Ole Miss Law School Reaching New Heights

Deborah H. Bell Law Faculty Photo by Harry Briscoe
Deborah H. Bell Law Faculty
Photo by Harry Briscoe

Dean Deborah Bell is the interim dean of the Ole Miss Law School, who is continuing to take the law school to new levels of accomplishment. With students currently from 28 states, the law school is definitely known and recognized as an outstanding institution throughout the United States. Following is a current status evaluation of this Ole Miss treasure.

HottyToddy.com: Dean Bell, could you tell our readers a little about your background?

Dean Deborah Bell: I grew up on a farm outside of Indianola, in the Mississippi Delta. I
attended Mississippi College for undergraduate studies, then Ole Miss for law school. I loved it so much I came back two years later to join the faculty and have been here ever since. This is my thirty-sixth year at Ole Miss Law.

HottyToddy.com: You are now recognized as interim dean. How does the process work to establish the dean’s position?

Dean Deborah Bell: The Provost has appointed a search committee that includes faculty, alumni, staff, students, and other departments in the University. The committee will conduct a national search, which will take place over the next few months. Anyone may nominate a candidate for Dean by contacting Dr. David Allen, the chair of the search committee, at sopdean@olemiss.edu.

HottyToddy.com: The Ole Miss Law School currently has how many students?

Dean Deborah Bell: We have a strong and diverse student body of approximately 363. Our students come from 28 states and 130 undergraduate institutions. We are proud of their success over the last few years, including the Advocacy Program’s 12 national titles, their amazing record of publications, their work in the clinical programs, and our active and dynamic student organizations.

HottyToddy.com: The Law School faculty is highly regarded. Your comments.

Dean Deborah Bell: Our faculty members are accomplished scholars, great classroom teachers, and engaged in a multitude of projects. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ben Cooper was chosen as a member of Mississippi Supreme Court Committee on Rules, joining Professor Farish Percy, who serves as the committee’s Reporter. Cooper also served as reporter for the ABA Commission on Future of Legal Services. Professors Cliff Johnson and Jacob Howard, of the MacArthur Justice Center at the Ole Miss Law School, were among a group of attorneys awarded National Trial Lawyer of the Year. Professor Mercer Bullard has testified before Congress on more than 20 occasions and has established himself as one of the leading academics in the corporate/securities field. Professor John Czarnetzky was named 2016 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teaching Award by the University of Mississippi. Professor Will Berry won the same award in 2014. This is just to name a few; the list of accolades goes on. Our professors are not only regularly published in law journals, but many of them have also published legal books. We have expanded our faculty speaker exchange program with sister law schools, including University of Houston, University of Missouri, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, and University of Kentucky. One of the best features of our law school is the faculty’s willingness to mentor and connect with law students outside of the classroom.

HottyToddy.com: Alumni of the Ole Miss Law School also participate in teaching. About how many are engaged?

14361418_10154443493154303_904693360893970633_o-2Dean Deborah Bell: The law school is lucky to have alumni, with a wide range of expertise, share their time to teach and mentor students. In the past year, we¹ve had around 47 alumni participate in teaching our students. Not only are a number of our faculty members alumni of the Law School, but we also invite practicing attorneys who are alumni to teach skill sessions, speak to various student groups, and participate in the James O. Dukes Professionalism Program during 1L Orientation. Learning from practicing attorneys and sitting judges, in addition to professors, enriches their experience with a practice-oriented perspective.

HottyToddy.com: The current facility has now reached age? Compare this facility with the previous one.

Dean Deborah Bell: The new law building is a beautiful facility that we have occupied for five years. It is a pleasure to come to work here every day. I feel lucky that I will finish my career in such a great facility. One thing I like much better is the abundance of natural light in this building. Almost every space has access to some natural light.

HottyToddy.com: Compare our Law School with others in our sphere.

Dean Deborah Bell: Our program is the strongest that it has been in my many years of association with the law school. Our faculty, students, curriculum, and facility are outstanding. In the past two academic years, a record-breaking 56 students have been published in law journals including Harvard Journal on Sports and Entertainment Law, the University of Virginia¹s Journal of Law and Politics, the Gonzaga Law Review, the South Dakota Law Review, the Southern Methodist University Journal of Air Law and Commerce, and the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy. Our Advocacy Programs have won 12 National Championships in the past five years. We have been named 24th in the Nation in Securing
Federal Clerkships, which is a very competitive path for law students. Thanks to our affordable tuition, we are consistently named a Best Value Law School by National Jurist. We also recently hosted groundbreaking symposia: Fighting to Live: A Symposium on Race and Sustainability, the Annual Mississippi Sports Law Review Symposium, and the LGBT Law Symposium.

HottyToddy.com: Describe a typical path for one of our graduates as to career launch.

Dean Deborah Bell: Today, there is no typical path. Our students practice international law and open small town solo practices. They practice law in large firms, work as in-house counsel for corporations, are advocates for the poor and disenfranchised, and defend capital cases. Some are entrepreneurs, some are trial lawyers. We try to provide a rich curriculum that students can tailor to their interests.

HottyToddy.com: We hear routinely that professors in disciplines such as physics and calculus (for example) are difficult to recruit. Are there certain law courses that have similar difficulties in filling key positions?

Dean Deborah Bell: There are some areas that are more difficult to cover because they require a narrow expertise that candidates for full-time teaching may lack. We are lucky to have outstanding alumni who teach some of these courses.

HottyToddy.com: The Ole Miss Law School is an institution that alums (like myself) are most proud even though we may not be in the legal profession. Could you mention
a few, recent accolades that the Law School has received?

Dean Deborah Bell: Our Clinical and Skills Programs were recently recognized as a top 25 best experiential learning programs in the country. We were also recognized this year for one of the best records of placing students in judicial clerkships (24th in the country). Our Moot Court Board is in the Top 20 in the Nation. We were also voted a ³Best Value Law School² by National Jurist again this year.


Steve Vassallo

Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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