As associate dean for academic affairs, Norman Williams enjoyed meeting alumni and attorneys from the West Coast, often discussing how Willamette could better prepare future graduates for the ever-evolving practice of law. He also got to know other associate deans across the country, whom he credits as his strongest influences while in administration.
“We are a small, tight bunch of individuals all trying to make our respective law schools a better place,” he says. “Especially in my early years as associate dean, I learned a lot from my more experienced colleagues at other law schools.”
Williams spent more time as associate dean than he’d initially planned. His decision to return to the faculty has long been in the works, he says, and the upcoming academic year is the right time to make the change.
"It’s time for me to return to the role that induced me to leave the practice of law and become a law professor long ago: spending time with students and working on my research,” Williams says.
During his time in the Dean’s Suite, Williams says he is most proud of putting Willamette Law on a sound financial footing, building and launching the healthcare law program, and growing the most diverse and accomplished faculty in the history of the law school, which now includes two current Oregon Supreme Court justices, two retired justices and one Oregon Court of Appeals judge.
In the middle of the decade, the downturn in law school enrollment was difficult for all the members of the administration.
“It was a real challenge for all of us in legal education nationwide,” Williams recalls, “and it really forced me to take a hard look both at our curriculum and our administration strategy.”
From what he calls the “60,000-foot-view” of the Dean’s Suite, Williams saw all the departments and operations keeping the school running, gaining a unique appreciation for its complexity.
After a sabbatical, he plans to rejoin the faculty he fostered through his deanship.
“I developed and taught our Election Law class for many years prior to becoming associate dean, but I didn't have the time to teach that course while I was in administration,” Williams says. “I'm looking forward to being able to teach it again, especially in these interesting political times.”
In addition, Williams will teach in his area of expertise, Constitutional Law. With the freed-up space on his calendar, he plans to continue work on a book about the Presidential nomination process. He also wants to spend more time with his family and shave a few strokes off his golf handicap.
“Like any administrator, I will not miss the tedious or frustrating parts of life in administration, but I will very much miss the people in the Dean’s Suite and fellow administrators across campus,” Williams says. “They are a talented and devoted group of individuals, and I will miss working with them.”
About the Willamette University College of Law
The College of Law is a private law school located in Salem, Oregon at Willamette University, the oldest university in the western United States. Willamette Law boasts an innovative program designed to prepare leaders in government, private practice, and business with the lawyering skills needed in the 21st Century. In recent years, outside industry watchers such as Moody’s and The National Jurist Magazine have recognized Willamette Law for its positive job placement results. Willamette lawyers are the best dealmakers, problem solvers, community leaders, and change-makers in the most innovative and exciting region in the country. Our location — nestled in the heart of the Willamette Valley and across the street from the Oregon State Capitol, Supreme Court and many state agencies — is an advantage that cannot be matched anywhere in the region.