Saturday, April 21, 2007

Is There Hope for Moneylaw?

I hope so but I am not sure and it is not simply because our most provocative writer rarely visits these days. Instead I wonder if, as Bill Henderson (as I recall) has asked on a number of instances, there is a overriding theory that leads to specific goals. Beyond that, even if there were a theory, is there any real hope of change?

Think about goals first. If we use the baseball analogy, two goals or a combination of two seem reasonable – maximize profit or maximize games won. Since most Moneylaw contributors reject USN&WR rankings as comparable to “winning,” what are the goals of a Moneylaw school? Goals could be set – one article per faculty member per year or the equivalent, bar passage rate of 95% might be a start -- but even these are vague. Would fewer better articles be preferable? Still, if you were running a law faculty like a general manager would run a baseball team, it seems like setting some real goals would make sense as opposed to “soft” goals like “excellence,” “service,” “effective teaching.” I’ve heard of no law school dean or law faculty willing to take the risk of announcing real goals and then sticking to them.

There is a bigger problem, though, and it is with management, or more accurately, the lack of management. Thing about the Yankees for a minute. The night before a big game with the Red Sox, Joe Torre says, “I am passing out a form. Please indicate what position you want to play tomorrow.” The next morning, the Yankees take the field and there is no right fielder, and two people are playing second base. Joe explains to reporters that no one wanted to play right field and it was too late to trade for a right fielder.

This does not happen in baseball, of course, for two reasons. First, the manager would assign positions if the issue came up. Second, for the most part, all benefit if the team does well and eventually a right-fielder would step forward.

You can play the same scenario in terms of a GM plant. No one willing to install steering wheels one day? It could be that when the manager passed out the “what do you want to do” form, no one wanted to deal with steering wheels. This does not happen because 1) the manager would assign someone to steering wheel duty and 2) everyone would know “No steering wheels, no sales, no jobs for anyone.”

Law schools do not have what baseball and the GM plant have.

First, Deans do not make up assignments based on what courses a good school should offer or have requirements with respect to scholarship that are consistent with getting the most out a given level of resources. Instead, faculty are asked what they feel like doing. Fundamentally, once tenure is granted, a school is dependent on volunteers. If someone just does not feel like teaching an important course or is just too tired to do research, they don't. There is no process under which it is first determined what a law school should do and then management assigns resources to achieve those ends.

Also missing is a substantial sense of collective purpose. No right fielder, the team loses. No steering wheel, no jobs. On the other hand, the person hired to teach PR decides not to do it, what difference does it make to anyone else? It’s the students who suffer, not the faculty. The same is true with research. Joe Faculty prefers to water ski instead. What does it matter to great majority of faculty.

Does Moneylaw have a chance in a world of vague goals, limited management, and the absence of common commitment? Is Moneylaw Don Zimmer already?


Blogger Belle Lettre said...

Among us co-bloggers, who's the most controversial?!

I kind of think we're all a bit subversive in our own way!

4/23/2007 2:56 AM  

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