The past four years have been eventful at the University of Virginia School of Law, making Professor Leslie Kendrick’s term as vice dean a busy one. She launched 11 academic centers, was key to a wave of faculty hiring, and advised the University on free speech issues. Over the past year, she led efforts to change the Law School’s teaching model during the COVID-19 pandemic — one of the biggest operational challenges in the school’s history.

Kendrick, a 2006 UVA Law alum, is now ready to pass the baton. She will step down from her role as vice dean June 30, and Michael D. Gilbert will take on the post.

“We all owe Leslie a tremendous debt of gratitude,” said Dean Risa Goluboff. “In addition to the crucial role she has played in growing and supporting our faculty, over the past year of the pandemic, as the Law School remade its entire teaching and curricular model, her leadership was extraordinary. Her talents, dedication and optimism helped see us through an enormous challenge.”

Kendrick said she “really loved being part of such a devoted and talented team.”

“I will miss working to make a difference for individuals and the Law School — and I want to keep doing that in all the capacities I have, but it’s been such a true pleasure and an honor to serve in this role,” she said.

Throughout her time working with community members — faculty, students, student organization leaders and department heads — it was important to her to “highlight what others are doing,” she said.

Kendrick, whose scholarship and teaching focus on freedom of speech, torts and property law, began her service just a little over a month before the Aug. 11-12, 2017, violence. In the aftermath, she worked with the UVA Deans Working Group, which was convened to assess the University’s response and recommend changes, and was led by Goluboff. Kendrick assisted the Office of University Counsel in evaluating potential changes to regulations and served on a Presidential Task Force on Use of University Facilities.

Her service is wrapping up after helping to guide the school through the pandemic by serving as the primary academic officer in efforts to move operations online, then into a hybrid format. In the span of eight days in March 2020, the school moved 139 courses, taught by 159 instructors, online. In the fall, when the school reopened for in-person classes, about half of classes had an in-person operation, and 70% of students took at least one class in person. Students could also choose to take any course online.

“Although it’s been a different year, it’s been one that everyone in the community should look back on and feel proud about,” she said. “Students, faculty and staff worked to meet our shared goals under completely new circumstances.” Kendrick added that she appreciated working as a team and valued the expertise of health officials, department heads and information technology staff, among others.

Teamwork was also critical for another role — recruiting a long roster of faculty. The Law School has hired 22 faculty members over the course of Kendrick’s service.

“It’s gotten attention because we’ve managed to bring a lot of scholarly excellence to an already truly top-flight faculty,” she said. “I’ve been proud and honored to be a part of it.”

Kendrick was heavily involved in another key effort to enhance the faculty’s representation: launching 11 new intellectual centers. She also directs the school’s new Center for the First Amendment.

“The goal of the centers is to highlight and consolidate the talents of the faculty, to put them in the spotlight in the way they deserve, and highlight scholarly strengths,” she said. Though the pandemic affected plans for their launch, with in-person events canceled, centers have held online symposia and panels “that have contributed to the intellectual life of the law school.”

“The centers are going to be an ongoing living legacy of the last few years and they are going to grow and come to life even more when we are back in person,” she said. “That’s going to be something that’s exciting to see and celebrate.”

Kendrick was initially responsible for planning the curriculum, a role that in 2019 was assumed by Professor George Cohen, the inaugural associate dean for curricular programs. (His term continues.) The vice dean still plays a role in shaping larger curricular goals, such as expanding clinical offerings. Kendrick’s efforts include hiring professor and Director of Clinical Programs Sarah Shalf ’01, who is launching a Community Solutions Clinic in the fall. In the last four years, the First Amendment Clinic relaunched through a partnership with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Other new clinics in the past four years include the Civil Rights ClinicHolistic Juvenile Defense Clinic, State and Local Government Policy Clinic, and Federal Criminal Sentence Reduction Clinic.

“We’ve seen over the last several years some wonderful opportunities to expand our clinical offerings, deepening both direct legal services and our impact-related or policy-related clinics,” she said.

Kendrick will return to full time research and teaching — she also taught as vice dean — and also plans to spend time with her family.

Her service for the University will also continue. She is currently serving as chair of UVA’s Committee on Free Expression and Free Inquiry, which is charged with producing a statement articulating the University’s commitment to free expression and free inquiry, as informed by its values, history and legal obligations as a public institution.

As her service draws to a close, Kendrick shared thoughts of gratitude for the support she received in the role.

“I am grateful to have worked with Dean Risa Goluboff, Stephen Parr, Diddy Morris, George Cohen, Sarah Davies, Jason Dugas, and everyone on our faculty and staff,” she said. “I can’t imagine a better place to work or better colleagues.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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