Moving Talent Forward with Endowed Chairs and Professorships

Moving Talent Forward with Endowed Chairs and Professorships

In higher education, the strength and prominence of a program are often a direct reflection of its faculty. For the University of Miami School of Law, attracting the top minds from across multiple areas of law has earned the school national and international recognition. In March 2022, Miami Law was ranked #6 in Most Diverse Faculty and #9 on the Top Law Schools in the Southeast list by The Princeton Review as part of their 2022 report. The law school’s broad clinical law program is also considered among the country’s top-tier practical externship experiences, with cases heard at local, state, and federal levels.

Such accolades are essential faculty recruitment tools, but the school’s collection of endowed chairs and professorships are equally compelling. There are currently eight chairs and professorships, all of which were established through the generosity of Miami Law alumni:

Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein Distinguished Professor of Law

held by:

Professor A. Michael Froomkin 

Judge A. Jay Cristol Professor of Bankruptcy Law

held by:

Professor Andrew B. Dawson

de la Cruz/Mentschikoff Chair in Law and Economics

held by:

Professor William W. Bratton

Larry J. Hoffman, Greenberg Traurig Distinguished Professor in the Business of Law

held by:

Professor Michele DeStefano

Michael R. Klein Distinguished Scholar Chair

held by:

Professor Mary Anne Franks

Richard A. Hausler Professor of Law

held by:

Professor Bernard H. Oxman

M. Minnette Massey Professor of Law

held by:

Dean David Yellen

Robert C. Josefsberg Chair in Criminal Justice Advocacy

held by:

Professor Scott Sundby

In addition to recognizing the contributions a particular faculty member has made to the university and the legal profession, the chairs and professorships at the University of Miami enable a collaboration between the practice of law and the education of aspiring lawyers,said DeStefano, who was awarded her professorship in 2019.

“There needs to be more synergy between academia and practice so we can train our lawyers, create and fund new programs, and encourage new educational opportunities, research, and writing. Chairs and professorships form a symbiotic relationship [with the university] that only enhances the law marketplace by developing lawyers who know how the practice of law truly works.”

Franks agrees and believes the chairs and professorships serve an additional purpose.

“It shows the university appreciates and acknowledges a certain type of work,” she said. “This is meaningful because it means research or study is supported and celebrated for the nature of scholarly inquiry, not simply about popularity. It communicates to students that there is value to hard work and achievement within the field.”

Chairs and professorships can be incredibly effective ways for universities and donors to highlight and demonstrate diversity within the faculty, Franks said. In particular, when a university’s chairs are held by individuals from a wide range of backgrounds, it signals to students and the broader community that the institution values excellence, not limited by gender, race, or class.

Franks’ perspective is echoed by Froomkin, who said endowed chairs and professorships should not be underestimated when it comes to remaining competitive with other top law schools around the country.

“Some law schools have numerous chairs and professorships,” he said. “The University of Miami has several, but it would be nice to see that grow. Clearly, if someone holds a chair or professorship with one university, they typically want something comparable should they take a position at another university. A chair can also be an inducement to moving for someone who does not currently hold a chair or professorship elsewhere. It’s a way of not only attracting, but also retaining the best teaching talent. It’s quite possibly one of the most powerful contributions alumni or the community can make toward the university.”


Michael Froomkin


Andrew B. Dawson


William Bratton


Michele DeStefano


Mary Anne Franks


Bernard H. Oxman


 While Miami Law’s chairs and professorships have tremendous value for those who hold them, it is often an even-greater honor for those who establish them.

“I can personally remember what it meant to me as a student to learn from high-caliber professionals and educators,” recalls Laurie Silvers, two-time UM alumna, current chair of both the Dean’s Advisory Council for the School of Law and the University of Miami Board of Trustees, and donor of the Laurie Silvers and Mitchell Rubenstein Distinguished Professor of Law.

“For me, it was Soia Mentschikoff, who was not only a giant in the field and dean of the school of law while I was there, but she was also an amazing teacher who actually enjoyed teaching,” Silvers said. “She made a point of making sure I knew I had the strength and capacity to succeed. Having someone of that stature speak to me and encourage me was profoundly inspiring.”

Silvers said the chance to pass on similar experiences to future students was a key reason for endowing the professorship co-named for her and her husband. “I’m very excited to see what Professor Froomkin has been bringing to the university. He’s a genius and pioneer in artificial intelligence and the law and this professorship has allowed us to be supportive in ways a single person rarely gets the chance to do. I may only be one person, but through this endowment we get to see positive impacts for thousands of students through Professor Froomkin’s work.”

Similar motivations were behind the Hon. A. Jay Cristol’s decision to create the professorship of bankruptcy law named in his honor. “The University of Miami has been wonderful to me throughout the years,” he said. Cristol was the research editor for the law review while he was a student at Miami Law, and he now serves as an adjunct professor and recently retired as Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Emeritus for the Southern District of Florida.

I wanted very much to give back to the school that prepared me for the incredible life I’ve had. That takes professors with a passion for what they do, and it is my hope this professorship provides exactly that for many years to come.

The chairs and professorships are also ways to leave a legacy with the University of Miami School of Law, echoed DeStefano and Franks.

“Larry Hoffman is a respected authority in business of law, and became so by working from a business mindset,” said DeStefano. “To see my own work in expanding client-attorney privilege, examining where innovation and business intersect, litigation funding, and other areas be mentioned in connection with this chair is humbling. It inspires me to keep working to bring continued recognition to the impressive career and purpose of the person for whom the chair is named.”

“Giving a chair invites donors and alumni to reflect on who they are and what kind of stories they wish to tell about their breadth of work, why they did it, and how they see that story continuing,” said Franks. “In my own experience, being awarded this chair provided an occasion to look deeply at Michael Klein’s life and work—the causes he’s championed, the civil rights issues and artistic endeavors he’s supported. This chair gives me an opportunity to honor his work and hopefully serve as a similar example in my own areas of expertise and advocacy.”

Silvers also reiterates that alumni and donor support make possible chairs, professorships, and the Miami Law experience possible.

“Both the university and the law school welcome anyone who wants to get involved. They want you to see and be part of what they’re doing. They’re open to ideas. They understand and appreciate the value of relationships,” Silvers said. “Speak with the dean. Attend events. Participate in lectures. Mentor. It’s all about whatever your passion is and the area of law in which you want to make a difference. Sponsoring a chair or professorship is a way to stay involved long-term, while also pursuing other opportunities.

“I’ve found that the more you know about what’s happening at the University and where it’s headed, the more you want to be involved in whatever way you can. That’s the real strength of Miami Law—its people,” Silvers said.