law School. After graduation from Yale, he clerked for the Hon. Royce C. Lamberth, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia, and for Chief Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Barry then entered private practice in Phoenix, Arizona, where he litigated and tried cases involving patent infringement, financial services class actions, breach of contract, and Indian law in both federal and state court. He then joined Capital One in Richmond, Virginia, where he created and ran the litigation department. While in Richmond, Barry taught trial and appellate advocacy as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.

He then served as a senior executive at USAA in San Antonio, Texas, where he was senior vice president and deputy general counsel and led a legal staff of more than 350 people. At USAA, Barry ensured that the legal department established comprehensive and proactive legal and regulatory strategies to enable USAA’s insurance and banking businesses. While at USAA, Barry also worked on the business side, overseeing USAA’s Corporate Development, Global Service Delivery, and Operational Excellence divisions, as well as USAA’s Alliances businesses.

Barry continued his education by earning a Master of Arts in Theology from the University of San Francisco in 2009.



Dean Danielle M. Conway, J.D., Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Pennsylvania State University Dickinson Law

Danielle M. Conway is the Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law at Penn State Dickinson Law. A leading expert in procurement law, entrepreneurship, intellectual property law, and licensing intellectual property, Dean Conway joined Dickinson Law after serving for four years as dean of the University of Maine School of Law and 14 years on the faculty of the University
of Hawai’i at Mānoa, William S. Richardson School of Law, where she was the inaugural Michael J. Marks Distinguished Professor of Business Law.

Prior to her deanships, Dean Conway was a member of the faculties at the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. She also served as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Australia and later as Chair in Law at LaTrobe University, Faculty of Law & Management in Australia. Dean Conway is the author or editor of six books and casebooks as well as numerous book chapters, articles, and essays. Her scholarly agenda and speeches have focused on, among other areas, advocating for public education and for actualizing the rights of marginalized groups, including Indigenous Peoples, minoritized people, and members of rural communities. Dean Conway’s most recent publication focuses on different aspects of building an antiracist law school, legal academy, and legal profession through leadership, vision priorities, and transformational diversity, equity, and inclusion-focused admissions and faculty and staff recruitment and retention.

Dean Conway is the co-recipient of the inaugural Association of American Law Schools’ (AALS) Impact Award, which honors individuals who have had a significant, positive impact on legal education or the legal profession. Dean Conway received this recognition for her work in establishing the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project. Launched in June 2020, the project is a webpage for law deans, faculty and staff, and the public that contains resources and information related to addressing racism in law and legal education. Dean Conway also serves as one of three co-chairs of the Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety.

Dean Conway earned her bachelor’s degree from New York University Stern School of Business, double majoring in finance and international business. She earned her J.D. degree, with honors, from the Howard University School of Law, where she graded on to the Howard Law Journal and served on the leadership board of the National Moot Court Team. She holds dual LL.M. degrees in Government Procurement Law and Environmental Law from the George Washington University Law School. She has been admitted to the bars in the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Dean Conway has been a member of the American Law Institute since 2004. She is an appointed member of the AALS Executive Committee, appointed to the Board of Directors of AccessLex Institute, and an appointed member of both the Pennsylvania Bar Association COVID-19 Task Force and the Joint Task Force on Continuity of Legal Services. In 2016, Dean Conway retired from the U.S. Army in the rank of lieutenant colonel after 27 years of combined active, reserve, and national guard service.



Dean Larry Cunningham, J.D., Dean and Professor of Law, Charleston School of Law

Larry Cunningham became the Dean of Charleston School of Law in June 2020, bringing a national reputation in legal education, assessment, and student learning to the position. As Dean, he serves as the chief academic and executive officer of the school, leading the academic, student support, and operational units of the Law School with the singular goal of promoting student success.

Dean Cunningham joined Charleston School of Law from St. John’s University School of Law, where he was a professor from 2008 to 2020 and served in several administrative posts, including Dean of Students, Associate Dean for Academics, Vice Dean, and the first Associate Dean for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness. He received several teaching and service awards, including the University’s Outstanding Achievement Medal.

