2014 Archives

Respected legal scholar/former federal prosecutor Jennifer Collins is new dean of SMU Dedman School of Law

July 3, 2014

Jennifer M. CollinsDALLAS (SMU) — Jennifer M. Collins, a nationally respected legal scholar and former federal prosecutor, has joined SMU as the Judge James Noel Dean of Dedman School of Law. Collins brings to the position extensive academic expertise and innovative administrative leadership.

Prior to joining SMU July 1, Collins served as vice provost and professor of law at Wake Forest University, where she taught courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, family law, gender and the law, and career development and legal professionalism.   

Collins graduated magna cum laude with a J.D. from Harvard University in 1991, and received her B.A. in history, cum laude with Distinction in the Major, from Yale University in 1987.

“I am so excited to be joining SMU and find it a privilege to work closely with our remarkable faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as the larger Dallas community,” Collins said. “With the challenges facing legal education, I cannot imagine an institution in a better position to respond than Dedman School of Law.”

She addresses those challenges in an op-ed published May 19 in Texas Lawyer.

Collins will administer Dedman School of Law’s full-time, three-year J.D. program, and a four-year, part-time evening J.D. program; two joint degree programs, J.D./M.B.A. and J.D/M.A. in economics; and four graduate degree programs, LL.M. program for foreign law school graduates, LL.M. in Taxation, general LL.M., and an S.J.D. program.

“We are delighted to welcome Jennifer Collins to SMU and Dallas,” said Paul Ludden, SMU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “She is a brilliant legal scholar and an outstanding academic administrator. Her experience as vice provost at Wake Forest has provided her with a campus-wide perspective that will be invaluable in leading Dedman School of Law at SMU.”

“The Dedman School of Law can be proud of the reputation it has built for academic rigor, as well as its excellent record in preparing students to practice in prestigious law firms,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “Because Jennifer Collins’ career spans a lengthy tenure as a federal prosecutor as well as serving in academia, she is uniquely positioned to continue the Dedman School of Law tradition of preparing men and women to enter a competitive legal market.”

Collins’ legal research has focused on issues involving families and the criminal justice system, including the prosecution of parents who are responsible for their children's deaths. She recently was quoted in The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the case of Atlanta infant Cooper Ross, who died June 18 after his father left him in a hot SUV for nearly seven hours.

Collins is the author, with Dan Markel and Ethan Lieb, of Privilege or Punish? Criminal Justice and The Challenge of Family Ties (Oxford University Press, 2009) and has written many law review articles and essays. 

In 2003, Collins joined the faculty of Wake Forest University School of Law, where she received numerous awards for excellence in teaching. She became associate provost for academic and strategic initiatives at Wake Forest in 2010, and then the vice provost, where she spearheaded the university’s entry into the online and distance education market and developed new initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion across campus. She also promoted efforts to examine the relevance and value of a liberal arts education and coordinated a large-scale strategic planning effort to improve campus culture for Wake Forest students.

Prior to joining Wake Forest, Collins served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia for more than seven years, specializing in homicide cases. She also served as an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice and worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., at both Sidley Austin and Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin (now part of Baker Botts). After graduating from Harvard Law School, she clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Provost Ludden expressed thanks to Julie Forrester, an award-winning scholar in property law, who has served since June 1, 2013, as dean ad interim for Dedman School of Law. “Professor Forrester provided a great service to Dedman Law, providing outstanding leadership and laying the groundwork for a smooth transition,” Ludden said. 

Over the past 15 years at Dedman School of Law, the median GPA for entering students has climbed steadily, as have average LSAT scores for incoming students. The School offers a rich curriculum of more than 165 upper class courses, more than half of which have fewer than 25 students. To best prepare students for the changing legal landscape, Dedman School of Law offers extensive clinical programs, externship opportunities and a wide variety of international programs.

Selected after a nationwide search, Collins succeeds John Attanasio, who served as dean for three terms, from 1998 to 2013. 

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