Academics

Meet the Dean: Morse Tan

By Jacob Couch, September 20, 2022

New law school dean leadS the mission to infiltrate the legal world with Christian advocates

For Liberty University School of Law Dean Morse Tan, education, career, and family have always been areas of his life enriched by his passionate pursuit and prioritization of faith in Christ above all else.

Since arriving at Liberty Law in January, Tan has sought to continue the school’s longstanding tradition of Training Champions for Christ by reminding students and faculty of how a faith-driven life can reap rewards in the field of law.

“My heart and my thoughts are frequently on how I can increase, make more pervasive, deepen, broaden, and further the Christian mission of this place,” he said. “That is something that I dwell on.”

Before Liberty Law, Tan served as Ambassador at Large for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, where he oversaw the indictment, sanctioning, capture, and/or conviction of mass atrocity criminals in places like Sri Lanka, Rwanda, the Balkans, and Lebanon.

In his law career, Tan has served as an attorney and counselor at law for major law firms. In legal academia, he has served as a law professor or visiting scholar at University of Texas at Austin School of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, Northern Illinois University College of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and Handong International Law School in Pohang, Korea, where he took part in founding the first American J.D. program in Asia. He has taught courses on North Korean policy, international criminal law, international human rights, bioethics, and constitutional law, and he has published numerous law review articles and delivered presentations on bioethics and international human rights, most notably as an expert on North Korea. Tan is the author of “North Korea, International Law and the Dual Crises” (Routledge, 2015).

Tan holds a B.A. and M.A. from Wheaton College and a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, where he completed an international law concentration. He is fluent in Spanish and Korean, with some basic knowledge of French, Chinese, Portuguese, and Latin.

Teaching law through the lens of faith is a passion Tan shares with the Liberty Law faculty, which he claims is “one of the finest in the country” when it comes to student mentoring and career preparation.

“Our faculty don’t have office hours; they have open offices,” Tan said.

“America doesn’t just need another law school, and the world doesn’t just need another law school. If this school were to lose its Christian mission and identity, my advice would be to shut it down.”

— Morse Tan

 

“It is just a central part of the ethos and culture of this place — we are raising up Champions for Christ,” he added. “I will put this Liberty faculty up against any law faculty in the country in terms of teaching and mentoring, and I sincerely believe that, and I saw that throughout this past semester in various ways. I’ve heard that from students, and I’ve heard that from alumni.”

Whether through Liberty Law’s successful Moot Court team, which has already distinguished itself as one of the top programs in the country, or through its rigorous, six-semester Lawyering Skills set of courses, Tan said Liberty Law remains focused on developing students’ broad communication skills with preparatory programs that hone analytical ability, problem-solving skills, and alternative dispute resolution techniques.

The real-life preparation at Liberty Law is exceptional — and rare in legal academia, he said — because the majority of professors come from years in the field rather than only in the classroom.

“Despite the saying that ‘law school helps you think like a lawyer,’ a lot of legal education at other schools actually helps you think like a law professor or appellate judge; you’re getting the thought of law professors who, in the general model in this country, do not have much law practice experience.”

In December, Morse Tan and President Jerry Prevo joined close to 1,000 Liberty University students outside the U.S. Capitol before they walked to the U.S. Supreme Court steps to pray for the justices as oral arguments began in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

While a consistent record of success was a draw for Tan, so was Liberty Law’s distinct, Christian environment that he has quickly come to love.

“This is a warm, friendly community because of our mission,” he said. “Not in spite of it, not separate from it, but because of our Christian mission. I really believe that to be true, and I experience that.”

Tan said since coming to Christ at a young age, he has always placed an emphasis on the Word of God.

“The Scriptures have been a huge part of my life. I came to Christ at the age of 4, and one of my first Sunday School teachers was urging the importance of getting into the Bible, and it has been an integral part of my life from that point forward.”

