Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Professional" Students and Their Own Particular Hell

( Why do J.D.s and M.B.A.'s Click? Apparently, it's their shared sense of living hell. )

When I was a J.D. student, I was baffled by the number of J.D./M.B.A. "Mixers." Why not J.D./M.D., J.D./D.D.S., etc. etc? Why don't J.D.s mix with other graduate students, as in those people who study the subjects (literature, history, political science, psychology) we lawyers used to study before we jumped off the practical ledge? (The mini-recession loomed, we liberal arts majors got a rude awakening to a potential lifetime of being technical writers or copy editors, and like lemmings, we lept together into the abyss.)

J.D./M.B.A mixers are all the same: a dearth of interesting conversation, too great a male-to-female ratio, and appalling food options. And not being the corporate law type (three years of anti-discrimination law will get you almost nowhere at a J.D./M.B.A mixer), I lacked cross-disciplinary fluency. There's only so much I can talk about M&As or Sarbanes-Oxley before I sound repetitive, or worse, stupid.

So yeah, I wondered why there were so many opportunities to hang out with the B-School kids. I wondered why they had nicer sweatshirts and cafeterias. I wondered if anyone public-interest minded goes to business school. These are questions I've been struggling with for years. I still haven't found the answers.

But I may have found a bit more insight through the years of being a professional student of why J.D.s are intuitively matched up with M.B.A's. We're professional students. Not graduate students. Professional students. We are training not to become academics, but professionals. This distinction is important for some reason. It certainly matters in terms of how much tuition you pay if you go to a public school that's subsidized by state and federal funds. I have paid wayyyy more than my graduate student compatriots. It is a point of irritation to me, the aspiring academic, and my public interest friends who are not destined for a lifetime of excessive pecuniary gain. But for some lawyers, it is a matter of pride that we are training not just our minds, but our entire characters in school--that we are learning not just facts and figures, but how to act, how to carry ourselves "in a professional manner." See Lani Guinier, Becoming Gentlemen. This is so old school. I know medical schools have "White Coat" ceremonies, and so maybe law schools should have ceremonies in which they give us white wigs and black robes.

Perhaps because both J.D.s and M.B.A's are supposed to inhabit the realm of the real world, and not the ivory tower (indeed, we are more like the marauding mongrels according to popular lore), we feel kinship in this academic distinction. We are not a part of the graduate division, nor involved in the sciences (though why there weren't more J.D./Urban Planning or J.D./Masters of Public Policy mixers...). But in any case, we are kindred spirits. We pay (a lot) more for our schooling. We expect greater pecuniary remuneration from our degree. We are professionals, hear us roar.

But there is another way in which we feel an acute kinship. All J.D.s and M.B.A.'s suffer a unique, private-yet-collective hell. Witness the following advice column on the subject (yes, I read advice columns), aptly titled "I have found hell on earth: an "MBA" program" :

Last year I got into a big-name, fancy-pants business school for an MBA on the East Coast. I started school in August, and I hate it so much I cry daily at home, at school in the bathroom (where my classmates/snakes can't see me), on the walk home. I snap at my parents, my siblings, my friends. I was supposed to be in the wedding of an otherwise lifelong friend and I backed out two days before in a panic induced by a looming midterm.

I am watching myself turn into a creature I despise, and I feel too cowardly to do the only thing I can think to do, which is walk away. I'd like to take my $70,000 in debt (student loans are expensive) and head to Vermont, or West Virginia, somewhere where there is grass and perhaps some horses too. Maybe even Maine, where I can see the ocean again.

There is no small part of me that screams, "Stay the course! Survive, make it through, get your degree, get a job to pay off the loans, and then the world is yours! Don't let them chase you away!" But the thought of having to work with those manic people, or even worse, my classmates, and then slave away to pay off these monstrous debts, and spend years doing so before I can be free again, is more than I can bear.

I think this sounds like every half-crazed cry of desperation I've ever heard from anyone who'se ever contemplated dropping out of law school (myself included, although now I'm ironically going to more law school to get an L.L.M. and applying to S.J.D. programs). But I particularly liked the sensible if Gradgrindian advice that the often-meandering but poignant Cary Tennis gave:

What this is teaching you is the only thing that matters. Write about what this is teaching you. Write about how you came to be this person who is in business school and cannot stand it. There may be something funny about it, or something surprising or ironic. Perhaps you are the one person who never would have gone to business school and yet you went. How did that happen? Perhaps you got a notion. What did you want to conquer? Who did you want to show? Was there a dream of cash? Was there a dream of conquest? Was there a dream of service? Where is the humor? Where is the hidden wisdom? When you cannot read any more textbooks, write about what happened, how you got here, what your idea was.

There's not much else to do now except study and get your degree. You can do other things later. It's not like you can decide whether to go or not. You're there. It's about coping. That's what I'm saying: You cope by calling upon the self that knows there's really nothing to worry about, the one that can sit for hours looking at a flame, looking at a painting. When you contact this self things will slow down; you will see your fellow students rushing down the hallway, and they will appear like space aliens plodding in incomprehensible slow motion, possessed, deluded, insane. It will all appear as it is: a charade. But you are not above it. You're in it, too. You picked it. So live it out. Do it one day at a time. Do the next right thing.

If you read the "Since You Asked" advice columns on regularly (and I do), you'll know that the best parts are in the reader letters, which offer a vast array of perpectives and sometimes sounder advice than C.T. Personal stories. Anecdotes. I haven't read all 114 letters on this column (yes, that many), but I read a fair few, enough to get the picture of polarization between those that tell the letter-writer (LW) to, well, "suck it up" and lie in the bed s/he made, and those who tell her to run for the hills, and for good. Some are in the middle, sympathetically agreeing that yes, B-School sucks, but here are some coping mechanisms, and there will be a better day. Some are bitter with axes to grind, and tell the LW that if it sucks now, it will only be worse later in the real world, when her fellow snakes actually occupy positions of authority and financial power. A lot, a LOT of the reader responders are lawyers who compare their law school experience to LW's business school hell.

So that's one more thing we share: a feeling that we, like no other, suffer a particularly pernicious hell, becuase Satan is not just waiting for us, but is all around us. That not only is the grass greener on the other side, but it's free of snakes. It's kind of interesting, this belief that half of our colleagues are genuinely evil. I wonder if medical students feel that way.

My take on all of this? Yes, law school, B-School, any school can be hell. There's an entire online store devoted to the particular hell of graduate school. I know this hell well. I learned how to cry in law school. I still cry to this day, despite my naive belief that things would be better, school easier, and people less dramatic or more mature in an L.L.M. program. I have not blogged for months because of school, and school drama (sorry Jim), I nearly said no to my best friend when she wanted to come into town a month before my first colloquium, and I constantly wonder whether I should drop out and study literature or get an MFA in creative writing. I was a public-interest, civil-rights oriented (and a snobby one at that) J.D. who thought most of her classmates were evil. But I stuck with it. I'm going for more. I'm going all the way (the S.J.D. is the highest degree possible).

