Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Dean Frank Wu: Winning Over Critics

This essay is by Dean Frank H. Wu, who is Chancellor & Dean of University of California Hastings College of the Law. This essay originally appeared on LinkedIn.
I was chastened as a chief executive officer of an institution of higher education — as an aside, I disavow that title, because it is both corporate and supercilious — to realize that the chief academic officer — the provost, number two on the organizational chart — had not especially liked me before taking her job. I must add that we work together famously well now. (She offered me suggestions on this essay to give it a universal moral.)
We are highly coordinated despite having come together from different origins. I was appointed by a governing board, from the outside; she was elected by the faculty, from among its ranks.
When I expressed surprise about how she had felt, she informed me I was smart enough I should have realized it at the time. We have such a good working relationship, however, that I thought it worthwhile to ask her why exactly she had a less favorable impression previously. Her insight might encourage my improvement.
She did not hesitate. Her reply was that, before taking her role in the administration, she didn't have a sense of why I was doing what I was doing or the factors that influenced my decision making. She didn't see any guiding principle.
Now that she participates in virtually every discussion, she possesses the facts and perceives the constraints. Whether it is budgets, HR, curriculum, or fundraising, she sees it all. She always felt she had a stake in the outcome. She now feels she has a stake in the particular outcome.
I am glad we are candid with one another. Her thoughts were valuable.
Although I have tried to be as transparent as possible, I also have realized most people who encourage ideas in the abstract might not be enthusiastic about implementation once they witness it.
Take transparency. I have been blunt, candid, and perhaps outspoken about the need to reform legal education and more generally higher education. But there are some things I shouldn't say: they may be tentative thoughts, not yet ready; they might be personal opinions, not official positions; they also could implicate confidential, private matters related to a student or employee. In many instances, other people are free to tell their side of a story, and it would be inappropriate, not to mention ineffective, for me to offer other facts.
But what the provost has taught me, a lesson all of us need to learn again and again and again, is the importance of communication. All of us prefer to be the agents of our own respective destinies; even if we do not control the circumstances, at least we would like to feel we can influence what is happening that in turn affects us. We do not wish to be acted upon. When we lack data, we commit what social scientists call attribution error: we infer motives. It's easy to imagine various forms of bad faith that disadvantage us.
I cannot control the narrative. I don't try to do so usually, because it seems overreaching — almost authoritarian. Yet I must redouble efforts to share everything that I can disclose. Giving people an inside viewpoint doesn't guarantee that they will be sympathetic, but the perspective guides them toward understanding.
The provost's change of heart also confirms for me the significance of process. She is engaged in deliberations. She criticizes, even dissents. Sometimes I defer. That's why she feels invested. She has been consulted, and she knows that. The bulk of my responsibilities, hers too, consist of integrating input regardless of source or tone.
The trust that we have established is vital. My colleague, whom I call a friend as well, has made a transition. It isn't merely our relationship. She, too, is a leader who is subject to the same challenges of sustaining a sense of community.
Together, we have to extend the experience of being on the team as far as possible.

June 24, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mississippi College Names Wendy Scott as New Law Dean



From a Mississippi College Press Release:

A graduate of Harvard University and New York University School of Law, Wendy Scott will make history as the first African-­American to serve as dean at the Mississippi College School of Law. This summer, Scott becomes the 8th law dean at MC Law, which became part of the Christian university in 1975. Mary Libby Payne broke ground as the first woman to lead the law school, with Professor Scott now the second woman to hold that distinction.Scott will succeed Dean Jim Rosenblatt, who served as dean for 11 years.

Congratulations to Dean Scott and Mississippi College. I will look forward to working with her in Mississippi.

June 23, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

National Jurist Prelaw Magazine Names Best Value Law Schools


One of my favorite things I get to do as dean is to call all of the students admitted to Ole Miss Law School.  From the many conversations I have had, I am happy to say that the majority of students entering law school in 2014 have a really good understanding of the economics of legal education. They have done their research, and recognize that the cost of their legal education will affect their options when they graduate. They are certainly entering law school with their eyes wide open.

In that regard, the National Jurist Prelaw Magazine has published a list of the best value law schools. The story can be found at: http://www.nationaljurist.com/content/best-value-law-schools-5-private-schools-make-list

June 17, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Benson Named 11th Dean of Wayne State

Jocelyn Benson, who has served as interim dean of Wayne State University Law School since December 2012, has been appointed permanent dean.

According to the press release, she is the youngest woman ever to serve as dean of a law school.


June 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mercer Law Wins E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award

Patrick LonganLegal Education has received a great deal of bad press, so it is nice to recognize positive contributions law schools are making.

For example, Mercer Law School is a 2014 recipient of the E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award, given annually by the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism. The Law School also received the award in 1996 for its Woodruff Curriculum, based on the "depth and excellence" of its commitment to professionalism education.

The award was given for the "Inside the Legal Profession" component of the first-year Legal Profession course developed and taught by Professor Pat Longan. This component of the course, modeled loosely on the Bravo television show "Inside the Actor's Studio," consists of a series of 45-minute live interviews of lawyers, conducted by Pat in front of the class and allowing the students an opportunity to ask questions of the interviewee. 

 In the letter announcing the award, the committee stated that "[T]he judges were impressed by the program design's emphasis on transcending standard practitioner testimonials with a deep and thoughtful examination of lawyer professionalism, what it means, and how it manifests itself in the day-to-day lives of working lawyers and judges."

Congratulations to Mercer, and especially Pat Longan, for this accomplishment.

June 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

InfiLaw Suspends Request to Acquire Charleston Law


The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) had planned to vote on June 5 whether to approve Infilaw's application to acquire the Charleston School of Law. Infilaw has decided to suspend its application, but still plans to pursue the purchase. The story can be found at:


June 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)