UALR selects two finalists for law school dean

Candidates to visit in March

Colin Crawford (left), dean and professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, and Christian Johnson, Commonwealth Professor of Law and Business Advising, and director of the Business Advising Program at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pa., are shown in these undated courtesy photos. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has narrowed the search for the next dean of the William H. Bowen School of Law to Crawford and Johnson, the school announced in February 2023. (Courtesy photos)
Colin Crawford (left), dean and professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, and Christian Johnson, Commonwealth Professor of Law and Business Advising, and director of the Business Advising Program at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Pa., are shown in these undated courtesy photos. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has narrowed the search for the next dean of the William H. Bowen School of Law to Crawford and Johnson, the school announced in February 2023. (Courtesy photos)

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has narrowed the search for the next dean of the William H. Bowen School of Law to a pair of finalists, and both will visit the law school early next month.

Colin Crawford, dean and professor of law at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, will meet with the search committee and members of the Bowen School of Law, as well as offering a presentation to the campus community, March 3.

Christian Johnson, Commonwealth Professor of Law and Business Advising, and director of the Business Advising Program at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, Penn., will do likewise March 6, according to Angie Faller, news director at UALR.

The new dean will succeed Theresa Beiner, who announced last year she will resign as dean this summer and return to a faculty position.

Crawford, 64, previously served as dean of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, following tenured positions at Tulane University, Georgia State University -- where he founded and co-directed the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth -- and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, according to Faller.

Crawford, who joined Golden Gate in June 2021, has a bachelor's degree in history from Columbia University, a master's degree in history from England's University of Cambridge, and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

Crawford wrote in his letter of application "that it would be a source of great satisfaction to return to the region of the country where I spent the better part of my professional career and which I came to love and understand."

He added that he's well aware of the "manifold pressures and urgent challenges facing legal education today," so he "would hit the ground running."

"Having worked at a diverse range of law schools, I am especially well-positioned to apply my knowledge of legal education and respond creatively to the changing market for legal education," he wrote. "As my record demonstrates, I am committed to the importance of delivering a high-quality education at a school dedicated to advancing the goal of an ever more diverse bar."

"I enjoy advancement work, and I have a fundraising record," he added. "I am skilled at and enjoy working with university collaborators outside law, with the upper administration, the local community, and state stakeholders."

He has published books and articles in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, in which he is fluent, according to the Golden Gate University School of Law. He is a faculty associate at an interdisciplinary graduate program offered by four top universities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and regularly teaches comparative environmental law and policy courses at both the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and at the University of the Andes, in Bogota, Colombia.

He also served as the Project Director for the Environmental Law Capacity-Building Initiative in Central America and the Caribbean, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to Faller. His scholarship focuses on environmental, property, urban development and land-use law questions, especially in a comparative and international context.

Johnson was the inaugural dean for Widener University Commonwealth Law School, serving five years. Prior to joining Widener, he served as the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair of the Law and the associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Utah College of Law, according to Faller. Johnson has 27 years of experience in legal education, and he was a law professor at Loyola University Chicago for 13 years.

He has a trifold vision for Bowen law school, he wrote in his application letter. The law school must build upon -- and cement -- its reputation as "distinctive, singular, and exemplar," strengthen its "financial resilience," and continue to align its efforts, initiatives, and focus with that of UALR and the University of Arkansas System "with respect to interdisciplinary education and diversity, equity, and inclusion."

Johnson, a frequent commentator and academic focusing primarily on global capital markets, has co-authored five books and written over three dozen articles on capital markets and central banks, according to Faller. He holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Last year, Johnson had "an extraordinary experience" when he visited Bowen for a Law Review Symposium, finding students "bright, thoughtful, and dynamic," he wrote in his letter. They were also "professional, courteous, and gracious," and "the facility was first-rate [...] I would be proud to lead such an exemplar institution."

He has spoken and lectured at central banks, U.S. banking and financial regulators, and academic institutions and financial institutions on every continent but Antarctica, according to Widener. He's worked as a certified public account for PricewaterhouseCoopers, an associate at law firms in New York City and Chicago, and was executive editor of the Columbia Law Review while in law school.

Beiner, the first non-interim female dean at the UALR law school, will leave the dean's job effective July 1. The new dean is expected to start this summer, according to UALR. Beiner, 58, originally joined the Bowen School in 1994, and became dean in 2018, planning to serve for about five years.

Paula Casey, who chairs the search committee, has previously served as interim dean of Bowen law school -- the first woman to hold the post -- and she retired from the university in 2016. A professor emeritus at the law school, Casey was appointed to the U.S. attorney's office in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton -- who previously served as governor of Arkansas -- and she served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas for from 1993-2000.

"I was pleased that we had several highly qualified applicants," Casey said. Both finalists are "experienced legal educators and administrators with impressive academic credentials."

Before her federal appointment, Casey taught law school classes at UALR from 1979-1993, and she was the associate dean of the law school from 1986-1991. She rejoined the Bowen faculty in 2001.