Paul L. Caron

Friday, October 5, 2007

Rick Matasar's Advice for Erwin Chemerisnky: Create Real Value for University, State, and Students

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?

Matasar_2Richard 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.

  1. Know yourself. Follow your passions to provide leadership that aligns with your customer's interests;
  2. 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;
  3. You are a fiduciary, responsible to produce a high rate of return on the investments made by your students, the university, and the State;
  4. It's never about you of the faculty. You are a symbol of your school; it's not personal;
  5. Get out if you are asked to play a different game.

For all the posts in the series, see here.

Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky, Law School | Permalink

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This post demonstrates the main problem with legal education: the "academics" that provide the education and the competitive, deceptive, selfish, insecure and self conscious spirit they inject into it.

Legal academics have carved out an anomaly in higher education that caters to the academics and blatantly disregards the quality of the education provided. Can one find any other field of education where the professors lurk on blogs all day obsessing about what their peers think of them and how they compare with one another? Is there some medical school professor out there that blogs about what professor moved from Johns Hopkins to Harvard and that makes juvenile comments about colleagues and there scholarship calling it the "award for the worst article on..." like a certain Texas professor does? Does the academy respect and take that professor seriously?

The legal academy is odd, and it is clear that whole sale reform is needed in law schools starting with the people on the schools' payrolls.

Posted by: Puzzling | Oct 5, 2007 10:06:30 AM