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.”


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. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.