Friday, June 26, 2015

If you're going to start a new law school ...

Law[by Rick Bales]

... step #1 needs to be working with the local state board of bar examiners to get its approval for the first several entering classes to take the bar of that state even if provisional ABA accreditation is not obtained within three years. That probably means inviting the the board's input on curriculum and teaching, to get its buy-in. Recent events at Concordia and Indiana Tech illustrate the real pain inflicted on students who enter their third year of law school not knowing whether their degree ultimately will be worthless. No matter how optimistic the dean is about securing timely accreditation, it's the students who ultimately bear the most risk, and I believe it's indefensible to fail to ensure that they can sit for the bar in at least one state. Disclosure doesn't cure; there's too much informational asymmetry for prospective students to make an informed decision, and too much is beyond the control of law school leadership for them to be able to reliably promise that accreditation will be forthcoming.

Getting early buy-in from the board of bar examiners may be politically difficult, especially if other law schools in the state unite in opposition. But this itself should be a signal that the local market probably can't bear an additional law school. If a state has two law schools -- State U and Prestigious Private, it's unlikely that they will spend much political capital opposing the creation of a start-up school, because the new school will be recruiting from a very different pool of students, and graduates will be in very different job markets. But if the local law school market is saturated with schools at every end of the spectrum, those schools are likely to vigorously oppose the new school, for good reason.


June 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are Co-Deans the Wave of the Future?

I doubt it, but it is fascinating that two schools, New Mexico and Case Western, are going that route.  For those of us slogging along as non-co-deans, I suppose it is flattering that New Mexico's Provost thinks we are doing a job that really requires two people.  Seriously, I think there probably are particular situations where this arrangement makes sense and by what I have seen, the Case experiment has been going very well.

June 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Decanal Succession Planning

Succession[by Rick Bales]

Jeff Redding's Faculty Lounge post on The Internal Dean got me thinking about a topic I've never seen discussed: decanal succession planning.

In the business world, succession planning is imperative. Companies have gone from huge and thriving to belly-up in 1-2 years because a charismatic and highly effective leader unexpectedly left or died or became incapacitated. The problem is particularly acute when the departing leader has not been a very good delegator, so the departure leaves a particularly large vacuum at the top.

Even under the best of circumstances, it takes at least 1-2 years for an outsider hired as a CEO to learn the ropes of a new organization well enough to be as effective as her or his predecessor. My experience is that the same is true of becoming a law dean or a university president -- and that the learning curve likely will be even longer if the new dean/president has no prior experience as a dean or president. Similarly, I've seen studies suggesting that a new dean/president doesn't hit his or her fundraising peak until 4-7 years into the job. Again, this is consistent with my experience -- it takes about that long to form the kind of strong, trusting relationships that facilitate large gifts.

For these reasons, I think succession planning is as imperative in academia as it is in business. It has nothing to do with choosing my successor. Indeed, my successor may, for good reasons, be the anti-me, just as in many ways I am very different from my predecessor. But if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, or for whatever other reason had to step down unexpectedly, it's important to have someone who can step in at a moment's notice and hit the ground running. That takes planning, grooming, and a willingness to delegate significant responsibility.



June 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Do Deans Step Down?

I will be stepping down as dean of Ole Miss Law on June 30, and it has been interesting answering questions about my decision to return to full time teaching after five years as dean here (and thirteen years as a dean total).  

I have enjoyed my time as dean here, very much, but I understand that what the school needs for the next five years is different from what it needed the last five years.  As my wonderful colleague, Tucker Carrington director of the Mississippi Innocence Project put it, the job changes every five years. He said, "if you sign up for another term, you are really signing up for a completely new job."  

I have often said that being a dean is like riding a bucking bronco. Eight seconds is the record.  There is no need, or benefit, to staying on longer than those eight seconds, if you are lucky enough to last that long. I have been very lucky, indeed.


June 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)