Q&A with Delaware Law School’s incoming Dean Todd J. Clark
Todd J. Clark has begun his tenure as dean of Widener University Delaware Law School. An accomplished leader, scholar, and award-winning professor, Clark came to the law school after serving as senior associate dean of Academic Affairs and professor of law at St. Thomas University ("STU") College of Law in Florida.
What are the biggest challenges or opportunities for law schools today?
There are two major challenges facing law schools today. The first challenge is access to justice and promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. DLS has made a substantial commitment to DEIB, and that commitment is evidenced by our creation of a DEIB strategic plan, a standing committee on DEI, a comprehensive plan for promoting DEIB through the curriculum, a DEI Student Council, as well as hiring of Joseph Farris as the assistant dean of diversity equity and inclusion. DEIB is a part of the fabric of who I am as a leader and as a professor and I am proud to join a school with a sincere commitment to DEIB.
The second challenge focuses on ensuring that our students are best equipped to practice in an environment where the evolution of technology is rapidly changing the way lawyers do business. DLS will be a leader in this evolution by embracing this intersection and working to provide resources and academic opportunities around emerging practice areas. By leveraging the expertise of our faculty and alumni we will provide our students with best practices and innovative approaches to solving complex problems. Embracing new technologies will allow us to serve as innovators for how best to implement these initiatives.
What qualities do you think are most crucial for a law dean?
There are three qualities that a dean must possess. First, a dean must know that they are not the smartest person in the room and must trust the expertise in the building. At DLS, we have a wealth of highly accomplished faculty and staff who have extensive experience in both their professional expertise as well as within the law school. Moreover, while a dean must recognize that they are not the smartest person in the building, they must be willing to be the hardest worker. A dean must serve as constant reminder of what is expected and must be willing to work alongside of the faculty, staff, and students.
Second, a dean must endeavor to create an environment where the central focus is on managing the workflow, not the people. More specifically, a strong dean ensures that each person in the building receives the workflow that best enables each employee to reach their creative and innovation apex.
Finally, a dean must be a fortune teller and inspire progress through energy and passion. They must be able to see into the future in order to best leverage the law school to take advantage of market opportunities and to avoid obstacles that can impair a law school’s growth.
What will you work to accomplish in your first year?
My first objective is to begin building relationships with the students, faculty, and staff. I want to hear their voices and rely upon their expertise to align our shared vision to continue elevating the reputation of our institution and to create a plan for continuing success. As part of that plan, we will place primary emphasis on ensuring that DLS’s students are adequately equipped to pass the bar exam on their FIRST attempt and to earn the “regional championship” by achieving the highest bar passage rate in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. To accomplish this goal, we will create a culture of competitive excellence and one that inspires students to view bar passage as a team goal, which encourages students to embrace the collective responsibility to push themselves as well as their peers to perform at the highest level. In addition, we will dedicate substantial effort to connect with our distinguished alumni base. It is imperative that the alumni know how much they are appreciated, and that the success of our institution is inextricably intertwined with their support. Last, but not least, we will serve as a national model for promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the practice of law.
What role does Delaware Law School play in helping to diversify the Delaware bench and bar?
During my initial meetings with Widener President Stacey Robertson and Provost Andy Workman, they emphasized that diversity is a primary pillar of our Widener community. Their vision and leadership in this area served as a critical consideration in my decision to join DLS. At DLS, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is woven into the fabric of our institutional fiber. It has been a priority throughout my career and is part of my DNA. As a result, DLS will play a pivotal role in promoting and developing diversity within the state as well as the region.
The state of Delaware is the epicenter for corporate law. DLS is uniquely positioned to capitalize on the vast corporate relationships and contacts that exist within the state. We will establish external relationships and partnerships that align with DLS’s commitment to diversity and the corporate presence within the state.
DLS has a wonderful capacity to create opportunities to attract students from all walks of life who enhance diversity among the Delaware Bar. I have extensive experience creating opportunities and partnerships for law students. For example, I created multiple partnerships with several colleges and universities during my time at North Carolina Central University School of Law and at St. Thomas University College of Law that focused on providing opportunities to underrepresented student populations through 3+3 programs. Additionally, in my capacity at STU Law, I worked closely with our newly created Ben Crump Center for Social Justice to facilitate programming as well as community outreach programs and initiatives. I intend to bring this momentum with me to DLS by continuing to support diverse classes and build opportunities for our student body.
Please know that every day that I walk into our school, you will see someone with an unbridled commitment to student success, alumni relations, and the faculty and staff in the building. In addition, you will observe this commitment through my energy and passion. I am fueled by what we can accomplish together, as a team. I look forward to getting to know you and serving our amazing community.