Bruce Smith, currently an associate dean in academic affairs for the college, will be the new dean, pending approval next week by the university's board of trustees.
Smith is expected to start Feb. 16. The board is expected to vote on Smith's appointment Thursday in Chicago. If approved, Smith will receive an annual salary of $285,000.
"Bruce is a scholar of considerable vision and energy with high ambitions for the college," said Chancellor Richard Herman in a written statement. "He is just the right person to be leading our fine College of Law."
A 12-person committee, made up of university faculty, administrators and alumni, recommended Smith for the job. The university also hired search firm Greenwood and Associates of Miramar Beach, Fla., to assist with the search for $117,000.
Smith, 44, joined the UI law faculty in 2001. He has been an associate dean since April 2008.
"The College of Law is a marvelous place to research and study," said Smith, who has been in San Diego this week attending the American Association of Law Schools annual meeting. "I'm looking forward to expanding our connections to the university, to enhancing our students' ability to study the law experientially (in practice settings), and reaching out to the nearly 10,000 alumni as quickly and comprehensively as possible."
The college is currently ranked 27th according to a U.S. News & World Report review of U.S. law schools.
Smith is co-director of the college's Legal History Program. His research has focused on Anglo-American criminal procedures in the 18th and 19th centuries. And he has authored a book to be published this year on the history of common law. In 2008 he received the Campus Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching. Smith also has chaired the school's hiring committee.
"I have been deeply impressed by the intensity and dedication of Professor Smith's work as a scholar and teacher of law, and by the exciting vision he brings to the challenges of the law deanship," said Provost Linda Katehi.
Smith said he plans to continue pursuing teaching and research as dean.
Before joining the UI law school, Smith was a lawyer for five years at Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. where he represented the National Football League, National Basketball Association and National Hockey League.
His law and doctoral degrees are from Yale University.
Smith replaces Heidi Hurd, who stepped down in 2007 after five years to return to the faculty. Two law school professors, Ralph Brubaker and Charles Tabb, have served as interim deans.