‘Servant leader’ makes his case

Set to take over July 1, Mike McGinniss shares vision for future of North Dakota’s one and only School of Law

Michael McGinniss, associate professor of law at UND, has been named dean of the School of Law, effective July 1. Photo by Rob Carolin/School of Law.

Mike McGinniss describes himself as a servant leader.

“I plan to lead by example,” said the newly appointed dean of the UND School of Law. “I’m excited and humbled, and see this as an opportunity for great challenges and great possibilities.”

McGinniss joined the faculty in 2010 and was selected  to serve as dean after an internal search in which he received nominations from students and graduates of UND Law. He will take over from Interim Dean Brad Myers on July 1.

“This is North Dakota’s law school,” McGinniss said at a law faculty assembly March 29. “I am deeply committed to ensuring that the qualities that have made us so distinctive and special among law schools endure for the future of our state.”

McGinniss thanked UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo for the opportunity, as well as Interim Dean Brad Myers for his leadership and dedicated efforts over the past year.

“I have greatly appreciated their support and guidance as we work together for the good of our law school community,” he said.

Students first

Student success and well-being are paramount goals, McGinniss said, including rigorous academics and a culture of caring and respect.

“What I’ve enjoyed most about my service here is teaching and getting to know students,” he said. “Students place trust and confidence in us, and I have been privileged to have countless conversations about professional goals, ethical dilemmas, or finding the will to persevere. Those relationships with students and graduates have meant the world to me.”

Though he will miss teaching, McGinniss said he plans to continue to work with students in his new role.

“I’m responsible for all students in the School,” he said. “I plan to be visible and support their activities, and to continue  meeting and getting to know them.”

McGinniss said that a top goal is fortifying and strengthening bar exam passage rates and ensuring that students are well prepared for professional life. As changes in the landscape of legal education loom, McGinniss said, he looks forward to addressing those challenges with innovation and flexibility, while ensuring effective teaching and learning.

He’d also like to bring back the Law Clinic, which offered legal services to state residents and was placed on hiatus several years ago.

“It’s an opportunity for law students to both learn and provide services to the public,” he said, adding that he hopes to extend the Clinic’s reach beyond Grand Forks and find new ways to serve western North Dakota.

“There is a shortage of lawyers in rural counties, and people have to drive long distances to see an attorney. Placing students in rural areas could increase the likelihood that they will decide to live and practice there.”

Recruitment, as well as recovering from budget cuts, are also goals. Searches for additional faculty begin in the fall, and a director of admissions position has already been posted. He has also been working with the State Bar Association as it has sought to support the School of Law on budget issues before the North Dakota Legislature.

“We are striving to do everything we can to enroll students we believe will succeed and promote their academic and career success,” McGinniss said.

He added that Myers has accepted an invitation to continue in a leadership role as associate dean for administration, and will help the School prepare for its reaccreditation visit in 2021. Julia Ernst, associate professor of law, will serve as associate dean for academic and student affairs.

He plans to be a strong and effective advocate who focuses on the critical importance of the law school to the state.

“It’s been wonderful to see the outpouring of support from the bench and bar,” said McGinniss, who has been active in service to the North Dakota legal community and previously worked as a disciplinary counsel for the Supreme Court of Delaware. “They welcomed me when I was a newcomer, and I’m looking forward to working together for the public and for North Dakota. I have great confidence that the future holds great things for the UND School of Law.”