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May 15, 2009


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Dan--very interesting stuff. Opens up lots of possibilities for speculation as to why deans are so different in background from the entry-level. (Though we should probably be comparing what the entry-level list looked like circa 1985, or whenever it was that the current crop of deans entered teaching.)

One small point: Matthew Diller is the new dean at Cardozo (not Fordham); he's coming from Fordham.

Dan Filler

Al - fixed!


Another small correction- Patricia White is the new dean for Miami, not Michigan, as listed here.

As I noted before, I was quite interested by Stephen Easton, the new dean at Wyoming, who, while he went to Stanford, started out his college career at a community college and graduated from Dickinson State University in North Dakota, a school that I'm sure he'll not mind saying has a modest academic reputation, especially for producing academics.

I also wonder how many of these people spent some time at their JD institution, as a sort of stepping stone. My impression (a rough one) is that it wasn't that unusual some years ago for good but not very top law schools to hire, after some seasoning in clerkships and practice, their very top graduates. This seems less common to me now, looking at Solum's data. Similarly, Nell Newton was not only a graduate of Hastings, but was dean of Hastings before moving to Notre Dame. I don't think this sort of thing diminishes at all the impressiveness of the achievements, but it might help explain some of how it happened.


Doesnt it seem clear that the "Dean's List" reflects hiring trends from 20 or more years ago, such that in 20 or more years the only persons who will be rising to Deanships will be those from the top 7-8 schools? This doesnt strike me as too remarkable.

Jacqueline Lipton

Isn't it also true that many schools are looking for (and some finding) less "traditional" dean candidates? In tougher economic times, schools might be more focused on skills like proven management and fund-raising ability, rather than academic credentials? Thus, people who didn't go to elite schools, but did go into careers where they developed this more "decanal" set of skills may be getting a lot of the dean jobs now. This may mean that in 20 years we won't, in fact, be seeing deans coming from the 7-8 schools sending folks into academia now. In fact, we may be seeing a much broader range because we will be looking at folks who chose less academic and more management-focused pathways.

Orin Kerr

I think all of these explanations are good ones, although I suspect Jacqueline in particular is on to something. Deans are increasingly seen as experienced managers and fund raisers rather than as scholars-who-just-happened-to-spend-some-time-in-the-front-office. There is still a tension between the two role, and most schools try to have deans who excel at both roles, but my sense is that it is increasingly considered acceptable to have a Dean who is known as a great manager and fundraiser but may not be a scholarly star.


It is not correct, as far as I know, that hiring was more varied a generation ago than now. Is there any evidence to support that claim?

13 of the 25 Deans come from law schools that traditionally produce large numbers of law teachers; if we add Penn, Georgetown, and UCLA, then it's 16 of 25. So that's 64% from elite law schools. Given the small sample size here, this doesn't strike me as very surprising. But even supposing that a higher percentage of non-elite JDs are Deans than secure faculty positions, isn't the most likely explanation (as Orin notes) that scholarly ability is not a requirement for being Dean, while (in theory) it is for being hired and tenured?

Supra Shoes

Health is above wealth. /Health is happiness.

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