The New Interim Dean at Saint Louis University Law School

As you may have read elsewhere, the Dean at SLU resigned and fired off an angry letter about the university administration.  Here is an excerpt of a report on Missouri Public Radio about the new interim Dean, Thomas O. Keefe:

Keefe, a 1978 graduate of the law school, and a personal injury attorney in Belleville, Ill. says it’s “not in his DNA” to say no to a Jesuit priest [referring to the University President]. He says he wants to focus SLU’s curriculum on teaching students to be lawyers, “not how to become law students, not how to write learned law journal articles, not how to espouse all kinds of legal theory.” He says he’s also looking forward to being the first dean to wear shorts and T-shirts in the office.


Last year, Keefe told Missouri Lawyers Weekly that he was the first to admit he’s “nuttier than a fruitcake.” Wednesday he said he stands by that statement.

“I think people are a little tired of everyone working so hard sometimes to be politically correct,” Keefe said. “A little dose of humor and a little dose of common sense take us a long way toward a little bit of sanity.”

UPDATE #2 — Keefe plans to continue practicing law while he is the Dean.  Do the ABA rules even permit that?

You may also like...

16 Responses

  1. SLU LAW Prof says:

    This is the culmination of years of hostility from Biondi towards the law school. As someone who has been on the faculty for decades, I can attest to everything in Dean Clark’s letter as being true and just the tip of the iceberg. Biondi has boasted of his hatred for lawyers, even to law alumni, yet there is no question that he depends on the law school revenue and law alumni giving. This is the second Dean in three years that has resigned as a direct result of Biondi’s incompetence and dishonesty. He is not fit to run a University, let alone one where he has the Board and all top positions in his back pocket. Keefe is just another yes-man; he has indicated that he will continue his law practice and serve as dean, for all practical purposes, part-time. Few law faculty have faith in his abilities. While he has spoken to the media on numerous occasions and has bashed our beloved ex-Dean while doing so, he has yet to send an email to the law faculty or law school, nor has he called a meeting to discuss his appointment. SLU Law has a tremendous faculty (and a particularly strong junior faculty), engaging and smart students, and a wonderful staff, yet the only thing that can save this school is a new President and administration. Dean Clark may have paid a big price, but like any good leader, she stood by her morals and is the first (in my experience) to stand up to this autocrat. I, for one, would without question follow her to a new school.

  2. Deandra MacDonald says:

    Wow, can’t people just get canned without throwing a hissy fit. You would think attorneys would be better than that. But it seems like most of them are no better than other people who are given too much authority:

  3. Ani says:

    Deandra, I can’t attest to any of the facts alleged by Clark. But assuming they are true, would it be better to remain silent, given that they appear likely to substantially affect the well-being of others at SLU? Does the fact that there’s also an attempt at personal redemption disqualify the whistle-blowing aspects?

  4. tom keefe says:

    could the “SLU LAW Prof” who seems to know me so well identify himself or herself—or just call me—618-236-2221—i think anonymous posts lack credibility Tom Keefe

  5. Law prof from elsewhere (not "SLU LAW Prof") says:

    I certainly agree that anonymous speech is generally less credible than speech whose author is known. But I think a situation like this one is a *great* illustration of why anonymous speech is, occasionally, quite important.

    If I were an SLU law prof, I certainly would not post a comment critical of my new dean under my real name. Forget it. If real names were required, I simply would not post at all.

    For the sake of all the faculty and students at SLU, I hope it turns out that Mr. Keefe takes an approach to the scholarly and educational mission of the school that is different from what his critics fear.

  6. Ani says:

    Note to Tom Keefe:

    You are correct that anonymous posts take a hit in the credibility department, particularly when they are mere assertions of opinion — there’s no ability to know whether the person actually knows you, or knows you well enough to make this assertion.

    If your post was really by you, I imagine it was intended to signal openness and a willingness to confront criticism. Or reacted to a sense of unfairness, which is surely understandable in dealing with anonymous barbs. Unfortunately, it also signals a naivete about the ease with which your faculty (if it was your faculty) will be willing to criticize publicly your appointment, even though the reasons for anonymity seem pretty evident. IMHO, the better tone to strike is to indicate willingness to meet with interested faculty who have concerns, and a willingness to respond to anonymous allegations that strike you as meriting a response.

    That is, I guess I would ignore criticisms of this kind, or respond to them on the merits while noting their lack of credibility as appropriate, rather than just asking the critic to out himself or herself. This comes across as a not-so-vaguely threatening dare.

    I am not an SLU poster, so I probably fall into the “ignore” category.

    Good luck to you and your school.

