A SPACE FOR CREATIVITY:
ROLE OF A LAW SCHOOL DEAN IN A RESEARCH UNIVERSITY
C. Aman, Jr.
people think that law schools train lawyers, but what we really do is educate
lawyers. These are related projects in theory, but in practice, they
can involve different constituencies, resources, not to speak of pressures,
constraints and different conceptions of the role of legal education.
To be sure, law schools must embrace the goal of training
lawyers, but legal education means more than the acquisition of skills,
information and techniques. Lawyers’ skills are best formed in the context of a
broad-based education that places law at the center of the curriculum, as a
means but also an end. As a
means to an end, educating lawyers is intrinsically valuable to students as
future lawyers. As an end in
itself, a law curriculum also educates scholars, citizens and individuals.
Educating lawyers takes an engaged and creative faculty with a wide
range of commitments to professionalism as lawyers, teachers and research
scholars. Focusing on training
alone undermines those commitments and their interrelatedness.
of the most significant challenges I have faced as Dean — with alumni, the
bar, administrators, faculty, students, staff, and campus colleagues — have
to do with maintaining the value of education for its own sake, “even” in
a professional school. In this
essay, I describe these challenges briefly from the perspective of three
related questions. My answers to
all three questions begin in the premise that law schools – like
universities – are in the business of producing and defending new knowledge;
this premise is the strand that connects both my questions and my answers.
I will make my view clear at the outset: Members of law faculties are both scholarly and professional
lawyers. This is what gives law
schools their distinctive attributes as institutions of learning and the law
dean’s role its particular character and complexity.
I: Law Schools and Universities
law schools more like the universities of which they are a part, or more like
the legal profession? With a law
school mission focused on the educated lawyer, the relationships between law
schools and universities are crucial. Given law’s centrality to many
institutions, past and present, law schools can contribute to and are inspired
by the developments and insights of many of the departments within the
university. Law, as a human
science, is integral to the intellectual dialogues at any research university
today, and law schools can and should take an active part in these dialogues.
Shils defines the role of the university in terms of “truth”:
have a distinctive task. It is
the methodical discovery and the teaching of truths about serious and
important things.... The
discovery and transmission of truth is the distinctive task of the academic
profession, just as ... the protection, within the law, of the client’s
rights and interests is the distinctive task of the legal profession.”
If law schools are
integral to universities, what is their particular “truth”? In the passage just quoted, Shils himself says that
lawyers’ truths amount to their client’s rights and interests, but is it
enough to project these back to the law schools, to make this their hallmark,
too? Even if persuasive advocacy
is at the heart of what law schools teach, delivery on that promise commits
law schools to truths of other kinds — and in distinctive ways. For law schools, “truth” often is inextricably tied to
contest, argument and those truths known as opinions — judicial opinions.
Thus, by focusing on “truth,” I do not mean some singular or fixed
doctrine — quite the contrary, in fact. As in the human sciences, legal
academics’ search for truth requires first and foremost that the conditions
of the search replicate its object — by which I mean that a multiplicity of
perspectives within a diverse community of scholars and students is essential
to the task, given that the law itself is multiperspectival and pertains to
highly diverse purposes. Saying
that truth depends on perspective does not diminish the notion of truth, or
relativize it. Rather, it means
that truth is social — and that its discovery has social
very commitment to fairness means acknowledging the importance of diversity.
Differences of experience and perspective are not self-evident;
learning to think outside the box of one’s own experience is difficult but
essential. Such knowledge itself becomes a form of discovery as well as
accountability — to diverse stakeholders known as claimants, clients and
citizens, traditional and new users of the law. The very nature of legal scholarship — the
multiperspectival approach mentioned above — demands diverse students and
faculties. As Deans, we can play
an important role in bringing new knowers and knowledges into the law
school, and new creative energies into the law.
Because law is social, because it involves fundamentally human
relationships in a globalizing world, it is important that we strive for
student bodies and faculties that reflect and advance the rich diversity that
exists in the world.
lawyers for the kind of advocacy that understands the processes of change in
the law takes a university and its truths.