I know some of my co-bloggers regret their decision to go to law school. I often do as well. But even as I am a professional student who is trying to break into the ivory tower (call me Ganghis Khan) I recognize how different my education has been, how I consciously made the choice five years ago to not use my rocking GRE and English Literature GRE subject test score for my even more rocking LSAT. I could have studied something else, been a graduate, rather than professional student, and not be expected to mask all my "weakness," my frustrations and disappointments with a black robe. I didn't. But I would rather change the institutional culture of first-year virtual hazing, drunken loutishness, and quasi-patriarchal disdain for any signs of weakneass or emotion than quit the institution entierly.

At this early stage in my life and career, even with time to change and not yet a life behind me to regret, I am trying not to set myself up for regret. I made that choice, I made my bed, I am lying in it. I sometimes view the law like the institution of marriage, a religion, or some other type of fundamental commitment: it's a daily choice to be in that state or of that persuasion, a commitment you have to keep making over and over again if you are to stay the course and be at peace with yourself. Some days I really regret my choice, other days I'm happy with it, and so generally I'm no more happy or sad than any other person about my career.

So oddly, I agree with Cary Tennis. While I try not to encourage anyone to go to law school without eyes wide open, if you are already in law school and miserable, I would actually urge you to stay the course. To enjoy the study of law for what it is---and the study of law is great. To watch the grotesque parade of we-are-lawyers-and-we-drink events (bar reviews, the law school prom, kegs in the courtyard) for the Thomas Mann-like macabre carnivale it is, to watch the snakes and pray for their souls, and to realize that you're as much a part of the carnivale and that you can hopefully turn it into a rainy-day parade. To change the institution and the ways it makes you unhappy than quit it. To turn each tear into a word that goes into your short story. To cope, as best as you can, with a choice you made then that still might be good for you in the future. We are, after all, professional students, and so apparently we are supposed to be profesionals at coping with misery.

Next post: the story of why someone who hated law school would actually pursue advanced graduate degrees in the law.

(Picture: Albrecht Durer's Harrowing of Hell)


HarvardThis forum and one of its affiliates, First Movers, receive a very large number of visitors seeking tips on how to get into law school. We evidently draw search engine hits through our constant chatter about the LSAT, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, and so forth. Most of the visitors to this site, at any rate, surely find themselves disappointed. MoneyLaw typically gives no advice on how to get into law school.

Harvard Law SchoolOn this occasion, we'll make an exception. Prettier Than Napoleon offers step-by-step instructions for students interested in "fool[ing] Harvard into letting [them] in":
[F]or those of us . . . who screwed around in high school such that we were only able to gain admission to a former men's college with bunker-like facilities and an institutional inferiority complex, the only way to fool Harvard into letting you in is by applying to a graduate program. I applied to the law school. The law school is where Harvard undergrads who aren't smart enough to hack it in the elite PhD programs go (ask any Harvard grad, even—especially—the ones at HLS), so already the competition slackens! Just follow these easy steps, and you too can have the privilege of attending one of America's most prestigious lawyer factories!

Step 1: Assemble a suitable transcript. Many people with more intellectual firepower than me allowed their college careers to be derailed by booze, women, or MMORPGs. But with judicious course selection and a little focus, you too can get the necessary A/A- average!

Step 2: Ace the LSAT. This is not that hard.

Step 3: Write a killer essay. This is especially important if you're a generic white male with a burgeoning beer gut from a populous state. Ideally, you should have some extracurricular activities you can write about, like how you went to the Middle East for a year to work for a charity that helps Israeli and Palestinian teens become friends, or how you spent the last decade in internal medicine. I wrote about how growing up surrounded by religious fundamentalists who passed out nails to small children to remind them of the crucifixion and violated the constitution left and right made me care about religious freedom. Admissions committees apparently like this stuff.

Step 4: Be a self-obsessed loser. If you were a self-obsessed winner, you'd be applying to Harvard Business School.
I know from personal experience that this formula worked twenty years ago. It's good to see that some things remain the same around ZIP code 02138.

DisclaimerHarvard bannersLike Amber, a.k.a. Prettier Than Napoleon, I must explain that her post and my decision to reproduce most of it here are offered in a facetious spirit. Two decades ago, I put enormous -- and grotesquely undue -- weight on getting into Harvard. As they say, be careful what you wish for; you'll surely get it. I now look back at Harvard and the other six years I spent in one form or another of organized higher education as one big, life-altering mistake. Since time travel and setting things right that once went wrong happen only in science fiction and legal scholarship, I've chosen to make the best of it. Sunk costs are just that, sunk, and regrets are for losers. So if you came here looking for advice, here it is: Go to Harvard, or any other law school, if the law calls to you as a career and as a way of life. Just make sure you are going for the right reasons, and not because of the way you think that a law school credential from Harvard or any other place might affect the way other people think of you. And that is Veritas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hierarchies in law schools

As part of my research for Managing by Ambush (my book on goverance in flattened hierarchies), I've been reading various articles on law school governance, and I came across a marvelous one by Susan Liemer: The Hierarchy of Law School Faculty Meetings: Who Votes? This article gets at several things that bother me about shared governance, including the presumption of expertise by faculty rank alone.

I'm in the process of re-examining life in law schools, and I'm having one of those embarrassing Joni Mitchell flashbacks: without being maudlin (is it possible to reference Joni Mitchell without being maudlin???), the song Both Sides Now keeps coming to mind.
Joni MitchellI've looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's life's illusions [I] recall.
I really don't know life at all.
Rashomon seems to be a theme in today's posts. Law school life viewed from the perspective of a faculty member without tenure (and not on tenure-track) is very different from the perspective of, say, a full professor who has come in laterally to a school. For those at the top of the hierarchy, the hierarchy isn't very imposing; for those at the bottom, it may seem insurmountable.

If you want to read a refreshing view about law school hierarchy as symbolized by voting rights, take a gander at Professor Liemer's article.

The Grading Thing

I often tell my first year students that writing an exam is the hardest thing I do and grading them the most miserable.

Now I have heard of a new way to handle both tasks. Substitute hours of constructing an exam with a few seconds of changing the date on last year’s exam. As for grading, multiply choice, machine graded (mcmg) tests are just the ticket.

Obviously, this saves an enormous amount of time but I am not sure what the grades mean. My premise here is that most first year teachers, in particular, devote a fair – if not most – of their time to critical thinking and analysis. Most issues the students see have a Rashomon like quality. I am far from convinced that a mcmg exam is a useful tool for assessing the development of those skills. Worse, if you are known to be mcmg person I think it is likely that students know not to take much of what goes in class seriously unless you are just downloading information. Mcmg people may say that there is correlation between how students do on complex essay questions and mcmg exams but that may only hold for the first couple of times giving the mcmg exam.After that, the professor is teaching one thing and the students are preparing for a test on something else.

