Skip to main content
Photograph of VLS President Rodney Smolla
Board of Trustees - Officers

Rodney A. Smolla

President, Vermont Law and Graduate School
Dean's Office

JD, Duke University School of Law

BA, cum laude, Yale University

Rodney A. Smolla


Officially beginning his term as president of Vermont Law and Graduate School on July 1, 2022, Rodney Smolla joined VLGS from Widener University Delaware Law School, where he served as dean and professor of law since 2015.

Previously president of Furman University, and dean at Washington and Lee University and University of Richmond law schools, Professor Smolla has long been a strong advocate for experiential learning, the development of professional competencies, and civic engagement.

Professor Smolla brings to VLGS extensive experience in higher education leadership, with a special focus on strategic and operational planning, enrollment management, and fundraising. After inheriting a nearly $6 million annual operating deficit at Delaware Law School, he will leave the institution with $5 million in budget surpluses, achieved in large part due to dramatic increases in JD enrollment as well as creative revenue generation in non-JD programming.

He has been a faculty member at the William & Mary, DePaul, University of Illinois, and University of Arkansas law schools, and a visiting professor at law schools at Duke, University of Georgia, University of Indiana, Denver University, and University of Melbourne. Additionally, he has served as the director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at the College of William and Mary, and senior fellow and project director of the Washington Annenberg Program of Northwestern University. He currently serves as the chair of the AALS Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and in 2011 he was appointed by the governor of South Carolina as a commissioner on the South Carolina Commission of Higher Education, which included within its mission the oversight of all of South Carolina’s public universities and colleges, and licensure and programmatic approval for all public and private educational programs within the state.

Professor Smolla has been and remains an active litigator. He is particularly well-known for his representation of American and international clients on matters relating to defamation and invasion of privacy. He is admitted to the Illinois, Virginia, and Delaware bars, and he has participated as counsel or co-counsel in many litigation matters, in state and federal courts throughout the nation. He is a frequent advocate on a wide variety of legal issues, and has presented oral argument in state and federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court of the United States.

The author of more than 100 articles published in law reviews and other publications, he is a nationally known scholar on matters relating to constitutional law, civil rights, freedom of speech, and mass media, particularly matters relating to libel and privacy. He is the author of five multi-volume legal treatises, all published by Thomson Reuters, updated twice annually: "Law of Defamation; Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech"; "Rights and Liabilities in Media Content, Internet, Broadcast, and Print"; "Federal Civil Rights Acts"; and, "Law of Lawyer Advertising." Among the many trade and university press books he has authored are "Suing the Press: Libel, the Media, and Power" (Oxford University Press 1986) (won ABA Silver Gavel Award Certificate of Merit); "Jerry Falwell v. Larry Flynt: The First Amendment on Trial" (St. Martin’s Press 1988); and, "Deliberate Intent: A Lawyer Tells the True Story of Murder by the Book" (Crown Publishers 1999), which was made into a television movie by FX, with Timothy Hutton playing the role of Smolla.

A first-generation college student, Professor Smolla received his JD from the Duke University School of Law and his BA cum laude from Yale University.