Michael Hernandez and Jeffrey Brauch
Bar passage rates were a lackluster 40 percent when Jeffrey A. Brauch was appointed interim dean of the Regent University School of Law in 1999. Brauch knew a curriculum overhaul was needed to better prepare students, and he turned to trusted law school colleagues to lead the curriculum reforms, including Michael Hernandez, who played a central role.
Fast forward 16 years, and Regent's bar passage rates have improved significantly, exceeding the Virginia average in four of the past five years. Also, the school, the students and the faculty have earned numerous accolades under Brauch's leadership. Now, Brauch is returning to the classroom, and Hernandez, a seasoned legal professor and faculty adviser of the nation's 8th ranked Moot Court program, has been appointed dean of the Regent University School of Law, with the transition beginning immediately.
"We've had a great run with Jeff as our leader. He has done an excellent job to build the foundation for the law school," Hernandez said. "I'm looking forward to taking the baton and moving the school forward. He's been encouraging and I'm very blessed to have his help and support."
Brauch, always popular with students and alumni, says he is excited about the opportunity to teach more.
"My favorite part of my job as dean always has been spending time with students. They are bright, articulate, and have a sense of purpose and calling," Brauch explained. "It is a joy to teach them. They're ready to change the world, and we get to equip them for that task."
Reflecting on his service as dean, Brauch quickly pointed out that the school's accomplishments are a result of God's grace and the hard work of a committed team of people – professors and staff.
"These people are more than professional colleagues, they're my friends. We're a team, and it has been a joy and a privilege to serve alongside them as dean," he said.
Regent Law's faculty have been ranked among the top 10 in the nation by The Princeton Review for two consecutive years, an accolade that Brauch shares with great pride.
"This ranking truly reflects their teaching excellence and the level of investment they make in our students' lives," he said.
Curriculum reforms, which both Brauch and Hernandez cite as a significant accomplishment, did more than improve bar passage rates. Coupled with development of a strong writing program under Brauch's watch, Regent Law students excel in legal practice and in competitions.
"Our emphasis on legal writing shows in our bar passage rates, in our "best brief" awards at moot court competitions, and from the praise we regularly hear from employers and judges about our graduates' strong writing skills," Brauch said. "And our competition success is due in large part to Mike's work with the moot court program. It's remarkable that Regent – a fairly small, relatively young law school – is ranked among the nation's best advocacy programs."
Hernandez started working with Regent's Moot Court program during its infancy in 1994 and has been at the center of it ever since, including Regent's international second place finish at the 2013 University of Oxford Price Media Law Moot Court Programme.
"I'm probably a little biased, but I believe moot court is the most valuable practical training because it combines written and oral communication, tests analytical skills and enables students to work collaboratively as a team," Hernandez explained. "We have great students, courses and preparation. Our coaches require multiple written drafts of briefs, and the students practice oral arguments regularly. It's almost like a mini-apprenticeship at a law firm."
With a reputation as an "idea man," Hernandez has had a hand in proposing, developing and leading a number of Regent Law initiatives, including the LLM in American Legal Studies, the student-led Honor Council, and the Honors Program, which targets top-performing students by providing specialized classes and unique opportunities to challenge them during their legal education. "Encouraging innovation is a priority, and I want to harness the resources, and talent and brainpower to move the school forward so that Regent becomes the 'go to' law school for committed Christians," Hernandez said. "All of our Regent Law faculty and staff embrace our mission, and I am privileged to lead our team and continue preparing students to lead with excellence in the legal industry."
Hernandez' appointment as dean is part of a new growth initiative for the entire university. Among some 40 new degree programs are several specific to Regent Law, including a concentration in Wealth Management & Financial Planning in the Master's of Arts in Law degree that began last year.
"Mike brings a wealth of experience and keen insights into the requirements for an excellent legal education," said Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riaño, Regent's executive vice president for academic affairs. "He has a distinguished history here at Regent and is greatly respected among his Regent Law colleagues, as well as his peers regionally and nationally, for his teaching and legal scholarship. We look forward to what Mike will bring to this position, with his ability to build on Regent Law's success in educating and training future lawyers and judges and other leaders in the legal industry."
Hernandez joined the faculty at Regent Law in 1992 and has taught Appellate Advocacy, Advanced Appellate Advocacy, International Human Rights, Christian Foundations of Law, Property I & II, and Race & the Law.
Prior to teaching, Hernandez practiced law in the areas of products liability, defense litigation, and environmental law. He has served as a consultant for attorneys litigating cases in state and federal court, including before the United States Supreme Court. His scholarship focuses on property law, race and the law, law and religion, law and public policy, and appellate advocacy.
Following a year as interim dean, Brauch has served as dean of Regent Law since 2000. Among other accomplishments, Brauch believes establishing the Center for Global Justice clearly demonstrates the schools' worldwide reach, with interns and alumni doing legal work that is making a difference on behalf of the poor, oppressed, and enslaved all around the globe.
"We are grateful for Jeff's leadership at the law school over the past 15 years," said Moreno-Riaño. "Jeff loves teaching and loves our students, and we know they will benefit from his expert instruction in areas such as international human rights, Christian foundations of law, contract law and other courses."
Regent Law has more than 3,000 alumni practicing law in nearly all 50 states and overseas, including 34 alumni who have or are currently serving as judges. Other alumni serve as judicial clerks, partners and associates in law firms, government agencies and public interest organizations.
"Some of our alumni are making differences in very public ways, and others are changing the world in ways that the world doesn't see. They're doing it one client at a time," Brauch said. "They are practicing family law, criminal defense and handling bankruptcy cases. People come to them at the lowest point in their lives, and our alumni are giving not only great legal advice, but counsel to help improve their clients' lives."