McGinniss – who’ll continue leading the school throughout the upcoming academic year – takes pride in ‘significant and important advancements’ at UND Law
After leading the University of North Dakota’s School of Law through a period of notable progress in finances, enrollment, and other matters, Dean Michael S. McGinniss has announced his decision to conclude his deanship after the next academic year and return to his role as a full-time faculty member.
“My upcoming work as dean in 2021-22 will focus on reinforcing and building upon the significant and important advancements we have made since I began this journey,” said McGinniss, in a letter to students, staff, faculty and other friends of the UND Law School this morning.
McGinniss will continue in office until June 30, 2022, a date that marks completion of his three-year contract to serve as Dean.
“My confidence in now making and announcing this decision to return to my teaching, scholarship, and service as ‘Professor McGinniss’ in 2022-23 has been bolstered by the high degree of trust I have in UND’s academic leadership to proceed wisely and to act with sound and prudent judgment in selecting the new Dean.”
UND President Andrew Armacost thanked McGinniss for leading the Law School Dean to a point of great stability during challenging times.
“During the pandemic, when college enrollments were expected to decline nationwide, UND’s School of Law saw a 5 percent increase in enrollment with a diverse group of new students for the 2020 fall semester,” Armacost said. Mike’s also been a strong and effective advocate for the law school during his tenure, recognizing the need for attorneys to live and work in rural areas to better serve all of North Dakota.”
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Debbie Storrs lauded significant progress made under McGinniss’ leadership to benefit UND Law students.
“The Law School continues to provide important curricular offerings to academically strong cohorts of students and ensure they have the academic support to successfully pass the bar exam,” Storrs said. “This coordinated effort is the result of creative planning and work on the part of committed faculty and staff, with strong leadership from the Dean. I respect Dean McGinniss’ decision to return to his love of teaching after the 2021-22 academic year. The Law School is in a great position to recruit the next Dean in a national external search.”
Stronger across the board
McGinniss joined the School’s faculty in 2010. He was selected as Dean in February 2019 after an internal search, one in which he received nominations from students and graduates of UND Law. He took over from Interim Dean Brad Myers on July 1, 2019.
Since then, “the UND School of Law has made enormous strides and grown stronger across the board,” McGinniss wrote in his letter.
* During the 2019 session of the North Dakota Legislature, Dean-select McGinniss worked closely with Interim Dean Myers to boost the state’s financial support of the School of Law. Together, the leaders “successfully rallied strong and vocal support from our alumni and friends in the North Dakota bar in support of a significant increase in the base appropriation for School,” resulting in a nearly $2.8 million boost for the biennium, McGinniss wrote.
During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers saw that the School had used those resources wisely and effectively. Thus, “I am very pleased that the state fully continued that new level of support for the biennium 2021-23,” McGinniss wrote.
* Historically, the School looks for an entering class of 85 first-year law students. In the fall of 2017, the School’s incoming 1L class was 71 students, and in the fall of 2018, the incoming class was only 62 students.
“By Fall 2019, with aid from the momentum created by the additional legislative appropriations and strong efforts by our great recruiting team here at UND Law, we had advanced our enrollment numbers to welcome 84 new 1L students,” McGinniss wrote.
“So far in 2021, we are well on our way to exceeding those excellent enrollment figures. … and also in continuing our recent upward trends in high academic credentials and greater racial and ethnic diversity among our new law students.”
* Bar passage rates for UND Law graduates also have risen sharply, McGinniss noted. In July 2018, the first-time North Dakota bar exam pass rate was 75 percent. By July 2019, the pass rate had climbed to 84 percent; and despite the exceptional challenges posed by the pandemic, the upward trend continued, with UND Law graduates posting a first-time pass rate in July 2020 of 87 percent.
Teacher, scholar, leader
McGinniss earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Washington College in Maryland and graduated third in his class at the College of William & Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law. He served as a law clerk for the Supreme Court of Delaware, then worked at a law firm in Delaware, where he focused on intellectual property litigation.
In 1998, the Supreme Court of Delaware appointed him to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, where he spent 12 years. He is a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar, among other bars.
McGinniss’ national reputation and recognition as a scholar is reflected by his 2017 election as a member of the American Law Institute. The Institute is the leading independent organization in the United States producing scholarly work to clarify, modernize, and improve the law.
“A popular teacher, he has served as the faculty advisor for the North Dakota Law Review for the past seven years, and students have chosen him to hood them at spring commencement since 2012,” UND Today wrote upon McGinniss’ being named dean in 2019. “He has received the J. Philip Johnson Faculty Fellow Award at the School annually, and has received faculty achievement and other awards.”
Incoming UND Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Eric Link will work with the Law School to establish a search committee.
“I’m especially appreciative that Mike came to me with his request well before his deanship contract is up for renewal in July 2022,” Armacost continued.
“This will enable the University to work with law school alumni, friends, and other important stakeholders in the bench and bar community, ensuring a smooth transition to a new leader. I’m thrilled Mike will be returning to the classroom to share his knowledge with aspiring legal professionals, and I look forward to working with him as law school dean over the next year.”