Even if good multiple choice questions can be written for law courses and I believe it is possible beyond the first year, it is very difficult. That difficulty leads to the recycling temptation. If you recycle multiple choice questions and do not think many of the questions are “out,” please get in touch with me because your powers of rationalization are far beyond mine and I would sincerely like to escape my own feelings of regret about some of my own misdeeds.

Ok, so let me predict. Those of you who use mcmg exams are annoyed because I have called into question your work ethic and integrity. Of course not! What I am actually saying is that recycled mcmg testing in law schools "gives me pause," "concerns me," "puzzles me," "makes me wonder," "may require extra care," "needs careful consideration" or "is a good idea for some." And, if you have checked to determine whether your recycled mcmg exam actually tests what you are teaching, I am not even saying anything that harsh.

I think one of the tenets of MoneyLaw is to do all the functions of a teacher – even the grunge of assigning grades – so that stakeholders are not shortchanged. It seems to me that recycled mcmg tests and, for that matter, recycled short answer questions may be like giving $2 back to a customer who has given you a $5 for a $1 item. But then the privileged make the rules -- even when it comes to making change, don’t they?

Maybe I am just irritated about grading 180 essay exams.

All kidding aside, this is one thing I really would like to be wrong about. If you give mcmg exams to your first year class, how about sharing one in the comments area along with your explanation of what the question tests. I'd like to be converted to your point of view. But first, I'd appreciate if you would respond to following poll.

Do you use multiple choice questions on your final exam.
None at all
For less than half of final exam grade.
For more than half but not all of the final exam grade.
For the entire final exam grade.
Free polls from

What faculty governance can learn from Wikipedia

WikipediaAs I've said elsewhere in this blog network, I love Wikipedia:
Crowds really do know more than experts. Self-governance by the world at large is possible. Knowledge is power. The best things in life are free.
One of the most amazing things about Wikipedia is the community's ability to govern itself. The so-called Wikipedia Community does so with remarkable civility and efficiency. (One example: Wikipedia has kept creationist-minded trolls from completely destroying its entry on evolution.) When it comes to self-governance, this global network of total strangers connected solely by electronic means and a strictly intellectual interest outperforms a large number of smaller, more tightly knit communities.

Bully pulpitWikipedia follows a remarkably simple list of policies and guidelines. Those policies allow room for more personal "essays," or opinion pieces on how Wikipedia should be governed. Both the English-speaking Wikipedia community and the Meta-Wiki community have gathered dozens of essays expounding finer points of Wikipedia governance. Indeed, MoneyLaw and other blogs of its kind are arguably nothing more than collections of personal essays about proper self-governance in a slightly different set of intellectual communities -- individual law schools and legal academia at large.

One of those essays on the policies and guidelines of the Wikipedia community strikes me as essential reading for anyone interested in improving faculty governance and academic culture. This essay persuasively describes "the fundamental rule of all social spaces." As a bonus, reading the Wikipedia essay in question puts you one click away from this remarkably prescient and insightful essay on a related but broader social phenomenon. (Linguanaut's Yiddish page captures perfectly my reaction to David Kendrick's essay: "גוט איז דאָס !אוי" -- "Oy! Doz iz gut!") Given this forum's persistent interest in Arschlöcher, I strongly recommend that MoneyLaw readers, especially in this annual season of hope, redemption, and renewal, ponder the basic rules of social engagement that strangers on Wikipedia seem to master -- and members of the same university faculty so often don't.

Monday, December 25, 2006

MPRE Training

As my people historically do not observe today as a religious holiday (except for the post-shtetl developed ritual pilgrimage to a Chinese restaurant on the preceding evening), I have been busy with a truly misguided exercise of creativity - namely, the next episode of "Reality TV and the MPRE" over at Legal Profession Blog.

Loyal readers may recall this is my Internet-age experiment in providing a real-time semi-public look at one person's attempt to be admitted to the bar by motion and, as part of that process, the preparation for and taking of the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam. And all of that layered on top of getting legal advice to buy a house. . . .

I understand the powers that be at MoneyLaw do not necessarily endorse this as as "Moneylaw" pedagogy, but they are thinking about it because there are somewhat derisive references in the post to Harvard, Michigan, and Stanford.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Watt's New? A Twist on the Light Bulb Joke

Light bulbOver at Legal Profession Blog, my co-editor Alan Childress provides his own twist on the oft-posted issue of faculty productivity, in the form of "how many law professors does it take" riddles. Personally, this is a subject I think is too hot to touch. Or I'm not bright enough. The New York Times crossword puzzle was punny on the subject of what I guess we now refer to as "solstice events" this morning (I won't give anything away to those of you who save it until later in the day), and you can see how filament the blanks has affected me. As a matter of total non-sequitur (well, at least, there is a word play connection), my son (he is grown, don't worry) and I went to see Borat last night, and if you have seen it, you will understand why I keep reading the word "bulb" somewhat dyslexically as "blub."

Colin Diver on life without the U.S. News rankings

Colin Diver's views on the U.S. News rankings -- and why Reed College refuses to cooperate with them -- appeared in the Atlantic Monthly more than a year ago. But the publication of his article predated the founding of MoneyLaw, and President Diver's views retain their value for this audience:
Colin DiverFor ten years Reed has declined to fill out the annual peer evaluations and statistical surveys that U.S. News uses to compile its rankings. It has three primary reasons for doing so. First, one-size-fits-all ranking schemes undermine the institutional diversity that characterizes American higher education. The urge to improve one's ranking creates an irresistible pressure toward homogeneity, and schools that, like Reed, strive to be different are almost inevitably penalized. Second, the rankings reinforce a view of education as strictly instrumental to extrinsic goals such as prestige or wealth; this is antithetical to Reed's philosophy that higher education should produce intrinsic rewards such as liberation and self-realization. Third, rankings create powerful incentives to manipulate data and distort institutional behavior for the sole or primary purpose of inflating one's score. Because the rankings depend heavily on unaudited, self-reported data, there is no way to ensure either the accuracy of the information or the reliability of the resulting rankings.
Before becoming president of Reed College in 2002, Colin Diver served as the dean of two law schools: Boston University (1988-89) and Penn (1989-99).

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Law School Rankings as if the Public Mattered

Suppose that we wanted to rank law schools in terms of their public benefits. What would we measure? First and foremost, we would care about how well each school trains its graduates to practice the law competently and ethically. To best measure that, we would need data about where attorneys who have lost legal malpractice lawsuits or who have suffered Bar discipline got their JDs. So far as I've been able to discern, however, nobody has yet collected that data.

