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October 06, 2014

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anon

Nice to know the Widener has enough money to hire an outside firm to find a new dean. We couldn't ask the faculty or administrators to do that. After all finding a new dean clearly isn't something you pay administrators to do and the tenured faculty have no time, they are too busy doing research.

Concerned

Actually, anon, search firms are commonplace in academia, and they serve to provide transparency. Without search firms, appointments might go solely to connected insiders who are nothing more than a board of trustees' hand-picked heir apparents. These insiders might then quietly rise to power over the objection of students, alums, etc. and be showered with lavish salaries in return for towing the company line (i.e. a focus on profits).

The last thing that law school reformers should be chastising is open decanal appointments processes.

Former Editor

Concerned,

This has always confused me and I'm probably just missing something. I totally get the need for an open process, I just don't get why that process and an outside firm are mutually inclusive. Can you explain why faculty need a search firm in order to perform a transparent search? I would think, in this internet era, that faculty members could conduct all aspects of dean hiring in a transparent way without the need for outsiders.

Concerned

Former Editor,

I appreciate your question. First, search firms put hiring information in the hands of viable candidates. Posting an ad on the internet is a passive way of advertising, hoping that the right people will see the ad. The search firms work proactively to find suitable candidates and make them aware of hiring. It makes it far more likely for a school to find strong candidates, particularly ones not within the faculty or administration's usual network -- outsiders who could bring positive change to a school.

On a similar note, search firms also bring hiring information into the hands of non-traditional candidates. An internet ad for a law school dean would likely be placed on websites frequented by those in the academy, and those in the academy might not know the best websites to attract candidates outside the academy. Search firms may have specific knowledge of non-traditional candidates (business leaders, for instance) who might not frequent the legal academy websites.

More importantly, though, search firms also provide an initial level of screening that, if done in-house, could lead to the appearance of impropriety. A law school could post an internet ad and then fail even to consider any candidate other than the connected insider. The internet ad makes it seem as if the school is looking broadly, but reality proves otherwise. If the search firm engages in some level of screening, based on neutral and objective criteria, the process adds a layer of objectivity.

Concerned

The initial comment from "anon" just particularly struck me when juxtaposed against a comment I read not too long ago elsewhere.

Today: School X is using a search firm -- HA! More evidence of the law school scam in action.

Recent past: School Y is NOT using a search firm -- HA! More evidence of the law school scam in action.

Former Editor

Concerned,

Thanks for the explanation. I see the benefits you are talking about now, at least in terms of reaching a broader/deeper pool of applicants. I'm still a little skeptical your third point, since it seems to presume a somewhat corrupt faculty search committee that wouldn't make available the objective criteria for its decision on which candidates to advance, but perhaps I have an naive view of inter-faculty relations when it comes to hiring.

BoredJD

I still don't see the benefits. Get 10-15 faculty members from diverse backgrounds to form a search committee. Figure out what you want in a dean. Have them each come up with names of people who they think might be a good fit, maybe using the lists of candidates from other schools for leads as well as reaching out to personal/professional contacts. Call those people and see if they'd like to apply. Document it all for the faculty and students. Give the money you would have spent on the search firm to the students.

anonq

If the state of business management were not so abysmal (see, e.g., Wall Street) I'd hope that most would see the folly of a bunch of JDs, with no meaningful training and experience in business, management or finance pretending to possess the skills to choose another JD with no meaningful training or experience in business, management or finance, to "lead" or "run" or whatever other delusional term is used here to describe the work of the Dean of a law school.

Throw in that the choosers and the chosen are generally prima donnas who specialize in politically correct subjects having nothing to do with leadership of a major enterprise - no, leadership of a lemonade stand - and you begin to understand the oblivious and arrogant response of law schools to proven instances of misconduct and terrible planning and leadership that have driven legal academia and law schools into disrepute and in many instances financial failure.

Unfortunately, the solution can't be to bring in "businesspersons," because law faculties insist on maintaining the fiction that they know best (about teaching, yes, about curriculum, to a point, about "running a law school" a risible self delusion). Mainly, faculties are interested in ever-increasing salaries and benefits - while teaching less, adhering to fewer requirements to obtain tenure and destroying even the pretense of post tenure review.

TO those who believe that refuting a generalization destroys its validity, have at it. Of course, these observations do not hold true in every instance.

Most instances, folks.

