Why A Practitioner Dean Sounds Like A Better Idea Than It Usually Is

The Miami Daily Business Review ran an article yesterday about our Dean search, but it's behind their paywall so I can't link to it. Despite a couple obvious inaccuracies — as far as the faculty knows, for example, it's not clear if we know yet who all the candidates will be — it's a pretty balanced look at what's going on, at least as far as I can tell.

Along the way, the article reports on a view that I am not surprised to hear from some alumni:

But some alumni say the school’s next dean should have strong ties to South Florida’s legal community to support fundraising and create job opportunities for the school’s graduates. Departing Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul G. Cantero III and Miami lawyer Brian Spector were named as possibilities.

“People like Raoul Cantero or Brian Spector are probably the types of leaders that law schools need for the future,” said Miami forensic accountant and lawyer Lewis Freeman, an alumnus and booster of UM and its law school. It’s “going outside the box of academia for people with real world experience.”

I think it's understandable that smart people who live at some remove from the institution would feel this way. But I also think that as regards our short-term future they are — sorry to be so blunt — dead wrong.

A local lawyer is not going to have much of an edge in getting our students local jobs (and a former judge even less so). On the other hand, it's possible that right local lawyer might be an excellent fund raiser, maybe even better than the right academic (although in all honesty, I'm not actually sure that is true). Fund raising is undoubtedly a major part of a Dean's job. But at this time in our history, what we need as much as money is an administrator who knows law schools, understands how to run a construction project, and whom we don't have to train. Law schools are different from firms (and courts) culturally, politically, and administratively. Let's take each in turn.

The cultural problem is the easiest to overcome. There are practitioners and judges who get the academic mission, and who appreciate the central importance of scholarship in a law school. I certainly know some. So while this is a most critical of these three areas, it's also the one where the supply of qualified practitioner/judges is greatest. But because this is so important, it's the area where a faculty will be most wary: it's not enough for a candidate to talk the talk — they have to have done it. Any practitioner, and probably any judge, who hasn't written at least a few law journal articles or a book is not going to be a serious candidate, especially in this law school where the self-image, at least, is one of scholarship as well as teaching and service.

Which brings me to the second issue: politics. I don't mean left-right — although a far-right torture-loving Dean wouldn't work here — but rather personal politics. A University isn't like a law firm: most of the inmates have life tenure. You can't vote them off the island, or even cut their partnership share in any substantial way. It's the ultimate “herding cats” environment. People used to more hierarchical work environments, not to mention used to judicial independence, are with very very rare exceptions simply not prepared for what's in store. There are almost no whips to crack, and even if you do it, it usually ends up rebounding. Yet you can't go far without significant buy-in from the team.

Then there's the administrative side. From what I can tell, a lot of being a good Dean is making sure that other people have the details covered. To do that, you have to know what they are. On-the-job training is possible, but the learning curve for a person new to law school administration, who hasn't even had a ringside seat as a professor, is frighteningly steep. I'm fairly sure that right now — in a school with a US News deficit and some substantial construction projects likely in its near future — isn't the best time to undertake that training project … if it can be avoided.

I do agree that practitioners have a lot to offer a law school as teachers and members of our community. I've consistently supported ideas such as “practitioner in residence” and the hiring of academically oriented practitioners for various types of faculty posts, including in one case full tenure, depending on their writing experience. But teaching what you know is very different from managing what you don't know.

The key mistakes that the practitioners quoted by the DBR make is thinking that law schools are not part of the “real world” and that being in or even running a law firm gives you easily transferable management skills. Law schools today are in fact complex organizations with tight budgets, unusual rules, peculiar labor forces, diverse and active constituencies, extensive relations with the greater University, and complex goals. They are hard to administer — much harder, I'd think than a court (at the end of the day, there's always a bailiff…), and very different from a law firm. There are very few non-lawyers who you should trust to argue a case for you without some specialized training first; similarly, there are very few non-academics you should trust to be a Dean of a law school without some acculturation and experience first. And all of them see law schools as very 'real world' indeed.

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32 Responses to Why A Practitioner Dean Sounds Like A Better Idea Than It Usually Is

  1. someone says:

    I disagree that hiring a practitioner dean would be a bad idea. And I think that you misunderstand — or at least take out of context — Lewis Freeman’s comment. No one would seriously argue that law schools or professors are not part of the real world. As I understand Freeman’s comment, he refers to candidates with experiences different from those with backgrounds solely in academia.

    To address your other points. First, highly respected judges or practitioners would be in a tremendous position to help students find employment in the local community. Why would you think otherwise? Take Justice Cantero as an example. He’s from South Florida. He probably knows many partners at many law firms in town. He’s highly respected in the community. And he’s a “big name” — not only was he a Florida Supreme Court Justice but his name was also being thrown around to take O’Connor’s or Rehnquist’s spot on the Supreme Court. Surely he’s in as good a position — and probably better — than the current candidates would be in terms of helping students find employment in Florida. (That’s not to say anything bad about them; but an “edge” in getting our students local jobs he has.)

    Ditto as regards fundraising. For the same reasons. It’s something that a practitioner with ties to the community could do as well as if not better than others. And the alumni, as the group that probably contributes most to the school, may very well suppport a local dean than an academic with no ties to the community. That’s not to say that an academic couldn’t do just as well, but it is to say that as regards fundraising, it’s at least a draw.

    It’s fair to state that candidates with academic backgrounds get that scholarship is a major part of the law school as an institution. But it’s unfair not to consider seriously someone who hasn’t written a law review article or who hasn’t published a book. I guess I don’t totally understand why this is a major issue, so please respond to this point. The job of a dean isn’t to write law review articles or to teach classes (although it could be that too). It’s to be a leader of the institution; to set a goal for the institution and work with everyone — the faculty, the students, the alumni, the university — to get it there. Some deans still produce work — I’m sure that Chemerinsky isn’t going to stop writing — but it shouldn’t be a necessary condition.

    It’s simply unfair to regard someone who comes from a law firm or from the judiciary as “not prepared for what’s in store.” I think that all of the candidates know what’s in store here. Everyone knows about Dean Thompson’s style, and more or less how that ended. Again, a dean is supposed to represent the entire school, so he or she should push for everyone’s interests. That requires a certain give-and-take from everyone. And it’s important to be open minded.

    Last, nothing suggests that candidates with academic backgrounds have any more experience in matters of administration than practitioners or judges. To the contrary, alternative candidates used to working in hierarchical work enviornments probably have strong experience as administrators — it takes a lot to be a managing partner at a firm or to be a judge. There’s no reason to believe that those skills aren’t completely transferable.

    To sum up, I’m not arguing that a practitioner or a judge would do a better job as dean than one with a background in academia. But I don’t think that it’s a bad idea either. Local practitioners or judges could offer a lot to the law school. The more options in this process, the greater the diversity, the better.

  2. student says:

    I’d like to comment on just one of your points: politics.

    It certainly is true that, in any context, a most qualified leader “can’t go far without significant buy-in from the team.” That, I would argue, is not unique to academia or a group of tenured “inmates.” But SHOULD it be true that the best qualified dean “wouldn’t work here” solely for his or her politics, “far-right [and] torture-loving” or not?

