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Jason Trujillo, Assistant Dean

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Law School the Second Time Around: Jason Trujillo’s Journey from Law Student to Assistant Dean

 

Jason Trujillo has spent most of his professional life at the University of Virginia —and he could not be any happier. After he graduated from UVA’s School of Law in 2001, he spent a couple of years as an Assistant District Attorney. By 2003 he returned to his alma mater as the Director of Public Service. Here, he talks about his career trajectory and the transferable legal skills he uses as Assistant Dean of UVA’s School of Law .

How did you return to academia?

I loved law school when I was here as a student and loved the Charlottesville area.When the opportunity to return arose, I jumped at it.

I came back to the University of Virginia School of Law as the Director of Public Service. My job was to assist current students in finding public service summer internships, permanent public service jobs, and judicial clerkships. I also managed our loan forgiveness program. I was the President of the Public Interest Law Association when I was a student and worked with the Public Service Center extensively at that time. I was thrilled to see it from the other side as the Director of Public Service.

I was then appointed Director of Admissions when my predecessor retired. Admissions was also a wonderful experience. But it is easy to “sell” a school that you love. Finally, I was asked by our Dean to join him in the Dean’s Office as Assistant Dean.

Was there anything about leaving law practice that you did not anticipate?

I do miss practice at times. I was a prosecutor, which is a great job. I enjoyed having my own cases and being in court all the time. I am a doer and like to be on my feet and moving around. Also, there was nothing like preparing a case well and seeing it come to fruition. There was daily gratification. The successes in academia are far more long-term.

What does a typical day in the office look like for you?

There is no typical day. It is very hard to explain what I do on a daily basis because it is something different each day. Whether it is putting out the daily fire or working on a special project, the variety of my work is its most appealing aspect.

A few examples of what I do include (1) serving as the Dean’s liaison to the University President’s Office, the University Provost’s Office, alumni, and students; (2) assisting the Dean in managing the various departments of the Law School, including my former office (Admissions); and (3) responding to requests for information from the ABA and AALS. In essence, I try to free the Dean up to do the things only a Dean can do—fundraising and faculty recruitment in particular.

What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

There are two things. The first is the variety of the work. I am never bored. It is amazing to see how much effort goes into running a law school and it is interesting so see how it all works.

The second is being able to work on a daily basis with someone of the caliber of John Jeffries—our Dean. It is not unlike being a six-minute miler who is now training with a world-class four-minute miler. You may never be a four-minute miler but you will be running faster than you ever have before.

What advice would you offer a law school graduate who wants to work in law school administration?

If you want to get into academic administration, I would suggest getting involved with the hiring committee at your firm, volunteering to connect with admitted students for your admissions office, and getting involved with your alumni association.

Other than that, I suggest simply applying yourself fully to your current position. We look for bright, capable lawyers who simply want to do something different. I have been on the hiring committee for the last four administrative faculty hires at the law school (one in our Public Service Center, two in our Admissions Office, and one in our Career Services Office). All of these hires were excellent attorneys who still loved the law but wanted to return to their alma mater because they loved the school. The pay in academic administration is not great, so you must be motivated by your passion. Excellence never goes out of style.

Interview with Jason Trujillo conducted by Natalie Holder–Winfield of the Committee on Career Advancement and Management.