Academics Law and Politics

Former Notre Dame Law School dean to serve as Miami Law interim dean

Nell Jessup Newton, a female trailblazer in legal education, will steer the School of Law during the search for its new dean.
Nell Jessup Newton

Nell Jessup Newton, former Notre Dame Law School dean, will serve as interim dean at the School of Law.  

As the University of Miami School of Law welcomed first-year students for orientation on Monday, President Julio Frenk announced the selection of the school’s interim dean. Nell Jessup Newton, a former Notre Dame Law School dean, will join the University as interim dean and visiting professor beginning this September. 

“Newton, whose impressive academic and administrative accomplishments have made her a national leader in legal education for more than 20 years, will steer the law school through the next year during the search for a new dean. A tenured member of the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, Newton served as its 10th dean from 2009 to 2019,” Frenk stated in his message to trustees, faculty and staff members, and law school students and alumni. 

Newton began her academic career at the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C., where she was the first woman to earn tenure and promotion to full professor. As more women entered the legal academy, the D.C. Women Law Professors Group, which she helped organize, grew to include female law professors from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania. Newton would later become the first female dean of the law school at the University of Denver, where she got her start in law school administration. 

Prior to Notre Dame, Newton also served as the dean at UC Hastings—her alma mater—and the law school at the University of Connecticut. Her impressive body of legal scholarship has focused on American Indian Law, and she is the editor-in-chief of the only treatise on the subject, “Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law.’’ 

Jeffrey Duerk, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, noted that “Nell’s leadership, experience, and national network—not to mention her impeccable academic credentials and ability to build coalitions—make her the ideal candidate to serve in this role.” 

Reached in South Bend, Indiana, where she is preparing for the move to Miami, Newton said, “As we look to the future, I am excited to work with the law school faculty, staff, students, and alumni—and the broader university community—to build on Miami Law’s rich history, its academic strengths, and the unique opportunities of this moment.” 

Frenk thanked professor Stephen Schnably, who served as acting dean this summer, “for his steady hand and selfless service while we identified the best candidate to lead Miami Law through this important transition.” 

In a message to the law school’s Academic Review Committee, Dean’s Council, and Fundraising Committee, Schnably pointed out that at Notre Dame, Newton “strengthened the school’s focus on innovation and technology in legal education and practice; enhanced its experiential, interdisciplinary, and international programs; and expanded its career development office.” 

Under Newton’s leadership, Notre Dame built curricular strengths in business and international law as well as intellectual property. The school launched new clinical programs to assist the underserved, new specialized courses of study in law and policy, a J.D./MBA dual degree program, as well as exchange programs with half a dozen universities across Europe, Asia, and Latin America. 

Newton has held numerous national positions in the legal education community. She served as a member (and chair from 2014-2016) of the board of trustees of the NALP (National Association for Law Placement) Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, and on several committees examining legal education issues for the American Bar Association, the Association of American Law Schools, and the Law School Admission Council. 

Newton was among a list of potential candidates recommended and forwarded by a delegation of law faculty to Frenk, who thanked faculty members, alumni, students, and trustees for their perspectives and advice. 

“The breadth of [Newton’s] experience and expertise will allow her to seamlessly engage with students, faculty, staff, and alumni as we build on a legacy of scholarship, service, and social justice to strengthen our law school for the future,” Frenk said.