    I have attended the last two lunch meetings with the dean candidates, and plan to attend the next one. The messages, the visions, that resonated well with the students included raising our national reputation, increasing admission standards, cutting our class size, developing a niche, fostering clinical education, and establishing stronger ties with the legal community. All attainable goals, but only with the support of “the team.”

    As a community of “smart people,” I wonder if we can leave aside our politics for a moment and focus on what our vision for this law school is.

  3. Student II says:

    I don’t think it’s insignificant that the main people who think law schools in general do a good job at producing “lawyers” are law professors. You start asking people who PRACTICE and you will find few if any lawyers who have anything good to say about law schools, but consider it a hoop to jump through, and near useless as a teaching environment. I’ve heard this from EVERY lawyer I’ve ever talked to, including judges and former law professors.

    The real world of lawyering – not the pseudo-world of worrying about whether Kelo was correctly decided – has ZERO respect for law school methodology. Sadly, when you talk about this with law professors, they either think YOU are lying, or that practicing lawyers just don’t know what they are talking about. That’s a nice theory, but there are a lot more lawyers than professors. And they were all smart enough to get into law school. They can’t all be wrong.

    This is not to say that “teaching” isn’t important, but I think it might actually breathe some life into law school and MAYBE generate some new ideas like TEACHING STUDENTS HOW TO BE LAWYERS, instead of just presuming we should all teach ourselves to care about whatever the latest law professor outrage is (which just leaves it to our first bosses to train us).

    I think law professors need to get out of their bubble and look around a little bit. There’s a whole world out there that has nothing to do with what they spend three years making students do. And nobody that receives the new graduate seems very grateful for what they’ve done.

  4. richard says:

    Law professors have a ringside seat for sure, but most of them haven’t supervised more than part of an administrative assistant during their academic careers. How does that prepare them for a Deanship?

  5. Bob says:

    Student at 2:59 does an excellent job of illustrating your point Michael. People who don’t understand the powerful, if tacit, influence of ideas in even the most mundane of life’s tasks are poor choices to lead an institution whose main currency is ideas. You are correct on every point. Ask your critics to name a single distinguished practitioner dean. There are numerous failures.

  6. Ben Barros says:

    In response to Bob, John Feerick was an exceptional dean of Fordham. He may be a bit of an unusual case. He had done a little bit of academic writing, and is one of the few living people who can claim to have had a hand in writing part of the U.S. Constitution (the 25th Amendment). But he was clearly a practitioner candidate when he was appointed dean. As an academic, I tend to agree that practitioners are not the best dean candidates in most circumstances. But the right practitioner in the right circumstance can do a lot for a law school.

  7. Michael says:

    I agree that there are rare exceptions where it’s great.

    Part of that is about the man/woman, part of that is about the school. At present I see our two biggest tasks as having to do with internal administration — especially a host of matters having to do with relations with the University — and facilities. These are not skill sets that tend to come from practice, although it’s not impossible.

  8. anon says:

    I don’t know. Lewis & Clark’s dean is from outside the academy. He seems to have what it takes.

  9. Steve Griffin says:

    Please don’t tell LSU!

  10. Stedent II says:

    “People who don’t understand the powerful, if tacit, influence of ideas in even the most mundane of life’s tasks are poor choices to lead an institution whose main currency is ideas.”

    So I don’t know the person who said this, and I don’t know what he does for a living, but it is EXACTLY what I am talking about. It’s the same sort of “I’m smarter than the little people” attitude that so many law professors (and other achedemics) have. So regular people are really not able to understand the nuanced, and subtle, workings of the world of law – so we should really leave that to the experts. It could be explained, but really you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about it – the experts are in command.

    I love achedemia…

    Getting A’s in school and landing that great clerkship for a judge does not actually make you smarter than everyone else, it just gives you access to join a club of other people who also think they are. The world will not come to a screaching halt if an actual lawyer or two is hired at a law school. It might help to refine the practical programs to something that is actually USEFUL in the outside world.

  11. Anita Bernstein says:

    In agreeing with Michael, I don’t defend the status quo that favors professors for the job. There’s plenty wrong with law school governance. But importing a practitioner to fix it–usually with a dose of macho rhetoric about the need for management and a business mindset–is worse than the disease. Feerick at Fordham is a noteworthy exception–truly the right person in the right place at the right time–and I know of a few other good outcomes: Geoffrey Mearns at Cleveland State seems to be doing well. But the track record of practitioner-deans is every bit as bad as Michael says. I would never support this move at any school I cared about unless I could be convinced that it was in dire straits.

  12. Brian Tamanaha says:

    It’s all about the personality and vision of the individual–professor, judge, or practitioner, all can fail or succeed (or have no real impact on the school one way other other, as is usually the case).

    Law Deaning is an impossible job.

    On the one hand, the Dean must plead/cajole alums for contributions; on the other hand the Dean must plead/cajole professors to work hard for the good of the institution. In neither situation does the Dean have any leverage–only force of personality and an inspiring vision. Meanwhile, the Dean must try to keep students happy–students who are paying a hundred thousand dollars for a degree while facing uncertain employment prospects.

  13. student III says:

    No one has responded to Richard’s point yet, which is a good one. If our “two biggest tasks” concern administration, then shouldn’t we be considering candidates with administrative experience? So far, only one of the three candidates has considerable administrative and management experience.

  14. Anita Bernstein says:

    I’ll respond to Richard and student III: a track record in supervision/administration is of limited relevance if it included the prerogative to fire subordinates. Practitioner deans come in having enjoyed that power. Even if they never actually fired anyone out in the private sector, they dealt with people who knew they could and, accordingly, sucked up–probably more than the practitioner realized. A law professor dean with no managerial experience is at least familiar with the ‘herding cats’ task and can relate to us odd employed-for-life creatures, having been one himself. Or herself. Which reminds me: Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker at McGeorge is another success: although her background as general counsel for a big state university lies at some midpoint between practice and the academy.

  15. concerned observer says:

    In the past week this blog has focused on two interesting topics: the search for the new dean of the UM Law School and the campaign office opening of Annette Tadeo.
    I am wondering if there is a connection to be made. What can we learn from Ms. Tadeo? In other words, how would the search for the new dean of the law school be different if this were an election by a wide range of stakeholders?

    We would not see a focus on issues such as internal administration. We would be thinking about our students front and center: how to recruit them effectively, how to keep them reasonably happy while they are enrolled, and how to graduate and place them in the job market. We would be thinking about our alumni and what it would take to motivate and excite them to contribute more heavily to the future of our law school. And from that we would consider the kind of leadership that we need to re-organize the way that the faculty, administration and staff function so as to focus on these outcomes. I am not so sure that someone from the outside the academy, a/k/a the “real world” wouldn’t help to move the debate forward on how to make UM Law School one of the great law schools in our country.

  16. Michael says:

    I think ‘concerned observer’ and I agree more or less on strategy; the problem is tactics. What experience has been busy teaching me recently is that even when you have good objectives, they don’t amount to enough without the right sort of implementation. That is why my own focus is more on management issues than it used to be. Other people disagree, but the difference is mostly emphasis.

