During his 14 years as a Suffolk Law professor, Andrew Perlman consistently sought ways to enrich his students’ educational experience. As the founding director of the Law School’s Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation, he helped usher in programs designed to prepare future graduates for the evolving demands of being an attorney. In 2013, he was selected as an early adopter of Google Glass, the high-tech specs tricked out with a small computer screen, camera, and Internet connection. To the delight of his curious students, Perlman wore them in class for a time as a way of exploring how the cutting-edge technology might be used to enhance teaching techniques and legal practice.
All of which made the forward-thinking Perlman a perfect choice as the new dean of Suffolk Law.
“What I’ve always loved about Suffolk Law School is the attention to training outstanding lawyers who can hit the ground running, and I think that’s reflected in our highly ranked clinical programs, our highly ranked legal writing program, and the accomplishments of our 23,000 alums across the country who are successful in so many different parts of the legal industry and beyond,” Perlman, 44, says. “To have the opportunity to be the dean of a law school with that kind of rich tradition is very exciting to me. And having been on the faculty for the past 14 years, I know the institution well and believe that I can push the ball forward. I also believe we must continue our long-standing tradition of producing outstanding legal professionals and seek ways to update our curriculum for 21st-century realities.”
Perlman, Suffolk’s 13th law dean, replaces Camille Nelson, who held the position for five years.
“It’s a credit to Suffolk University Law School that the ideal candidate for the deanship comes from within its ranks,” said Andrew C. Meyer Jr. JD ’74, HLLD ’99, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. “The search committee and the trustees looked at many candidates from across the nation, but the legal educator with the most exciting ideas was already putting them to work in our Law School. As dean, he will take the school to even higher levels. We are eager to witness his innovations in the years to come.”
Perlman takes the helm during what has been a difficult time for the nation’s law schools. Enrollment is down, and the job market for lawyers isn’t as robust as it once was. Yet, instead of viewing the current climate as an obstacle, Perlman wants to seize it as an opportunity for change.
“As the employment opportunities for law graduates shrink, most law schools need to be smaller, and we are correctly moving in that direction,” he says. “The entering class for this coming fall will be in the 300s, relative to the 500s of just a few years ago. I think that’s going to be important as we seek to admit the highest credentialed class we can and work to ensure that students have the best prospects for success down the line.
“We also need to rethink, or at least supplement, the traditional legal education that students have received so that they are prepared for success in the 21st-century marketplace,” Perlman says. “I think that includes a whole range of new knowledge and skills, such as more business and financial literacy as well as the ability to leverage technology. If we can update the curriculum and have a smaller school at the same time, we will better position our students for professional success.”
Perlman also wants to ensure that the smaller enrollment doesn’t undermine the University financially.
“When you shrink entry classes from the 500s to the 300s and you’re tuition-driven, that means you have a lot of costs to cut or have to find dramatic new sources of revenue,” he says. “We’ve been pushing forward on both fronts, and I think the biggest challenge is to make sure that smaller classes are financially sustainable without doing any harm to our core academic mission.”
A native of Woodstock, New York and graduate of Harvard Law School, Perlman is married with three daughters. He was recently appointed by American Bar Association President William Hubbard to serve as the vice chair of the new ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, which is examining how to improve the delivery of and the public’s access to legal services. Calling Perlman “both creative and practical,” Hubbard says the new dean “will lead Suffolk Law in a way that prepares its graduates to be innovative and highly successful and valued counselors to their clients.”
Perlman’s vision for Suffolk Law includes what he calls a “closer collaboration” with Sawyer Business School to better equip law students with the business insight crucial to running or being part of a successful law practice.
“The overarching goal is to have greater synergies with the Business School. Not only do I think lawyers today need more business and financial acumen, but I want us to marry that with the technology-related skills we’ve already been teaching,” he says. “If we can incorporate those elements into the curriculum, I think the school, our graduates, and the University all will be better positioned for the future.”