The American Bar Association has collected some data about legal malpractice claims and lawyer disciplinary sanctions. The ABA does not apparently try to link the lawyers' failings with their training, however. Tracing those correlations would take a good deal more work.

The ABA also collects data about how well law schools train their graduates to pass Bar exams. Members of the public might have a passing interest in whether the graduates of tax-funded law schools can pass the Bar, granted. But the more direct and intense interest of law students themselves suffices to keep law schools honest on that front. Who, though, cares about whether those same students will, supposing they pass the Bar, serve their clients competently and ethically? Nobody who ranks law schools, it seems.

Perhaps you find that lack of interest troubling. If so, you might consider joining me in contributing to HALT, a tax-exempt organization dedicated to making the U.S. legal system more simple, affordable, and fair. HALT pursues that goal, in part, by trying to prevent the Bar from exercising monopoly power at the public's expense. We should work harder to figure out how well law schools train students to become competent and ethical attorneys. In the meantime, however, we law professors can help to protect the public from our failings by supporting organizations like HALT.

[Crossposted to Agoraphilia.]

More on candidates and collegiality--how to tell if the collegiality's "real."

Jim's right about the importance of "platooning" (the willingness of senior faculty members to sacrifice for junior faculty members). Platooning does demonstrate collegiality, as do these other signs:

    The University of Minnesota's College of Pharmacy touts collegiality among its residents.
  1. The willingness to cease fighting battles after they're won (or lost).

  2. The willingness to create safe places for junior colleagues to make mistakes and learn from them. (Safe places to ask for advice, present papers, brainstorm ideas, vent. . . .)

  3. The willingness to experiment without preconceived notions about how the experiments might turn out.
I remember that, when I entered law school, that school was experimenting with Section Bs (one section of Civ Pro was taught by the traditional case book method; section B folks were taught Civ Pro by doing it--completing projects, drafting motions, etc.). After a while, I never heard about section Bs again. But over two decades later (holy cow--has it been over two decades ALREADY???), that same law school is now revamping its first-year curriculum again to give students more of an interdisciplinary understanding of law.

I hope that those folks choosing among offers this year focus on collegiality and the REAL signs of it. No school is completely collegial all the time, but if the community displays the wish of returning to collegiality every time there's a temporary departure, that's a good, good sign.

UNLV Boyd School of LawAnd now a plug for my future school: when I stepped down and started my sabbatical, several people (some of whom are related to me) wanted to know why I didn't want to shop around for another post. The answer is easy: I think I've found a place that has what I want. It's egalitarian in the sense that everyone on the faculty has a say (no caste system here), and it has a number of high-profile, high achievers already. It's one of the most diverse faculties I've seen (bravo to Dick Morgan for assembling such a good mix). It accommodates couples of all stripes. (I've even heard that there are conservatives on the faculty--and I'm looking forward to listening to their points of view.) Most of all, I got a real sense that the worst thing that one could say about the place was that everyone was NICE.

So far, my own observations about UNLV have confirmed that impression over and over. So why didn't I look for a more, um, established school? First off, I like being part of something new. I like being one of the people who will create new traditions someplace--as well as brand-new programs. Second, I'm at the stage at which I want to spend my time writing and teaching. People can find me easily enough at UNLV, and they can read my work on SSRN. It doesn't matter to me what the ranking of the school is; it DOES matter to me what the personality of the school is--whether I believe that the school facilitates synergies among the folks there.

So: offerees, think long and hard about what you want. Do you want support for your work? Encouragement to try (and fail, and try again)? Do you want to limit the number of class preps before tenure so that you can get some of your writing done? Do you want to be with senior colleagues who are still writing, still improving their teaching skills, still engaged? You should spend some time thinking about what you want and what priorities you have on your wish list.

This choice is going to be very difficult for you, so spend some time with friends who can help you sort things out (and spend some time alone). Finally, two more things that might help:
  1. Take a look at the Places Rated Almanac. This book gives info (educational opportunities, recreational opportunities, weather, medical care, crime, cost of living, etc.) for every part of the U.S.

  2. Read Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink. And listen to your gut. It won't lead you astray.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Law School Risk Factors

(I found this quiz at and am passing it along.)

It's the beginning of the year and time to take an inventory of your law school's health. Give your school a "5" if the description is dead on and a "0" if it is completely inapplicable.

1. There is a critical mass of faculty for whom the ends nearly always justify the means. The “ends” can be anything from personnel to program decisions.

2. The convenience of faculty is always an important consideration in faculty votes and administrative decision making, sometimes to the detriment of stakeholders (students, donors and taxpayers).

3. It is difficult to discontinue or even to objectively evaluate existing programs without it becoming "personal."

4. There is a great deal of gossip. It comes to you even if you are not a “carrier.”

5. There is a solid core of “Making Nice, Knowing Better, Doing Nothing” people. These are the colleagues who express the right ideas – when they express at all – but are AWOL when critical decision points arise that could send the school in a more positive direction.

6. Your administration, when it is internally active at all, is principally concerned with putting out fires but only those that threaten the administration itself.

7. There are few if any norms about making up missed classes, rigor in the classroom, publication goals, testing practices, availability to students, etc.

8. Your dean would rather delay a hard decision or pass it onto the faculty knowing that that the School will suffer as a result. See Chen, Three Deans.

9. Tenured faculty frequently discuss controversial questions with untenured faculty and while doing so make clear their own opinions and what their expectations are.

10. Faculty tend to teach the same courses from the same books for years, maybe careers.

Add up your score and please fill in the poll found below:

40-50 points. Go to the Law School ER immediately. Not for your school. It left the world of the living some time ago. You, however, have a pulse. Save yourself by writing and teaching your very best and finding a hobby.

30-39 points. Your School is in critical condition but there is a chance of survival. It will be very tricky. Retirements, hiring stealth candidates, and a courageous dean are needed. Guerilla action maybe in order.

20-29 points. You have an elevated risk of law school death but it can be controlled by diet and exercise. Do not let the opportunity slip away.

10-19 points. Enjoy your law school’s good health.

0-9 points. See a physician immediately. You are delusional.

What is your school's score?
Free polls from

A staggering project

Bill HendersonThe extent to which legal academia is engaging in and has engaged in lateral hiring, recently raised on this forum, is "an empirical question that has a clear factual answer." Bill Henderson correctly observes that "[t]he only thing holding us back is collection of the data."

No longer. Bill has just announced this staggering project. Bill, Olufunmilayo Arewa, Andrew Morriss, and Ken Dau-Schmidt have just secured funding for an ambitious longitudinal analysis of legal scholarship:

The Henderson team's study would reach beyond the beginning of the Hoover administration.
Our study would span from 1928 to 2005. Moreover, we are not limited to a mere sample; rather, our data include every bibliographic entry in the Index of Legal Periodicals (ILP) during the last 87 years--over 600,000 scholarly article!