    Similarly I’d say that by and large as a result of the strategic planning exercise the faculty as a whole has a fair degree of agreement as to what our major goals are, although there may not yet be precise agreement on which of several priorities ought to be #1. Students are high on everyone’s list. But that just brings up two issues: which of a number of valuable student-centered initiatives to prioritize, and then the slogging work of putting it/them into practice. That where Deans come in.

    We spent a big chunk of effort this year in a strategic planning exercise, and have a draft document that awaits the new Dean’s imprimatur (or red pen) before we publish it. But most of the good stuff in there takes a degree of hard work and relevant administrative talent. As I said in the title to this post, “usually” you don’t find that sort administrative skill set (in a way that transfers to the academy) in a practitioner who hasn’t spent some serious time in an academic setting. As commentators above have noted, it can happen. But its rare and to be treasured. Not many practitioners — and, it should be said, not many professors either — have really got it.

    At the end of the day, no Dean candidate comes with the prefect bundle of skills and experience. But our candidates look pretty solid so far. Even the ones with (relatively) less experience bring other things of value.

  17. Orin Kerr says:

    Very good post, and pretty persuasive, I think.

  18. So Professor Froomkin, if I get the basis of your article you are saying that the academic mission of the school is faculty scholarship and Miami must have a Dean that recognizes this and does not attempt to change this or the “team” will not “buy-in” and “crack the whip” back at the dean. And students and alumni must accept this “real world.”

    I agree with you that this is the prevailing attitude of the Miami faculty, but continuing it is absolutely the wrong course. What you and the rest of the Faculty must realize is that your number one job is educating students not writing papers. If you have a problem with this: quit, stop taking student tuition money, and peddle your papers.

    The school is an absolute mess right now because the administration and the faculty are misguided and or completely apathetic. Most of the faculty has no idea what it means to practice law, they just think they are smarter than everyone else because A) they didn’t go to Miami Law and B) they have not practiced law or gained any other real world experience that would challenge the ideas they espouse. (Care to debate a far-right torture loving dean that won’t work here?) You have to realize that the Law School operates at lower standards, and that this causes the students and alumni to resent the faculty/administration arrogance.

    If you don’t “trust” me, think about how much malpractice the law school has committed if it were held to real law firm standards. If you can’t think of any, let me suggest a few:

    1. This week, while taking a final exam I opened up a blue book and found that another person in a different class had already filled it out. Blind Grading Number 210499, in Contracts section AE– You are going to be screwed, call me if you need a witness.

    2. This is particularly galling since the registrar lost the exams in the same class last semester too.

    3. Student organizations do not keep accounts with the school since the school has proven to be absolutely incapable of keeping an accurate accounting.

    4. I realize keeping outside accounts is against the student code of conduct, but if the rumors are true the administration didn’t punish a student who stole tens of thousands of dollars from the same office since it was too embarrassing, so I think the honest student officers should be fine.

    5. The law school blew the deadline on turning in student registration forms for an out of state job fair.

    6. Also consider the more run of the mill situations where the Professor does not know the material he is teaching. If the professor is going to stay a chapter ahead in the book, we may as well hire Miami-Dade public school teachers since they to the same job much cheaper.

    While malpractice and incompetence are trivial to an academic that has no interest in trying real cases or working on real legal matters, they mean a whole lot to students and alumni – the real lawyers. And this is exactly why we do not need an academic as a dean.

    I believe your comment “A local lawyer is not going to have much of an edge in getting our students local jobs (and a former judge even less so).” highlights your lack of familiarity with the Miami legal community. How many jobs have you gotten for students? Now think about how many Cesar Alvarez has. I continuously see students attending bar functions, inns of court, important conferences etc. and I rarely if ever see professors there.

    This flows into your next point about training the incoming dean, what the heck do you or any tenured professor know about managing a Miami construction project? Mayor Carlos Alvarez was asked about the potential law school move downtown about a month after it was announced to the student body. He publicly said it was a stupid idea and that was the first he had heard of it. Since nobody talked to him, I will assume that there is NO experience on the law school faculty in dealing with Miami construction projects. To think that anyone on the faculty could train a well connected Miami lawyer on dealing with developers or the city is just foolish arrogance.

    The only experience the faculty has as far as I can tell is redoing the faculty lounge in a more seasonable color scheme and replacing the perfectly fine laminate countertops with granite. While this looks fine, I think that the school would be better served by installing functioning copying machines and printers for non-law review students and fixing the urinal on the second floor that has overflowed for the past 3 years. The faculty’s judgment is no better that Tyco’s $12,000 shower curtain and I gravely fear any input the faculty would have in a new facility.

    You “are — sorry to be so blunt — dead wrong.” A real lawyer is exactly what we need.

  19. observer says:

    “Dont ask me for money”‘s comments ring true. As a practitioner here in Miami, the only thing I ever hear about UM’s law school is how disconnected the faculty is from the student body. Keep these students in mind as you make your administrative decisions in the next few months. Your school’s reputation is taking a nose-dive. The least you can do is to throw your students a few parachutes. They certainly pay enough to deserve that.

  20. Michael says:

    Re: “don’t ask me for money”. I’m sorry you feel so bitter, but glad that you are willing to engage in this forum at least.

    Our faculty’s mission, like that of every other good (not to mention great) law school, has three major components. Teaching is crucial, but it is not the entire mission. Scholarship and service are the other two legs of the stool.

    If students don’t like that, there are de facto trade schools out there where they don’t expect a scholarly faculty. For some strange reason, though, the market values those diplomas considerably less than those of the schools that see scholarship as part of their mission. None of that is any justification to stint on teaching, but nor is it grounds to block scholarship. If you look at the schools that don’t enable their faculty’s scholarship, I think you see, in the main, schools where the students don’t have access to top teaching either. (Yes, this is a broad generalization and yes there is both good an appalling teaching all over.) When things are going right all three elements of the mission go hand in hand. There’s no question in my mind that my teaching — particularly in Internet Law — is fueled by my scholarship. I could not do it otherwise. [And just last night I met a student from my 1996 Internet law class who told me how much the paper he wrote that year had helped his subsequent career. It’s online, and he still gets interview requests and clients because of it.]

    Many of your other points in the main seem to me to support my belief that one of our important concerns is the nuts and bolts of administration (note that blue book handling is done by registrars, or their assistants, not professors, and that financial matters — at least any that involve faculty, and I’d bet students too — are all handled at the University level and thus we have less control then you believe we actually have and I believe we should have). Incidentally, when you see something bad, I hope you report it — how else will things get corrected otherwise?

    No one asked me about the awful countertops (and I agree they are awful!!!), although we did get asked about colors for the chairs at one point, but I doubt anyone cared — decor was done by some staff person I suppose — and while I am flattered by your vision of an all-powerful faculty, we don’t repair toilets either.

    Your point about construction experience, however, is well-taken: that’s why one thing on my wish list for my ideal Dean is experience in law school building. That is, I admit, a very rare and specialized thing, nothing like homes or offices, and it is hard to find, and may not be available. I don’t think we did such a great job on our last building project, partly because money was very very tight (we built the last building for less than a tenth — a tenth! — of what one distant middle-ranked law school spent on its building that same year). But the good news is that I’ve met the new architects and they seem to come from a much better planet than the old ones, so whoever gets landed with this task is going to have really first-class people to work with. It was refreshing.

