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IU McKinney dean's diplomacy skills navigate law school during turbulent time

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At the end of a long conversation about the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Dean Andrew Klein showed his passion for the law.

He had spent the previous hour outlining the future of the law school and the changing demands on legal education when he turned his attention to the books he has read. One that continues to have an impact on him was a biography of Thurgood Marshall’s early career, “Devil in the Grove.”

In reading about Marshall’s work before he argued Brown v. Board of Education and before he became a Supreme Court of the United States justice, Klein was most struck by how the community held Marshall in high esteem because he was an attorney.

Klein-3-15col.jpg IU McKinney Dean Andrew Klein (IL Photo/Eric Learned)

“So when someone needed justice, when someone needed a person to fight for what is right, they didn’t go to the investment banker, they didn’t go to the mechanical engineer – all of which are noble professions,” Klein said. “They looked to a lawyer.”

With scores of IU McKinney graduates working in Indiana law firms and businesses, and holding leadership positions in the Statehouse as well as the federal government, many are likely looking to Klein.

His arrival in the dean’s office came after 13 years of teaching and scholarship at the law school and a turn as chief of staff for Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Chancellor Charles Bantz. To the law school, Klein brings a love of teaching, an understanding of how the entire IU system works, and an appetite to solidify friendships and create new partnerships to better the quality of education.

IU McKinney reaps great benefits from its location – the proximity to state government, major law firms and corporate headquarters, plus having the advantage of being the only law school in the metropolitan area. Klein has the task of not only maintaining the institution’s standing but also meeting new challenges.

His tenure will likely be shaped by his passion for the law and legal education.

“I have a great love for this school and the legal community,” Klein said. “I think society needs excellent lawyers, and I think this particular school has an excellent model for providing legal education to those who are going to be part of the bar and part of this community going forward.”

Vision

Klein stepped into the dean’s office at a time when IU McKinney, like other law schools across the country, struggles with declining applications and falling revenue. Fewer college graduates want to pursue a career in the law, and legal education has been criticized for graduating students ill-prepared to practice and awash in debt.

Talking about IU McKinney, the affable dean spends time discussing the programs, externships and clinics currently offered to students rather than detailing what he envisions for the future. That may be a reflection of what he describes as the “difficult time” through which law schools are going. Thinking far ahead may not be possible when there is too much to pay attention to and watch for today.

“I really think when things settle and we come through this difficult period, I’d love for our school to be viewed as a model for the best of what a law school can do to train professionals and leaders,” he said.

IU McKinney Vice Dean Antony Page rejected the notion that Klein lacked a clear plan for the school and instead described him as a “realistic visionary.” Page said Klein will set the direction for the school by leading in a manner that builds consensus.

“Andy keeps in mind what is actually possible and feasible,” Page said. “I believe Andy does have a vision for the school but he wants to keep that vision grounded in what is possible given the world that we live in and the constraints we have.”

Klein has experience getting the faculty to support a plan during a turbulent period.

He was the associate dean for academic affairs when the law school’s former dean, Anthony Tarr, stepped down in 2005 and Susanah Mead assumed the position of interim dean.

The law school was in crisis then. It was facing a $2 million deficit and a three-year deadline imposed by the university administration to erase the shortfall from the budget. Faculty skirmishes over charges of racism had also become public.

“If Andy hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done,” Mead said, recalling those two years she held the dean’s chair.

She and Klein worked as a team during that “wonderful, crazy and very difficult” time. A key was explaining to the professors and staff what the school was up against so they would understand why they were not receiving raises and open positions were not being filled.

Klein’s skills at diplomacy and “sticking to his guns” proved invaluable. As Mead pointed out, “You can’t be everybody’s best friend when you have to make cuts.”

In the end, the law school got back into the black one year ahead of the deadline and, Mead said, everybody ended up smiling.

“If there were complaints about the faculty or anything, he was able to smooth things over in a way that made all parties feel as if their concerns had been addressed,” Mead said of Klein.

Setting the foundation

Klein begins his day with a workout on either the elliptical trainer or the stationary bike before arriving at his office around 9 a.m. He usually heads for home about 7:30 p.m. unless he is attending a bar association function or alumni association meeting.

Making the external contacts and building support for the school in the community is the primary duty Klein has as dean. Connecting with alumni and the legal community across the state is “absolutely critical, absolutely essential,” Page said, because these individuals review the resumes of IU McKinney graduates.

“We all understand here – as maybe we didn’t understand five or 10 years ago – we need to help make sure our students have opportunities to get jobs and get good jobs,” Page said.

Individuals who know Klein describe him as genuine, someone who cares about others and likes people. He often tells Page how much he enjoys attending the various events and occasionally seeks to organize some of his own as he did when he was visiting China recently. He put together an impromptu dinner for alumni who live and work in that country.

“Because he’s new, I like to think he’s going to set the foundation before he looks further ahead,” said IU McKinney graduate and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana Judge Robyn Moberly.

Part of that foundation includes reaching out to feeder colleges and contacting potential students. As a parent who has sent her children to graduate school, Moberly said having a dean personally contact an applicant makes a big impression and can convince the student to enroll.

Klein likened legal education to an oversold stock that is now at a buy-low moment. Rather than looking at the current condition of the job market, law students need to look to what the opportunities will be when they graduate, he said.

“The attitude that says ‘Don’t go to law school today, it’s a horrible investment,’ is sort of like the person who, at the end of 2009 or start of 2010, said don’t buy stocks because the stock market just crashed,” Klein said. “The person who went ahead and dipped in looks pretty good right now.”

Asked about disparaging commentary about law schools on the Internet, Klein whispered a rebuke to stay away from the blogs. “Some angry anonymous comments” posted online, he said, reflect neither the attitude nor the good experiences most attorneys have had.

“I tell students, you should be proud to be a lawyer,” Klein said. “You have the capacity to do incredible good in ways that people in other professions don’t, and that ought to be on your mind other than what some commenter wrote on a blog, hiding behind an anonymous name.”• -------------------- Andrew Klein

Age: 50

Hometown: Chicago

Cubs or White Sox: Cubs

Education: University of Wisconsin, majors: economics and journalism, 1985; Emory University School of Law, 1988

Clerked for: Judge Joseph Hatchett, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

Law firm experience: Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago for three years

Academic life: began as faculty member at Samford University Cumberland School of Law in Alabama

Family: Wife, attorney Diane Schussel, and two sons, Tim and Jason

Hobby: huge sports fan

If not a lawyer would have become: probably a sports journalist.

What kind of year are the Cubs going to have in 2014: “Horrible.”
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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