Soifer To Join Law Faculty

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

Aviam Soifer, who has served as dean of the Law School since 1993, has announced he will step down at the conclusion of the current academic year and join the school's faculty.

"After extensive discussions with the administration and with abundantly mixed feelings, I announce my decision to resign as dean effective this coming June, 1998," Soifer said in a Nov. 19 letter to the Law School community. "I intend to return to full-time teaching and scholarship next year.

"I am deeply grateful to the many, many people who have done extraordinary things to advance the Law School and who selflessly have helped me do a job I love. I am proud of the considerable strides we have made. These are exemplified in our marked success in admissions, scholarly productivity, increased diversity, career placement, bar passage rates and record fundraising years, as well as in the crucial but immeasurable qualities of the life within our Law School.

"I am confident that Boston College Law School is on the right trajectory," Soifer added. "There are a multitude of reasons to remain optimistic about our continued progress as an institution and as a community."

Aviam Soifer.

"During his tenure as dean, Avi has solidified the Law School's position among the top 25 law schools in the United States and has improved the quality of entering students, despite a significant decline in the number of law school applicants nationally," said Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculties William B. Neenan, SJ.

"I know I am joined by the Law School faculty, staff and student body, as well as his colleagues throughout the University, in thanking Avi for his significant contributions to the Law School and to Boston College," Fr. Neenan added.

During his five-year tenure, Soifer has overseen the construction of a new law library and has worked to develop a plan for complete replacement of Law School facilities over the next decade. The second phase of that effort, the construction of a new classroom wing on Stuart House, is now underway.

Soifer also presided over a period of continued academic prosperity at the Law School, which placed 22nd among the nation's law schools in this year's US News & World Report rankings. It rates among the nation's top 10 law schools in application volume, annually receiving about 4,500 applicants for 270 first-year seats, according to Associate Dean for Administration Michael Cassidy. This year, the mean grade point average for the entering class was above 3.5 for the first time, a marked jump from last year's mean GPA of 3.43, he said.

Soifer also has worked to diversify the faculty and student body. For the past two years, students of color have comprised 22 percent of the student body, a two percentage point increase that compares favorably with most of the Law School's peer institutions, which "are in the teens," said Cassidy.

In addition, for the first time, this year's entering class is more than half women - 55 percent - also a higher percentage than most of the Law School's peer institutions.

In the faculty area, four of the last six tenure-track hires have been women and two have been African-Americans (one is an African-American woman).

Soifer said the Law School enjoyed its two best fundraising years, as measured by cash contributions and pledges, during his deanship, and he has been raising the proportion of alumni contributions earmarked for faculty research support.

New graduates of the Law School are doing better than ever, said Cassidy. In 1996, 92 percent of Law School graduates passed the Massachusetts bar examination and, in doing so, outperformed Harvard Law School graduates for the first time.

In addition, 93 percent of the Class of 1996 found work within six months of graduation, a two percentage point increase over the previous two years. The Law School also has a record number of judicial clerkships among its most recent graduating class.

In returning to the professoriate, Soifer continues a career he began in 1973, when he joined the University of Connecticut law faculty as an assistant professor. He rose to the rank of professor, before joining the Boston University School of Law in a similar capacity in 1979. He stayed at BU until being named BC Law dean in July 1993.

An active researcher and publisher, Soifer wrote several articles during his deanship, including a forthcoming piece on the First Amendement and the death penalty. He also wrote a book, Law and Company We Keep (Harvard University Press, 1995), an examination of the role people's group associations play in American law.

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