    This isn’t the place to talk about torture, but I have written a lot on this blog about it, and would be prepared — happy isn’t quite the word — to debate a war criminal or a fellow traveler if the situation presented itself.

    Finally, I invite you take one of my classes. There are indeed days when there is someone in the room who is not prepared for class — but it’s never me.

  21. Go Democrats says:

    Good job “Don’t ask me for money” I think you really put Froomkin in his place, and on the defensive.

    If I was your Dean, the first person I would release from the administration is Froomkin a.k.a. Mr. Disrespectful himself. Surely there would be an instant jump in UM’s national ranking.

    But then again, who am I, I only made more money than him in my first year out of law school. That may or may not give me standing to make such comments.

  22. Student II says:

    I’ll say up front that I see no reason to get rid of faculty scholarship and I agree with Prof. Froomkin that it is an important facet of the school’s function.

    That said, however, I think that faculty – not just in law schools – seem to lose track of what their mission is. Prof. Froomkin mentions “trade schools” as if they are lesser schools, worthy only of the small-minded (there’s that subtle liberal snobbery and racism of low expectations rearing its ugly head again!), but law school IS a trade school. It has very little other purpose in regards to its students than to create lawyers for the ever-increasing law machine. Sure, some graduates, either immediately, or eventually, go into other lines of work, but virtually nobody, I would venture, goes into law school with the idea that it’s just a nice education to have, while really planning on being a history teacher, a chef, or something. It’s no more of an educational lark than Med School is!

    Which makes you wonder what the scholarship is really for?

    One obvious possibility is to better the Law. One day, somebody who does real law work for a living, might read a professor’s work, and get a law passed, or change a statute, or create new law from the bench based on it, etc. We can’t underestimate that possibility and scholarship is often the cause of these changes.

    Another possibility, is to increase the prestige of the school. It could be that someone, somewhere, for whatever reason, is evaluating UM, and uses some scholarship metric as a basis. Maybe someone from the other side of the country, that’s never heard of the place, is thinking of hiring someone that went there. Whatever…

    But another possibility, and I think a big reason, is that scholarship is the university professor pecking order contest. It’s a major way that professors follow and rate eachother. Whether or not anything Professor Froomkin has ever written has had any effect in the world (and I’m sure something has), beyond that immediate effect – almost nobody cares what he does scholarship-wise. Or any other professor. Real lawyers are not all sitting around wondering what is going to happen with Professor Yoo, and among real non-lawyers, maybe 20 people in the world even knows who he is, outside of his family.

    Scholarship is valuable, for many reasons, but don’t start thinking that it’s more important than it is, or that somehow a law school that engages in more real-life training is somehow just a lowly trade school, only worthy of the lower classes. A better balance must be struck. UM has 400-450 students per class, and no where near enough spaces for the 800-900 upperclassmen to take in any great number the very few spaces alloted for skills-based classes. How many 2L’s and 3L’s are forced to take highly specialized classes that may never serve them at all unless they actually go into that specific field, while they wait semester after semester to get into Mediation, which is under-offered?

    There’s a lot of talk at UM (and probably other schools) about “teaching you to think like a lawyer,” as if legal thinking is somehow different a better than “regular people” thinking. It didn’t take me long to realize that it’s all hype. It’s just thinking like OTHER smart people, who have complex jobs, think. It’s just careful thinking and real people in real jobs do it every day. But I think that the law-professor-created self-delusion that lawyers are somehow smarter than everyone else (and not just trained in a complex skill), serves the further delusion that there is somehow, something that is above mere training, something that requires a special mind with special abilities; that lawyering and hence teaching, is about complex, nuanced thinking about deep subjects that other people can’t and don’t think about. So the delusion supports the idea that scholarship is of HUGE, rather than normal importance, and shifts the focus away from doing the job of a law school, which is majorly, turning out young lawyers.

    Having more faculty, and yes, maybe even a Dean, from the outside world, may be a better situation for balance and real-world training than currently exists and may in fact RAISE the school’s reputation for turning out good, solid, first year associates, which in the end is its purpose. The only real reason it would be doomed to failure is that cloistered, tenured, and sometimes immature, law professors, who now are IN CHARGE of the asylum, like Varuca Salt, don’t want anybody telling them what to do. A situation faced by every other professional in the world. I think professors would be surprised how much creative thinking is spurred on by the possibility to get fired, and how much freedom of thought really exists in an environment where creative thinking means $$$.

    Maybe the fact that some students here on this blog, and many who attend the school otherwise, think the place needs a major housecleaning, should warrant more investigation, rather than an avuncular pat on the head and an admonishment not to worry,that you know what’s best for us, and I mean it’s not like we’re some trade school…

  23. Former Student says:

    Well if the next Dean doesn’t do something to help our reputation (yes US News rankings matter), we’re soon going to be considered one of ‘those’ trade schools.

  24. Michael says:

    I think “Student II” left out one of the major reasons why if you are a student you want your professor doing scholarship (and if you are an employer you want to hire her/his students): doing original work makes it much more likely that the prof is up to date – or even at the bleeding edge – of the profession. That makes for much better classes and better trained graudates.

    FWIW, I do think “Student II” is wrong about “thinking like a lawyer”. It is different; it is a learned skill. I had a fair amount of training varying in rigorous thinking styles before law school (working as a computer programmer, and two years of grad school in other subjects), but I believe that the thinking style I was introduced to in law school, and only began to really perfect a couple of years afterwards, is very different from any method of reasoning I had previously encountered.

    This isn’t exactly a smarts issue, although smarts surely help. “Thinking like a lawyer” can be done by anyone with smarts beyond some minimum threshold. Indeed, I’ve met some incredibly smart people who were flunking out of law school because they just couldn’t bring themselves to think that way. (I call them “poets” only partly as a joke.) Conversely, some highly competent lawyers are not necessarily the sharpest pencil in the stack, although they’re not idiots by any stretch. It’s a broad, diverse world.

    “Thinking like a lawyer” is somewhat artificial. It involves learning a new terminology, almost a new language, becoming familiar with legal talismans, and also acquiring new reasoning styles. To give just one simple example in how many other walks of life is an argument’s persuasiveness so related to who made it? Yet what the Supreme Court, the District Court, and an important treatise say all carry significantly different amounts of weight, which itself might vary with the particular subject.

    Your penultimate point, that tenure should be abolished in universities, is part of a conversation many people have had, and one I’m not that interested in re-hashing here. My opinion, if you care, is that you’d never get the kind of talent you get now for the salaries you pay now — less than a first year associate in a top firm — without tenure and the freedom from intellectual oppression it represents. (Want to double salaries and tuition? We can talk.) Most of us took big actual pay cuts to come here and even bigger cuts to our expected earnings.

    There is a genuine deadwood problem in academia, although an economist would probably find it irrationally small. But the best solution to that problem isn’t to destroy the professoriate. (Also measuring creativity is hard. Places like the UK that have tried to introduce performance metrics end up doing two things that are clearly bad: measuring things like page counts and number of articles rather than quality, and generating a whole raft of forms that need to be filled out and tabulated.)

