Yes, We’re Hiring

In my earlier item on our Dean search, “Admit It, After Reading This You Want to be Our Dean,” I quoted the description of the University of Miami School of Law's very ambitious hiring plans,

In 2007, in response to a presidential and provostial challenge, the Law School faculty undertook a comprehensive strategic planning effort. The School's Strategic Plan report focuses on ways to address major issues affecting faculty productivity on the one hand, and, on the other, student recruitment, the culture of student service and the need for improved career placement. The report concludes that virtually everything in the Law School would be improved with the addition of a significant number of new faculty and the construction of a larger and much more appropriate facility.

The President and the Provost have responded decisively. The President personally selected a prime piece of University land on the main campus that can be readily developed and designated it for the construction of a new law school facility. The planning has begun but will be greatly influenced by a new Dean. The new facilities will require significant fund raising, an effort the President and the entire University will support.

The University agrees that the Law School must increase the size of its faculty. After careful evaluation, the School and the University have concluded that reducing the size of the Law School class will not substantially improve the quality of the class and would fundamentally reduce resources. The President and the Provost have agreed to add significantly to the size of the faculty. The Law School is recruiting distinguished faculty to fill five current vacancies. Jan Paulsson, the world-renowned arbitration practitioner with a major scholarly reputation in his field, has just agreed to join this emerging cohort.

In addition, the University leadership has agreed that the Law School has adequate resources not only to fill currently open lines but also to hire six additional faculty members. Because improving the Law School's posture is perceived as essential to the University, the Provost has agreed, as well, to match the Law School's effort with six more faculty lines to be paid for out of central resources.

The current faculty contains 45 tenure or tenure track faculty members. In the near future, and in the tenure of the next Dean, the Law School will hire 17 new faculty, roughly 40% of the existing faculty. In addition, the School anticipates retirements over the next few years. In any reasonable tenure, the next Dean will have the rare opportunity – in a major, national law school, in an emerging and powerful, private research university – to build an iconic new facility and recruit great new faculty members to transform the School into an AAU quality institution.

In a comment, Penn's Matthew Lister asks,

How confident are you that, in the present situation, you'll be able to do all the hiring described?

I think that's a good question — indeed, it goes right to the heart of the matter.

Nevertheless, cynic that I am, I'm actually pretty confident we'll get to do this astonishing round of hiring, or at least a very large fraction of it (assuming there's not an actual Depression).

My confidence has three sources.

First, I was on the strategic planning committee that hatched this scheme. We put together a very strong business case for why we have to do this, and why it makes far more sense than downsizing, or keeping things as they are.

Second, after a short period of sticker shock and hesitation, central administration has bought into this idea. Indeed, we could not have issued this ad without their sign-off. This public commitment means something — in fact it means a great deal. I think we can take them at their word. In any case, the scenario is, we find some heavy-weight (or young dynamo!) candidate, that person then has a negotiation with the President. Typically commitments get made at that point; one of them would obviously be that we stay the course. I am certain that if President Shalala looks a Dean in the eye and makes a promise, that promise can be relied on.

Third, it's genuinely in the University's interest. Where once the law school was much higher ranked than the U., now due to the ranking system used by US News — which penalizes large schools severely — we appear to be lower ranked than the U (although in fact our faculty scholarly rankings hold up just fine, thank you). In order for the University to make good on its strategic plan, and in general for the President/Board to feel they are doing a good job, they need to see the law school as 'restored to its former luster' — or better yet, surpassing it.

The hiring will not all happen in one year — that would be foolish economically and culturally (very hard to absorb so many new people at once). But I think it will happen with reasonable speed. In addition to active, but selective, participation in the entry-level market, we have some more big lateral offers out (in addition to our recent major hire), and I think it's quite possible we'll make some more this year.

The biggest constraint in the short term, oddly enough, looks like it could be office space.

And, yes, counter-cyclical hiring is great!

(Did I mention I am on our Visitors & Laterals committee? Expressions of interest are always welcome.)

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11 Responses to Yes, We’re Hiring

  1. elliottg says:

    There is absolutely no reason that there won’t be a depression. Everybody keeps on acting like it can’t happen because they can’t imagine it happening. BUT that’s exactly what is going on. In 1930, the unemployment rate rose to 8.7%. We are likely to hit close to that for January and there is no end in sight.

