Bill and I offer our thoughts below; we will post the responses of others in the coming days. [We also are accepting unsolicited contributions here.]
The central tenet of Moneyball – that technological changes make possible more and better data that innovative leaders can deploy to great success – has been embraced in varying forms by subsequent books like Freakonomics, The Long Tail, and Super Crunchers. As I wrote three years ago:
The tectonic plates of the legal education landscape are inexorably moving in the direction toward greater accountability and transparency in this era of increased computing power and Internet capabilities. These conditions are creating the environment in which the law school version of Billy Beane may emerge to seize the opportunities afforded in this new world order.
What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1483, 1547 (2004).
My general advice to Erwin Chemerinsky is to embrace his inner Billy Beane and adopt a data-driven approach to running the new UC-Irvine law school. Such an approach would play itself out in myriad ways, which I cannot sketch in 250 words here. But my “single best idea for reforming legal education” is to rethink tenure.
Although tenure had noble origins as a protector of academic freedom, it has morphed into nothing more than a lifetime employment contract. The Billy Beane who eschews long-term contracts for free agents undoubtedly would abhor life tenure for anyone.
Law schools struggle to create reward structures to incentivize faculty performance. The stakes often border on the trivial and tend to focus exclusively on scholarship at the expense of teaching and service.
Instead, renewable five year contracts could be given to faculty, with objective performance measures in all three categories. UC-Irvine provides the ideal environment for such an experiment – given the publicity surrounding political interference in Chemerinsky’s hiring, what better place to develop adequate job protection for faculty within the confines of contractual appointments?
To attract and retain faculty, UC-Irvine should pay a significant salary premium over comparable schools (here and here) and offer faculty-wide bonuses for student successes (e.g., bar passage, job placement). My guess is that high-achieving, well-rounded, energetic faculty would flock to UC-Irvine to work under Dean Beane-Chemerinsky.