Law School Deanship: The
Top Ten Reasons and A Tribute to 36 Over 10
Dean Teree E.
my contribution to this ingenious project conceived by Bill Richman, it became
apparent that one could pen volumes of anecdotes, accolades, observations,
suggestions, advice and criticisms about being a dean; however, a brief
statement of thoughts seems far superior to a lengthier treatment.
Thus, this format.
Top Ten Reasons to Accept a Law School Deanship
The infinite variety of the job.
No day at the office ever conforms to the schedule one plans, and no
day is ever like any other.
The luxury and authority to approach even the most intractable problems
creatively, seeking uncommon solutions that benefit all parties involved.
The opportunity and privilege to serve as the interpreter for the
College of Law in a multiplicity of contexts,
and to communicate and share with members of the law school's multiple
constituencies one's enthusiasm, optimism and confidence
in the superb quality of the institution and of its personnel and programs.
The process of developing programs that are of inestimable benefit to
students, and which significantly involve the creative talents and energies of
faculty, staff and alumni.
Creative manipulation of the budget to wring from it every last penny
through re-characterization of expenses and stealthy camouflage of monies.
The awesome, satisfying experience of utilizing every shred of one’s
attributes, talents, skills, energies, intelligence and vision, some of which
were previously unknown and unmined, to the maximum extent each hour of each
day, continually stretching oneself in remarkably rewarding ways.
The peerless privilege of sharing colleagueship and mentoring
relationships with other law school deans, who are among the brightest, most
committed and dedicated, creative, visionary, enterprising, and genuinely
helpful group of persons in the legal profession.
Moreover, 24 women currently serve as law school deans, and these
remarkable women form a singular support, nurturing and mentoring group for
each woman dean.
The opportunity to interact with loyal, creative, supportive alumni who
buoy one's spirit and deepen one's commitment.
The magnificent, incredible privilege of participating in shaping the
professional careers of faculty and staff.
The incomparable opportunity to craft and develop a vision for one's
institution, and to take constructive and meaningful steps towards its
implementation, and to have a significant impact upon that institution and its
Top Ten Reasons to Resign a Law School Deanship
Faculty meetings, particularly when faculty colleagues become
inordinately loquacious or nasty.
Dealing with university administrators, alumni, employers and a host of
other constituents upon whom one is dependent for information or assistance
and who often are less than timely in returning urgent telephone calls or
answering frantic e-mails.
The implacable frustration that accompanies the requirement that the
dean attend numerous, interminable and largely meaningless meetings and
retreats away from the law school, while so many urgent law school matters are
Lack of time to maintain currency in one's own scholarly fields, and to
prepare in-depth for class.
Persistent attempts to manipulate an always-insufficient budget to
satisfy the operational and programmatic needs of the institution and the
research and development needs of the faculty and staff.
The necessity to confront and deal with colleagues whose
"difficulty" goes beyond eccentricity, as well as colleagues whose
performance, in either professional or personal terms, has been inadequate or
Continual commodification of self that is an inexorable part of being a
Almost preternatural exertion of effort and will to evade the four
ever-present components of a dean's daily schedule:
constant interruption, inundation, chaos and absence of control over
one's days. No day at the office
ever conforms to the meticulously planned schedule, and no day is ever like
Relentless, escalating, and not always constructive competition among
law schools -- spawned by the U.S. News & World Report
rankings -- that entails the investment of a disproportionate share of
resources, valuable personnel and monetary assets that could better be
invested in scholarships or programs.
Inevitable, crushing burn-out: bone-weary
exhaustion; physical, emotional and spiritual inability to bound from bed each
morning, eager to confront and conquer whatever challenges the day brings;
recurrent loss of patience with persons and situations that demand inordinate
and disproportionate amounts the dean's time; increasingly frequent and
forceful temptation to handle complex, arduous, difficult and exacting
problems with a machete, as opposed to a scalpel.
Top Ten Pieces of Advice for a Rookie Law School Dean
Take time at the outset to become acquainted with law school staff.
Understand the nature of each individual's job.
Show support for staff frequently and through creative means.
If an "outside" dean, take a minimum of six months to absorb
institutional and faculty culture before making any major decisions
or undertaking any major restructuring, reformulation or new programs.
If an "inside" dean, the learning period can be briefer;
however, be certain that your plans are well-grounded in a factual basis
Within the first few months, learn the attributes, talents and
personalities of the faculty and professional staff.
Conduct listening sessions with each individual, and communicate to
each that s/he is an integral part of the law school's mission.
Listen very thoroughly, but if an "outside" dean, recognize
that you have as yet no perspective with which to assess the information you
glean. As in "inside"
dean, disregard any past difficulties with colleagues or staff; each person
deserves a clean slate at the outset of your deanship.
Keep your own counsel. Never
criticize a faculty member, either in public or in private conversation if
another faculty member is present.
Develop a few faculty confidantes who are committed to confidentiality,
and who can serve as candid critics and "reality checks" for your
proposed plans and programs. Cultivate
relationships with other law school deans and with deans of other colleges in
the university, creating a network of persons from whom you can seek guidance,
advice and support, and with whom you can be utterly candid about law school
problems, personalities and crises, and vent indignation on occasion.
Recognize the excellent work and accomplishments of faculty, staff,
students and alumni. Nominate
them for every available university, law school or professional award.
Assemble impressive dossiers to support each nomination.
Even if the nomination is not successful, the confidence and morale of
the nominee will be enhanced immeasurably.
A related suggestion: become
the "George Bush" of legal education.
Write congratulatory, laudatory notes to faculty, staff, students and
alumni for every achievement, whether great or small.