  2. Steve says:

    We’re already in an "actual depression".

    If the Depression of the 1930s was the Great Depression, this one will be the Totally Awesome Depression.

    Too bad there is no Hitler to start a world war and bail us out of this one.

    Or is there?

  3. Soya's Ghost says:

    Why start new faculty lines now? Really?

    1. The law school facilities cannot really handle any more students. If the law school is expanded, that will eat a huge chunk of the University’s rapidly dwindling endowment which might otherwise go to faculty lines.

    2. Law school enrollments will probably increase in the next couple of years as people are forced out of the workforce. But I cannot see how law school enrollments will stay high over the next 5+ years as Big Law jobs dry up dramatically. There is simply no rational reason to incur $100k plus in student loan debt when there is no $100k job at the end. Especially at a school like Miami which is focused on publishing critical race theory and social justice papers and having faculty lectures, and not on developing students. (If anyone disagrees with this last comment, then please explain to me and the rest of the student body why the faculty lounge and kitchen were redone in granite when the rest of the school is literally falling apart).

    The clothes are coming off this whole tenured professional academic professor model of 1) a H/YLS grad, who worked at Cleary/Cravath/SulCrom for 2 years on doc review 2) before getting a fellowship to write a paper on something pitiable but utterly unprofitable, 3) who then deem themselves and peers “experts” on human rights/gay rights/African American rights/women’s rights/latino rights because they basically agree with each other even though their ideas are never cited by any court.

    It really seems like the absolute worst time to bring 15 more into the fold.

    A couple more adjuncts like Redmond and Seigfreid are what the school really needs, both short term and long term, especially if one of them is a civil procedure professor eligible to practice in Florida courts.

    3. “I am certain that if President Shalala looks a Dean in the eye and makes a promise, that promise can be relied on.” Sounds like “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” (Bush on first meeting Vladimir Putin)

  4. kcr says:

    Soya’s [sic] Ghost:

    Re: the faculty lounge. My understanding is that the project was sponsored by a generous professor of long tenure. I won’t name names, but the man has given quite a bit more to the Law School as well. And even if it wasn’t, pleasing the faculty is surely at least as important as pleasing a few prone-to-envy students such as yourself. Renovating a small space surely accomplishes that goal at a lower price than would larger student areas. Not to mention that the student lounge just received a makeover a couple of years ago.

    Re: your glib conclusions on the tenure model. You don’t exactly support your allegations. If they are based on a recent NYT article, well you could have been a bit less lazy about it and borrowed some of the actual rationale for your statement. At best what you’re saying is controversial. While each arm-chair dean is entitled to his or her own opinion on the matter, I’d say sardonic observations and a surface knowledge of such matters does not an expert make.

  5. michael says:

    I agree that the student body doesn’t need or want to be larger.

    You will thus be glad to hear that the model put forward in the Strategic Plan is to have a zero — zero — increase in the number of students, thus significantly improving the student-faculty ratio, shrinking class size and further diversifying the curriculum.

    If applications increase, we will cope with that by improving the quality of the entering class.

    The suggestion that the professoriate is about to be de-skilled or at least broken to the Taylorist wheel is not new, but that doesn’t make it less apt. We’ll just have to see.

    There were good reasons to mistrust Putin — his KGB past for starters. I am not aware that President Shalala has a remotely comparable history, nor even a record of breaking her word. Are you?

    But I agree that whatever they spent on making the faculty lounge was — as far as I’m concerned — largely a waste: it looks like it’s trying to be some sort of bar or lounge; it’s not elegant and only somewhat functional for our needs. But the people who did it say that our needs wasn’t what drove it: the real goal, they (now?) claim, was to create a space that could be used for outside events. And indeed, there do seem to be a lot of non-UM-Law-Faculty events being held there these days. (I hope they are paying for the privilege!)

  6. miami grad says:

    I just read in the Daily Business Review that U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta applied for the position of dean at the law school and didn’t get it. Can you provide any further details? How far along he got int the process, etc.?