Well, last month, the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) funded our grant proposal! The primary purpose of the grant is to build a relational database that includes bibliographic information (with ILP subject matter coding), author characteristics (from the AALS Directory), law school characteristics (which bear on journal and faculty status), and -- eventually, with some luck and another round of financing -- citation counts by scholarly journals and courts.
The study will use the AALS directory's "mini-career history for each AALS faculty member." The directory's format has retained the "same format since the 1920s," a phenomenon that has led Bill to observe, quite astutely, that "credentials have long been a topic of interest to law professors."

According to Bill, this massive project will yield answers soon: "Sometime in late 2007 or early 2008, our research team will be able to answer the lateral mobility question with unparalleled precision, including relative trends among national and regional law schools."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Platoon II

TeamworkIn Hollywood, Oliver Stone made no sequel to Platoon, unless you count Born on the Fourth of July.

Here at MoneyLaw, I thought I'd write a quick sequel to my version of Platoon. These thoughts are adapted from a recent post of mine on Law School Innovation, which ponders how platooning -- defined roughly as the willingness of senior professors to share plum teaching assignments with their junior colleagues -- might affect a law school's marginal propensity to innovate or, for that matter, the very core of a law school's culture.

I believe that platooning matters for two distinct but related reasons:
  1. Platooning rotates different faculty members into high-visibility portions of the law school curriculum. Fresh blood, one would hope, means fresh ideas. At a minimum, platooning defeats the ability of an entrenched veteran to rely on the same class notes year in and year out, without even the pretense of updating.

  2. The willingness of a senior faculty member to yield a teaching assignment in favor of a junior colleague who needs to develop her or his research agenda and teaching repertoire speaks volumes of the senior faculty member's collegial propensities. If uncollegial behavior becomes ossified as the faculty norm, the law school in question is highly unlikely to innovate.
OdiumAnd that's the least of it. Law schools where senior faculty members hoard teaching assignments can be exceedingly unpleasant places. People this odiously selfish won't hesitate to base appointment and tenure votes on the possibility that a "rival" (their word for what everyone else calls a colleague) might snag a plum teaching assignment. And if law school management actively rewards this sort of behavior -- say, by giving Professor Odium an endowed chair in a misbegotten effort at appeasement -- then welcome to the Gehenna School of Law.

Let me make this point explicitly: Entry-level and untenured lateral faculty candidates, you are hereby put on notice. In assessing whether to accept a tenure-track offer, ask the other untenured faculty members whether they've encountered difficulty in getting access to certain subjects.

Platooning is a very real indicator of collegiality. It has the additional virtue of being virtually impossible to fake. It's one thing to represent how collegial your law school is. Actually being collegial, especially if collegiality demands yielding preferred teaching assignments, takes much more work. As between a faculty of platoon players and odiously selfish independent contractors, I'll wear the dog tags every single time, with pride.

Types of faculty appointments: a ten-point guide

Faculty hiring practices, Brian Leiter speculates, have fundamentally changed during the past generation. He's right. Though Brian focuses on hiring practices at elite schools, all of legal academia has undergone a seismic shift in hiring practices. What Brian and his commenters say of Texas, Michigan, Stanford, Yale, and Harvard applies with ever-growing validity to the vast stretch of legal academia that fits an expanded conception of T4.

Brian Leiter quotes an unnamed "faculty member who has taught at several of the top law schools":
Orchid collageIn the last 20 years, there have been two huge shifts in hiring. 20 years ago, lateral hiring was unusual: almost everyone built their faculties from the entry level, and almost no one moved -- at least among the top 10-15 schools -- unless it was for personal reasons. Hiring committees were essentially about entry-level hiring and you only looked at a lateral hire when someone reached out because they had an interest. Beginning in the early 1990s, lateral movement became much more common, leaving us in our present state of constant churning.

Second, once the initial round of churning was over and all the low hanging fruit had been picked, we shifted to lateral hiring of people just before or just after tenure. I think of this kind of hiring as a hybrid: it's almost an extension of the entry level. People are hired before they've really done significant work based on some early work that signals promise.
In commentary on Brian's post, Ethan Leib views these trends with approval:
I suspect this trend mirrors the trend away from hiring entry-level people who show only promise and Supreme Court clerkships. The proxies used during entry-level hiring have proven themselves to be very bad predictors and schools probably have grown to realize (or will continue to realize) that entry-level hiring at the top tends to be guesswork (and tends to create success instead of recognizing it). More, given the presumption of tenure, it is hard to get rid of people.
Given how I view the Supreme Court credential with suspicion (and perhaps even with extreme suspicion), it isn't at all surprising that I agree with Ethan. I endorse an earlier MoneyLaw commenter's observation that "the best reason to support lateral moves" may be this trend's ability to compensate "for the poor decision-making at the entry level in hiring," which may well afflict law more profoundly "than . . . most other fields."

DisclaimerBefore 2002, I played no role in appointments at Minnesota except as a dinner companion for candidates and a rank-and-file voter. Since 2002, I've participated in the frantic and largely successful program of faculty reconstruction initiated by former Dean Alex M. Johnson, Jr., and continued even after his resignation in May 2006. Caveat lector: this list may be worth less than its price of admission.
Regardless, whether you side with Ethan and me, or whether you rue the decline of the traditional proxies for future scholarly productivity, what all of us need is a guide to the types of faculty appointments that law schools today are likely to encounter. I've prepared the following taxonomy on the basis of my admittedly short but intense experience with law school faculty appointments. In each of the ten categories I cover, I offer a few observations regarding these three factors:
  • Cost. Strictly as a function of salary, some appointments cost more. The relevant time horizon for decisionmaking in many academic institutions is no longer than a single academic year. This may not be ideal, and it probably isn't, but this is the reality for most law schools outside the well-funded elite.

  • Risk. Jeff Harrison astutely observes that any offer of academic employment is, for all practical purposes, an offer of lifetime employment. In many instances, law schools come to regret at least some of the lifetime appointments they make. It's therefore worth exploring whether different types of appointments carry significantly different levels of downside risk.

  • Reward. Prospect of gain, not risk of loss, is the fundamental currency of hope. Generally speaking, younger scholars promise more upside than their more senior counterparts. Of course, risk is nothing besides misapprehended or unrealized "upside." So pick carefully.

1. The supplicant -- a.k.a., the VAPVisiting assistant professorships, by design, are not meant to be permanent. But because they are arguably the most prominent type of academic appointment to have arisen in the past two decades, they deserve a place in this taxonomy. Supplicants are much cheaper than regular faculty members, and their exclusion from the tenure track drives the risk of a VAP appointment close to zero.

