Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Florida Coastal Dean Search Raises Deeper Issues

The editors of this blog have received disturbing reports from sources inside the Florida Coastal School of Law regarding its dean search.

We have been told that the search itself has been fairly typical. Applicants were screened by a search committee, which then selected candidates for in-depth phone interviews.  Those selected to move on from the phone interviews then went through multiple interviews and assessments with outside talent evaluation agencies. From that process, the seven finalists were chosen for on-campus interviews.

The on-campus process involved dinner with the President of the school, and then a meeting with the staff and faculty during a series of small groups sessions the following day. Each candidate was to give a presentation on the candidate’s vision for the school to the full faculty at lunch the day of the interview.  That is fairly standard for dean searches nationwide.

One oddity was that the faculty was told they could only exclude one of the seven candidates from consideration. In effect, that means that the faculty has very little role in selecting the dean from the six remaining candidates. That is odd, but not particularly alarming, provided that the faculty had a significant role in the selection of candidates.

The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later. 

Th econcerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.

The LSAT in 2008 and 2009 was (153/150/147). In 2010 the numbers were (152/149/146). The decline continued to in the succeeding years (151/147/145) in 2011 and (151/146/143) in 2012. 

As might have been  predicted, the weaker entering class of 2010 had a low bar pass rate, 67% for first time takers on the July 2013 Florida bar.  This was the first time in several years that Florida Coastal had dropped below 70%.



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Hi Richard, I’m a professor at FCSL and formerly served as chair of the bar prep committee. The entire Florida Coastal Community works hard to help our students do well on the bar. While we were disappointed with the July results our February results were more in line with our expectations. In February our bar pass rate was 73% putting us fifth (out of eleven) in the state (and ahead of Florida A&M, University of Florida, Barry, St. Thomas, and Ave Maria).

Posted by: Scott DeVito | Apr 23, 2014 6:35:15 PM

You're just figuring out that there's a problem with the dean search process at Florida Coastal, hmm? That's been happening since Infilaw took over. You should ask some of the older faculty about what happened during that first dean search and how one unqualified local attorney was being crammed down the committee's throat--because he could bring city monies for building. Oh, wait. You won't be able to ask those folks. They've either been fired or co-opted into the administration.

See the man behind the curtain, dude. See the main behind the curtain.

Posted by: Louisiana Lou | May 26, 2014 3:00:29 PM

It's remarkable to witness the myriad strategies and tactics law schools all around the nation are trying, in the persistent current environment of declining applications. The latest data regarding numbers of LSAT takers and applicants for law schools remain alarming to many of us within legal academe as well as higher education in general.

No one can be certain about future events, of course. Some observers think that the downward trends of the past several years are likely to continue for at least the next decade. Many former clients have learned to economize on legal services during the difficult times that began in 2007-08. There has been increased reliance on foreign sources of legal services and the use of paralegals, as well as efforts to do more in-house and attempts to reduce overall "consumption" of legal services. This adds up to the perception in some quarters, and perhaps the reality, of less favorable career prospects for new attorneys...and hence, fewer people aiming toward a legal career.

My opinion is a bit different. It is reasonable to foresee that several years of lower enrollment and diminished graduation rates will self-equilibrate eventually. As fewer people graduate from law school and enter the job market, natural attrition of existing attorneys will result in convergence of supply and demand. Lawyers will continue to retire, switch careers, and otherwise exit the field, year by year. Meanwhile, lower numbers of newly-minted lawyers will be available to fill those vacancies. While some of those jobs may be outsourced, off-shored, or eliminated, this will not happen to all of them by any means. Hence, there should be an eventual upturn once again in law school applications as the employment outlook brightens. The real question is how long it will take for equilibrium between supply of, and demand for, new lawyers to be reached.

Whoever any law school hires, or retains, as Dean, these are times of significant upheaval. Should we accept fewer applicants? Adjust our admissions criteria to provide an opportunity for less-traditional applicants? Offer more scholarships? Enhance our academic success programs to help every student make it through law school? Increase the agility and innovation of our career services initiatives? Develop new approaches to tuition and fees? Eliminate the third year of law school? Adopt rolling admissions and allow new students to begin in mid-academic year?

This is a conversation in which every law professor and dean needs to be involved. If we synergize and cooperate, we have a better chance of developing a number of options that will allow us to remain viable through these challenging times, and beyond.

Professor John C. Kunich
University of North Carolina, Charlotte

Posted by: Prof. John C. Kunich | Nov 5, 2014 11:08:52 AM

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