by Terry Rogers
Michael McGinniss, Esq., who graduated from Milford High School in 1986, recently accepted a position as Dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law. McGinniss is a nationally recognized scholar in legal professional responsibility and ethics.
“I am excited about this new opportunity,” McGinniss said. “As the dean, I will be the leadership voice of the law school, in charge of discipline, overseeing the operations and representing the law school at various functions. I want to eventually get back into teaching but will need to take some time to get adjusted to my new leadership role. My goal is to set the mission and direction of the University of North Dakota School of Law.”
McGinniss grew up in Milford and attended Washington College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English and graduating first in his class. He then attended the William and Mary Law School, graduating third in his class. For one year, McGinniss clerked for Justice Holland before entering private practice in Wilmington for four years. He joined the Office of Judiciary Council which is an arm of the court, primarily charged with policing the conduct of attorneys. He taught for 12 years at Widener Law as an adjunct professor.
“I never thought I would be interested in teaching, but loved it immediately,” McGinniss said. “Life as a faculty member is very rewarding. I loved seeing the students develop, to see them grow and learn. It is amazing to watch the transformation in a law student from when they enter on the first day to the day they graduate.” McGinniss likes that although North Dakota is a big state, it has a small state feel.
McGinniss believes his biggest challenge in his new role as dean will be providing students with the strong ethics they will need in a field where ethics is critical. He hopes to provide all students in the program with good values and an understanding that the legal world they are learning today will not be the same legal world ten years from now as it is an ever-changing industry. He is looking forward to helping students through the process, successfully graduate, pass the bar and “hit the ground running.”
“My advice for anyone who is contemplating a legal career is to focus on their writing skills, even at the high school level,” McGinniss said. “Although what you see on television, lawyers standing up in court and speaking, does happen, I have spent a significant amount of my career writing. You must write briefs, answers, legal opinions. Without outstanding writing skills, it is difficult to succeed in the legal profession.”
McGinniss’ parents, Dan and Florence, still live in Milford. His father taught at Milford High School, a well-respected coach and high school principal before transferring to the administrative side of the district before his retirement. Mr. McGinniss helped players earn the 1971 Milford High School Basketball State Scholarship.
“I revere my dad,” McGinniss said. “He gave me big footsteps to follow. The leadership I use in my day-to-day life, I patterned after him. He carries himself in such a way that you can’t help but respect and honor him.”
McGinniss married his wife, Maureen, in 1991. The couple met in college and McGinniss stated that he married his “college sweetheart.” They have one daughter, Melanie, who graduated from Bethel University with a degree in English with a minor in film. His daughter currently lives in Los Angeles where she is trying to break into the film industry as a writer or editor.
“I would not be where I am today without Mike’s friendship and counsel,” Ryan Sutcliffe, who also graduated from Milford High School, said. “He played a critical role in my attending the William & Mary School of Law.”