Lehman tapped to be Law School dean

Jeffrey Sean Lehman will be recommended as dean of the Law School. He will become the School’s 14th dean on July 1 if approved by the Regents at their May meeting.

The current dean, Lee C. Bollinger, is leaving in June to become provost at Dartmouth College.

Lehman is professor of law and public policy at the Law School and at the Institute of Public Policy Studies (IPPS). A member of the faculty since 1987, Lehman is a nationally recognized expert on taxation and welfare law and has just completed a year away from Ann Arbor as a visiting professor at the Yale Law School and the University of Paris.

At age 37, he is the youngest to be named dean of the Law School this century and is believed to be the youngest at the helm of any American law school.

“Many outstanding candidates were identified and considered for this position,” said Provost Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr. “I want to recognize publicly the careful, thoughtful efforts of the search advisory committee and to express my delight that Prof. Lehman has accepted this position. I am confident that he will serve all of us as an excellent representative of the Law School.”

“Jeff Lehman is a study in contrasts—wonderful contrasts,” said law Prof. Theodore J. St. Antoine, who headed the School’s search advisory committee. “He has a steel-trap mind, and a warm, human touch. He is a master of an arcane, business-oriented subject, federal taxation, and of a gritty subject, welfare law. He usually knows exactly where he’s going, but he doesn’t run over people to get there. Jeff will bring youthful vigor and imagination as well as mature judgment and compassion to the deanship. The Law School is blessed by his selection.”

Lehman is a graduate of Cornell University and the Law School. He also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Michigan. He was editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review.

Lehman clerked for Chief Judge Frank M. Coffin of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 1981–82 and for Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982-83.

Lehman was an associate with the Washington, D.C., firm of Caplin and Drysdale in 1983–87, where he specialized primarily as a tax lawyer. He also did some litigation and was the primary author of a brief before the Supreme Court on behalf of more than 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists explaining how so-called “creation science” deviates from the conventional practices of science. Lehman did his work on the Nobelists’ brief while practicing law part-time. During his final two years in practice, he became his firm’s first part-time attorney in order to be at home with his young children while his wife, Diane, practiced law at another firm. She also holds a law degree (1982) and master’s of public policy (1981) from the U-M.

Lehman is the co-author, with Prof. Douglas Kahn, of the forthcoming fourth edition of the book Corporate Income Taxation, and has written numerous articles, essays and reviews on tax and welfare issues. He drew national attention in 1990 when he published a 100-page critical analysis of the Michigan Education Trust (MET), the state’s pre-paid tuition program. The article exposed structural problems that leave MET financially vulnerable.

In 1990, Lehman created a new Law School program for legal assistance to urban communities. Through this program, students learn about community economic development law by providing supervised legal advice and assistance to Detroit community groups. Unlike other clinical programs, it emphasizes business law over litigation.

“The Law School is extremely fortunate to have as its new dean a person of such extraordinary talents as Prof. Lehman,” Bollinger said. “It is so unusual for someone of Prof. Lehman’s many academic achievements to also be so skillful at leading an institution. This is a great appointment.”

Lehman said that he is looking forward to the challenges of his new role. “We must continue to find new and ever more effective ways to prepare our students for professional life, and we must continue to nurture research that significantly enhances the development and understanding of our legal order. It is an exciting time to be at Michigan, and I am honored to have been selected to serve my law school in this way,” he said.


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