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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Law students and law deans

Apparently, at some (many?) law schools, students serve as full (i.e., voting) members of dean-review and dean-search committees.  Should they?  And, what does it mean, or say, that they do (or don't)?   

These questions -- like so many other "governance"-type questions -- seem tied up with several others:  Is a law-dean primarily an administrator?  A faculty-member?  Something else?  That is, is the dean best conceived of as the University's person, selected to manage the operations of one of the University's "units"?  As the public face of the law-school to the bench and bar?  As the point of connection between graduates and the law-school?  As the faculty's representative to the University?  As the faculty's (or the University's) representative to the students?  As (merely) the fundraiser-in-chief?  Or, again, as something else?

If any Prawfs readers or bloggers have experience with, or thoughts  concerning, the issue of students' role in dean-review and dean-search processes, I'd welcome them.

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 25, 2007 at 11:36 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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One thing about working at a proprietary (for-profit) law school - the role of the Dean is clear: Our Dean is the owner's local manager. While I hope the day we need a new Dean is a long time off, I suspect that we would involve students at some phase of the search process. They are, after all, our customers. See the last sentence from JPS, above.

Posted by: Ted McClure | Nov 26, 2007 10:03:44 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with JPS, 11/25/07 at 1:38 p.m. I've been involved in many dean searches as a candidate, and I can report nothing but constructive engagement with student members of those search committees. Indeed, one of the student members of the committee at the school where I now work is one of my most important donors, now that she has graduated and secured a very good job.

In short, student participation in dean searches, far from being questioned, should be actively encouraged and fostered.

Posted by: Jim Chen | Nov 26, 2007 8:16:20 AM

Although all faculty should be concerned about student life outside the classroom, the Dean has a far greater responsibility in this area. He oversees career services, student activities, health and wellness, public interest programming, and the physical plant. All too often, prawfs are ignorant about many of these aspects (and some may say thats fine- their focus is on legal scholarship, law teaching, and getting ready for their next lateral move.) Students are the only people at a law school who have their hands in all of these various areas of administration. To leave them out of the process could be devastating. As much as Leiter, et al, seem to think the scholarship of a faculty is the key to determining the "best" law school, law students (also known as future lawyers, law profs, defenders of justice) care about much more. A Dean that isnt responsive to that will fail.

Posted by: jps | Nov 25, 2007 1:38:10 PM

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