2. The raw rookiePure entry-level hiring remains the currency of the realm in many corners of legal academia. Despite its inherent risks, which elite institutions are learning to minimize by shifting to lateral hiring, the hiring of raw rookies remains very popular outside the top 10 or 15 law schools. It's certainly cheaper in the short run, and many law professors cling to the belief -- one that, as far as I know, has not been tested, let alone vindicated or disproved -- that faculty members hired as rookies are more loyal and perhaps even more productive than lateral hires who arrive as free agents.

3. The senior juniorOne way to shift the risk of an improvident entry-level hire is to let some lower-ranked (or otherwise less attractive) law school appoint the rookies it meets at the AALS hiring combine. Once a junior scholar establishes that she or he no longer poses a realistic risk of flunking the tenure process, a more elite school can poach at leisure. Frankly, I wonder why any school with enough prestige and enough financial resources to pursue this strategy would even bother scouting entry-level talent at the AALS combine.

4. The junior seniorThe only real difference between a senior junior and a junior senior is a tenure evaluation conducted by another law school. In principle, why should a law school pay any attention to another school's tenure evaluation when its own faculty needs to conduct an independent, de novo review of a candidate for a tenured or tenure-track appointment? The salary premium that a candidate with tenure commands, at least vis-à-vis a senior junior, suggests that some schools either do put great weight on a competing school's tenure evaluation or are looking for ways to shift the blame in case they do make an improvident appointment.

5. Tenure troubleTenure petitions do get rejected from time to time. Smart deans and faculties -- and even smarter tenure-track candidates -- who anticipate tenure issues will send candidates into the lateral market in search of a "soft" landing. Tenure trouble and tenure denial are equalizers: whereas most other types of lateral hiring disfavor lower-ranked schools and benefit elite schools, problems with tenure enable lower-ranked schools to pursue candidates who otherwise would have no interest. Since tenure denials (whether realized or merely anticipated) are not necessarily justified, they present daring, diligent schools with a great opportunity to turn the tables on their elite counterparts.

6. Tenure denialThe devil fools with the best-laid plans. Some troubled tenure petitions come to final and negative judgment. The stigma of tenure denial, in an market where tenure is nearly automatic, is so severe that this category warrants distinct treatment relative to the previous category of mere tenure "trouble." Schools may well hesitate to interview lateral candidates who have been denied tenure. It is worth assessing whether that hesitation arises from legitimate concerns over a candidate's ability or from fear of the stigma associated with an outright denial of tenure.

7. Musical chairsScholars at the peak of their fields and the peak of their own careers are prime targets of opportunity for schools with the resources to confer endowed chairs, salaries, and programmatic support to coveted lateral candidates. From the perspective of the hiring school, a "musical chairs" move is the ultimate high-cost, high-reward endeavor. In other words, from the candidate's point of view, this is nice work if you can get it.

8. Eminence griseHiring established, senior scholars represents one of the oldest ways by which lower-ranked law schools would try to acquire prestige overnight. Family and lifestyle considerations reign paramount. Some schools, especially in California and the Sun Belt, historically made very heavy use of this strategy. But eminence grise has attained its eminence elsewhere (which is to say that upside gain is constrained), while the gris(e) nature of the most senior lateral candidates renders this strategy exorbitantly expensive.

9. The emigré(e)Some tenured professors are eager to leave. Personal needs and responsibilities may overwhelm professional preferences. Or perhaps their home institutions have descended into an abject state of academic kakistocracy. Four or five committed Arschlöcher can totally wreck a school. Smart appointments committees target opportunities of this sort. Often the professor in question has already decided to leave. The only question is the identity of the school where she or he will ultimately accept asylum.

10. The law of love and gravity"Nobody runs from the law now baby / Of love and gravity." This Dixie Chicks line makes a fine social anthem. In an age in which elite-trained individuals form families with other elite-trained individuals, this DCX line also counsels smart law schools to keep an eye on matched pairs. So too with the opposite: lonely junior professors willing to disrupt or even sacrifice some measure of professional prestige in order to find deeper dating pools. One further observation: The cold reality is that women continue to perform a disproportionately large share of child- and elder-care responsibilities. A law school that insists on a visit before it issues lateral offer will severely compromise its ability to attract female lateral candidates.

Photo credit: The orchid thumbprints accompanying each of the ten types of faculty appointments discussed in this post appear on a Mauritius website, Orchids of the World.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What MoneyLaw can learn from Komodo dragons

The Jurisdynamics Network is running a special on Komodo dragons. Jurisdynamics and BioLaw have had their say. Now it's time to see what Komodo dragons can teach MoneyLaw:

Yes, it's a reptile-eat-mammal world. MoneyLawyers, you have been forewarned.

"rankings are a catalyst for changes that improve the school"

So says Manny Fernandez, chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Florida in Tamar Lewin's article, "Public Universities Chase Excellence, at a Price," from today's New York Times. The article discusses a lot of the issues we've been talking about here at Money-Law (well, Jim and others have been talking about--I've been busy with other work of late), like the trade-off between the pursuit of rankings and the exploding cost of education, as well as the mission of public institutions. Here's a taste:
Like Florida, more leading public universities are striving for national status and drawing increasingly impressive and increasingly affluent students, sometimes using financial aid to lure them. In the process, critics say, many are losing force as engines of social mobility, shortchanging low-income and minority students, who are seriously underrepresented on their campuses.

Undoubtedly, Jeff Harrison will have some thoughts on the story, in part because it's largely about his school, the University of Florida. Among the issues at the University of Florida, is the relative absence of students from modest backgrounds. Lewin reports that Florida's president, Dr. Machen "said that when he became president of the university in 2004, he was troubled to discover that the average student’s family income was about $100,000. "
“That bothered me because public education is supposed to be a ladder to success,” Dr. Machen said. “We don’t want to be an elitist institution. We want to be a mirror of society.”
There are some obvious parallels here with Brian Leiter's latest on changes in hiring practices over the last two decades.


The first casualty of war is innocence

It's the 20th anniversary of Platoon, a movie judged good enough in its time to warrant Oscars for best picture and best director. Platoon, so I suspect, has worn rather poorly over time, if only because:
  • It gave Oliver Stone a huge directorial breakthrough, which in retrospect might not have been such a good thing.

  • The idea that America finally "got past" the Vietnam War in the 1980s seems, two decades and one quagmire later, slightly absurd.

  • What seemed upon first glance to be a gritty epic about the horrors of war became upon further inspection little more than an overwrought allegory of good versus evil.
All that and more is true. But bear with me. If you watch the original trailer one more time, you just might find some redeeming value in the defining war movie of the 1980s:

Notwithstanding The Last Temptation of Christ, Platoon was the movie in which Willem Dafoe got his first opportunity to play the role of Jesus. Dafoe's character went by the name Elias and represented good in the form of marijuana and ethical warfare. Dafoe's foil, Tom Berenguer, depicted the crafty but corrupt Barnes, a ruthless survivor who treats war crime as another day at the office. These sergeants fought for the soul of Pvt. Chris Taylor (depicted by Charlie Sheen) and the rest of their platoon. Yes, it's allegory of the bluntest sort. But MoneyLaw is partial to allegory, and "good versus evil" is really the only story in the world.