    My own life experience teaches me without doubt that freedom of thought will not flourish in an atmosphere where senior people are able to exercise crushing power on their juniors — who are most often the ones with the big ideas. (I note, “Student II”, that you are not posting by name. Perhaps you share this intuition?) Conversely, a policy of tossing senior colleagues out if they stop publishing would be in many cases incredibly stupid because they can be a font of wisdom and experience. Consider, for example, the case of Minnette Massey, who just retired. I don’t think she was publishing much recently, but who would have dared to suggest she wasn’t a valuable and valued member of the faculty? A great faculty carries a mix and tries for balance.

    On your last point, I like the idea of using this blog to invite suggestions for things the new Dean should do. Once we have one in place, I’ll try to start that conversation. But if you can’t stand to wait, fire away.

    (I’ll be away for the weekend, so forgive me if I’m not able to respond for a while. Not sure what sort of Internet access, or time, I’ll have.)

  25. Professor Froomkin, you hit the nail on the head, you are not responsible of the nuts and bolts administration, but unfortunately nobody else is either. When people have their own businesses (i.e. any law partner) they learn that they have to go beyond their written job description and take on tasks that are necessary for the business to function.

    Nobody at the law school takes responsibility for these things. Whose job is it to make sure that the law school budget office keeps accurate records or the registrar does not lose exams and student files? I would think the Dean, but Lynch and Coker are lame ducks and don’t care. The faculty should stand up and correct these problems themselves- if the faculty wants partner like authority, they should have partner like responsibilities. If you don’t think the faculty has partnership power then why does the next Dean need “significant buy-in from the team?”

    However there are numerous screw-ups committed by faculty too:

    1. Last semester nobody coordinated the Legal Research and Writing Assignments so that all first year students could compete fairly in the 1L moot court competition, despite pleas by the moot court board. This was a clear failure by Professor ostensibly in charge of the program, who has incidentally screwed up the page limits on his final exam for the past dozen years.

    A local Federal Judge begins her interviews of Miami students with “ I have been burned by Miami grads before because they just cannot write, how are you different?” – Do you have any idea how embarrassed that makes me feel? Why on earth does no amount of criticism by the students, alumni and judiciary ever get through to the faculty that the professor running the LRW program is completely incapable of handling it?

    Part of the reason might be that the school has never sought empirical feedback from the students. There was a survey a couple of years ago, however it asked questions like “Are you in the day or evening program?” – since Miami has not had an evening program in years, I can safely assume nobody ever bothered to read it carefully. Also, we could only submit answers, by clicking 1-5 with no space for written feedback. As for this ballyhooed “Strategic Plan’s” and its “valuable student-centered initiatives” the faculty keeps talking about, have the students ever seen it or had any input? Not as far as I can tell, although someone may have asked a handful of select students to take a look at it, which counts for the student body’s input at the University of Miami.

    2. As far as I can tell the academic standards committee has never coordinated grade distributions which prevents Miami students from simultaneously obtaining high honors and learning the material. Last semester in Business Associations Levi’s students learned the material thoroughly and the class average was a 2.6 (I think) and Crusto’s students did not and the class average was a (3.8) (I think). As it stands now, students going out of town need to take Robinson, Graham and Langbein instead of Widen, Blatt, Bascuas and Urice, since we assured of getting better grades even though we learn less. Fortunately, many local firms know which professors & classes to look for and exclude from consideration anyone taking Law Lawyers and Film (I think that is why Valdez changed the name of his movie watching class.) or 16 credits of graded children and youth law or Langbein.

    Does the Faculty correct any of these problems? No, not in years. And I assume that any attempt to correct these problems is not “buying-in” with the unfirable inmates running the asylum. I believe Fran Hill, who is brilliant by the way, tried to change this and she was forced out as the director of the tax LLM program.

    I came to law school because I wanted to become a lawyer. So for me and many other students law school is a trade school. I resent the fact that many if not all of the faculty disrespect this. I would like to learn material that will allow me pay back my student loans and permit me to support a family. However these types of courses are not emphasized or respected at the University of Miami. Anti-trust is taught by someone who’s only experience in the field seems to be writing a paper on it in a second rate journal a dozen years ago. The students summering at the DOJ Anti-trust Division say the course is a waste of time. A Tax professor (who also teaches trusts and estates) did not know if it was possible to set-up a multigenerational trust that skipped death taxes – this is the type of incompetence I was talking about in my prior post.

    Instead of getting tenured professors that can teach us these sorts of subjects or even construction litigation, and Florida practice and procedure (the types of work most grads will eventually get) we hire professors that write about Critical Race Theory, Lat Crit, Law and Social Justice, Shakespeare and the Law and a bunch of other hooey. Maybe these courses have a place at Harvard or Yale where students can really take whatever they want and still make $160,000 on Wall Street or become a Professor, but that is not the case at Miami. Miami students will NEVER become professors, I think now that Massey has retired after 57 years; there is no tenured faculty member who is a Miami Law graduate. (Please correct me if I am wrong, is Lennon tenured?) If the Miami Faculty does not believe in its students enough to hire them, what other school will?

    While I believe that teaching is absolutely the first priority for professors- that is what students are paying $37k/ yr for, I will concede that there is a place for writing and scholarship – it is to boost the prestige of the law school and keep the professors up to date. However, this rationale does not hold up at the University of Miami. Numerous professors do not write about the areas of law they teach (I have not looked at the exact numbers, but the next dean should.) so their paper writing is useless in that regard and secondly the reputation of the school is so low that a few papers are not going to make a difference.

    I never understood how a professor knows if they are on the “leading edge” of the law if they don’t practice it? It sounds like a virgin bragging about his sexual prowess to me. Numerous professors have extolled the virtues of legal theories in class that have been tried and rejected, but not mentioned that they have been rejected. Professor Jones and the Baldus survey comes to mind as do racial quotas in university admissions. It’s not the cutting edge of the law; it is rehashed belly-aching.

    Two Southern District Judges came to speak at the Law school about clerkships. The professor moderating the panel editorialized every answer the judges gave and continuously criticized the government, the judiciary and the President that appointed one of the judges, while extolling the virtues of hairy fairy scholarship. – No paper that this professor writes can overcome the damage his rudeness caused to the schools reputation.

    Also, the Dean of Students/ Registrar has no problem sending out explanatory notes about lost exams, files, unentered grades etc. to hiring partners and bar associations. Acknowledging that the school is incompetent to these people does more damage to the schools reputation (Aren’t these people US News voters, for god sake?) than any paper could possibly boost it. It certainly does not help future students get jobs.

    Additionally, how many Miami professors write the types of articles that actually effect policy and ever have caused a change in a government law or regulation? Sure, Oxman, Widen and a couple of others do ( I have not read yours, so I cannot comment on it.) but most Miami faculty “scholarship” is SSRN chatter between academics that professors cite and laud to boost their friends rankings and gain tenure but has absolutely no effect on policy makers. Some of it is so extreme (and ignores so much precedent) that policy makers and students don’t even bother to respond to it.

    At this point, focusing on faculty scholarship is like taking an aspirin after being shot – absolutely useless unless you can stop the bleeding, and most likely counterproductive.

  26. Michael says:

    Just about to run out, so I’ll be telegraphic and incomplete. There’s some stuff of merit in the above, but there are several gross factual errors that I thought I should correct.

