The William & Mary Law School — the oldest law school in America — has made an impressive and historic selection for its new dean.
A. Benjamin Spencer, a nationally renowned civil procedure and federal courts expert and current professor of law at the University of Virginia, will begin at William & Mary Law School July 1. Spencer will be William & Mary’s first African-American dean of any school at the university, including the law school. His selection follows a national search to succeed Davison M. Douglas, who will return to the faculty after serving as dean for more than 10 years.
“William & Mary is thrilled to welcome Ben Spencer as our next dean of the law school,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. “Since the beginning of the search process we sought a leader who values all three aspects of the law: the academy, the bar and the bench. Ben brings that broad view of legal practice, together with a deep appreciation of the ethos of the citizen lawyer that has inspired the oldest law school in the country since its founding.
Service has been a central theme in Ben Spencer’s career, both within academia and beyond. He has been a member of the UVA faculty since 2014 and recently completed a year as the Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He currently serves as the Justice Thurgood Marshall Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Spencer’s teaching and scholarship focus on civil procedure, federal civil litigation and military law. Before joining the UVA faculty, he served as Director of the Francis Lewis Law Center and associate dean for research at Washington and Lee University, where he established a reputation as a mentor for younger colleagues, students and early career faculty. Spencer began his career in legal education at the University of Richmond School of Law.
“Like William & Mary’s George Wythe, the nation’s first professor of law, Ben is deeply committed to his students’ development as citizen lawyers,” said Provost Peggy Agouris. “When you add his experience as an academic leader, scholar and researcher, he is the perfect fit for a law school known for excellence, community, faculty-student interaction and commitment to the public good.”
At UVA, Spencer has been the faculty advisor for the Black Law Students Association and the Saint Thomas More Society. At the University of Richmond, he was a member of the Student Services Committee and Diversity Committee and worked as faculty advisor to the Honor Court, the Black Law Students Association and the Patrick Henry Chapter of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity.
Spencer contributes to the broader law community by sharing his expertise with professional associations and other civic groups, serving on numerous committees for the Virginia State Bar and Virginia Bar Association. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the West Academic Law School Advisory Board. Additionally, he has served on the Board of Directors for such organizations as the Virginia Poverty Law Center, Piedmont Court Appointed Special Advocates, Comfort Zone Camp and Girl Scouts Commonwealth Council of Virginia.
Graduating from Harvard Law School in 2001 as a member of the esteemed Harvard Law Review, Spencer received the Judge John R. Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing and won the ABA Section of Antitrust Law Student Writing Competition. While there, he also was named best oralist in the semi-finals of the Ames Moot Court Competition and won best brief in the first-year Ames Moot Court Competition.
He also holds a master’s degree in criminal justice policy from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Morehouse College.