  7. michael says:

    I can’t tell from this article if the reporter is referring to this year’s search or last year’s. In any event, for those of us not on the Search Committee the process was (and is again) totally confidential except for the identify of the finalists. I can tell you Mr. Acosta wasn’t one of the three finalists presented to the faculty last year. We haven’t seen any of the finalists yet this year, so I can’t speak to that.

    That said, for all his virtues, I would not have thought that Mr. Acosta, or indeed just about any US Attorney in the land, had the experience to be an effective law school dean without first spending some serious time as a professor and/or academic administrator. As I have said on a number of previous occasions, while there are a very small handful of people without significant legal academic experience who might be able to walk into the job and make it work, administering a law school is nothing like administering a law firm — or a government law office either.

    I can see hiring a US Attorney as a professor, no problem, especially if they’d shown some interest in academic writing at some point in their legal career. A US Attorney has lots of experience relevant to that job (although again, even some really great lawyers don’t make good classroom professors, much less good scholars). But as Dean? That’s a job that takes very specialized skill set and experience. (Most law professors don’t qualify either!) In most cases, that’s too big a roll of the dice. And I’d say the same about Patrick Fitzgerald.

    We just hired a law firm partner straight to tenure — a rare move that I strongly supported. I welcome the influence of colleagues with ties to practice, who’ve had both feet in practice. But as Dean? Very, very, very risky.

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

  8. phooey says:

    I call B.S. UM Law will never hire a conservative as a Dean, and neither a professor if the committee can ferret them out.

    As Soya’s ghost said above, the Dean must be one “who then deem themselves and peers “experts” on human rights/gay rights/African American rights/women’s rights/latino rights”.

  9. michael says:

    That’s just silly, as amply demonstrated by our recent hiring. And “silly” is a generous assessment; an uncharitable person well might consider those remarks to be bigoted.

  10. phooey says:

    Bigoted? Why, because I won’t march lockstep to liberal academia’s orgy of victim (of the week) studies?

    I wonder if there is such a thing as Conservative-American rights studies? Perhaps I could be the first “expert” to get published in a prestigious law journal on that topic, then become a tenured professor. I could work half the year, blog the rest and go around calling people “bigot” who disagree with me.

  11. ' 08 grad says:

    Sorry I’m late to the discussion and doubt anyone will even see this as a result, but I, unfortunately, have to agree with this sentiment:

    “I call B.S. UM Law will never hire a conservative as a Dean, and neither a professor if the committee can ferret them out.”

    I had the honor and privilege of sitting on the Faculty Appointments Committee as a student a few years ago and watched in horror as my esteemed, faculty colleagues on the committee refused to so much as vote a well-qualified, prospective faculty candidate, who made it to the on-campus interview round, out of committee to the full faculty for the deciding vote. Now, what was the reason given for not giving the full faculty a vote on this individual? Well, there were two, actually. First, at least two members of the committee refused to hire “another white male until more minority hires are made,” and second, simply his politics.

    Never mind the fact that this candidate was tops in his class at Notre Dame undergrad and Harvard Law, clerked on the Ninth Circuit and Supreme Court, practiced with Sidley Austin and served as a Special Counsel for a US Senator (you probably already know who I’m talking about). Never mind all those things. The members of the committee didn’t think “he’d mesh with the faculty” because he was too conservative.” The overwhelming support of the students that sat in on the student portion of the interview was completely disregarded…you know, the people what would actually be signing up for his classes. Who better to learn Procedure and Fed Courts from then a person with this resume that actually came off as approachable. I fought for this person in committee and later felt vindicated, and yet saddened at the same time, upon discovering that he, despite not being good enough for UM Law, received 3 offers from Tier 1 law schools and subsequently took a position at a Top 20 institution.

    I walked out of that Committee meeting knowing I wouldn’t apply to participate again the next year and really lost all the enthusiasm I previously had for taking part in the process.

    I’m proud of my time at UM Law and wish it nothing but the best but I seriously doubt she will reach her potential with the current, small-minded group of ultra-liberal faculty that sit on these decision-making committees.

    ***Let me add, Prof Froomkin, that I do have high praise for the people your committee was able to bring in during my time as a student. Mitch Crusto was outstanding.

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