At a memorial service held last spring in honor of Eugene Rostow, the dean of the Yale Law School from 1955 to 1965, current Law School Dean Anthony Kronman asked a rhetorical question: “If this building fell down tomorrow, would the Yale Law School survive?” Yes, he said, because the Law School is, “more durably — a spirit, a community, an idea.” The question stood as a pleasant abstract for exactly three weeks, and then abruptly took on a more eerie and literal significance when a bomb exploded partially destroying two rooms at exam-time last May. And now, Kronman’s rhetoric stands again, this time it’s much more personal and back comfortably in the figurative: After a decade under Kronman’s leadership, we wonder, will the school survive when he steps down this year?
Happily, it seems, the answer is still yes. As the law school’s 16th dean, Kronman has overseen a decade of critical changes and has upheld the values of and improved upon what his likely successor called “the best law school in the world.” Kronman once told the News, the “Yale Law School stands for two things: a kind and degree of intellectual adventurousness and a commitment to public service that views law as an instrument of social improvment.” In the last year alone, his support of affirmative action, his reaction to Army Judge Advocate General recruiters, his opposition to the Israeli divestment campaign, and his latest book on the ideals of responsible law practice, all support his vision of the school.
Ever since last year, when Kronman announced he would be stepping down at the end of his second term this spring, all the buzz has centered around Harold Koh, long regarded as the deanship’s heir apparent. On the chance that Koh’s appointment is not a foregone conclusion, though, a law school committee chaired by professor Paul Kahn said this week that it is currently evaluating potential candidates and could make its recommendation to President Levin by as early as Thanksgiving. We are glad to see the process is moving along so quickly, and we join with so many professors and students in our enthusiasm for and endorsement of Koh’s candidacy.
Considering the law school’s famous for its commitment to public service, and it is not at all surprising that Koh has emerged as the frontrunner candidate in the search for Kronman’s successor. Koh served as an assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under former President Bill Clinton. Between 1993 and 1998, he was the director of the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights at the Yale Law School. He has been called “an activist” and “a star” — a departure from Kronman’s more bookish style but indisputably similar in his dedication to certain of the Law School’s trademark values.
Because of Anthony Kronman’s nine years to date as dean, we can see how the Yale Law School is indeed a more fully realized spirit, community and idea. During his tenure, the school saw great successes. His legacy is one we hope Harold Koh is poised to continue.