Burning the villageAs a war movie, Platoon did address two Vietnam-era practices with a considerable degree of daring and sensitivity. The first, fragging, involved the deliberate killing of unpopular officers by soldiers under their command. The second, the FNG syndrome, involved the resentment that some seasoned veterans felt toward newcomers (such as Chris Taylor). The F____ New Guy typically represented a liability rather than a benefit to an established platoon.

Both fragging and the FNG syndrome are relevant to academia. In Three Deans, I hinted in passing at the prospect that unscrupulous faculty members might frag a dean, in complicity with central university administration or a captured board of trustees. That subject, in due course, will command more attention here at MoneyLaw. What I'd like to address right now is the FNG syndrome.

There may be no greater responsibility in faculty governance than the recruiting, fostering, and development of junior colleagues. The future of every law school hinges on this task. And there may be no sharper indicator of a senior professor's character than his or her attitude toward untenured colleagues.

Faculties on the rise are filled with FNGs. Newly minted law professors rarely if ever cover their "fair" share of courses. Since law schools recruit professors mostly without regard to teaching ability, these newly arrived professors' classroom performances can be uneven. And perhaps most unsettling to many incumbents is the fact that new professors are rivals for plum teaching assignments and other privileges of faculty membership that are as prized as they are intangible.

This is so simple and so obvious a proposition that I shall not dwell long in stating it: Access to teaching assignments is crucial to the development of young professors. For a veteran, taking on a new teaching preparation is inconvenient. For someone who has yet to clear the tenure hurdle, being forced repeatedly to find one's way through different teaching assignments, especially if those assignments lie far afield from a nascent research agenda, poses a singular threat to that professor's career prospects.

So the ultimate lesson of Platoon for legal academia is . . . platooning. Virtuous, Elias-like colleagues freely give teaching assignments to their junior counterparts. Selfish faculty members -- sometimes so odiously selfish that the term colleague applies strictly in theory -- hoard their teaching assignments, often for no reason more compelling than a desire to avoid the chore of developing new lesson plans. As I wrap up thirteen plus years at Minnesota, I thank those senior colleagues who made room for me in this school's public law curriculum. (I encountered no rivals whenever I sought to teach the law of regulated industries, among other offerings of that sort.) As I moved from juniority toward more seasoned status, I sincerely hope I have been as generous toward my less senior colleagues.

The upshot? If you want to create a culture of collegiality, start by hiring -- and being -- a faculty of platoon players.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Letter, the Market and "Easy Writers"

At times like these I sincerely wish I knew how to take a poll of MoneyLaw readers and law professors generally to see if they agree with what follows. I do not claim to know whether it is accurate or not.

[Update: Webmaster Gil Grantmore has installed a MoneyLaw poll at the bottom of this post. Be sure to vote.]

Recently a friend at another school and I discussed how his faculty would react to a less-than-glowing tenure review letter. In the course of the conversation, he made two observations. The first was that Tenure and Promotion Committees and outside reviewers generally understand that outside reviewers are supposed to help the committee “get the candidate through.” Then he went on to name some well-known scholars who were not asked for review letters because, as he put it, “they will actually say what they really think.” This was not the first time I had heard that the job of Tenure and Promotion Committees is to “get the candidate through.” It seemed to be the case at my school until relatively recently. (I assume this is primarily a middle or lower ranked school phenomenon.)

If my friend is right, there is in legal education a "market" for letters. The demand side is composed of Committees that are candidate advocates and steer clear of reviewers who “say what they really think." Suppliers are reviewers who, although moaning and groaning about the work involved, give the committees what they are asking for – all in coded terms, of course. Those frequently asked to provide reviews, under this theory, need to ask why they their services are in high demand. Would they be just as popular and their opinions so valued if they were a tad more candid?

If the theory holds and everything else is equal, the number of letters requested and written could be inversely related to a reviewer’s candor and integrity. Perhaps salary increases should be granted in inverse relation to the number of review letters written. This would not work, I know, because money is hardly the motivating factor. More importantly, I have seen many letters in which reviewers do say what they think. In fact there may be two markets: one for the easy letter and the other for the "what you really think" letter. Only the reviewers themselves know which market they are supplying. The problem is that the "easy writers" surely have erected an elaborate matrix of rationalizing mechanisms that protect them from self awareness.

We have all seen a version of the "easy writer" when students stampede to fill the sections of courses taught by teachers who require little and give high grades. I feel certain that even "easy writers" frown on student shopping. My school and others have imposed grading curves to respond to the high grade suppliers. If the "easy writer" theory holds, it's unfortunate that a comparable control cannot be applied to review suppliers.

In a way, the "market for letters" theory is, at least intuitively, my friend's. So, here is the question: Is there a demand for "easy writers?" Your replies are anonymous and a simple yes or no will suffice.

[Update: As promised, a MoneyLaw poll appears at left. Be sure to vote; the Jurisdynamics Network permits one vote per IP address.]

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Farewell to the Foreign Service exam?

State DepartmentSince 1932 the Foreign Service examination has reigned supreme among all professional entrance exams as the most rigorous, thorough, and scrupulously fair ritual of its kind. Each year, roughly 20,000 applicants take the Foreign Service exam. Roughly 17,000 fail. The reward for passing? A grueling oral interview with Foreign Service officers. Acing the Foreign Service exam was necessary, but never sufficient, for those who aspired to this prestigious line of public service.

Now the State Department stands poised to discard the Foreign Service exam. As reported in the Washington Post and the New York Times, the State Department is poised to discard its traditional exam in favor of "a new approach, a bit less quantifiable." As the Times describes the change in policy:
At the suggestion of McKinsey & Company, the management consultants, [State] plans to revamp the process to evaluate what it calls “the Total Candidate” . . . . The written exam will stay largely the same, although streamlined and given by computer, instead of bubble-sheet and bluebook. . . .

As applicants register for the exam, they will submit an online “structured résumé” describing their work experience, foreign residence, leadership experience and language abilities, among other things. Then, on the basis of the test results and résumé, combined in some undisclosed metric, a screening committee will decide who goes on to the oral assessment.
State Department IIAnd so the United States government bids farewell to a rite of passage in which Foreign Service "applicants are tested on their knowledge of such topics as democratic philosophy, international law, world history and geography, along with math and English skills." The Post recites the State Department's traditional warning that "the only way to prepare [was] to 'read widely.'"

