Dean Dan Kelly announcement
Matt Cashore

University of St. Thomas School of Law Appoints Daniel Kelly as New Dean

The University of St. Thomas School of Law has selected Daniel B. Kelly, an accomplished University of Notre Dame law and economics researcher with strong experience creating multidisciplinary programs, as the fourth dean to lead the Minnesota-based law school.

Dan Kelly
Dan Kelly will start July 1, 2024, as new dean.

Kelly has taught as a professor at Notre Dame since 2009 and currently serves as both the director of its Law and Economics Program and the founding director of its Fitzgerald Institute for Real Estate, an interdisciplinary university-wide academic center.

In leading the Fitzgerald Institute for seven years, Kelly recruited esteemed faculty, launched new courses and an interdisciplinary minor, hosted conferences and events and helped to raise tens of millions of dollars in endowed funds. He also brought together professors, students and alumni from Notre Dame’s architecture, arts and letters, business, engineering and law schools to research issues; the institute covered topics related to real estate investment, development, housing and urban economics, property law, technology and construction, among others. Kelly also engaged industry and nonprofit partners to elevate awareness of key trends for an industry that is crucial to economic, financial and social conditions across the globe.

A member of the American Law Institute, Kelly has received national recognition for his scholarship in property law, fiduciary law and trust law. He has published articles in several leading journals, including the Columbia Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Harvard Law Review Forum, and Supreme Court Economic Review. He also has been published in the Research Handbook on the Economics of Property Law and The Oxford Handbook of the New Private Law, for which he served as a co-editor.

“The challenges of today’s society cannot be solved in silos, and Dan Kelly’s track record with interdisciplinary approaches makes him a perfect fit for helping St. Thomas to advance its mission,” said St. Thomas President Rob Vischer, who led the university’s law school for nearly 10 years. “Bringing together minds from various areas and industries propels innovation, and Dan will use that approach to steward our law school students, faculty and staff to new levels of success.”

Kelly’s appointment, which will begin July 1, 2024, comes after a national search for a dean who not only possesses outstanding credentials but also shares St. Thomas’ faith-based mission and commitment to preparing its students to become accomplished servant leaders in society and the practice of law.

“I am honored to join this esteemed institution rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition. The law school’s and the university’s mission in terms of working for the common good deeply resonates with me,” Kelly said. “I am eager to begin working collaboratively with faculty, staff, students, alumni, benefactors, and all the constituents at St. Thomas to advance the School of Law’s commitment to excellence and raise our impact and reach both locally and nationally.”

Kelly was a judicial clerk on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, an attorney at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City, a research fellow at Yale and Harvard, a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School and the Louis D. Brandeis Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He is a 2005 graduate of Harvard Law School and received his bachelor’s degree in 2002 from the University of Notre Dame.

“We are thrilled that Dean Kelly and his family will join the School of Law community. His leadership experience, character and commitment to and appreciation for our mission are the perfect combination to continue the school’s powerful forward progress,” said Helms Capital founder Jack Helms, chair of the law school’s Board of Governors who served on the search committee. “This next chapter promises to deliver exceptional outcomes for the law school, and Dean Kelly is the perfect person to lead the effort.”

School of Law buildingLiam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

Located in downtown Minneapolis, the University of St. Thomas School of Law is nationally recognized for its professors, practical training, clinical programs, externships and student quality of life. It offers a distinctive, whole-person legal education that combines experiential learning, theoretical knowledge and mentoring with its mission dedicated to integrating faith and reason in the search for truth through a focus on morality and social justice. In 2023, the St. Thomas School of Law was named the No. 2 law school in the country for practical training by National Jurist. It has ranked among the top three law schools in this category since 2014. In 2023, St. Thomas Law also ranked No. 5 for best state clerkships, according to Princeton Review, and nationally its faculty ranked No. 23 for scholarly impact in a recent Leiter-Sisk Study.

Joel A. Nichols, who has served as the School of Law’s interim dean since Vischer became university president, will resume his faculty role as a teaching law professor upon Kelly’s appointment as dean.