Big Sky Roundup

University of Montana selects law school dean

By: - March 14, 2023 1:14 pm

The University of Montana announced Tuesday interim dean Elaine Gagliardi will serve as the permanent dean of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law. (Keila Szpaller/The Daily Montanan)

The University of Montana announced Tuesday longtime faculty member and interim dean Elaine Gagliardi will serve as the permanent dean of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to continue leading the Alexander Blewett III School of Law, an institution that means so much to our state,” Gagliardi said in a statement. “Our law school is the launchpad for legal minds in Montana, and I am eager to continue our positive momentum alongside the world-class faculty, top-tier staff and inspiring students that make this place so special.”

Elaine Gagliardi is named dean of the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana. (Provided by UM)

Gagliardi, an alumna of Montana’s only law school, has served as interim dean since June 2022 and has been a faculty member at the school since 1995, UM said in a news release. Her campus bio notes she holds a master’s of law in taxation from New York University and bachelor’s in economics from Yale University.

In fall 2021, the former dean and a former associate dean of the law school stepped down from their positions following allegations they dissuaded students from reporting sexual assault to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX, which handles such complaints on campus. Paul Kirgis, former dean, remains a faculty member at UM.

UM conducted a national search for the position last school year, but it did not result in a permanent hire, and in June 2022, UM tapped Gagliardi as interim dean, replacing three interim co-leaders. UM conducted a second search this school year.

In the announcement Tuesday, UM said Gagliardi brings significant practical experience to the law school, having worked with firms in Missoula, Connecticut, and Washington. She has served as a chairwoman of the State Bar of Montana’s Business, Estates, Trust, Tax and Real Estate Section.

UM also noted she is one of a few people elected to both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the American College of Tax Counsel. She is co-author of two multivolume treatises published by Lexis Publishing, “Modern Estate Planning (Second Edition)” and “How to Save Time and Taxes Handling Estates.” 

After graduating from the law school, Gagliardi served as a law clerk for two other Alexander Blewett III School of Law graduates: James R. Browning, chief judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and William J. Jameson, senior judge of the U.S. District Court of Montana, UM said.

Suzanne Tilleman, dean of UM’s College of Business, led the search committee that recommended Gagliardi for the position.

“Elaine’s passion for the Alexander Blewett III School of Law is contagious,” Tilleman said in a statement from UM. “She has the experience, the vision and the relationship with Montana’s legal community to lead the school as it continues to bring together top-notch legal and public policy programs to serve the state, region and nation.”

Her campus bio notes Gagliardi has served in a range of administrative capacities, including associate dean of Academic Affairs from 2007 through 2010 and associate dean of students from 2015 through 2017. She is the 2017 recipient of the George M. Dennison Presidential Faculty award.

Gagliardi was among three internal candidates named as finalists in the recent search, along with UM legal counsel Lucy France and spring 2023 adjunct professor Kari Hong.

In the news release, UM noted the law school rose in the national rankings in 2022, up 31 spots from the year before. Additionally, UM said the law school welcomed its most diverse class in history to campus this fall.

As dean, Gagliardi also will oversee UM’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, ranked the state’s top public affairs institution.

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Keila Szpaller
Keila Szpaller

Keila Szpaller is deputy editor of the Daily Montanan and covers education. Before joining States Newsroom Montana, she served as city editor of the Missoulian, the largest news outlet in western Montana.