Thomas Guernsey has been at the job as Thomas Jefferson School of Law's new dean and president for less than two months and he's already made quite an impression.
"Everything's going really well," said Professor Linda Keller, TJSL's associate dean for academic affairs. "Tom really understands and appreciates Thomas Jefferson's innovative programs, from our clinics to our commitment to teaching.
"He's seen as a leader in legal education with a proven track record of helping schools grow."
Guernsey, who took the helm on July 1, has 15 years of experience as a law school dean.
He most recently was dean of Albany Law School, another independent law school, from 2002-11.
"Tom brings with him a long, varied and extensive experience (as a dean)," Keller said. "He's very interested in dealing with the challenges that are facing legal education, and he realizes that Thomas Jefferson is really at the forefront in confronting and implementing creative programs to deal with the changes in the legal profession."
Guernsey said he was initially attracted to TJSL for the way it's adapting to the shifting legal landscape.
"I think there's this wonderful opportunity that Thomas Jefferson has in light of the current challenges facing legal education and the profession as a whole," Guernsey said.
"They are really doing some exciting things in addressing issues like the bar passage rate and the cost of legal education. They are already taking action, which, honestly, is five years ahead of what the rest of legal education is going to have to confront."
While at Albany, Guernsey helped place the school on solid financial footing, dramatically improved its academics and increased its stature in the community.
In 2011, Guernsey was awarded the Trustee’s Gold Medal, the highest honor awarded by Albany Law School to an individual who has demonstrated a record of exemplary support and dedication to the advancement of Albany Law School.
"I think being a dean gives me an opportunity not only to make a difference at an individual school and impact both the school and its students," he said, "but I really do believe that the legal profession is important and being a dean gives me more of an opportunity to further the profession."
Before Albany, Guernsey was dean, professor of law and interim vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University, and he was associate dean and professor of law at the University of Richmond.
Guernsey was chosen to lead TJSL from a national pool of more than 60 candidates by the TJSL dean search committee, in consultation with Korn/Ferry International.
"We are thrilled to have landed such a senior and savvy dean in a time of such dynamic change in legal education," said Beth Kransberger, associate dean for student affairs. "Innovation has always been a hallmark of TJSL, and Dean Guernsey is a man of leadership and vision."
Judge William McCurine Jr., a member of the TJSL Board of Trustees and chair of the dean search committee, said Guernsey's "proven track record" during 35-plus years in legal education made him the right choice.
McCurine also noted the progress Albany Law School made in teaching and scholarship under Guernsey's guidance as well as its innovations in the curriculum, admissions and bar passage.
Guernsey teaches evidence, criminal law, criminal procedure and trial advocacy. He has practice experience in disability law litigation and legal aid and has served as a consultant/trainer in interviewing, counseling, negotiation, mediation and trial practice.
Guernsey has big shoes to fill as he succeeds Rudy Hasl, who was the longest-tenured law school dean in the country when he stepped down this summer.
Hasl, who took over at TJSL in 2005, was a dean for more than 30 years at four different law schools. He will remain at TJSL as a tenured faculty member.