With a search committee expected to recommend a new Law School dean by the end of the semester, international law professor Harold Koh has emerged the favored candidate, three Yale faculty members said.
Professors said Koh, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under former President Bill Clinton, is considered the frontrunner to succeed Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, who is stepping down when his second term ends this spring. An eight-member search committee will likely make a recommendation to Yale President Richard Levin by the end of the semester and possibly as soon as Thanksgiving, said Law School professor and committee chairman Paul Kahn.
A senior professor said all indications point to Koh as the next dean of the Law School.
Another faculty member said it was an “open secret” that Koh would be taking over for Kronman. But the faculty member said Koh’s active participation in human rights issues makes him stand out from previous deans, who have been more academic.
“It’s a very interesting direction for the law school to go,” the faculty member said. “Harold has been a hands-on lawyer — He’s an activist, not a philosopher.”
Though he would not comment on the search, law professor Daniel Esty called Koh “a star” and said he would make a great dean.
“There’s a strong sentiment about his capacity to do this job and fill the enormous shoes left by [Kronman],” Esty said. “It’s a job that demands a lot from a person and everyone I’ve talked to thinks Harold has the capacity to do this.”
Koh said he was consulted by the search committee, like the rest of the Law School faculty. He said there are many strong candidates to lead what he called “the best law school in the world,” but declined to comment on possible candidates.
Kronman said would not comment on possible candidates. Levin declined to comment on the search.
Kahn said the search committee is seeking a strong leader and manager as well as an intellectual leader in the law. He said the next dean will also need to be a good fund-raiser.
In addition to faculty members, the search committee consulted students, alumni, legal experts and Law School staff members about possible candidates and important issues the next dean will face.
Kahn said the next dean will have to address the changing character of legal education, which increasingly emphasizes globalization and the interaction between United States and international law.
“Increasingly lawyers find themselves operating on a global scale,” Kahn said.
Kahn said fund raising will be important because the Law School is facing a space problem but cannot easily expand given its location on central campus.
“We are bursting at the seams,” Kahn said.
The new dean will also have to hire younger professors to rejuvenate the school, a particularly important task since many professors are nearing retirement.
“If you look at the demographic profile [of the Law School faculty], there’s a concentration of professors in the older category,” Kahn said.
A term for a Law School dean is five years and each can serve two terms. In recent history, Kahn said, deans have served two terms, so the rejuvenation process will be an important feature of the next dean’s tenure.