    * The school routinely DOES seek and get feedback from students in several different modes, including surveys run by outsiders. (You might, more fairly, ask if it responds to the results sufficiently. The strategic plan seeks to do just that, but I think the recent history in this area leaves something to be desired — which is why it’s in the plan.)

    * Fran Hill was not forced out of anything in the tax LLM — she chose to leave off directing it, which given how long she’d done this administrative task is hardly surprising. But if she’d wanted to stay, I’m certain she could have.

    * It’s a gross canard to suggest that Dean Coker is either a lame duck or doesn’t care. She’ll almost certainly be the Associate Dean for some period into the next regime (that’s traditional). And I know she cares. Dean Lynch is I guess fair to call a lame duck at this point, but even so, have you told him about this stuff?

    A few other random comments:

    * We have a substantial number of alums in teaching. I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten the number, but I saw a list or a number a few years ago and it was big enough to make me happy about it given the amazing lock that the top 10 (and especially top 5) law schools’ graduates have on the teaching market. I don’t know if we have a tenured UM law grad on the faculty at present (but then I didn’t know Minnette was one until she retired, it’s not the thing I care about in colleagues), although I know we have at least one who started here, then transferred. We do have a very large number of first-class adjuncts — really first-class — who are our graduates.

    * We could impose a curve on all classes, but that has its own unfairnesses — and never more so when hard classes are graded like easy ones, or when the class attracts a group of especially able students (imposing a curve on the other extreme, lots of slackers, would be unfair too, were it to occur). I personally like being able to tell my students in all honesty that I hope they all get A’s, and am prepared to give as many as they earn.

    * Writing quality by our graduates is in my opinion one of the largest issues we face in our teaching and curricular design. I should write a whole post on it some day. It’s not a problem unique to us, not by any means, but it is no less our problem for that. I’m proud to have persuaded the faculty to agree in the strategic plan to try some pretty radical stuff to do something about writing. But because it is radical it will take a little time to organize. And, I’m pretty sure that even if it is effective it won’t be very popular.

    * I do both policy oriented scholarship and stuff more removed from policy; sometimes, the latter can become the former in time… I don’t believe that all legal scholarship should be policy-oriented, although I do have some personal taste for it. I do think a great law school must have a good sized portion of that–but not only that.

    * I think your characterization of UM faculty scholarship is wrong. But here’s the interesting question: How would we test our differing intuitions in a fair way?

    See you Monday.

  27. Student II says:

    You said:

    “’Thinking like a lawyer’ is somewhat artificial. It involves learning a new terminology, almost a new language, becoming familiar with legal talismans, and also acquiring new reasoning styles. To give just one simple example in how many other walks of life is an argument’s persuasiveness so related to who made it? Yet what the Supreme Court, the District Court, and an important treatise say all carry significantly different amounts of weight, which itself might vary with the particular subject.”

    This is “thinking like a lawyer?” No wonder I think it doesn’t exist as a separate discipline, it clearly doesn’t. This all describes “regular” thinking – the fact that anyone would believe otherwise is a bit scary really. Don’t you think everyone in everyday life has to parse information, decide what’s important and what’s not, and decide whose information might carry more import even if what everyone says makes sense? What you are describing is a combination of smarts and particularized trade skills. By your definition, it really can be reasonably said that everybody thinks like a something, since everyone has their own professional secret decoder ring and their own priorities to respond to. But thinking that, successfully makes it all worthless by making it all the same, which hardly seems like your goal. No, either there is no such thing as thinking like a lawyer as a discreet and unique discipline, or it is singularly indescribable.

    You then said:

    “My own life experience teaches me without doubt that freedom of thought will not flourish in an atmosphere where senior people are able to exercise crushing power on their juniors — who are most often the ones with the big ideas.”

    Sadly, this is a very typical view of the world held by a lot of modern liberals. Modern liberalism is largely based on this paranoid view of the world. It’s a real shame. I shudder to think how many lives have been wasted as a result of their “leadership” teaching them not to bother trying, since The Man is just out to get them anyway. I wonder where the real oppression is?

    Life is full of examples of people who flourished in crushing environments, overcame their problems, and did better for themselves in ways maybe only they fully appreciate. I know a woman, about your age, that just recently learned to read and more recently passed her driver’s exam. She’s not an immigrant, just an American that lost her way early in life. Yet I can’t say as I’ve met many nicer, happier persons. Clearly, as a person on the low-end of America’s totem pole, she didn’t find her freedom of thought so crushed as you, one of America’s more privileged sons. I suggest that the “need” for tenure is more a need for perspective.

  28. “My own life experience teaches me without doubt that freedom of thought will not flourish in an atmosphere where senior people are able to exercise crushing power on their juniors — who are most often the ones with the big ideas.”

    Does this extend to students as well or just junior faculty? Some of the brightest comments and observations I have seen in all of law school were by the students- not the faculty. Miami should do what George Mason does and recognize students that write and are published (and the faculty that go out of their way to facilitate it) – just one of many many many differences between a descending and an ascending law school.

  29. The Man of a Million Faces says:

    1. Don’t ask me for money- who are you and why aren’t you the student rep on the faculty search and dean’s search committee? Hell, why aren’t you the SBA president? Are you a 1L?

    2. Miami is tanking. Tanking. The race to the bottom isn’t finished. Everyone is really angry. Among the 3Ls, I think there is a feeling of “thank god it’s over and I can get out of this TTTTTTTT dump.” The sentiment is, I think, a bit more bitter amongst the 2Ls, as they are merely 2/3 of the way through this whole fiasco but have realized “it’s too late to turn back now.” Not too long ago I saw a fellow 2L turn a table over on the Bricks because he was THAT angry with the registrar’s office. Most 1Ls are clueless as to the maelstrom of non-interviews that awaits them, the barren wilderness of an OCI process in a what top law firms call (charitably) a “non-target institution.” So, let’s get a practitioner in here. Let’s make this a target institution. Let’s talk less about such are-you-kidding-me topics as “We Must Be Hunters of Meaning”: Race, Metaphor, and the Models of Steven Winter, 67 Brook. L. Rev. 1071 (2002).[Jones], Queering Sexual Orientation: A Call to Theory as Praxis, in Strange Bedfellows: Queer and Feminist Legal Theories (Martha Fineman, ed., forthcoming 2008).[Valdes] and a little more about motion practice, complex litigation, and remedies. Less “law at the margins”, more law at the core. we are not Harvard.

    3. why, oh why, can’t this law school get its act together and take some steps forward along with the rest of this great university, a university that is only getting better and better. The undergrad, med, and biz schools are all growing, pulling in outstanding faculty, developing/acquiring great facilities. Law, by contrast, has a large number of faculty vacancies, loses promising faculty like Vladeck (and maybe Crusto?), and seems to be stuck in an intellectual ghetto dominated by the specter of Karl Llewellyn. Further, the Dean’s Search committee: a) got off to FAR too late of a start (what the hell took so long?); and b) has, to this point, presented to the student body a “short list” of candidates that is laughable. One comes from Drexler (a law school that was accredited around 45 minutes ago) and she has not held an academic post for a continuous period in excess of, I think, 3 years. Nice “vision for the future.” Another, Linda Greene, completely lacks command presence and, by her own admission in a meeting with students in the student lounge, said something to the effect that she has a hard time listening to other people’s input when it comes to the decision-making process.

    what?