As a professor, Dean Cunningham combines a mix of teaching styles, technology, assessments, and “flipped classroom” techniques to promote active learning. At Charleston School of Law, he teaches Evidence, a required course, where he draws on his experience in the courtroom. After clerking for a United States district judge, Dean Cunningham served as an Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was in charge of juvenile delinquency prosecutions and tried numerous cases to verdict. Later, he was an Assistant District Attorney in the Appeals Bureau of the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, where he also coordinated the office’s post-adjudication insanity review cases and served as an on-call homicide duty prosecutor.

Dean Cunningham’s scholarship includes research in higher education, criminal justice ethics, criminal procedure, appellate practice, juvenile justice, mental health law, and insurance law. He has been a frequent speaker on legal education and other topics before bar associations, law schools, and other organizations. His blog, Law School Assessment, examines programmatic and classroom assessment in legal education, a topic that he speaks regularly on at national organizations and law schools.

In June 2008, he testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, on the legality of laptop searches at the international border. In 2016, Dean Cunningham was awarded a grant from the U.S. Fulbright Specialist Program to teach at the Royal University of Law and Economics in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Dean Cunningham received his J.D. magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was an Executive Editor of the Georgetown Law Journal’s Criminal Procedure Project, Executive Director of the Barristers’ Council, and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He graduated summa cum laude and valedictorian of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 2012, he received a Master Certificate in Strategic Organizational Leadership from Villanova University. He is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt (a process improvement methodology) and admitted to practice law in New York, Texas, and Virginia. He completed a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Assessment and Institutional Research from Sam Houston State University in 2019.



Dean Susan Duncan, J.D., Dean and Professor of Law, University of Mississippi School of Law

Susan Hanley Duncan joined the University of Mississippi School of Law as Dean in August 2017. She is the first female to serve as Dean of the Law School not in an interim capacity.

Duncan’s teaching and research interests include lawyering skills, education law and restorative practices. Her scholarship has focused primarily on issues surrounding children, including the need for anti-bullying laws and laws protecting children from pornography on the Internet. Her most recent scholarship focuses on the use of restorative practices in schools, universities and in the workplace.

On the national level, she has served in leadership positions on several boards that focus on the development of new legal writing professors. She frequently presents on legal writing and education law topics, and Business First recently named Duncan as one of the top 20 people to know in the field of education.

Her work has garnered recognition by many, including such honors as the 2016 Kentucky Bar President Special Service Award, the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award from Louis Brandeis School of Law, and the 2010 Louisville Bar Association Award for Distinguished Service.

Prior to joining the faculty at Ole Miss, she served as Interim Dean at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she began as an adjunct in 1997 and became a full-time faculty member in 2000. During her tenure, she served as chair of UofL’s Commission on the Status of Women and was a member of multiple university committees.

Duncan has been a visiting professor at the University of Montpellier (France), the University KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), the Johannes Gutenberg University (Mainz Germany), the University of Leeds (England), and the University of Turku (Finland).

She received a B.A. from Miami University and a J.D. from the University of Louisville.


Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz, J.D., Dean, University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law

Dean Schwartz is the 10th Dean of the University of Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law. He started July 1, 2017.

Dean Schwartz is the author of seven books (three of which come with lengthy teacher’s manuals), seven law review papers, three book chapters, and eight shorter works addressing a wide variety of teaching, learning and curriculum design topics. Schwartz’s books include What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press 2013) and a contracts textbook, Contracts: A Context and Practice Casebook (3d ed. 2020), which was the first book in a textbook series he designed to modernize law school casebooks (which he now edits).

Dean Schwartz has delivered more than 200 professional presentations about teaching and learning in law school. He is the chair of the Section on Socio-Economics of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) and a member of the AALS Membership Review Committee (which reviews law school applications for membership in the Association and approves sabbatical site evaluation reports on member law schools).  He is a former chair of the AALS Sections on Deans, Teaching Methods, and Balance in Legal Education. Dean Schwartz is a Consultant to the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning, and he is a member of the board of advisors for a national legal publisher and two peer-reviewed law reviews. In January 2017, National Jurist Magazine named Dean Schwartz the 9th Most Influential Person in Legal Education, the third year in a row he was ranked among the top 15 in the nation. Dean Schwartz’s Contracts course was selected by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System as “an innovative course that reflects exemplary innovative teaching,” and Dean Schwartz was recently named one of 30 Honorees for a Council for Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) Edge Award in the Education category.

Dean Schwartz invites you to follow his blog on innovation in legal education, What Great Law Schools Do.