As many people in this room have often heard me say, any turnover in an organization should be viewed as an opportunity to make the organization stronger and better. That was certainly the approach of this search committee; I want to congratulate them on identifying some great candidates, with extraordinary strengths.
In choosing David Levi, the Provost and President have selected someone who brings great judgment and connections in the highest circles of the judiciary and the legal profession. They have chosen a quick study, someone who has risen quickly to the top of whatever professional setting he has found himself, someone with the highest character and reputation.
This appointment, I can say since I am not responsible for it, is brilliant. It signals a school that is academically strong, confident, and on the kind of trajectory that it can look to an unconventional source for a new Dean; and, at the same time, it signals a school that is committed, in a way unique among the top law schools, to a collaborative relationship with the best of the profession.
One of the roles rattled off as part of Judge Levi’s CV is member of the council of the American Law Institute. This is not just any organization; the ALI represents, in equal parts, the best of the judiciary, the practicing bar, and the legal academy, and is one of the oldest national, now international, organizations committed to improving the content of law and legal institutions. I believe that his new role as law Dean at Duke converts Judge Levi from being a representative of the judiciary, to representing the legal academy. We will all be very proud of that new affiliation, and the fact that Duke was smart enough to snag him as its Dean before any other top law school beat us to it.
The legal profession needs imaginative, creative leaders of the best law schools, positioned to work with members of the judiciary and the practicing bar, to improve law, the profession, and perceptions of the law and lawyers, and to reinforce the rule of law, and improve understanding of its importance. It requires law schools that are excellent academic institutions, open to other disciplines and a wide variety of research and teaching methods; just as much, it requires law schools that are relevant to society and committed to making it better.
I have tremendous confidence that David Levi can take what is great about Duke, and position it even more strongly at the most productive intersections of academic rigor and societal reform. I welcome him to Duke, and look forward to helping him in whatever way I can.