Candidate with local roots vying to become UF law school dean


Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 3:04 p.m.

David Brennen has had a taxing career, spanning two decades in the world of legal academia.

Facts

David Alexander Brennen, 47

Residence: Lexington, KY
Spouse: Kimberly T. Brennen, 47, (Kimberly D. Turner)
Work: Dean and professor, University of Kentucky College of Law, 2009-present;
deputy director, Association of American Law Schools, (Washington, DC) 2007-2009; law professor, 1995-2009
Education: University of Florida, LLM Tax Law, 1994; UF, College of Law, JD, 1991; Florida Atlantic University, BBA in Finance, 1988.

Luncheon with faculty and alumni representatives is Thursday in
Room 180, Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom
**So that there is enough food for everyone attending, please rsvp to
Colleen Flage at flage@law.ufl.edu.

For those unable to attend in person, the presentation will be streamed live or available for later viewing at online

For more information visit this UF Web page.

Brennen, the dean of the University of Kentucky College of Law, has taught tax law during his entire academic career -- at Florida A&M University, Mercer, Temple, and Syracuse universities, and the universities of Georgia, Alabama and Virginia.

He's cultivated an expertise in non-profit tax law, edited several blogs, journals and newsletters about tax law, written or co-written books, contributed chapters to books, and published more than two dozen articles on the subject, not to mention dozens of panels and presentations.

Before he began his academic career, Brennen -- the third of four finalists in the search for a new dean for the University of Florida Levin College of Law -- worked for the State of Florida Department of Revenue, and practiced torts and taxes as an associate attorney.

Brennen will be in Gainesville for two days of interviews Wednesday and Thursday, to meet with faculty, staff, students and administrators to make his case why he should be the 12th dean of the Levin College of Law.

Robert Jerry, dean since 2003, will step down in June to return to teaching law at UF.

“My background in law, management and academic leadership make me well suited to assume the role of dean at UF Law at this pivotal time,” Brennen said in his cover letter.

The new dean will assume the helm of a law college with nearly 1,000 students and close to 60 faculty at a time of major challenges for law colleges as they deal with declining enrollments and discussions about changing curriculum to meet the needs of the profession and a sluggish job market.

Brennen will meet with Jerry, associate deans, search committee members, and get a tour of the law college and UF campus. He also will meet individually with UF President Bernie Machen and Provost Joe Glover, who ultimately will select Jerry's replacement.

While he likes being dean of UK Law, Brennen said serving as dean of UF Law would be a big personal dream come true.

“My mind is doing somersaults,” said Brennen when he gave his preliminary, 75-minute, interview with the search committee two weeks ago.

Brennen was born in Gainesville, came back for law school after getting a B.B.A. in Finance from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in 1988. He still has many extended family in the area, he said.

As the first member of his family to graduate from college, Brennen said, “much of who I am and what I have become professionally emanates from the legal education I received at UF Law in the early 1990s.”

He also got his first taste of law practice in Gainesville, working as a clerk at Moody & Salzman.

He has five years of administrative experience as dean to go with the long academic track record, about the same administrative experience as one other candidate. Faculty members had emailed the committee about their concerns that the candidates have both administrative and academic experience.

Brennen also served two years as deputy director of the Association of American Law Schools in Washington, D.C., which advised law school administrators on the many challenges laws schools face today. Brennen spoke regularly with 200 law school deans about the future of legal education in the U.S.

He highlighted his management of UK Law, starting with a strategic plan in 2009 that included a curricular focus in research and writing, a faculty pay increase bringing salaries closer to market rates, and an increase in faculty research funding. The plan also put a focus on increasing minority student and faculty recruitment.

Brennen also talked about his efforts to increase diversity at UK Law, both among students and faculty recruits. Members of the UF Law Diversity and Community Relations had asked the search committee to ask candidates to address the issue.

All 11 UF Law's deans have been white. Brennen is the only African-American candidate being considered. Two are white. One is Hispanic.

From experience, Brennen said, he learned the role of a dean is to be a resource facilitator, putting the keys to the school's success in the hands of the faculty.

“In the end, the faculty is the governing body of the law school,” he said.

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