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New law dean wants profession to spur excitement in students

GU ‘captured my heart and imagination’

Jane B. Korn took over Gonzaga’s School of Law on July 1. (Jesse Tinsley)
Jane B. Korn took over Gonzaga’s School of Law on July 1. (Jesse Tinsley)

Jane B. Korn never saw herself becoming an attorney – let alone the first female dean of Gonzaga University School of Law.

Ending her first month on the job after being chosen to replace Earl F. Martin, who stepped down to become the school’s executive vice president, Korn said she has appreciated every moment.

Korn grew up in New Jersey and earned her bachelors degree in psychology from Rutgers University. Eight years later, she was working at the Colorado Civil Rights Commission when attorneys there inquired whether she’d ever considered attending law school.

“It never occurred to me. Neither of my parents graduated from college,” the divorced mother of three said last week. She earned her law degree in 1983 from the University of Colorado Law School, calling it “one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Korn started at Gonzaga on July 1 after most recently serving as vice dean and the John D. Lyons Professor at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. She was selected in a search conducted late last fall.

Q. What drew you to Gonzaga?

A. When I came up for my interview, there was something about Gonzaga that captured my heart and my imagination. It’s deeply committed to its students’ education experience. And Spokane offered a wonderful place to live. It’s a great law school and a great place to live. It’s a great package deal.

Q. The U.S. News and World Report rankings of top law schools for 2011 ranked the University of Washington Law School as No. 30 and Gonzaga was tied with five other schools for No. 121. How do you convince a prospective student to choose Gonzaga over another in-state school that costs roughly the same for a law degree?

A. I think nobody but the top 20 schools care about that ranking. I’m not sure they reflect the quality of any law school. I know a lot of prospective students pay attention to that. I would tell any student applying to any law school to look closely to make sure it is a good fit for them. There are things that are the same at any school, but other things that are different. What I think distinguishes Gonzaga are two things: Gonzaga is really very much about public service. That’s sort of at the core of its mission. When they become lawyers, not only will their lives change, but they can help change other peoples’ lives through the practice of law. Second, Gonzaga has demonstrated a commitment to teaching students skills they will need when they graduate.

Q. How did you get into teaching?

A. When I was in law school, it was the first time I really found education exciting. I just liked everything about it. Some of the faculty at Colorado asked if I had ever thought about going into teaching. I did like to practice law (two years in New York City), but I thought teaching would be more fun. Teaching is a fabulous job. You get to explore these ideas with law students all the time. I thought it would be more rewarding and challenging, and I was right.

Q. How do you want to be remembered?

A. If you asked me when I applied to law school whether I would become a dean, I would have thought that is a joke. How did that happen? Isn’t that amazing? I would like to be remembered as someone who got the faculty and student body excited about this profession. I want people to understand that law school is a good investment and a good education whether you become a lawyer or run a business or some other career. Law school is just an invaluable education.

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