More overture than finale: Dean Wendy Perdue on 11 years at Richmond Law

February 28, 2022

UNIVERSITY NEWS

Wendy Perdue knew she wanted to be a lawyer as soon as she started taking courses in the subject in college.

“Law is everywhere,” said Perdue, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law. “It is a part of everything out there in the world.”

She spent the year after law school in a federal court clerkship for soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and knew studying, teaching, and working in law was a lifelong passion she wanted to share with others.

“From your most private, personal interactions to the most public, commercial, and political, there's an overlay of law,” she said.

Perdue joined Richmond in 2011, after serving as associate dean and professor of law at Georgetown University for nearly 30 years. She was elected to the American Law Institute in December 2021 and is past president of the Association of American Law Schools. She is currently the 11th-longest serving law school dean in the country.

“Richmond is a really good place to be. It's a fabulous university. It's a fabulous law school,” Perdue said of her tenure at UR. “Someone once told me that the median deanship is shorter than the median career for NFL linebackers, and that's because deans take more hits,” she added with a chuckle.

Perdue has navigated Richmond Law through an economic downturn when she first arrived, and more recently through the COVID-19 pandemic, saying she is immensely grateful for the commitment from the school’s faculty and staff to ensure the best possible experience for Spider law students.

“Everybody stepped up and made it possible for us to be pretty successful in these last couple years,” she said. “I think we've navigated it as best as one could hope for.”

Looking forward, she says the future of the School of Law is bright. Going to law school provides numerous opportunities beyond becoming a lawyer, and she encourages those who have an interest to pursue it.

“We have alums who have never practiced law but who will tell you their legal education has been enormously valuable just in the systematic analytic approach that it teaches you on how to think through problems,” she said. “We call it thinking like a lawyer, you just learn a lot about those foundational structures that impact everything we do.”

Though she is one of the longest-serving deans in the country, she sees her time at Richmond so far as more of an overture than a finale.

“I'm the kind of person who actually likes doing things for a good long period of time,” she said. “It does take a couple of years to learn the players and learn the culture and just kind of understand strengths and challenges. And if you leave after three or four or even five years, you're just kind of beginning to figure out how stuff works. I think that the longer duration allows for me to be more effective.”