This Women’s History Month, The Den is celebrating some of Mercer University‘s top leaders — our female deans. Eight of Mercer’s 12 schools and colleges are led by women, and we are highlighting each of these deans on separate days throughout March. Today, we spotlight Karen J. Sneddon, dean of the School of Law.
Karen J. Sneddon
How long have you worked at Mercer?
I joined the Mercer community in 2006 as an untenured assistant professor of law. I am currently interim dean, appointed in October 2021, and professor of law.
What was your career path to become dean?
My childhood dream was to become an academic. I chose the discipline of law because lawyers play pivotal roles in society.
Following graduation from Tulane Law School, I practiced law in New York City. My specialty was estate planning. I returned to Tulane Law School as a Forrester Fellow. I then joined Mercer in 2006. During my time at Mercer, I have become a professor of law, where my teaching and research interests have been legal writing, wills and real estate transactions. I have served as chair of the University House of Delegates and as associate dean for faculty research and development at Mercer Law. Those leadership roles informed my approach to this current leadership role.
What do you enjoy most about being dean?
Mercer is a collaborative community of students, alumni, staff and faculty. I appreciate having the opportunity to support our law community through quality legal education while gaining a broader perspective on the work of the law school and its role in the University.
What in your academic field are you most passionate about?
Being able to help Mercer law students become Mercer lawyers has been one of the most rewarding parts of my professional career. Lawyers are problem solvers, opportunity creators and agents of change who make valuable contributions to society. During the three years of study, law students gain the knowledge, skills and values that will support a wide range of career paths. Within my particular focus of legal writing, I help students form a key aspect of their professional identity, that of a writer. With my focus on wills and real estate transactions, I help students explore analytically complex issues that have a personal impact. It may seem cliché, but lawyers have the ability to make a significant contribution in their work, whether litigator or transactional lawyer. Lawyers are agents of change.
What advice would you give to future women leaders?
Acknowledge your value, and recognize the contributions you can make. Self-awareness and humility are critical aspects of leadership, but don’t underestimate your own value and your ability to serve in leadership roles.