Why did McKinsey advise the abandonment of the traditional Foreign Service exam in favor of the "Total Candidate" approach? According to the Post, "McKinsey acknowledged that the current hiring process is a proven predictor of candidate success." Some, though by no means all, veteran Foreign Service officers worry that the turn to subjective evaluation of a “structured résumé” could, in the words of the Times, "open the door to political considerations, or applicants with family connections." A particularly bitter critic pans the "Total Candidate" as a rejection of success: "The State Department has been too successful."

Here at MoneyLaw, we like success. Just what is wrong with a test that assesses job applicants' mastery of these topics?
  • English composition/rhetoric
  • American history
  • American studies (including cultural and social history)
  • American political thought
  • American political system
  • American economic history
  • Introduction to economics (micro- and macro-)
  • World history
  • World geography
  • World religions
  • International economics
  • Introduction to statistics
  • Introduction to management principles
  • Intercultural communication
  • Mass communication
  • Psychology
That list comes quite close to the types of knowledge that a proficient law professor should bring to the job.

Consider the Foreign Service exam question at left (extracted from a New York Times' graphic presenting six typical questions). How many law professors could simply locate Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique, Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia, and South Africa, let alone recall their political status as of 1945? A detractor might argue that knowledge of this sort is pertinent strictly to international law, but I demur. Even if we dismiss knowledge of sub-Saharan Africa, I don't think we can so readily dismiss the notion that broad knowledge of culture, history, language, and the basic tools of natural and social science is essential to success in legal academia.

Herewith a modest proposal for the State Department and McKinsey & Company. If State really does want to switch to the "Total Candidate" approach, legal academia can offer a new home for the traditional Foreign Service exam.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thoughts on helping incoming and departing deans

Richard Morgan
With the announcement of Jim Chen's appointment to the deanship at Brandeis School of Law at the U. of Louisville and the upcoming departure of Dick Morgan from UNLV's Boyd School of Law (as well as my own departure from Houston to Boyd, which will take place officially on July 1, 2007), my thoughts are turning to ways to ease the transitions for the schools and for the people involved.

The comings and goings of deans are major events, even though deans themselves can only do so much to affect what happens at their schools. Schools need to take on the responsibility of marking these times and using them to advance the school's mission.

At the University of Nebraska College of Law, I think we did a good job of marking Harvey Perlman's term as dean by making a fuss over his dean's portrait and giving him a named professorship. Deans may be popular or not, but they are people who have stepped up to the plate to try to serve the school, and that service should be acknowledged.

At the University of Houston Law Center, the External Affairs folks (Greg Robertson & Deborah Hirsch) who worked with me did a fabulous job of rolling me out, including hiring a very good PR/marketing person, Alex Kopatic, to help me with my introductions to various constituencies and to train me on how to work with the press. They planned my rollout very deliberately, and thanks to them, I met over 1,000 people who cared about UHLC in year 1 of my deanship.

Law schools seem to have more difficulty with departing deans. I don't know whether that's because of a natural introvertedness of many professors or the awkwardness that can come with any dean's departure, especially a controversial one. We seem to be much better at celebrating the departures of professors and staff members than we are at celebrating the departures of deans.

For the record, I think it would have been a smart idea to have done more to celebrate my colleague Steve Zamora's deanship when I took over as dean. He served as UHLC's dean for five years, and among other things, he did a lot to improve the morale at the Law Center. Steve's special strengths in building morale were of vital importance to our school, which had had a couple of failed dean searches before Steve stepped up to the plate. He's continued to do impressive work since his return to the faculty, and he's a mensch. He's been incredibly kind to me during and after my deanship, and I'm glad to have this opportunity to thank him publicly.

We celebrate the graduation of our students because graduation marks a turning point in their lives. Celebrating the "graduation" of a school from one deanship to another makes sense, too. That's why I 'm looking forward to seeing how UNLV celebrates Dick Morgan's deanship when he retires. Dick is UNLV's founding dean, and he's built an amazing faculty and staff. I'm quite proud to be joining that group. The departure of any dean marks a major change, but the departure of the founding dean is a (by definition) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My guess is that the William S. Boyd School of Law is going to find the right way to honor someone who has done so much for the school, the university, and the state.

Things that schools may want to consider when welcoming a dean:

1. If possible, try to have some overlap between the incoming dean and the outgoing dean, so that the two of them can share some observations, dean-to-dean. The outgoing dean's views may not mesh completely with the incoming dean's views, but the perspective is invaluable.

2. PLAN A ROLLOUT for the new dean. Give the dean time to shape his or her message. Figure out in what order the dean should meet with the various constiuencies and make sure there's time on the dean's calendar to prepare for those meetings. Even if the dean comes from the school's faculty, he or she is taking on a new role and needs the same prep time that an outside dean should get.

3. That rollout should include meetings with individual faculty and staff members and with the faculty, the staff, and the students in groups. And, of course, the rollout should involve immediate meetings with the school's top alumni and major donors--before the official start date of the deanship, if possible.

4. The new dean is going to need some people who can filter the parade of folks who want to spend time with the dean. I found that my assistant, Kelli Cline, was excellent at making sure that people who needed to get in to see me immediately were able to do so, and she tried hard (despite my proclivity to want to meet with anyone at any time) to keep my calendar in manageable shape).

5. The most difficult time for the new dean is the first six months, when he or she is trying to figure out in whom he or she can confide. Sometimes the dean guesses right; sometimes, she makes mistakes and trusts the wrong people. (Even when she trusts the right people, she has to be cautious; because of her position as dean, those "right people" can be counted on the fingers of one hand.) Confidants, however, are key to keeping a dean (somewhat) sane during the deanship.

Things to consider in helping a dean depart (assuming that the dean hasn't committed some sort of indictable offense):

1. Read Kent D. Syverud, How Deans (and Presidents) Should Quit, 56 J. L. Ed. 3 (2006). As always, Kent has wise advice.

2. Deans get emotionally involved with their schools, and some sort of official ritual is a nice way to ease the separation, unless the dean requests that no fuss be made.

3. It takes a while for deans to get reacquainted with professorial life. DEPARTING DEANS SHOULD GET SABBATICALS. (New deans take note: you might want to put the issues of sabbaticals and professorial salaries in your offer letters. And, if you want to be able to change schools after your sabbaticals, it's helpful to get a written agreement that you won't have to repay that leave after your sabbatical ends. That sure helped me.)

4. Faculty and staff members who like the former dean should tell him or her that directly, especially if the departure was unpleasant for the dean. (Our egos might need some soothing.)

5. To the extent possible, the new dean and the former dean should present a united front, so that the various constituencies can carry on as normally as possible.

Transitions always are emotional, and transitions are healthy for people and for institutions. I've learned a lot from each of my job transitions, and I consider those lessons valuable. (This last transition reminds me a lot of Yeats' Slouching Towards Bethlehem, but that's another story for another time.) Just remember that the incoming and outgoing deans are people, too, and not just representatives of their institutions, and you'll likely do the right thing by each of them.