Thus, law schools, as integral parts of their universities, share in
the “distinctive task” of “methodical discovery and the teaching of
truths,” as Shils puts it. This
is the faculty’s role. The
faculty is constantly moving between theory and practice, the court and the
classroom, examining the law as doctrine, theory, social process and effects
(among other things). Legal
academics research the law for its sources and circuitry of meaning and power,
as a human science as well as a means of social ordering and reform.
way in which a Law school’s “truths” resemble those of the university is
in the fundamental connection between teaching and research. Teaching and research are not in competition, but two sides
of the same coin. As Shils has
do and ought to educate for those occupations which demand of their
practitioners a mastery of a coherent body of organized knowledge, a capacity
to assess evidence and a readiness to look at situations afresh.
A university education should not have as a task to prepare students
for occupations which deal with routine tasks.
It should offer education for those occupations which require a
knowledge of fundamental processes, principles and methods of analysis.”
This attention to the fundamental ideas that form the foundations of basic
frameworks of thought are what connect teaching and research.
These do not compete, but reinforce each other’s creativity and
accountability. A research focus
in the law school raises our expectations of the importance of teaching.
The kind of excitement that students relate to in the classroom is
often closely related to the excitement a teacher generates as she or he does
battle with, is critical of, and proposes visions alternative to the existing
law. Challenging our students,
ourselves, and the assumptions behind the law with which we deal, is the
makings of the kind of classroom experience that yields highly analytical
thinking, and a critical cast of mind that enables students to be creatively
constructive in their own work. A
creative research focus enables students to understand how alternative legal
structures and new approaches to problems can be developed and implemented.
and research require freedom and independence.
The late and distinguished political scientist, William Riker once said
(to the trustees of his university, the University of Rochester) that being a
professor is about “the zeal for explanation upon explanation.” This kind of zeal calls for independence from preordained
interests — be they client interests or intellectual interests.
The classroom is one literal form this space of freedom can take; so is
the faculty member’s office or study; so are the faculty seminar, the
library, the printed page and computer screen.
Academic freedom and tenure are important elements of this space,
shielding the professoriate both from external pressures and the
sometimes-heavy weight of “conventional wisdom.”
freedom is essential — not just because researchers need freedom from
distractions and constraint, but because it is in this state of freedom that
individuals can experience the kind of creative solitude necessary for
responsible scholarship. This is
not unlike the kind of solitude that Thomas Merton argued for nearly 50 years
ago, writing about the oppression of totalitarianism:
depends for its existence on the inviolable personal solitude of its members.
Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or
mechanical units, but of persons. To
be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both these imply a certain
interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity, a sense of one’s own
reality and of one’s ability to give himself to society - or to refuse that
many ways, universities — and law schools, too — provide this productive
solitude for society — not just for students and faculty while they are at
work. I read Merton’s
description of solitude and its importance for individuals as having
significant parallels for the importance of research for professors
individually and for the institutions of which they are a part.
The research aspect of a professor’s duties is an opportunity to take
the long view of one’s own field and to think creatively about change,
reform, and the role of law. It
is this very process of reflection that creates the possibility of new
knowledge. Whether or not a
breakthrough occurs, the process of reflection has independent value in
itself. For Merton, the stakes
were high (he phrased them in the generic masculine pronoun of his day):
“When men are merely submerged in
a mass of impersonal human beings, pushed around by automatic forces, they
lose their true humanity, their integrity, their ability to love, their
capacity for self-determination. When
society is made up of men who know no interior solitude it can no longer be
held together by love: and consequently it is held together by a violent and
scholarly processes, values, and goals create an institution that
differentiates the academy from almost all other institutions, especially, but
also most subtly, from those whose primary purpose is to produce capital.
Our product is, again, new knowledge.
Solitude is not withdrawal, but creative space for engagement
solitude and the research it enables involve long time frames, independence,
and recognition that the major pay-off may not emerge until well into the
future. Further, and perhaps more
important, scholarship involves an assumption that one can be, and indeed
almost always must be, critical. New
ideas challenge the status quo; they upset apple carts; and, especially in
law, they often posit normative goals
solitude requires resources, independence, a commitment to the long
term and, most important, the kind of institutional environment that makes it
clear that such contemplation is highly valued.