During his own college years, Tan was determined to be a shining light. As an undergraduate, he helped lead an evangelistic team and recalls being kicked off of a nearby college campus for sharing the Gospel. But that didn’t discourage him from remaining steadfast in his convictions. At the advice of his pre-law director, he wrote the college president, and his team was eventually allowed to return. His desire to proclaim the Gospel continued into law school at Northwestern where he became co-chair of the first Veritas Forum in the Chicago area. The nonprofit organization works with Christian college students to host forums centered on the exploration of truth and its relevancy in human life through the questions of philosophy, religion, science, and other disciplines.

“We packed out the largest auditorium at Northwestern at the time and brought 15 Christian ministries together in that outreach,” Tan said. “It was influential in keeping Northwestern University from changing its Christian seal and its university verse, which it was contemplating eliminating.”

At Liberty’s Commencement in May, Tan addressed the graduates, imploring them to model Liberty Law’s Christ-first approach even after they graduate and begin to live busy lives as attorneys, spouses, and parents.

“Keep God at the center of your life,” he told them. “He is the hub, and all the other parts of life are the spokes. But if you try to make the spokes the hub or the hub the spokes, you’re not going to have a properly functioning wheel. You’re going to have one that falls apart from the inside of the wheel. Keeping the Lord at the center of everything is crucially important.”

Dean Morse Tan addresses the Class of 2022 during the annual Ad Fontes ceremony.

When faced with difficulties throughout his career, Tan has found encouragement through immersing himself in the wisdom of Christians who have gone before us, something that he encourages Liberty Law students to do as well.

“Do not neglect the great, classic Christian sources, starting with the Scriptures, but also read great Christian legal thinkers. And stay steeped in those sources but also in the living Christian community that exists.”
With these values as their heartbeat, Tan is certain that Liberty Law and its mission to infiltrate the field for Christ is exactly what the world needs.

“America doesn’t just need another law school, and the world doesn’t just need another law school,” he said. “If this school were to lose its Christian mission and identity, my advice would be to shut it down.”

When he’s not at Liberty Law, you may find Dean Tan on the tennis court, playing a cello, or enjoying time with his family. He and his wife, Dr. Sarah Tan, have four children: Hope, 16; Enoch, 14; Isaiah, 10; and Moses, 8.


LIBERTY LAW: ADVANCING THE MISSION

Liberty University School of Law has modeled for the academic world how to equip students to pursue excellence in their field while training them to be Champions for Christ.

Liberty Law was founded in 2004 on principles found in the Holy Scriptures, and year after year its graduates fulfill the university’s original Christian mission in service to their clients and their communities. There are now over 1,000 Liberty Law alumni impacting the world for Christ in various fields, from communications and government to criminal and corporate law and judgeships.

With employment rates for graduates in 2019-21 surpassing 90 percent, and with a 70-percent increase in applications in the past five years, Liberty Law continues to experience growth in numbers and stature.

The school is well-known for its innovative Lawyering Skills program, which helps students graduate “practice-ready.” The program teaches students how to conduct negotiations, depositions, and arguments before a judge and how to expertly draft legal documents such as pleadings, motions, briefs, statutes, and operating agreements. Liberty Law received “A” ratings by preLaw Magazine for practical training, and it placed No. 3 in the nation for ABA Competitions by AmericanBar.org in 2019.

In 2021, Liberty Law students sat for the bar in 20 jurisdictions. The school recorded a bar passage rate of 88 percent for first-time takers in 2020 and 2021.

Through scholarships and study grants, students are also afforded opportunities for international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.

Concentrations
• Advocacy
• Appellate Advocacy
• Business Law
• Constitutional Law
• Criminal Justice
• Family and Juvenile Law
• International Law
• Planning
• Property
• Taxation
• Trial Advocacy
• Wealth Management and
Financial Planning

Dual-degree programs
• Business (M.B.A.) – 36-hour
• Divinity (M.Div.) – General
• History (M.A.)
• Public Policy (M.A.P.P.)
• Theological Studies (M.A.T.S.)

This article was originally published as part of a package on Liberty University School of Law. Read additional articles:

Here to Serve

Law Alumni Spotlight: Based in D.C., graduate defends core values of the Christian faith

Law Alumni Spotlight: Florida judge credits skills program with positioning her for success

 

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