    Jonathan Simon (a candidate who looks OUTSTANDING on paper and has been favorably reviewed by his students in California) is a former UM prof. Thus, one is only left to wonder with him—- will it be more of the same old? Of course, we didn’t get a chance to ask him that since the search committee couldn’t get out of first gear for 6 months and Simon then ended up being able to visit during finals and no one saw him. Blown opp for the one decent candidate to establish an initial connection with the student body. This whole dean search process has resembled the way in which Mom used to hold out a PB&J sandwich or a Tuna sandwich- take your pick from the mere illusion of choice!

    One can only wonder who was on the long list.

    4. I agree fully with Don’t Ask’s comment re: the faculty disconnect/lack of respect for students. There are students at UM Law who attended TOP undergraduate universities, have held prestigious jobs in the private sector, worked for the government, etc. and on one particular day in June they got 160s on the LSAT and didn’t end up taking Elements at Chicago instead of here. The disdain with which SOME but not ALL of our faculty addresses our students is atrocious. Too many instances to detail here but *Don’t Ask* surely can provide a few. The attitude can be summed up as: “Students, you’re invited to the dinner party but please please please don’t talk.” (Note: this is NOT applicable to teachers of clinics, Lit Skills or anything else run by actual practitioners of law, that is, people who have hit the pavement for the last 20 or 30 years DOING law, representing clients, and working in the public interest.)

    My favorite patronizing quote from an administrator: “Id enjoy a broad-based and open discussion of this, and other issues, with you IN THE FUTURE.”

    5. I just refuse to buy this line about the over-admission of the massive 1L class, that it was somehow ‘mere coincidence’ that a school which is entirely tuition-driven (as opposed to endowment-driven like HYSC etc) somehow “accidentally” admitted 500 1Ls. This conveniently coincides with a 5% tuition increase. (I understand this increase was market but as our national rep takes a dive, we have to reconsider what “market” means for us.)

    Don’t ask me for money- don’t worry about being asked for money since the administration is well aware that none of us will get anything but PD jobs or some other sub-$40k work for the Gub’mint. Oh and about those student loans- you used to be able to discharge those through bankruptcy but our current (U.S.) Prez and his cronies thought that was bad. So you’re stuck with those. Sorry, and thanks for playing.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’ve got outside the scope of direct. Hire a practitioner. No one gives a hell about us outside south Florida so we don’t need to kid ourselves about making a contribution to the la-dee-da esoteric minutiae discussion. Get someone in here with a ton of local connections, put the butts in the faculty seats and move the chains.

    It took me a long time to think about and write this and to decide if I should post it. In a certain sense, Prof. Froomkin, I applaud you for putting your thoughts out there when you know you’ll be subjected to an assault by really pissed off students in an entirely anonymous space. It does take some courage to do that and at least somebody is brave enough to do it without forestalling to a “broad-based discussion of this and other issues in the future.”

  30. The Man of a Million Faces says:

    1. Don’t ask me for money- who are you and why aren’t you the student rep on the faculty search and dean’s search committee? Hell, why aren’t you the SBA president? Are you a 1L?

    2. Miami is tanking. Tanking. The race to the bottom isn’t finished. Everyone is really angry. Among the 3Ls, I think there is a feeling of “thank god it’s over and I can get out of this TTTTTTTT dump.” The sentiment is, I think, a bit more bitter amongst the 2Ls, as they are merely 2/3 of the way through this whole fiasco but have realized “it’s too late to turn back now.” Not too long ago I saw a fellow 2L turn a table over on the Bricks because he was THAT angry with the registrar’s office. Most 1Ls are clueless as to the maelstrom of non-interviews that awaits them, the barren wilderness of an OCI process in a what top law firms call (charitably) a “non-target institution.” So, let’s get a practitioner in here. Let’s make this a target institution. Let’s talk less about such are-you-kidding-me topics as “We Must Be Hunters of Meaning”: Race, Metaphor, and the Models of Steven Winter, 67 Brook. L. Rev. 1071 (2002).[Jones], Queering Sexual Orientation: A Call to Theory as Praxis, in Strange Bedfellows: Queer and Feminist Legal Theories (Martha Fineman, ed., forthcoming 2008).[Valdes] and a little more about motion practice, complex litigation, and remedies. Less “law at the margins”, more law at the core. we are not Harvard.

    3. why, oh why, can’t this law school get its act together and take some steps forward along with the rest of this great university, a university that is only getting better and better. The undergrad, med, and biz schools are all growing, pulling in outstanding faculty, developing/acquiring great facilities. Law, by contrast, has a large number of faculty vacancies, loses promising faculty like Vladeck (and maybe Crusto?), and seems to be stuck in an intellectual ghetto dominated by the specter of Karl Llewellyn. Further, the Dean’s Search committee: a) got off to FAR too late of a start (what the hell took so long?); and b) has, to this point, presented to the student body a “short list” of candidates that is laughable. One comes from Drexler (a law school that was accredited around 45 minutes ago) and she has not held an academic post for a continuous period in excess of, I think, 3 years. Nice “vision for the future.” Another, Linda Greene, completely lacks command presence and, by her own admission in a meeting with students in the student lounge, said something to the effect that she has a hard time listening to other people’s input when it comes to the decision-making process.

    what?

    Jonathan Simon (a candidate who looks OUTSTANDING on paper and has been favorably reviewed by his students in California) is a former UM prof. Thus, one is only left to wonder with him—- will it be more of the same old? Of course, we didn’t get a chance to ask him that since the search committee couldn’t get out of first gear for 6 months and Simon then ended up being able to visit during finals and no one saw him. Blown opp for the one decent candidate to establish an initial connection with the student body. This whole dean search process has resembled the way in which Mom used to hold out a PB&J sandwich or a Tuna sandwich- take your pick from the mere illusion of choice!

    One can only wonder who was on the long list.

    4. I agree fully with Don’t Ask’s comment re: the faculty disconnect/lack of respect for students. There are students at UM Law who attended TOP undergraduate universities, have held prestigious jobs in the private sector, worked for the government, etc. and on one particular day in June they got 160s on the LSAT and didn’t end up taking Elements at Chicago instead of here. The disdain with which SOME but not ALL of our faculty addresses our students is atrocious. Too many instances to detail here but *Don’t Ask* surely can provide a few. The attitude can be summed up as: “Students, you’re invited to the dinner party but please please please don’t talk.” (Note: this is NOT applicable to teachers of clinics, Lit Skills or anything else run by actual practitioners of law, that is, people who have hit the pavement for the last 20 or 30 years DOING law, representing clients, and working in the public interest.)

    My favorite patronizing quote from an administrator: “Id enjoy a broad-based and open discussion of this, and other issues, with you IN THE FUTURE.”

    5. I just refuse to buy this line about the over-admission of the massive 1L class, that it was somehow ‘mere coincidence’ that a school which is entirely tuition-driven (as opposed to endowment-driven like HYSC etc) somehow “accidentally” admitted 500 1Ls. This conveniently coincides with a 5% tuition increase. (I understand this increase was market but as our national rep takes a dive, we have to reconsider what “market” means for us.)

