Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Land Use Professors & Law School Administration

I have been away from the Land Use Prof blog way too long, because I have been doing a year-long stint as associate dean for academic affairs & faculty development.  My one-year commitment ends in 15 days, and as I wrap things up, I have been thinking about the usefuleness of a background in land use law and planning to those who aspire to go into law school administration.  For example, I know that our land-use colleague at Pepperdine, Shelley Saxer, had at least a couple of very successful runs as associate dean at Pepperdine, and many others in our field have enjoyed success as law school administrators.

I enjoyed the job a whole lot more than I thought I would, because it involved quite a bit of planning and problem-solving, which are skills used quite a lot in the land use field.  If you have that planning and problem-solving itch and your regular fare of teaching and research aren't satisfying that itch, you might find law school administration to be a good fit.

Another aspect of the position was working with and building consensus among a wide range of people with different and often competing interests, goals, and even sometimes values.  It reminded me of the challenges of resolving multi-participant land use conflicts where competing interests and differing visions of a community's future require good interpersonal, negotiation, and even mediation skills.

What I didn't enjoy were the long hours (70 hours of work per week every week) and the necessity of having to make sacrifices in teaching and research in order to have a more balanced and sustainable life.  Land use and related courses are distinctive parts of the law school curriculum, and I felt that the students would be getting short-changed if I were to pull back from the courses I teach, the time I devote to students, and continued innovation in our curriculum.  Likewise, there are just so many important issues arising in land use, I just couldn't imagine putting my research agenda on hold, or even slowing it down, for a few years while I worked with schedules, adjuncts, grievances, workshops, and the like.  The associate dean's job is important to the functioning of the law school and I felt very much valued and appreciated by the law school community for what I did this year.  But in the end, I felt like I could contribute more by returning to teaching, research, and public service in land use, water, property, and the environment.

But I feel certain that there are a number of future associate deans, deans, and maybe even provosts and presidents out there among our land use professor colleagues.  I would be glad to talk with you about administration if you want to know more about what it's like and what it takes.  But most of all, I'm glad to be getting fully back into land use -- and to sharing some posts on the Land Use Prof blog.

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Thanks for sharing your experiences as a law school administrator. It's great to see the parallels in skill used in your career as land use prof. and an administrator. Congratulations and I wish the best for you in the future.

Posted by: Michael | Jun 15, 2011 7:05:15 PM