It is an environment that increasingly today may seem almost
anachronistic as some schools seek to finance their operations with partners
interested in highly visible and often short term goals.
One often reads these days about the pressures to capitalize
financially and almost immediately on new knowledge, and the potential risks
to a full and free exchange of ideas. I
believe that it is the Dean’s primary role to ensure that scholarship
flourishes by helping faculty balance these pressures and, to the extent
possible, supporting research materially and as pedagogy in the classroom.
The fundamental conception of the university in society may be
changing, but teaching and research remain at the heart of law schools’
missions no less than for the research universities of which they are a part.
II: The Market and Independence
schools are also affected by the economic forces, rhetorics and demands for
accountability faced by the universities of which they are a part.
In Part II, accordingly, I consider law school and university finances
and governance, as well as their respective mandates and missions.
Universities and law schools’ varied means of securing financial
resources entail new partnerships and goals.
These, in turn, create new demands for accountability.
In many instances, as new engagements, these are healthy and even
desirable, but the pull of accountability to external constituencies can risk
setting false limits on scholars’ creative scope and independence.
How much independence is necessary for law schools?
How much is too much? As
we engage in a variety of approaches to attract and then get the most from our
resources (including new technologies), there is always the question:
To what end?
all institutions in society, universities and law schools have been and will
continue to change. The societies
from which law develops also continue to change, — increasing in diversity,
developing new technologies, becoming increasingly transnational in outlook,
among other things. In the U.S.
and elsewhere, people seek to understand and apply law in new ways.
Interdisciplinary approaches to law are especially useful for
considering appropriate legal approaches to transnational issues, such as the
environment, human rights, or trade. The collapse of any meaningful distinction between global and
local in so many contexts where lawyers work now means that a very useful way
of conceptualizing our roles as teachers is as preparing our students to be
global professionals. One does
not need to practice law in a foreign country or as an international lawyer to
be a global professional. Increasingly,
local clients seek to do business around the world. The global economy and the increasing fluidity of borders in
relation to the movements of capital, services, goods, and people requires new
conceptualizations of the role of law and the nation-state.
It is no surprise that joint degrees between law schools, business
schools, public policy schools as well as departments of telecommunication or
environmental sciences (among others) are increasingly common, and — as at
our law school — increasingly popular, in large part because of the way the
global economy and the technology that drives it are reshaping businesses,
law, law firms, government and non-governmental organizations.
focusing on these global, interdisciplinary aspects of law, I believe that one
of the most important goals we can have as deans is to encourage the kind of
intellectual environments necessary for faculty to create the theoretical
frameworks that will enable students to assess the world that is still ahead
of them and to evaluate critically changes that neither they nor we can, as
yet, even foresee, in a process of life-long learning. The interdisciplinary, aspects of legal education, coupled
with doctrinal research and doctrinal understandings of the law, are all
important means for providing law students with the kinds of sophisticated
analytical tools that will hold them in good stead throughout their careers.
This is what a research oriented faculty can provide.
these are not the only forces driving change in universities and law schools,
nor the only goals. During the
past 10-15 years many schools have been subject to various degrees of
financial stress. As the costs of
education have risen, funding, especially in the public sector, has declined.
Tuition in both the private and public sectors has risen considerably.
The consequences of low tax policies coupled with increasing public
skepticism with respect to public spending in general have encouraged a
variety of new partnerships at state schools and, of course, it has increased
the focus of public institutions on private fundraising.
Such developments expand universities’ constituencies and
accordingly, the range of input. No
matter where new sources of financial support come from, everyone wants to
know more about its use and effectiveness.
Indeed, boards of trustees, private donors and other private providers
of funds are now significant stakeholders in the university.
The increased pressures for better measurement and accounting that
result can be beneficial, especially if they are keyed to the special mission
of a research university. Managing
the differences in short run versus long-run calculations is not just the
individual faculty member’s job; it also is central to what deans do.
