U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Couch of Oklahoma City, has been selected as the new dean of the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
Couch will be the university's 12th law school dean and first woman to serve in that position.
“This is a remarkable Christmas present for OCU,” said OCU President Robert Henry. “Judge Couch will be an exceptional dean. She has been involved with our law school as an adjunct faculty member for a decade and her rapport with students and faculty is sterling, as is her reputation within the legal community.”
Couch, 60, was selected after a yearlong, nationwide search. She will succeed Lawrence Hellman, who elected to step down as dean to head the law school's Oklahoma Innocence Clinic, which is dedicated to identifying and helping people wrongfully convicted of crimes.
Couch said her love for OCU and appreciation for the university's many contributions to the community are among the many factors that prompted her to accept the job.
“The other thing that influenced me was just their own aspirations to grow and develop as a law school, and they are really poised to move forward in an upward trajectory,” she said. “I knew that I would love to be a part of that effort.”
Couch said she has a number of ideas about ways to improve the law school experience that she would like to discuss with faculty and students.
“I think the development of more clinical experience there is going to be a big part of the task ahead,” she said.
“There are also opportunities to create centers of excellence like in natural resources and energy law. I think that might be a direction the faculty will want to go. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of collaboration to make decisions like that, but there are great opportunities.”
A center of excellence in law and medicine might be another opportunity, she said.
As a judge and practicing lawyer, Couch said she has been extremely impressed with the law school alumni of OCU.
“They really are among the greatest lawyers, problem solvers and leaders of our state and I think it will be a real honor and privilege to work with them as well,” she said.
Couch received her law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1983.
Couch also has a master's degree in English literature from OU and a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of California at Los Angeles.
She has served as a U.S. magistrate judge in Oklahoma City since March 1999.
Before that, she was in private practice with Hartzog Conger & Cason, P.C., where she was an associate from 1983-88 and a director and shareholder from 1988-99.
Couch has been an adjunct faculty member at the OCU School of Law since 2001, teaching trial practice to upper division law students.
She is scheduled to begin work as dean July 1, but said she may start earlier if she can get her judicial duties wrapped up sooner.