Michael J. Yelnosky

Michael J. Yelnosky
Michael J. YelnoskyProfessor of Law


J.D., University of Pennsylvania
B.S., University of Vermont

Michael J. Yelnosky became a member of the founding faculty at Roger Williams University School of Law in 1993. He served as associate dean for academic affairs from 2004 to 2008, and as the fifth dean of RWU Law from 2014 to 2020.  He has spent thirty years working to help establish and grow Rhode Island’s only law school.  

As dean, Yelnosky’s stated goal was to make RWU Law “aggressively relevant.”  He helped expand experiential education and public interest law opportunities, he focused on increasing the diversity of the student body and the faculty and staff, and he presided over an unprecedented effort to make the law school more affordable and the expansion of the law school’s footprint in Providence.  He also helped design and then roll out a master’s program to educate non-lawyers about legal issues, and he led efforts to more fully engage the community.  That engagement took the form of focusing attention on local and national issues of great relevance, such as mass incarceration; as well as celebrating some of the Rhode Island lawyers and judges who have paved the way for RWU Law’s graduates, such as the “First Women” project. 

In his previous administrative role as associate dean, Yelnosky was instrumental in leading the law school’s successful effort to gain membership in the Association of American Law Schools. He also designed and conducted annual studies of the scholarly output of the faculties of most American law schools, studies that documented the achievements of the faculty at RWU Law and garnered national attention.

Yelnosky’s primary scholarly focus is on employment and labor law, and much of his scholarship explores alternatives or adjuncts to traditional enforcement of employment discrimination laws.  Another focus of his scholarship is judicial selection. He has written several articles and hosted a major symposium about Rhode Island’s merit selection system, and the major findings of his research into the role of the American Bar Association in the federal judicial selection process were summarized in a Washington Post op-ed he wrote in 2013.  He is regularly quoted in the local and national media on these and other topics, and he has published several op-ed pieces in the Providence Journal.

Professor Yelnosky now teaches Torts, Employment Law, Labor Law, Employment Discrimination, and Race and the Foundations of American Law. He recently stepped down from his roles as director of the law school’s Honors Program and as co-director of the Judicial Clinical Externship Program.  

Yelnosky received his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmund V. Ludwig in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  

He has completed eleven marathons, including Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia.

Close Course Type Descriptions

Course Types

We have classified RWU Law classes under the following headers. One of the following course types will be attached to each course which will allow students to narrow down their search while looking for classes.

Core Course

Students in the first and second year are required to take classes covering the following aspects of the law—contracts, torts, property, criminal law, civil procedure, and constitutional law, evidence, and professional responsibility.  Along with these aspects, the core curriculum will develop legal reasoning skills.


After finishing the core curriculum the remaining coursework toward the degree is completed through upper level elective courses.  Students can choose courses that peak their interests or courses that go along with the track they are following.


Seminars are classes where teachers and small groups of students focus on a specific topic and the students complete a substantial research paper.


Inhouse Clinics and Clinical Externships legal education is law school training in which students participate in client representation under the supervision of a practicing attorney or law professor.  RWU Law's Clinical Programs offer unique and effective learning opportunities and the opportunity for practical experience while still in law school.