Deans are often in the position of explaining to new constituencies the
importance of research as fundamental to university life.
Notions like tenure, academic freedom, and long-term research might
seem almost anachronistic to people working in industry and law firms, and
such conversations can reach the fundamentals very quickly.
as everyone knows from commentary in the media and elsewhere, many calls for
change in the university in one way or another involve criticism of the
research mission. Some critics
argue that faculty have made bad choices, devoting themselves to research
questions that matter little to society at large.
In his report “Scholarship Reconsidered,” Ernest Boyer, for
example, specifically advocates more applied research.
Similarly, in “We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the
University,” David Damrosch notes a tendency for disciplines to become
increasingly specialized and segmented.
In Damrosch’s view, arcane scholarship is by definition largely
irrelevant to those outside the increasingly narrow subfields that produce it.
Other critics attack the integrity of the researchers, as in
“Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education” by Charles
authors, however, take a broader view of these challenges in their analysis of
the various calls for change. Some
see these criticisms and the changes they produce in some universities as
being of a piece with a larger global framework, one that highlights
accountability, relatively instant pay-offs and the need to be
“self-financing.” As Sheila
Slaughter and Larry Leslie point out in their book, “Academic Capitalism,”
globalization drives four trends, all of which pose risks to the academic
has at least four far-reaching implications for higher education.
First is the constriction of moneys available for discretionary
activities such as postsecondary education.
Second is the growing centrality of techno-science and fields closely
involved with markets, particularly international markets.
Third is the tightening relationships between multinational
corporations and state agencies concerned with product development and
innovation. Fourth is the increased focus of multinationals and
established industrial countries on global intellectual property
are the implications of these shifts in view and the ways we conceptualize the
university and, in particular, law schools as components of research
universities? For some critics,
the accountability debate points to a definition of excellence that is largely
market driven. For others, it
means that there are new financial realities that simply require a leaner,
more efficient approach to what universities traditionally do.
Deans must manage the difference between these approaches. If the focus
is solely on funding to the exclusion of the question — to what end? —
then independence and a commitment to scholarship risk being undercut.
Markets respond notoriously to short term pressures and factor only
what can be easily costed out and
On the other hand, long-term goals are no escape from funding
pressures, but the pay-off is a more independent faculty and a wider range of
intellectual and pedagogical commitments.
and the long term are not necessarily incompatible. Deans have an idea opportunity to teach various
constituencies outside the university (and sometimes within it) about the
fundamental value of long term research in relation to new knowledge and
academic freedom. Indeed, this is
as it should be. In our
fundraising efforts, we are asking for the kinds of investments in education
that have long term effects and can, quite literally, change the world.
In so doing, Law School deans can help fund the research missions of
their institutions and also protect and preserve a space for the creative
pursuit of new ideas. I believe
it is possible for educational institutions to change and do what is necessary
to succeed financially without compromising the fundamental role of the
university as a source of new knowledge in society.
But this can occur only if we both reinvent our approaches to financing
and rededicate ourselves to articulating why universities exist in the first
III: Preserving A Space For
us now turn more specifically to the role of the law school dean, as I see it,
given the contexts of the law school in the university, and the university in
the marketplace. What can a Dean
do to maintain and enhance the Law School as a place of creativity
for the primacy of the research mission of a law school may not sound like the
most direct answer to recent criticisms and market realities, especially given
the practical, financial pressures on most universities and law schools today.
But I believe it is a direct answer, and a necessary one, given the
prevalence of an “efficiency discourse” in society at large, in these days
of increasingly globally competitive environments.
Given the combined graduate and professional aspects of legal
education, law school deans are in a good position to experience and
appreciate the various critical
rhetorics of universities (both positive and negative) that are now
commonplace. In this complex
environment, giving top billing to creating and preserving the conditions in
which faculty can flourish amongst each other and their students is the best
way I know of resolving differences among constituencies, prioritizing scarce
resources and answering to the range of accountabilities implicit in the
question: “To what end”?
on the congruence between the research mission of universities and law schools
provides coherence to the multiple tasks deans undertake and the variety of
constituencies with which they interact.
