Bruce Smith

Sturm College of Law Dean

Professor of Law


Intellectual Property, Legal History, Sports Law

Professional Biography

Bruce Smith is the 20th dean of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. During his tenure as dean since July 2016, he has raised over $30 million in philanthropic support for endowed faculty positions, scholarships, and programs; collaborated with faculty to launch an innovative Professional Part-Time J.D. Program for working professionals, currently ranked #8 in the nation among part-time J.D. programs by U.S. News & World Report; launched a full-tuition need- and merit-based scholarship program; enhanced support for initiatives in the realms of experiential learning, bar passage, and diversity, equity, and inclusion; and implemented new programs in animal law, immigration law, private property law, and recreation law.

Before joining the University of Denver, he was professor of law and Guy Raymond Jones Faculty Scholar at the University of Illinois College of Law, where he served as dean from 2009-14. In his decanal capacity, he successfully completed a $50 million capital campaign; launched an innovative Chicago Program; established three new clinics and a postgraduate public interest fellowship program; and recruited a dozen new faculty members to campus. Dean Smith has been a visiting faculty member at the University of Michigan Law School, the George Washington University Law School, and the University of Luxembourg. From 1996-2001, he practiced in the litigation group at Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C., where he focused on intellectual property litigation, employment law, and sports law, representing the NFL, NHL, and NBA, among other clients.

An internationally recognized historian of Anglo-American criminal procedure and an award-winning teacher, Dean Smith is the author of History of the Common Law: The Development of Anglo-American Legal Institutions (with John H. Langbein and Renée Lettow Lerner). He has published articles on the presumption of innocence, the origins of public prosecution, and the history of plea bargaining in Law & History Review, the Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and the Annual Review of Law & Social Science.

During his career, Dean Smith has served on a number of educational, civic, and corporate boards, including as an independent board member of State Farm Bank, as a member of the board of advisors of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), and as a member of the external advisory board of the University of Luxembourg Research Unit in Law.

He earned a B.A. in history summa cum laude from Williams College, a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Cambridge, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and a Ph.D. in history from the Yale University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, which he attended as a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities.

View CV


  • PhD, Yale University
  • JD, Yale Law School
  • MA, University of Cambridge
  • BA, Williams College