  7. Peter says:

    What part of the SLU Law Prof’s post purports to “know [Keefe] so well”? It purports to know about the history of the law school and its relations with Biondi, but that isn’t a claim to know all about the new dean. Part of what’s said about Keefe merely repeats what has been said elsewhere (“he has indicated that he will continue his law practice and serve as dean, for all practical purposes, part-time”). That requires no personal knowledge. What more is said? (1) “Keefe is just another yes-man”; (2) “Few law faculty have faith in his abilities”; (3) “[H]e has yet to send an email to the law faculty or law school, nor has he called a meeting to discuss his appointment.” (3) is falsifiable, and Keefe could point to evidence if it is incorrect. (2) is a claim about the faculty, and seems like a matter of opinion; even if it claims to be fact, it would be a fact about the faculty, not personal knowledge about Keefe. That leaves (1). This counts as evidence that the author claims to know Keefe well? Granting that it does, I don’t see why the appropriate response is to ask the author to self-disclose. Presumably the new dean can show that he’s not a yes-man by his actions.

  8. anon says:

    Agree w/Peter. Plus, I read (1) to refer to published statements by Keefe himself that it’s not in his nature to say no to a Jesuit priest, or words very close to that.

  9. tom keefe says:

    I appreciated the comments
    1. i couldn’t reach out to the faculty before today (and I did do it today) because I only got the job at the end of last week and it wasn’t until today that I got into my office and got an email account which allowed me to post to the faculty

    2. when i said i couldn’t say no to a Jesuit I was, unfortunately, not as clear as I should have been–I meant I couldn’t tell him no when he asked me to take the job–believe me–i didn’t ask for this job

    3.the slu job is not part time—its just that i have two jobs now–as as I speak I am at my “other” job–my law practice office working

    I hope everyone will just give all of us at SLU a chance to do the best we can Tom Keefe

  10. SLU LAW Prof says:

    1. The email sent today was sent from a Dean’s Office email account, not a Tom Keefe account, so there clearly was not a need for a personal email account to reach out to the law school community.

    2. ABA rule do not allow a part-time Dean, and Mr. Keefe has clearly indicated that he intends to continue with his law practice. In fact, one article quotes him as follows: “I made it clear to him [Biondi] that the most important factor of our agreement was that I remain an actively practicing lawyer.”

    3. ABA rules also do not permit appointment of a Dean without faculty consultation – here not only was there no faculty consultation, we have an admitted coup between Keefe and Biondi.

    4. The most important factor is what has gone unstated. Biondi’s latest antics have significantly harmed the reputation of the Law School, which will make it hard to recruit students, faculty, a new dean, alumni donations, etc. There has yet to be a statement issued as to the merits of Dean Clark’s resignation letter. Rather, we have Keefe boasting of how Biondi and he were a step ahead of her. Just infantile.

  11. David Wilson says:

    Law faculty jobs are not 9 to 5 positions. Prior to joining a law faculty I worked in two corporate law firms (one in NYC and the other in DC) and the US Attorney’s Office. Each had grueling hours. Neither compares to the hours I spend working as a law professor. I am getting paid 1/3 of my last law firm job, but love every minute. This trade-off is perfect for me.

    So, for Mr Keefe to say he is at his “other job” working at 7pm, many law faculty work at their primary job well into the night on a regular basis. There is no question you cannot fully dedicate yourself to the position of Dean absent a full commitment. The honorable decision would be to accept the job and leave practice, or decline the invitation. You are doing a disservice to your law school community by accepting the position as a second job.

  12. John says:

    I tend to agree with David. If the work of a dean can be completed as a second or part-time job, then why are deans always the highest paid member of the faculty? I’m surprised the SLU law faculty have not made more of stink of this, unless of course the strong-arm hands of their president are too powerful.

  13. Peter says:

    It is well known that donations can buy you a seat on the Board, but this is the first time I’ve head that donations can buy you a position as Interim Dean.

  14. SLU Alumn says:

    Mr. Keefe,

    Perhaps you should get to the business of deaning rather than trolling the comments section of legal blogs. I’ve now found you posting on multiple websites defending your reputation and various quotes you’ve made to the media. This is the Internet. When you get in a quarrel with the Internet, you always lose. Some pro bono advice: screaming into the abyss only makes the already precarious perception of SLU Law worse.

  15. SLU Alumn 1 says:

    Poor choice of words found in MO Lawyers Weekly. You are “Not Biondi’s butt boy”….I was thinking that you deserved a chance until now. Crass comments such as that are idiotic. Are we supposed to be impressed? The school is becomming quite the joke around the country. Your senseless comments, Dean Keefe, aren’t helping.

  16. SAm lalli says:

    this man is the most immoral man
    its hard to believe he is a dean
    I feel sorry for the school