Federal Magistrate Judge Valerie Couch didn't take the job as
dean of Oklahoma City University's law school because she wanted to
retire or was looking to take a step back from her career on the
Instead, Couch - the school's 12th dean and the first woman to
lead it - said she left the judiciary because she has a deep,
ongoing interest in the way future lawyers are trained and educated.
Call it her been-there, done-that approach.
Named in December after a yearlong national search, Couch said
she was happy with her present career and wasn't looking for a new
"I was very satisfied, but when this opportunity came along last
spring, I was intrigued with the idea of working with teachers," she
said. "I've always been interested in how lawyers and judges are
That interest, coupled with a desire to work in what she calls a
dynamic, collaborative enterprise, pushed her to the academic side.
"The federal judiciary is somewhat limiting in terms of personal
action," Couch said. "And my personality is probably better suited
for this type of enterprise. A position as a federal judge is a job
that is more isolated and focused on the exact case or controversies
that are before the court."
Appointed as a U.S. magistrate judge in the Western District
Court of Oklahoma in 1999, Couch already had a deep knowledge of
what it took to be an attorney. Prior to her federal service, she
spent about 16 years in private practice with Hartzog, Conger and
"I understand what it takes to be an attorney," she said.
University President Robert Henry - a former dean of the law
school, himself - said Couch's decision to join OCU was a gift to
the school and its students.
"This is a remarkable Christmas present for OCU. Judge Couch will
be an exceptional dean," Henry said. "She has been involved with our
law school as an adjunct faculty member for a decade and her rapport
with students and faculty is sterling, as is her reputation within
the legal community."
A graduate of the University of Oklahoma's law school, Couch
earned a master's degree in English literature from OU. She has a
bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of
California, Los Angeles.
But her path to the legal profession, she said, was serendipity.
"After I got my master's degree, I had my first child and I
taught on a part-time basis and I think that experience led me to
believe that wasn't what I wanted to do," she said. "Although I love
literature, it's a big part of my life. I didn't want to teach