If difficult corrective action appears to be required, such as removing
a program director or disciplining a miscreant faculty or staff member,
develop a thorough basis in fact for the necessary action, and act quickly and
firmly. Be candid and
straightforward, but also sensitive and kind.
Take every possible step to preserve the dignity of the faculty or
staff members affected.
Care for your own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
Take aggressive steps to maintain physical vigor.
Eat a salad either prior or subsequent to each of the scores of events
a dean must attend each year, and forego the rubber chicken.
A few bites will suffice to satisfy the demands of etiquette.
Make time each day for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity. Take your vacation, every day of it, every year.
Crises will await your return, the institution will survive, and your
continued mental and psychological health is abjectly dependent upon
sufficient time away from the deanship.
Maintain a fruitful, fulfilling life outside the law school.
Persist in the struggle to maintain balance in your professional and
personal lives. Do not neglect
your own intellectual and professional development.
Maintain a research agenda. Teach
a class, if not every semester, at lest once in the academic year. Seize time for your family and friends, and wrench time for
at least several pleasurable, non-legal commitments, activities or hobbies.
Never show anger, and never take personally the many (and often
unfounded and unfair) slights and criticisms that are the lot of a dean.
Ever and always, approach each person and situation with sensitivity,
judgment, an excess of kindness, patience, the utmost of fairness, humility
and paramount consideration for others. And,
laugh out loud frequently;
in each day there is ample cause to do so.
A Tribute to 36 Over 10
In this era,
few persons have the stamina, energy, optimism, perseverance, vision,
creativity, confidence, cheerfulness, humility and gentleness to remain as
a dean for more than ten years. Those
deans who have remained at their posts for most than a decade
are legendary, each a splendid dean and remarkable person.
I proffer a tribute to these "senior" deans, and extend the
gratitude of their decanal colleagues for their wisdom, assistance,
collegiality, graciousness and extraordinary service.
Roger Abrams (Northeastern)
Bhishma Agnihotri (Southern)
Alfred Aman (Indiana-Bloomington)
Nina Appel (Loyola-Chicago)
Judy Areen (Georgetown)
Marty Belsky (Tulsa)
Ron Cass (Boston)
Robert Clark (Harvard)
Jim Concannon (Washburn)
John Costonis (LSU)
Jeremy Davis (North Dakota)
John Feerick (Fordham)
Howard Glickstein (Touro)
Reese Hansen (BYU)
Joe Harbaugh (Nova)
Tim Heinsz (Missouri-Columbia)
Bill Hines (Iowa)
Howard Hunter (Emory)
Jeff Lewis (St. Louis)
John Montgomery (South Carolina)
W. Frank Newton (Texas Tech)
John E. O'Brien (New England)
Tom Read (South Texas)
Robert Reinstein (Temple)
John Sexton (NYU)
David Shipley (Georgia)
Steve Smith (Cal Western)
Rennard Strickland (Oregon)
E. Thomas Sullivan (Minnesota)
Leigh Taylor (Southwestern)
Lee Teitelbaum (Cornell)
Joe Tomain (Cincinnati)
Bob Walsh (Wake Forest)
Frank Walwer (Texas Wesleyan)
Parham Williams (Chapman)
Kinvin Wroth (Vermont)
It is a
profound privilege to serve as dean of a law school.
It is an enormously satisfying job, one that provides so much more in
terms of intellectual, spiritual and emotional growth and rewards to the person
who serves than that person ever gives to the job. It is a job that genuinely matters, is more than worth
doing, and worth doing as well as one can.
Dean, DePaul College of Law, 1997 to present; West Virginia
University College of Law, 1993-97.
In collecting my thoughts regarding the position and role of a dean,
I consulted with a few decanal friends.
Attribution to their thoughts is provided.
As Maryann Jones (Western State University) observes, it is most
fortunate that problem-solving is enjoyable; it certainly consumes an
inordinate proportion of a dean's time!
Nina Appel (Loyola - Chicago) provided this elegant phraseology.
Constituencies include: faculty and staff; students; university officers and
personnel; alumni; employers; friends and supporters.
Often, their needs and perceptions are in conflict.
Every day in the life of a law school
dean is not a great day; but every day that one can spend with alumni is
truly a great day.
For example, to influence previously non-scholarly faculty members to
return to writing, to provide assistance in classroom pedagogy that is
concrete, constructive and effective, to encourage faculty members to submit
their work for awards and other recognition, and to nominate and strongly
advocate for awards and other recognition for faculty members is indeed a
mitzvah. Moreover, the opportunity to assist each faculty or staff
member in maximizing strengths and talents, while minimizing weaknesses, is
one of the most gratifying aspects of a dean's job.
I am indebted to Toni Massaro (Arizona) for this wonderfully explicit
description of an unnerving, yet unavoidable, fact of deanship.
A dean's schedule is buffeted about by
crises and emergencies of others that quickly and inevitably become the
For example, I give staff members extended lunch periods during the
two summer weeks when The Taste of Chicago is operating, and host the staff
for one fun afternoon activity each spring, such as bowling, arcade games,
or a movie.
Concededly, the overwhelming majority of deans are not afforded this
luxury. One month before I
arrived at DePaul, one of the major Centers of the College of Law exploded,
with resignations, remonstrations, recriminations abounding.
This matter could not wait six days, let alone six months.
Thanks to Nell Newton (Connecticut).
attestation is found in the accumulation of 20 decanal pounds in seven years
This advice, initially offered by Tom Reed at the ABA Baby Dean
Workshop I attended at the outset of my first deanship, initially struck me
as indolent. It is not.
It is imperative.
Thanks for this thought to Toni Massaro.
Or served at more than one law school
for a total of a decade or more of deaning.