Fundraising is now one of a dean’s major responsibilities, but simply
asking for money in the abstract does not go very far — and it shouldn’t.
Those capable of and willing to make major investments in our schools
need to know how and why these investments matter.
The long term nature of endowed funds are very much of a piece with the
long term nature of a school’s research goals.
Sharing the exciting work of faculty colleagues with potential donors
is one of the best ways I know of showing them how useful their support will
be as well as making them feel pride in their institution.
Similarly, a dean’s role in admissions can and should be inspired by
the value of diversity as an end itself, and research integral to the mission
of the law school and the university. New
knowledge is being created inside and outside the classroom; this means we
wish to recruit students with the intellectual ability to take full advantage
of the faculty and other resources the law school can make available.
The admissions process also brings “new knowers” of the law into
the system, thereby accelerating the generation of new knowledge.
Career services offices also benefit when employers are aware of the
students’ excellence and the ways they are challenged intellectually —
harbingers of ways that they will think and perform creatively in practice.
Indeed, a law school dedicated to new knowledge, by definition,
produces creative educated lawyers capable of conceptualizing and solving old
and new problems in creative ways. Finally,
it is the research mission of the law school that links it directly and in the
most productive and creative ways to the university campus, its various
departments, and the university’s own research mission.
In short, I see law schools as part of the intellectual fabric of the
university and the world at large.
research mission also drives a number of other decanal approaches to practical
matters, such as compensation, research leaves, teaching loads, opportunities
for colloquia, and interdisciplinary opportunities as important ways of
deepening our knowledge of law through collaboration and synthesis with
faculty in other departments and at other universities. The interdisciplinary aspects of legal education today
provide deans with multiple opportunities for bridge building throughout the
university as well as finding ways of facilitating the development of faculty,
in relationship to expertise that exists outside the law school.
Indeed, some of the tasks deans have include the encouragement of
integrative law approaches that seek to incorporate the insights of other
disciplines in meaningful ways.
Exposure to other departments on campus is important, but beyond that,
collaborations that draw faculty from different disciplinary points of view
into the same kinds of analytical problems can yield new syntheses that are
exciting, advance the respective literatures of all of the participating
disciplines, and create new collaborative, on-going collegial relationships.
this means asking faculty colleagues: With
whom do you wish to be in dialogue? Who should know about your work and whose work do you wish
you knew better? In this way, we
often build interdisciplinary conferences around issues and scholars that
further our own faculty members’ research agendas.
Such conferences enable all involved — from law and other disciplines
alike — to learn more than they could from their own disciplines alone.
In the end, it is often the ability to integrate different disciplinary
strands of thought that give the best chance of contributing to the
advancement of new knowledge and the creation of new frameworks and
perspectives. Lawyers are law
schools’ best known product, but it takes a university to create the
environment necessary to truly “train” lawyers by educating them.
our law school, we have built bridges between and among various schools and
departments within our own university, and beyond our school as well.
These points of intersection can be as simple as inviting people from
different parts of campus to lunch to meet law school faculty members, to
facilitating and helping to plan and carry out creative interdisciplinary
conferences, courses, degree programs and journals.
At our school, we have three journals — the Indiana Law Journal,
the Federal Communications Law Journal, and the Indiana Journal of
Global Legal Studies. These
are all integral to the search for new knowledge.
As a faculty editor of the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies,
a faculty and student edited law journal devoted to issues involving
globalization, I have been, from time to time, involved in the planning and
editing of the many symposia we have published.
This kind of organizational and conceptual work helps me stay in touch
with my own field as well as work closely, in a substantive way, with law
faculty and others on our campus and beyond.
many of the bridges being built
between departments and disciplines extend to other universities in other
parts of the world. Creating and
maintaining global intellectual links between our law school and law schools
throughout the world have also been an important part of my role as Dean. I believe that such new and creative partnerships with
scholars and schools throughout the world are not just luxuries, but
necessities. There are many ways
for the links to occur — exchanges of faculty and students between
universities in various parts of the world — we have several at our school
in various countries, including China, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, Spain, and
the United Kingdom — semesters abroad, distance education courses, video
conferencing, jointly taught seminars where a portion of the seminar is taught
by one or more professors from law schools from other parts of the world, and
a portion is taught by faculty on the premises.