    Don’t ask me for money- don’t worry about being asked for money since the administration is well aware that none of us will get anything but PD jobs or some other sub-$40k work for the Gub’mint. Oh and about those student loans- you used to be able to discharge those through bankruptcy but our current (U.S.) Prez and his cronies thought that was bad. So you’re stuck with those. Sorry, and thanks for playing.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I’ve got outside the scope of direct. Hire a practitioner. No one gives a hell about us outside south Florida so we don’t need to kid ourselves about making a contribution to the la-dee-da esoteric minutiae discussion. Get someone in here with a ton of local connections, put the butts in the faculty seats and move the chains.

    It took me a long time to think about and write this and to decide if I should post it. In a certain sense, Prof. Froomkin, I applaud you for putting your thoughts out there when you know you’ll be subjected to an assault by really pissed off students in an entirely anonymous space. It does take some courage to do that and at least somebody is brave enough to do it without forestalling to a “broad-based discussion of this and other issues in the future.”

  31. michael says:

    To Ms/Mr Faces:

    re: 1. Recall that the Search committee is chosen by Donna Shalala, not by the law faculty. Complaints as to its composition should be directed there. (And I have some – why no alumni rep this time like there was last time? There is a student member though.)

    re: 2. If we’re going to do this exercise, not that there’s much point to it, let’s do it right: Let’s first define a methodology — which surely would require (1) defining terms, and then (2) reading articles as well as looking at the titles — and apply it to all the faculty’s work over a year or two, or to some truly random sample, not just two articles selected from the volume of publications in a six year period!, and then (3) comparing them to a top-N law school. But of course if we did it this way it wouldn’t support your argument, would it? Especially since the faculty at the very top law school do a lot less of the very practice-centered scholarship you seem to think is what we’re missing.

    re: 3. Mich Crusto was a visitor for a year. I’m glad you liked him, since I chaired the committee that invited him for a visit. But his return to his home institution isn’t a “loss”, but rather the natural order of things.

    The Dean Search committee indeed got off to a very late start, but that’s because just after being appointed the first Chair discovered she had cancer and had to be treated, which messed up the schedule. (We eventually got a new Chair.) Sometimes life happens. I don’t think you can really blame this on anyone.

    re: 4 You want to talk about arrogant and out of touch? Let’s start with your patronizing attitude to a really good crop of Dean candidates. I think all three of the candidates who have been here for visits are serious people who bring valuable skills and experience, and compare surprisingly well with Deans being hired elsewhere this year. As you might expect since none is a sitting Dean, none of them has the full range of skills and experience of the hypothetical ideal candidate, so it’s partly a question of which missing part is best suited for on-the-job training. (Note that repeat Deans are outnumbered by first-time Deans, so this is far from an unusual problem.) As for your comments about Drexel (not “Drexler”) — it’s a startup law school. That means the people there have had to build everything from scratch and think about everything instead of taking it for granted. You might see that as a huge plus. I do. (Not to mention that this candidate has the most experience with student-centered issues at her prior law school (where she was tenured for much longer than three years!) — which you might also see as a huge plus?)

    As for your proposal that we narrow our ambitions to South Florida practice, and only hire faculty who think and act local, this is a recipe for disaster. (Note the word “only” — there’s always a need for some people with predominantly local interests in your mix.) Nothing would be more certain to discourage out of state applicants, and out of state employers. You think your USN ranking is bad now? Just do that and watch it sink. I’m happy that the folks we hired this year have grand ambitions. They’ll be good for us.

    re: 5. Thank you for the plaudit. It may surprise you to learn that the current draft of the strategic plan (it’s only a draft until our next Dean has a chance to approve it) commits the faculty to opening an electronic forum for the law school community, although it leaves open a lot of issues that need to be resolved before it gets off the ground (will it be a bulletin board? a Dean’s blog with comments? Or student-run like the newspaper? Or faculty & administrator run with student help?)

    And finally, perhaps you’d like to say a word or two about why you think you and/or other students feel a need to be pseudonymous. Given that the law school uses blind grading, how do you think using your name will hurt you?

    This takes me to the preceding comment by “Don’t ask me for money”. You’ll not be surprised to hear that I think students sometimes need protecting too, although in my experience the occasions for it have been thankfully rare. But it seems you will be surprised to learn that our students do publish law review articles elsewhere, and we’re pretty happy about it. I have students writing publishable work almost every year; I encourage them to send it out and some take the trouble to do so (unfortunately, some don’t bother to do that last draft necessary to turn an A paper into a publishable paper — that’s their choice). I know other profs do the same. I don’t think we have a central registry for student work published in other law reviews, so that’s something we should work on so that this won’t be a surprise in the future.

  32. This is in response to Don’t Ask Me for Money’s posting on May 9. DAMFM seems to be a student, and s/he asserts some complaints about our UM School of Law. As Dean of Students, I want to take the opportunity to respond to the six examples that he posted online last week.

    1. This week, while taking a final exam I opened up a blue book and found that another person in a different class had already filled it out. Blind Grading Number 210499, in Contracts section AE– You are going to be screwed, call me if you need a witness.

    DAMFM–I have checked with the Law Registrar. There was no Section AE in Contracts. However, we went back and found the exam for the BGN that you listed, and I can assure you that this student submitted a complete exam. Perhaps the student had labeled an additional exam for scrap paper…don’t know about that…but I want to put your mind at ease that the exam was complete and secure.

    2. This is particularly galling since the registrar lost the exams in the same class last semester too.

    DAMFM–I have no record of any lost exams in the Fall, 2007 Semester. In fact, the instances of any lost exams are extremely rare at our law school, and in the rare instances where they have occurred historically, generally involved problems in the transport of the exams but were not the fault of the law registrar. Our current top challenge is ensuring that all online exams download and print properly but so far we are doing great at reconciling the online exams too.

    3. Student organizations do not keep accounts with the school since the school has proven to be absolutely incapable of keeping an accurate accounting.

    DAMFM–I work closely with all student leaders through the Inter-Club Council, and we have made many improvements to the ways that student organizations are accessing funds. But they MUST maintain their accounts through the law school to access Law School funding including the LAFAC student activity fees. I am curious about all of these organizations that you perceive have private accounts…they must have totally private funding in order to survive.

    4. I realize keeping outside accounts is against the student code of conduct, but if the rumors are true the administration didn’t punish a student who stole tens of thousands of dollars from the same office since it was too embarrassing, so I think the honest student officers should be fine.

    I have no knowledge of this incident, and these rumors may be false.

    5. The law school blew the deadline on turning in student registration forms for an out of state job fair.

    Career Planning has no notice of this incident, but we are investigating.

    6. Also consider the more run of the mill situations where the Professor does not know the material he is teaching. If the professor is going to stay a chapter ahead in the book, we may as well hire Miami-Dade public school teachers since they to the same job much cheaper.

    I defer to Prof. Froomkin to respond to this. However, I trust that many of you (as do I) read the faculty course evaluations. Many of our faculty have excellent reviews, and so I do not believe this to be a common problem.

    DAMFM–Please feel free to email me directly if you would like to discuss any of your concerns in greater detail. I promise not to ask you for money, but I do wish that would be able to look at your UM Law School years with some positive memories. I urge you to become part of the solution and contact me.

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