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February 2, 2009

"Wanted: Law School Deans -- Lots of Them"

The title of this post is the title of this intriguing article in The National Law Journal.  Here are some snippets:

Even in this economy, there seems to still be a demand for one high-paying job: law school dean. At least 27 law schools throughout the country are searching for new deans, and many are having a tough time filling the position.

Law schools from Harvard to the University of Arizona to Case Western to the University of Miami have all embarked on dean searches, and some are finding somewhat slim pickings, with the same applicants recycled for many of the jobs.

That's because law school deanships, once highly sought after, are now high-stress jobs, thanks in part to the economy. With fundraising plummeting, donors in short supply and state budgets being slashed, law school deans are finding themselves up to their necks in stress. Many have quit in the past year to go back to teaching, which still pays fairly well and has far fewer headaches....

The old model for finding a dean was to look internally at one's best professors, according to Susan Prager, executive director and chief executive officer of the Association of American Law Schools. That has been replaced in the past couple of decades by the model of hooking a dean or associate dean at a better law school, to give one's school cachet.  "You try to go up the pecking order," Jarvis said.

But in the past year or so, schools -- either unsatisfied with the crop of candidates or unable to persuade top choices to take the jobs -- appear to be reverting to the old model.

In addition to noting the ways in which a tough economy impacts law school hiring, this article led me to wonder whether any of the schools search for a dean might consider getting creative and innovative in their efforts. 

In this context, recall that Duke recently turned to a member of the federal judiciary to fill its top spot.  Might other schools have success convincing (supposedly underpaid) federal judges to come to the academy?  Or how about state judges?  Or how about all the lawyers leaving government service with the change of federal Administrations? 

Indeed, last I heard, former AG Alberto Gonzales was still looking for a job.  Particularly if a school looking to grab some headlines and generate some buzz, a search committee could do a lot worse than considering even controversial lawyers who are not among the usual dean suspects.  Just a thought.

Posted by DAB

February 2, 2009 in Deans and innovations | Permalink


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What is a typical salary of a Dean, if an ordinary partner makes $1 million a year? The salary is the sincerest expression of the value of the person to strangers.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 6, 2009 12:42:57 AM

Doug, wouldn't it be blasphemous for search committees to get creative and innovative in their efforts with lawyers leaving government service with the change of federal Administrations when presumably, many of these lawyers might have conservative leanings?

In my experience, law schools’ idea of “diversity” has much more to do with the color of a person’s skin than in creating an environment where a diversity of ideas (including a diversity of political ideologies) exists. In my opinion, law school faculties seem biased towards preserving a liberal group-think.

Serioulsy, I am curious what your thoughts are on this—how many law schools do you think would take a chance on a politically conservative dean?

Posted by: A.C. | Feb 7, 2009 12:33:44 PM

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