September 5, 2008

Cornell Law School Announces Major Expansion in Permanent Faculty

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The recent addition of six distinguished legal scholars signifies an expansion of permanent faculty at Cornell Law School. The scholars bring with them diverse expertise in areas such as constitutional law, international law, evidence law and commercial litigation.
Stewart Schwab, dean of the Law School, explained that plans for this faculty expansion took shape during a self-review of the that began several years ago.
“Back in 2003 the law school faculty did an extensive self-study and evaluation,” Schwab said, “and there was a consensus that the school needed to expand its faculty, particularly its research faculty.”
Schwab explained that the faculty expansion was not related to any plans to increase the law school’s relatively restricted student enrollment, but rather was designed to supplement its traditional strengths and keep its faculty and curriculum broad and up-to-date.
“International law has been a focus of ours,” Schwab said, “and its increasing importance was a factor in the faculty additions … I think that each of the scholars added to the permanent faculty will help to enrich the school’s curriculum.” [img_assist|nid=31451|title=Legal grounds|desc=Following a self-evaluative study, the Law School was prompted to expand their permanent faculty.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The new faculty members include constitutional law scholar Michael C. Dorf, the former vice dean of Columbia law school who will join the Law School’s faculty in the spring; as well as fellow constitutional law scholar Joshua Chafetz, who graduated from Yale Law in 2007.
The scope of the school’s research and teaching within the field of international law will be expanded by the arrival of Jens D. Ohlin, formerly an associate-in-law at Columbia Law School, whose area of expertise is international criminal law. Additionally, Chantal Thomas, an international law and social justice scholar, was appointed to the Law School’s faculty last year and will begin teaching this fall following a one-year leave.
The two final additions include Sherry F. Colb, most recently of the Rutgers School of Law, who has written and taught in a variety of legal fields but whose major research and teaching interests lie in evidence law and constitutional criminal procedure. Last, Michelle Whelan will draw upon her 17 years of commercial litigation experience in teaching basic “lawyering” skills such as legal writing and analysis.
The law school’s collaborative environment and its renowned faculty and students were all cited as factors attracting these scholars to Cornell.
“From the time that I gave my ‘job talk,’ a presentation of my own work to the faculty during the interview, I was extremely impressed with how engaged the Cornell faculty is with one another’s projects and how helpful everyone was in asking questions and making suggestions to me about developing my own work,” Colb stated in an e-mail.
“My favorite part of being a professor is teaching,” Colb added, “and the prospect of working with students who are both gifted and fun was and is very appealing.”
Joshua Chafetz, an assistant professor at the law school, concurred, calling Cornell Law “a fantastic law school with first-rate students and incredible scholars on faculty.”
In turn, the law school’s faculty continues to attract top students, as Natalee Vernon ’09 attested.
“I would say that the strength of the faculty played a large part in my decision to come here,” Vernon said. “The professors are experts, people who write books on the subjects that they teach.”
The undergraduate community has benefited and will continue to benefit from its ties to the law school.
Chafetz plans to teach the undergraduate course GOVT 3131: The Nature, Functions and Limits of Law, a course he described as “using a number of different disciplinary perspectives to understand what the law can and cannot do.”
Though the addition of these scholars to the law school’s faculty represents a substantial expansion, it is likely that even more changes are in the works.
Schwab said that the law school continues to consider developing its various programs through additions to its permanent faculty.
“We’re looking at future development in terms of the business side of the law,” he said, “and future faculty appointments might reflect this.”