Meet Dean Leslie Kendrick ’06

Leslie Kendrick
July 1, 2024

Learn more about Leslie Kendrick ’06, the 13th dean of the University of Virginia School of Law and the first alumna to take the helm. She took office on July 1, 2024.


LESLIE KENDRICK: I'm Leslie Kendrick, and I'm the dean of the University of Virginia School of Law. I'm from the mountains in eastern Kentucky. I grew up on a dirt road on a holler in between two towns that each had about 3,000 people. My father was a lawyer, so I followed in his footsteps a bit.

I was fortunate to receive a Rhodes Scholarship to go to the University of Oxford, where I got a master's and a doctorate in English literature. I got to a point when I was studying English literature where I thought I wanted to be in an arena that had a little bit of a closer impact on the world. I definitely had that strong sense of home and strong sense of place growing up. And part of what drew me to UVA when I was a student was it felt like it was a real community. It felt like a place where you could put down roots.

I think one thing that was easy about the transition from literature to law is that they both involve narrative on some level. In torts we talk a lot about narrative that what we see is a presentation of the facts by the judge, and the facts really matter. I didn't come to law school thinking that I would teach. I came because there were so many other things that you could do with a law degree. And I was really excited about that and really valued that. I loved it. I loved teaching.

I'm so excited about starting as dean of the law school. This is a place I really care about. And the idea of building on all those strengths and making it stronger is so incredibly exciting to me. It's a place that focuses on ideas but also focuses on people. It has a lot of rigor when it comes to education. It's just an amazing day to day classroom experience.

One of the things that struck me and one of the things that made me think this was a real community was just how open faculty seem to be to engaging with students. This was a place where not only would you get a wonderful education in the classroom, but you were going to encounter open doors, people in their offices ready to talk with you, having lunches, having dinners, being invited to student activities by students who really want those connections, to have those relationships, to continue discussing all of the ideas that we were hearing about in the classroom.

It's a really important process that happens here of taking people with no legal training and turning them into the lawyers of tomorrow. There are no limits to what you can do with an education from UVA. And our alums demonstrate that. We have a great institution here, and I see myself as someone who can steward that to continue to make it great, to think of new ways to adapt it to everything that's changing about the world. I'm here for a short time in the span of this institution. And I'm here as we're embarking on our third century. In that short time, I just want to help it be the great place it's always been. I want to leave it better and perpetuate that community that we have here.