For more than 80 years, Wayne Law has produced creative, motivated leaders who have shaped the modern face of society through remarkable contributions to law, business and education. The Law School brings together a thriving community of thinkers from all walks of life and prepares them to face important issues with thoughtful and creative solutions – living up to a tradition set by the Law School's founders.
Wayne Law deans
Allan Campbell – 1927-1936
Arthur Neef – 1936-1967
John E. Glavin (interim) – 1967-1968
Charles W. Joiner – 1968-1972
Donald H. Gordon (interim) – 1972-1973
B.J. George (interim) – 1973-1974
Martin Adelman (interim) – 1974-1975
Donald H. Gordon – 1975-1980
John C. Roberts – 1980-1986
Robert Abrams (interim) – 1986-1987
John W. Reed – 1987-1992
Stephen Calkins (interim) – 1992-1993
James K. Robinson – 1993-1998
Joan Mahoney – 1998-2003
Frederica K. Lombard (interim) – 2003-2004
Frank H. Wu – 2004-2008
Robert M. Ackerman – 2008-2012
Jocelyn Benson (interim) – 2012-2014
Jocelyn Benson – 2014-2016
Lance Gable (interim) – 2016-2017
Richard A. Bierschbach – 2017-present
Recognizing the need for a good public law school, a group of public-spirited lawyers, including Allan Campbell, the school's founding dean, established Detroit City Law School in 1927 as part of the Colleges of the City of Detroit. Originally structured as a part-time, evening program, the school graduated its first class with the bachelor of laws degree (LL.B.) in 1928.
The Law School and the other colleges grew and flourished and were subsequently renamed Wayne University in 1933. In 1956, the university joined the University of Michigan and Michigan State University as one of Michigan's three major public universities and was renamed Wayne State University.
The initial home of the Law School was in Old Main, but in 1936, the school was relocated off campus to larger facilities in the High School of Commerce building. In 1937, Arthur F. Neef became dean. Full American Bar Association accreditation was granted in 1939. The Law School returned to the main campus area in 1943, moving into a large house at 5063 Cass Ave. Another house, at 5229 Cass Ave., was home for the Law School beginning in 1946.
Graduate coursework in labor law and taxation was initially offered in 1950 with the first master of laws degrees (LL.M.) conferred on two women in 1952. The Case Club (now the Moot Court program) that began in 1938 was revitalized after World War II, and teams representing the Law School began interschool competition in 1950. The Wayne Law Review became part of Law School life when it commenced publication in 1954. The addition of a student-managed, scholarly publication enhanced the prestige of the Law School and provided important experience and opportunities for students. As a special honor, students who participated on The Wayne Law Review were granted juris doctor (J.D.) degrees rather than LL.B. degrees.
The 1960s brought other changes to the Law School, including the Free Legal Aid Clinic, which was founded by students in 1965. The program, now operated in conjunction with Lakeshore Legal Aid and Neighborhood Legal Services, has provided legal assistance to thousands of indigent people while giving Wayne Law's students invaluable experience.
Beginning in 1965, the Law School began to award the juris doctor degree to law students who had obtained an undergraduate degree. The last bachelor of laws degrees were awarded in 1968. In 1960, at the urging of the American Bar Association and the Board of Commissioners of the State Bar of Michigan, Wayne State University Law School and the University of Michigan Law School joined to form the Institute of Continuing Legal Education. Now one of the largest organizations of its type in the nation, the institute provides Michigan lawyers with accessible, high-quality, continuing legal education and resource materials that enable them to practice law more effectively.
Late in 1966, the Law School moved again, to its present location. After Neef's retirement, Charles W. Joiner became dean of the Law School in 1968. Under Joiner, the Law School expanded its faculty and gained a national reputation for its urban programs. After his appointment to the federal district court bench, Joiner was succeeded in 1975 by Donald H. Gordon, under whose leadership the Law School's growth in size and quality continued.
John C. Roberts became dean in 1980, after serving as associate dean of Yale Law School and as counsel to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. During his tenure, the Law School thrived, winning national recognition by earning an Order of the Coif chapter. Additionally, in 1986 students organized the Student Trial Advocacy Program (today known as Mock Trial) designed to enhance practical trial experience. Hundreds of students participate in practice exercises and mock trials each year.
John W. Reed came to the Law School in 1987, after serving as dean of the University of Colorado Law School and as the Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Reed's commitment to excellence attracted talented faculty members and an excellent, diverse student body. James K. Robinson, a 1968 graduate of the Law School, became dean in 1993. With his background as a law student, active alumnus and member of the adjunct faculty, combined with his experience as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and years in private practice, Robinson established a strong connection between the bench and bar and the academy.
Joan Mahoney, a 1975 Wayne Law graduate, became the school's eighth dean in 1998, following her term as dean of Western New England College of Law. Mahoney's distinctive scholarly background – three degrees in history, including a Ph.D. from Cambridge University – enriched the school's curriculum. As the first female dean of any law school in Michigan, Mahoney's unique views and experiences brought the Law School into the 21st century. Mahoney oversaw the most successful capital campaign in the Law School's history – more than $19 million raised – and the construction of the school's state-of-the-art addition, which was dedicated in 2001.
In 2004, the Law School attained another milestone by appointing Frank H. Wu as its ninth dean. At the time, Wu was the only Asian-American law dean in Michigan and one of the few in the nation. He brought with him a wealth of experience in public intellectual life and a dynamic approach to enhancing the quality and reputation of the Law School's programs. A native of metropolitan Detroit, Wu earned his law degree from the University of Michigan and taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., before coming to Wayne Law. He continues to be a highly sought-after as a speaker on issues of race in American life and is known for his 2002 book, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White.
Wu took office at a time of unprecedented opportunity for the Law School. The university committed substantial resources toward the growth of the Law School's faculty and programs, and the Law School's active and supportive alumni raised considerable scholarship funds.
In May 2008, Robert M. Ackerman was appointed the 10th dean of the Law School. Ackerman came to Wayne Law from the Dickinson School of Law, where he was director of the Center for Dispute Resolution, the nation's seventh-ranked law school dispute resolution program. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Ackerman served as dean and professor at Willamette University College of Law from July 1996 to May 1999. Under Ackerman's leadership, the Law School created three new clinics, opened the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights and launched the Program for International Legal Studies.
In December 2012, Jocelyn Benson was appointed interim dean, and in June 2014 she was appointed the 11th dean of the Law School. At age 36, Benson became the youngest woman ever to lead a U.S. law school and the second woman to hold the job at Wayne Law. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she joined the faculty in 2005. Prior to serving as dean, she was an associate professor of law and associate director of Wayne Law's Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. A hallmark of Benson's leadership was creating new opportunities for hands-on learning for law students. Under Benson's leadership, the Law School launched the Levin Center at Wayne Law, Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law, Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic, Civil Rights Clinic and a new externship program. Benson also created an Alumni Speaker Series to welcome alumni from various fields back to the Law School to network with students. She also worked to create partnerships with Oakland University and Wayne State's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to allow students to earn a bachelor's degree and a law degree in six years instead of seven. The Law School received numerous national accolades under Benson's leadership, increased scholarship opportunities for students, posted enrollment increases and saw its graduates' state bar exam passage rate continue to climb through a new academic success and bar exam preparation initiative. Benson also expanded the Law School's communications and community outreach efforts.
In September 2016, Lance Gable, associate dean and an internationally known expert on public health law and bioethics, was appointed interim dean of Wayne Law.