Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The market for deans ... and two markets for deans

Bull and bearBy way of MoneyLaw stalwart Paul Caron's home blog, I had the pleasure of reading Daniel B. Rodriguez, The Market for Deans, 16 J. Contemp. Legal Issues ___ (2007). Using "a loose admixture of anecdote, polemic, and preliminary data," Professor Rodriguez reaches the "especially vexing" conclusion "that the market for deans is — and will likely continue to be — more bear than bull."

The Market for Deans is well worth a trip to SSRN, and it will probably provide fodder for future MoneyLaw posts. One particular aspect of this paper warrants immediate attention. Professor Rodriguez, who served nearly a decade as law school dean at the University of San Diego, conducted a quick and dirty survey of deans at the U.S. News survey's top 25 schools and at 25 other randomly selected schools. I agree wholeheartedly that "[t]hese data yield at least one interesting conclusion":
Law schools in the so-called top 25 are far more likely to select their deans from their own faculty; the distribution among other law schools is more balanced. We can speculate freely about . . . this difference. For my money, the principal reason for the concentration of internal deans in the top 25 is elitism; the high prestige law schools are much more skeptical of the ability of law professors not on their faculty to reflect their key values. (Harvard and Yale are particularly striking; my recollection is that neither school has had an external dean in the past century). And, insofar as these “top” schools look outside their faculty only to schools at or above their stature, the pool is obviously much smaller. By contrast, nonelite law schools have a larger pool of non-internal law professors from which to draw; moreover, their desire to ascend the law school hierarchy may make some much more accepting of law faculty at higher-ranked schools, precisely because of the perceived “luster” that a recruitment of a faculty member from such a school might provide. . . .

Upstairs, Downstairs[T]here does appear to be two somewhat distinct dean markets. In the world of elite law schools, the markets are more narrowly configured; we could predict rather accurately that law schools up the feeding chain will look primarily to a small group of individuals, a group that will usually be members of their own faculties; and we could predict that other law schools will be more eclectic and expansive in their searches.
Fascinating stuff. MoneyLaw has operated on the premise that Upstairs, Downstairs isn't just one of the most popular public television series of all time, but also a trope for daily life in American legal academia. Deeper, more rigorous analysis of the entire market for deans should expose the precise extent to which the decanal suite and access to it also reflect class divisions within legal education.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Thanks for the heads-up Jim. It is an interesting read and the pessimism seems well founded. Done properly it is an extremely difficult job and, I fear the best people to handle it are the frequently the least likely to be attracted.

1/23/2008 11:34 PM  

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