Darby Dickerson, Dean of UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago, is the 2020 President of the Association of American Law Schools. She assumed the presidency on January 4 after delivering her inaugural address at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
“I am incredibly honored to serve as the 2020 President of the AALS,” said Dickerson. “The theme for my presidential year is ‘The Power of Words,’ which pays homage to my area of specialty, legal writing. I encourage legal educators to continue breaking down the caste system that exists in most American law schools, to train students to value candor over spin and to use their words to spur changes that will protect the rule of law and help create a more just and equitable society.”
Dickerson’s impact on the profession, faculty and students, was captured by her former Stetson Law colleague, Professor Kristen David Adams, who explained, “I have been privileged to know Dean Dickerson for more than 20 years as a steadfast friend and a treasured mentor — but most of all, as an inspiration. To me, she is the ideal leader for the AALS precisely because her portfolio of talent is so multifaceted and diverse: she is an innovative scholar, an extraordinary teacher and the kind of dean who leads by example and inspires others to join in.”
Dickerson, who is the first full-time legal writing professional to lead the AALS, began her full-time academic career in 1995 as an Assistant Professor of Law at Stetson University College of Law. In 1996, she was named Director of Stetson’s Legal Research & Writing program. Early in her career, Dickerson emerged as a leader in professional organizations, such as the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the American Bar Association and authored the first four editions of The ALWD Citation Manual. After she entered decanal roles, she was able to advocate for improved status for non-tenure-line faculty, such as legal writing professionals, academic support professionals and librarians. She was also able to help build programs that emphasized a more holistic approach to educating law students.
“Dean Dickerson is a visionary who inspires and empowers so many in the academy,” said Professor Wendy-Adele Humphrey, Associate Dean for Assessment & Strategic Initiatives at Texas Tech University School of Law. “At Texas Tech, she was instrumental in leading the charge to convert our legal writing positions to full parity, tenure-track positions. She also identified my potential as an administrator, and starting later this year, I will become the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs.”
Having previously served as Associate Dean and Vice Dean at Stetson University College of Law, Dickerson was named Interim Dean in May 2003 and Dean in February 2004. She left Stetson in 2011 to become Dean and the W. Frank Newton Professor of Law at Texas Tech University School of Law. She then joined The John Marshall Law School as Dean in December 2016.
On August 16, 2019, Dickerson made history when she became the inaugural Dean of the newly established UIC John Marshall Law School. As the University of Illinois at Chicago’s 16th college, UIC John Marshall is Chicago’s first and only public law school. With the transition, Dickerson became one of the few women in history to have served as dean at four law schools.
“Dean Dickerson is a tremendous leader, educator and mentor,” said Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. “I am impressed by all she has done to advance equity and inclusion on behalf of all law faculty and instructors, and I am incredibly appreciative for all she has done to mentor me.”
Dickerson earned her B.A. and M.A. from The College of William & Mary and her J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School.