Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Stakeholder Impact Statement

Since before joining the Moneylaw group my individual beef (most specifically with public schools) has been the disconnect between faculty governance and the interests of law school stakeholders -- the people who pay the bills and for whom a Law School exists. I've never understood governing a Law School for the welfare of the faculty unless that welfare is a means to the end of serving stakeholders. And, I've never understood the concept of a Dean as "the agent of the faculty" unless the faculty is acting the in best interests of stakeholders.

How many law schools fit the category of "little Enrons" as opposed to actually looking out for stakeholders I do not know. I do think it probably varies from school to school and, within each school, from decision to decision.

If I had my way there would be no decisions made by a faculty without a Stakeholder Impact Statement. Anyone proposing a new program or any other activity that will draw on the resources of the School would be required to explain in fairly direct terms how the proposed activity will promote the interests of those paying the bills. I can hear people now thinking that is too much to ask or that the benefits are too difficult to assess.

Maybe it is too much to ask but it's not too much to ask for a good faith effort. I've seen too many programs started by people with a vested personal interest in the program who when pressed about its benefits mumble something like "It will provide an important opportunity for the students." That is an awful answer. The question is whether it is best opportunity for the money. Did anyone explore other programs, courses, etc. that might be more beneficial? Or is the problem that no one is actually personally interested in the programs that would provide real benefits.

Yes, some of the benefits are difficult to quantify but at least they should be identified and expressed in clear terms. Statements again, like "a richer curriculum," "more opportunities," etc. do not cut it. Setting up an L.L.M. in the growing field of Elder Law and Restitution? If you are a state school, how will taxpayers be better off as a result? (Actually, in my State that might be pretty easy sell.)

The main advantage of the SIS is that it would help faculty avoid drifting to where they usually drift -- "What does this mean for me if the faculty adopts it?"

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