Friday, October 5, 2007
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?
Richard A. Matasar (Dean and President, New York Law School; Former Dean, University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law (1996-99) and Chicago-Kent College of Law (1991–96):
In baseball, everyone plays the same game: you win by scoring more runs than the opposition. Moneyball teaches the disciplined use of metrics to win unconventionally. But in law schools, we play several different games at once -- the prestige game, the cushy place to work game, the indivdual fame and glory game, or countless others that are about us -- professional academics, who continue to be ambitious over-achieving students who have never left the comfort of school. You know that game: publish lots, take high LSAT students, don't damage them too much, maintain a low student to teacher ratio, lie about placement, and pray that you have tons of money for the good life.
There is another game, however, that is far scarier -- the need to build institutions and to provide value to students, the university, the State, and your funders. That game has different rules. Much of the advice you are getting is about the new game: designing curriculum that begins with clients and employers, creating incentives for faculty to implement this education, working the employment market to advance students' interests, etc. There is little to add other than the punchline: you must focus on outcomes for which you will be accountable.
So, what game are you in?
Here the one I like: create real value for the university, State, and students.
- Know yourself. Follow your passions to provide leadership that aligns with your customer's interests;
- Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses and build a team that shares your vision and is strong where you are weak. Share the credit with them;
- You are a fiduciary, responsible to produce a high rate of return on the investments made by your students, the university, and the State;
- It's never about you of the faculty. You are a symbol of your school; it's not personal;
- Get out if you are asked to play a different game.
For all the posts in the series, see here.