The dean of Villanova University’s law school, John Y. Gotanda, is a lot more relaxed these days despite the problems that surrounded the school in 2011. It was discovered that prior to 2010, data for incoming freshmen was falsified. The school hired Ropes & Gray from Boston to investigate the issue.
Villanova saw the results of the Ropes & Gray investigation go public, which led to the dismissal of multiple senior administrators and the hiring of accounting firm KPMG to better analyze data. The school also hired former FBI Director Louis Freeh for two years to make sure that things stayed proper.
According to Gotanda, the incoming class in 2011 was the best-ever for the school when measured in terms of class rank and LSAT scores. The school also saw record amounts of fundraising for the school year that ended this past May. The majority of the money donated was given to the school with no restrictions in place, which means donators trust what the administration is doing.
“How can it happen? It was a small, closed group of people who held that information with very little transparency, and when they had a closed loop there, it was very hard to penetrate that,” Gotanda said. “While I would admit it was a terrible black eye, the response has been tremendous.”
As the legal industry continues to struggle with hiring, Villanova has reduced its incoming class size from 250 to 215. This is something many other law schools have begun to do lately as well. The law school offers students a joint MBA-law program that has 15 percent of its enrollment. Villanova law is also researching the idea of adding a nonlegal business course that could help graduates understand commercial clients.
“We think they should have such skills as finance, marketing and project management because lawyers today work across disciplines,” he said.
The scandal involving the tampering of the data was made known just three weeks after Gotanda took over as dean of the law school. Gotanda had previously been a member of the Villanova faculty. The university had to stop communications as ordered by the American Bar Association while the investigation of Ropes & Gray took place.
Gotanda has worked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as a staff lawyer and has worked at the law firm of Covington & Burling in D.C. He spent some time in Boston before coming to the Philadelphia region and to Villanova.