Bostonia is published in print three times a year and updated weekly on the web.
School of Law Dean Maureen O’Rourke will step down in June 2018, concluding a decade-plus deanship that saw her preside over construction of a new, high-tech-equipped classroom building and defy the gravitational pull of slumping law school enrollments nationally.
O’Rourke will take a sabbatical and then return to the LAW faculty in fall 2019, said Jean Morrison, University provost, in announcing the change at the top.
“It’s a good time to step down,” O’Rourke says, citing the school’s recent reaccreditation by the American Bar Association and a soon-to-launch strategic planning process. “A new leader should be the one to see our next 5-to-10-year plan through.
“I have been blessed to work with some of the finest administrators in the country, at both the law school and University level,” she adds. “I’ll miss that.” She’ll spend her sabbatical writing materials for her Secured Transactions course, “so students won’t have to pay for a textbook.”
Morrison says BU will conduct a national search for O’Rourke’s successor that ideally will yield recommendations by May 11, 2018.
“Dean O’Rourke has been an exceptional leader at the School of Law over the last 13 years,” says Morrison. “She has driven important advances in the quality, relevance, and accessibility of the school’s academic programs, in the expansion and modernization of its teaching space, and in its national reputation among top law schools.
“We are grateful for Dean O’Rourke’s service and for her continued commitment to making legal education both responsive to the needs of the marketplace and a mechanism for accomplishing public good. We look forward to celebrating her many contributions in the spring,” when an event honoring her will be held.
Among those contributions is O’Rourke’s leadership of a curriculum revamping in response to declining jobs for litigators. The new curriculum focuses on areas where legal jobs are expanding: intellectual property, immigration, and health and international law. The school today has 21 overseas study opportunities, 17 programs offering dual degrees, national and international externships, and a first-of-its-kind clinic that represents human trafficking victims.
Its dual-degree programs are an alphabet soup of disciplines and opportunities: a JD/MD, JD/MBA, JD/LLM in taxation, JD/MS in law and mass communication, and two JD/MA programs, in international relations and in preservation studies.
O’Rourke also oversaw the construction of the Sumner M. Redstone Building, which opened in 2014. The building’s classrooms replaced those in LAW’s aging tower, which had grown cramped and had poor acoustics, antiquated heating and air conditioning, and deteriorating roof and windows. Students frequently had long waits for the elevators that traveled 15 of the 17 floors to reach classrooms.
They now navigate Redstone’s more manageable five floors of class space, while the renovated tower houses administrative and faculty offices and moot classrooms.
In 2016, after surveying more than 19,000 students at US law schools, Princeton Review declared LAW’s professors the best in the nation. And in 2015, the dean herself garnered a ranking, as National Jurist magazine named her to its annual compilation of the 25 most influential legal educators.
O’Rourke says she’s proudest of two accomplishments. One was her role in “increasing support for public interest service” at LAW, through initiatives like full scholarships for students who want to enter public interest law, enhanced postgraduate public service fellowships, and the spring break pro bono service trips program.
The second was a 2013 alumni retreat that validated the school’s new transactional law program and led to other changes, including the Lawyering Lab, where students role-play as attorneys in exercises drawn from real-life cases.
O’Rourke, who cowrote one of the country’s leading casebooks on copyrights and is the author of dozens of law review articles for schools nationally, began her BU career in 1993, coming from IBM as one of the company’s in-house lawyers. She became a full professor in 1998, teaching intellectual property and commercial law, and in 2000 won a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of the University’s top teaching honors. She was named associate dean of administration in 2001 and associate dean for academic affairs two years later. She became LAW’s acting dean in 2004 and permanent leader in 2006.
Counting her tenure as interim dean, O’Rourke has led a BU school longer than any currently serving dean. (Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus, was named MED’s permanent dean in 2005.)