In this first in a series of interviews with the deans of the three law schools in our state, Spokane attorney Collette
Leland spoke with the dean of Gonzaga
University School of Law. Prior to coming
to Gonzaga in July 2011, Dean Korn was
vice dean and John D. Lyons professor at
the University of Arizona James E. Rogers
College of Law. Dean Korn has written extensively on employment discrimination,
focusing on disability law. Since coming
to Gonzaga, Dean Korn has overseen
the 100th anniversary of Gonzaga Law
School, continued the implementation
of Gonzaga’s experiential learning program, and become an enthusiast of Gonzaga basketball.
Collette Leland: What made you want to
be dean of a law school?
Dean Jane Korn: I became an associate
dean about 10 years ago at the University of Arizona. Because the other associate dean was going on sabbatical and
they asked if I would fill in for her, and I
thought, “How hard could it be?” Boy, was
I surprised! But I really liked it. And then
even after she came back, we both stayed
on as associate deans. We worked very
seamlessly together, and when we got a
new dean at Arizona, my title changed to
vice dean. People kept asking me, “Do I
want to be a dean?” and my answer was
always, “No. I do not.” Then once I woke
up and kind of realized . . . I had something to offer and wanted to be a dean. So
I put my hat into the dean searches [and]
Gonzaga was my first choice. I liked what
I saw here. I liked the people and to me,
the quality of the school was a partnership with the quality of life in Spokane.
I didn’t view a deanship as a stepping
stone to anything. I wanted a place where
I could live and settle and that would be
my home. It wasn’t going to be a pass-
through on the way to something else
. . . Gonzaga is a very innovative place.
The faculty truly care about the students
here. And so it was my first choice. When
President McCullough called me, I sort of
blabbered around and finally said, “I’m
too excited. Can I call you back tomor-
row?” And he was very gracious.
Tell me about your transition from
assistant dean in Arizona to being
in charge of Gonzaga’s law school in
I can’t imagine becoming a dean without
having been an associate dean or a vice
dean first, because without that you have
really no clue what the dean does. So it
was fairly easy to transition here. People
are very welcoming, very friendly.
What do you like best about this job?
Surprisingly, the best part is meeting all
the alums. And I was surprised at that because the fundraising part of the job was
the one, I think, that scares new deans the
most. But meeting with alums, whether
I’m raising money or not, is the best part
of the job, because they live such interesting lives, they all have different stories,
and it’s just fun to get to meet them and
talk to them both about their experiences
at Gonzaga, whether that was five years
ago or 50 years ago, or what paths their
lives have taken since law school.
Was there anything that surprised you
about the job?
How busy it is. It’s constant pretty much
all the time.
Kind of like being a mom. You don’t get
to stop being the dean.
That’s right. You do not get to stop being
That’s interesting. At all three law
schools now, we have female deans.
Yes, we do.
And I remember when we first met, you
said, “While people talk about me be-
ing the first female dean at Gonzaga,
they forget I am their first Jewish
dean.” I just wanted to know what you
think that says about the changing cul-
ture of law schools in general and what
it means for Gonzaga.
Well, for the fact that we have three female deans in Washington now, I think
that’s pretty unique and I don’t think that
means that we can be complacent about
women in leadership positions. Women
are now only about 27 percent of the
deans in ABA-approved law schools. And
it should be closer to 50 percent.
And it’s not. Being the first Jewish dean,
I think that it surprises some people. It
doesn’t surprise others. I’m not sure —
I’ve never been at a Jesuit school before,
so I can’t say it reflects some change,
because quite frankly I don’t know . . .
though I know David Yellen, the dean at
Loyola Chicago, is also Jewish, and it has
not been an issue at all. Because it seems
to me that what people care about a lot
at Gonzaga are somebody’s values. And
whether they’re Jewish values or Catholic values or Methodist values or Baptist
values — someone of faith has the same
values, regardless of what the faith is. So,
it just has not been an issue. Now, when I
showed up at places where people did not
know there was a woman dean, they have
been a little surprised.
Have you seen any change in the culture
of legal education that you think has led
to women taking at least 27 percent of
the leadership positions?
I think we’ve all seen the movie The Paper Chase and what law school was like
there. I’d like to think that having more
women involved in legal education, both
as students and faculty and as deans, has
changed that sort of culture. Would it
have happened without women being in
the profession? Well, I guess we’ll never
know, but I’d like to think that women did
bring a gentler approach to legal education — and I’m not trying to suggest at all
that women do this in a less rigorous way
than men do. But I see now that there is
less intimidation in the classroom, less
putting somebody down, and I think
that’s a positive change. It’s very hard to
think when you’re terrified.
Do you think that is flowing over into
the practice of law?
Interviewed by Collette Leland