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October 03, 2009

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Tim Zinnecker

Perhaps hiring a dean from outside the academy makes more sense when the law faculty is comfortable that it doesn't need a leader at the helm on such matters as teaching and scholarship (presumably because stable faculty governance is in place, everyone is singing from the same hymnal, etc.) and is otherwise comfortable with its market perception. In that situation, perhaps the faculty tells itself, "What we REALLY need is a fundraiser, not a scholar or a dynamic classroom teacher. And if this candidate can generate some significant contributions/donations/pledges, etc., then we'll have more money to hire more scholars or more dynamic classroom teachers --- a 'win win' situation for everyone!"

If a law school has significant internal strife, bickering, turmoil, etc., however, it would seem to me that hiring a traditional dean candidate makes more sense. A nontraditional candidate may want to come in and clean house, but tenure will be a problem. A traditional dean may have a better feel for what can and should be done (and what may work best) in such an academic environment.

I don't know why, but I sense that private law schools are more apt to hire non-traditional dean candidates that are state law schools. Is that your sense, Dean Jacqui?

Jacqui L.

OK - so my disclaimer should have also made clear that I don't actually want to BE a dean either!

But I'm not sure what the answer to your question is. We're a private school and we're certainly doing well with a non-traditional interim dean so I could see us potentially continuing along this road. But I don't know if there's a private/state divide in terms of who is more comfortable with non-traditional folks.

Jeff Lipshaw

Jacqui, I think the question is interesting but moot. I was once a non-traditional dean candidate. I believe that, under the ABA law school accreditation rules, the dean MUST have tenure. So, for example, when my former law partner, Lloyd Semple, became the full-time dean at U-D Mercy, without a shred of tenure-like scholarship, he got tenure.

Jeff Lipshaw

Follow up. ABA Accreditation Standard 206(c): "Except in extraordinary circumstances, a dean shall also hold appointment as a member of the faculty with tenure."

There's no interpretation I can see quickly of "extraordinary circumstances," but one wouldn't think that circumstances in which one has the time to do a full dean search and choose to hire a non-traditional candidate would be extraordinary.

Jeff Lipshaw

I should note that doesn't impact the other issues you raise.

Jacqueline Lipton

Thanks, Jeff. I actually had looked at those rules last year, but didn't have them in mind when I wrote the post - so I appreciate your posting them, particularly the precise text which not everyone is probably familiar with.

Howard Wasserman

At FIU, we just hired a non-traditional dean (former Asst. AG and US Attorney) and he was not given tenure. He has a long-term contract as dean and a contract position on the faculty for when he is done deaning. He has the option to be considered for tenure at any point. So far, that has not affected his ability to manage the institution.

As someone who was initially skeptical of a non-academic dean when we entered our process, I must confess to having been won over to the notion, at least with the right person. I think the person must have an academic bent, that allows her to pick up on things such as scholarship standards and tenure evaluations and, frankly, to be interested in them. But a good manager with the right academic mindset and interest can learn that stuff fairly regularly.

Much depends not only on the faculty, but also on the institution overall and its current evolutionary point. For us, as a relatively new (Year 8 right now) school, we needed to start making inroads in the local legal community for jobs and fundraising, so this type of hire made sense for us.

seoreseller.com

But I'm not sure what the answer to your question is. We're a private school and we're certainly doing well with a non-traditional interim dean so I could see us potentially continuing along this road. But I don't know if there's a private/state divide in terms of who is more comfortable with non-traditional folks.

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