These are all ways of adding new perspectives and global approaches to
a law school. More important,
they are ways of encouraging collaboration, conversation and creative
our campus, joint degree programs are also increasingly important.
Joint degrees offer opportunities for faculty and students for
integrative and synthetic analyses that can yield new kinds of scholarship.
Joint degrees should, whenever possible,
involve joint teaching. Law
students can learn a great deal from such collaborations among faculty and
students. To be in the classroom
with students in the environmental sciences, for example, as well as law
students, and to have professors from both disciplines exchange views and ask
tough questions of each other yields a multiperspectival approach to law and
policy, stimulating students and putting them in creative dialogue with each
my view, the dean’s role in all of this is to be facilitative, encouraging,
and alert to the benefits that
can flow from these kinds of interactions.
Personally, I have found it essential to stay engaged with scholarship
and continue to be actively involved in research and writing.
It is an effective way to participate in the creation of an atmosphere
in which scholarly creativity and its classroom components remain at the top
of an institution’s priorities — and it is a pleasure as well.
Teaching, of course, is also an important part of what deans do.
In terms of hours, though, deans often spend more of their time
teaching outside the classroom, especially highlighting the important and
fundamentally practical reasons why the research mission of law schools is so
important, and how it affects every aspect of the school’s life.
this essay, my premise is that the fundamental goal of a university law school
is the creation of new knowledge. Of
necessity, this implies long-term goals, experimentation, critique,
and, increasingly, an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship that
involves many other aspects of the university — other departments and
schools. Over the years, this
very basic role of the law school, as with the university, is frequently
subject to fresh demands for justification.
It has been a difficult decade for committed, creative
research-oriented institutions, but the challenges have never been more
of my optimism comes from my good fortune in having gone to a university, the
University of Rochester, and then a law school, the University of Chicago, that
took students seriously, no matter what their economic background.
As the first child in my family to go to college, much less law school,
my education introduced me to worlds I had neither known nor dreamed of.
There was nothing pre-ordained about the educational journey I took.
At the schools I attended and at the time I was there, if you were up
for the quest — the quest for new knowledge, ideas and discovery of all kinds
— nothing else seemed to matter. You
were exposed to the quest for discovery in almost every class you took. My
professors talked about the books they were writing.
They often challenged us with their views or findings, testing them in
class — testing themselves and us neophytes.
Though the “teaching versus research” discourse was not yet in vogue,
research and teaching were clearly faces of the same coin.
These learning opportunities were all new to me, and I found the quest
exciting and liberating — exciting because of the chance to learn; liberating
because of the chance to grow, and to become the person I hoped to be.
These experiences are more important to me now than ever before and they
have remained at the core of my enthusiasm for this job.
I continue to believe in what I learned then:
democracy depends on liberal universities’ commitment to new knowledge,
through research, teaching and a diverse campus community.
Alfred C. Aman, Jr. is the Dean and Roscoe C. O’Byrne Professor of
Law at Indiana University School of Law—Bloomington.
Edward Shils, The Calling of
Education: The Academic Ethic and Other Essays on Higher Education 3
(Steven Grosby, ed., University of Chicago Press 1997).
William Riker, Speech on the occasion of the installation of
President Sproull as Chief Executive Officer of the University of
Rochester (June 1975) (Speech
on file with author).
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in
Solitude 12-13 (Noonday Press 1956).
See generally, Ernest
Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate
(Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching 1990).
See generally, David
Damrosch, We Scholars: Changing the Culture of the University
(Harvard University Press 1995).
See generally, Charles
J. Sykes, Profscam: Professors and the Demise of Higher Education (Regnery
Sheila Slaughter and Larry L.
Leslie, Academic Capitalism, 36-37 (Johns Hopkins University Press
I graduated law school in 1970.
According to the 1999-2000 AALS Directory of Law Teachers, over 50%
of sitting deans today graduated in the 1970's and another 31% in the