Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / News Stories / Douglass is new law dean at University of Richmond

Douglass is new law dean at University of Richmond

John G. Douglass, acting dean at the University of Richmond law school since July 1, has been named dean of the school.

Douglass took the interim position after former dean Rodney A. Smolla left for the Washington and Lee University law school with the understanding that he would not be a candidate for the full-time post.

Part of his reluctance was that “I loved my old job,” teaching and interacting with students and the scholarship and writing. He also believed that “the right dean would be a terrific thing for me and the institution.” For those reasons, he said, he stayed out of the extensive recruitment process for the new dean “because I didn’t want to harm the process by being equivocal.”

A large part of his willingness to take the permanent position was working with new UR President Edward L. Ayers.

“He’s very transparent and anxious for input” in enhancing the academic mission of the university and especially the law school, Douglass said of Ayers. “Just the opportunity to be part of that vision has been terrific,” he said. “It feels like a team and it’s exciting to be part of a team.”

In announcing the appointment, Ayers said, “Dean Douglass has provided strong interim leadership, and I am delighted that he has agreed to lead the school for the longer term and build on its ever-increasing momentum.”

Douglass joined the UR faculty in 1996 after serving four years as chief of the criminal section in the office of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

James B. Comey, formerly U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and deputy U.S. attorney general and now senior vice president and general counsel at Lockheed Martin, said Douglass convinced him to leave private practice and succeed him as chief of the criminal section when Douglass joined the UR faculty.

“He’s a fabulous choice,” Comey said of Douglass. “He can bring people together extremely well. Everybody likes him. Some people, the only thing they have in common is that they like him.”

Douglass said, “We’re well on our way to implementing plans that we’ve developed over the years,” including the National Center for Family Law, the Judge Robert R. Merhige Jr. Center for Environmental Studies, the Intellectual Property Institute, and the Institute for Actual Innocence. The school is also developing a Richmond families initiative as part of its effort “to make this law school a resource for the community of Richmond,” Douglass said.

The quality of scholarship at the school has increased as evidenced by the number of articles from junior faculty published in national legal publications, he added.

“The critical central mission of the school is teaching and professional development of our students,” he said. The school plans to decrease enrollment from 485 to 450 and increase the number of faculty members as part of its effort to keep the education on a personal scale, he said.

A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the law review, Douglass clerked for Judge Harrison L. Winter of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before joining what is now McGuireWoods.

He worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore from 1983 to 1986 and joined the firm of Wright, Robinson, McCammon, Osthimer & Tatum in Richmond in 1986. He was on the staff of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh from 1987-90 during the Iran-Contra investigation.
Douglass specialized in commercial litigation, insurance defense, construction litigation and white-collar defense while in private practice.

At the UR law school, he teaches evidence, trial advocacy, and criminal law and procedure and in 1999 received the university’s distinguished educator award. His principal academic publications have been on prosecution, the criminal trial process and the Confrontation Clause.

In addition to his work at the law school, Douglass is a mediator for The McCammon Group and an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. He also has been a faculty member of the Virginia State Bar’s Course in Professionalism and a frequent lecturer at CLE programs around the state.

The state’s four oldest law schools are in administrative transition. Smolla has been dean of the W&L law school for less than year, and Paul G. Mahoney, a corporate law expert and professor at the University of Virginia law school, was named earlier this year as the successor to Dean John C. Jeffies Jr.

William and Mary law school dean W. Taylor Reveley III was named interim president at the college after President Gene Nichol resigned earlier this year. Lynda Butler, a professor who teaches property and environmental law at the law school, is serving as interim dean.

Leave a Reply