U-M Law alumnus begins duties as new dean at Wayne Law School

By Linda Laderman
Legal News

Back in his home state, after more than two decades of living and working on the East Coast, Richard Bierschbach, Wayne State University Law School’s new dean, has some sage advice for first year law students.
“Law school is going to be the most rigorous and transformative intellectual experience of your life,” Bierschbach proclaimed. “But it also is going to be the most rewarding. Studying and discipline are essential. But so are human skills—professionalism, courtesy, responsibility, ownership, collaboration, respect. Practice and cultivate those skills from the outset; they will take you far.”

Formerly the vice dean at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Bierschbach, who officially began his duties at Wayne State August 17, replaces Jocelyn Benson, who served as dean from 2012-16.

 The 45-year-old Bierschbach, a graduate of the University of Michigan and U-M Law School, already is working towards developing a five-year strategic plan that will borrow some ideas from a similar proposal he put forward at Cardozo, where he gained national attention for his scholarship in criminal law and procedure and also led the creation of an Office of Diversity and Inclusion that was aimed at providing guidance and support on a number of issues to under-represented students.

Coming back to Michigan has benefits for Bierschbach that go beyond his professional life. It was where he grew up, attended public schools, and is where his parents and extended family still reside.

“For me, if it weren’t for Michigan’s public education system I wouldn’t be where I am today. I didn’t feel particularly challenged until I reached high school, then I realized there was a whole new world I hadn’t experienced. I started eating that up,” said Bierschbach, who graduated first in his class at U-M Law School and later clerked for retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor.

“The opportunities that the Michigan public education system provided to me transformed my life, so in a way what we’re doing at the law school, the doors we are trying to open and the impact we are trying to have feels personal.”

What also is important to Bierschbach is the opportunity to be in closer proximity to his mother, a retired teacher, and his father, who retired from Steelcase in Grand Rapids 15 years ago.

“My dad started out building chairs on the line there, working the night shift, and worked his way up to being a plant manager without ever having a college degree. He’s also incredibly intellectually curious and a voracious reader. I think just seeing him as a role model was a big part of what drove my own curiosity and sense if I worked and studied hard I could rise,” Bierschbach said.


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