Get to know UMass Law Dean Dr. Eric Mitnick

Oct 9, 2017

Dr. Eric Mitnick, who has served as UMass Law dean on an interim basis for more than a year, has been named permanent dean of the school as of October 1. Mitnick, who recently chatted with Dartmouth Week, says he is excited UMass Law's future.

Here's a bit more about the new dean.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey...Highland Park.

What colleges did you attend and for what majors?

I attended Cornell for history and government...two majors. Then, I went to the University of Michigan Law school, and then Princeton for a Masters and Ph.D. in the Department of Politics.

When did you realize you wanted to go into law?

It was during my undergrad college civil lib and civl rights course. I was struck by the way in which law served as a vehicle for change. I was interested in the civil rights, civil justice, and environmental justice, and how it was related to law and change.

What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in schools?

I practiced law for a few years at a large law firm in New York City. I realized what I loved about law was the ideas and the theory. Before I went to Princeton I went to the University of Wisconsin and taught for a few years and I caught the teaching bug. I love the interaction with students and their ideas and the engagement in research. Then, I became the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at UMass in 2014.

How familiar are you with the Dartmouth area? Where do you like to go?

I hadn't spent any time here before. I really love it. It's absolutely beautiful along the shore....Buzzards Bay, the Cape, the art hub in New Bedford. I spend a lot of time between the law school and UMass Dartmouth campus and I love the brutalist architecture. I spend a lot of time in South Dartmouth, along the water. The seascape is beautiful. The one painting I have in my office is inspired by it.

Do you have a favorite local restaurant?

I like that Korean restaurant...From the Seoul.

What are some of your plans and goals for UMass Law?

I have served as interim dean for the last 15 months and the biggest thing that happened is we received our full ABA (American Bar Association) accreditation. People who come to the law school can now take their bar exam in any state.

Half of our students come from out of state. We have had a 20% increase in student enrollment and my goal is to keep increasing.  Our bar pass rate is at 75% this year, which is an increase. Last year it was 69%, and the year before it was 60%.

The biggest thing over the next year will be the improvement of the overall experience of the students. We will be doing some major renovations at the school and will be transforming the library.

Anything else?

The most important thing is to realize how much the world right now needs lawyers. People think there are too many lawyers. In Massachusetts Family Court, 85% of people represent themselves, and 92% in Housing Court because these people can't afford it...people like teachers and nurses represent themselves because they can't afford to hire a lawyer.