Daniel M. Filler, an expert on criminal law, the death penalty, and sex-offender community notification laws, has been named dean of the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University.

Filler, now the senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs, will assume his new post Jan. 1. He succeeds founding dean Roger Dennis, who has led the school since its inception in 2006.

Filler not only has an academic background but also practiced as a public defender in Philadelphia and as a staff attorney for the Bronx Defenders, as well as with the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton.

"Dan enjoys the highest respect from colleagues in the legal community," said Drexel president John A. Fry. "They view him as someone who builds networks, encourages collegiality and brings out the best in new scholars and teachers."

Filler has 18 years' teaching experience and has published extensively.

He chaired an American Bar Association team that scrutinized Alabama's death-penalty system, and its report was cited in a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. This year, the court cited his work again,  involving sex-offender community notification laws, in Nichols v. United States.

Filler also created a popular legal blog called the Faculty Lounge that focuses on academic trends, legal research, personnel moves, and other matters in the legal world.

Filler said he plans to continue Drexel's emphasis on closely linking legal theory with the actual practice of law while placing a new focus on interdisciplinary initiatives at the law school.

"Dan was chosen for this leadership role from a list of excellent finalists after a national search that solicited applications from across the country," said Drexel provost M. Brian Blake. "We couldn't be more proud to have found that the most qualified candidate was already within our Drexel community."

Filler, 54, lives with his wife, associate professor Chapin Cimino, who is also a faculty member at the law school, and their children, in Wallingford.

Dennis, who plans to retire, was instrumental in seeing the law school through the American Bar Association accreditation process, completed in 2011.

Drexel has built its curriculum, and much of its reputation, around a theory of experiential learning in which students are placed with law firms and public-interest legal organizations, in judicial clerkships, and in school-based legal clinics to better link legal teaching with actual practice.

The idea is to have students learning early on how to deal with clients - handling basic legal tasks such as taking depositions or filing motions - in addition to a healthy diet of academic instruction. With law firms under intense economic pressure, a key Drexel selling point has been that its graduates can do meaningful work for their firms from the day they walk in the door.

Filler says the practice has paid off in terms of high job placement rates for Drexel graduates;  the law school is second in ABA rankings for Pennsylvania law schools after the University of Pennsylvania law school.

"We think we are seeing a real payoff," he said.