Anon

The question you ought to consider Anonq is which generalization do you really accept?

The one which states that law professors are clueless fools who can't tie their own shoes without assistance?

Or the one that says they are the most adept criminal fraudsters since Charles Ponzi, having succeeded in ripping off tens of thousands of young people over the past two decades?

anon

Anon

Those aren't inconsistent propositions. I would quibble, perhaps, the adjective "adept." I wouldn't quibble with your hyperbole and misstatement of the argument, because that is sort of the Anon way!

If the Anon is the same here as in other threads, I'll note that I'm not particularly one of the "scam bloggers" you seem to imagine in your head to be the only critics of legal academia.

I do, however, agree with those who contend that the use of students as conduits of federal loans led to a rapid increase in the number of students attending law schools, clogging the pipeline for jobs and leading to disappointment. That disappointment has led to a discredited law school academy, even at the highest levels though folks there suffer less from such disrepute. That the law academy sanctioned some quite questionable pitches (pitches, in fact, found to be false by courts but just not believable enough to give rise to reasonable reliance) should give rise to your anger, not those who pointed it out and asked that it be corrected.

In my view, this conduct, which continues to some extent, was not "adept" ... it was unethical and opportunistic, which we find to be the case in many instances of like conduct, see, e.g., Wall Street. I pointed out in my comment those activities in which it is my belief that law profs are most adept. Tying shoes? I'd have to think about that.

In the final analysis, Anon, you haven't and cannot refute the notion that law faculties are, and this is a generalization, untrained and inexperienced managers of business operations. This has contributed to the shameless manner in which law schools have been mismanaged over, as you say, "the past two decades." And that mismanagement hardly extends only to pumping up employment stats.

In a debate about how to run a law school, your comment only serves to demonstrate how ill equipped law faculties are to the task. Perhaps you can focus your brilliance on what aspects of a law school operation should NOT be controlled by persons approved or selected by the faculty.

ATLprof

I agree with the general perception that professors, including law professors, are not trained to run businesses, or even to be educational administrators.

Yet, if we look at universities and what has happened since they have given over more and more control to specialists in running universities/businesses (professional administrators, their ever growing compensation that far outstrips in any growth in faculty compensation, and the ever expanding bureaucratic fiefdoms they spawn), how can we not yearn for faculty control as the MUCH LESSER of two evils?

anon

ATLprof

There is the rub. The either/or nature of the debate.

And, as I mentioned twice, Wall Street is a shining example of US business ethics and competence at work. It is, in many respects, even more ruinous and disgusting than a bunch of prima donnas pretending to "run" a major enterprise like a law school, even when the latter start feathering their own nests while the institution goes down.

THe answer is not clear, but, choosing between the two (rapacious business persons and inept law faculties) is the fallacy of the false alternative. It seems to me that the answer is to split the functions: law faculty can't "run" a law school, and the pretense that they do or even pretend to is something that should stop.

Faculty rightly can claim some right to control in some respects teaching methods, research stipends, perhaps library acquisitions, classroom technology, conference expenditures, etc.: i.e, the items in the budget over which the faculty should have a strong input and with respect to which the faculty has some expertise.

Faculty have no right or reason to claim the right to govern their own productivity standards or other matters outside their expertise. Law schools should be professionally managed as nonprofits, with standards of business ethics, community responsibility, fair hiring practices, etc. as stringent - no, make that more stringent - than other like enterprises.

Faculty should be held to account for lack of productivity, failure to contribute to their communities (by pro bono work, involvement in service of non profits, etc.), and general absence from campus. The failure to produce any published (preferably peer reviewed) scholarship for a period of five years (for faculty members enjoying reduced teaching loads based on the pretext that they are writing) should result in dismissal for cause. Faculty should be required to work in some capacity for some required periods during the year (perhaps the summer) in the practice of law: either in service of a court, a legislative body or administrative agency.

In my view, faculties should have NOTHING to say about standards that pertain to the minimum amount of effort required of them, except by way of OPEN and PUBLIC attempts to persuade professional managers to modify such requirements.

IN other words, ATLprof, interject a bit of HUMILITY and SERVICE and HARD WORK into legal academia, and take away the shameless lie that law faculties are competent to "run" law schools, thru a Dean or otherwise.

If the legal academy wants to restore its image, it better wake up soon. The perception is hardening.

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