Eric Lane, the new dean of the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, wants applicants to know he's reading their personal statements. Where he sees potential, he encourages the applicants to call him directly.
When they take him up on the offer, Lane said he tries to find common ground with them. He shares his own experiences of the intersection of law and politics, and he extols what the school has to offer.
That "personal touch" is a key recruitment strategy, he said.
"In this particular time, it's so much harder to be the dean because of the declining job market and declining applicant pool," Lane said. "You're asking people not just to sail the ship in the same old way and do the same job -- raise the flag, put the oars in. Now you're saying, 'Well, the sea is stormy and we're going to have to ask different things from people.'"
Lane, 69, took the dean's position permanently in December after serving as interim dean since March.
He has taught at the school for more than 36 years while holding public service positions at the city and state levels, among them counsel for the New York state Senate's Democratic minority and executive director of New York City's charter revision commission.
Hofstra Law, which has 945 students, received 3,892 applications for 2012, down from 4,605 for 2011 and 5,435 for 2010. Nine months after graduation, 40.7 percent of the class of 2011 had secured employment requiring bar passage, compared to 57.2 percent of all New York's law school graduates.
The job market "has declined," Lane said. "That's real. You can't hide that from people."
School faculty and trustees are confident that Lane is the right leader for a challenging time.
"The law school environment has changed, and Eric is on top of that," said Janis Meyer, chair of Hofstra University's board of trustees and a member of the law school dean search committee. "He understands the fact that there needs to be a curriculum that includes both the academic and practical sides."