Law School Deans, Law Schools, Money

What Happens When Elite Law School Deans Go Out To Stud

At Stanford they make stallions.

We reported last night that Larry Kramer will be leaving the deanship of Stanford Law School to assume the presidency of the Hewlett Foundation. We join others in congratulating Dean Kramer for an outstanding tenure at Stanford Law, and we wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor.

An endeavor that will undoubtedly net him a boatload of philanthropic money.

But we can’t leave the Stanford story without pausing to ask: “Why now? And why Hewlett?” Perhaps the afore-speculated boatload of cash has something to do with it. But surely Kramer was going to have a soft landing made entirely of green linen waiting for him whenever he decided to leave.

With Stanford Law just rising to #2 in the U.S. News law school rankings, some in the SLS community thought this would be a time for Kramer to savor his success, not leave the school he has helped build up….

Some tipsters and commenters have expressed surprise that Kramer decided to leave at this time. As one current Stanford student told us:

[Dean Kramer’s] leadership and vision for legal education is why I, and others I’m sure, chose SLS over both Y and H. I’m disappointed he’ll be leaving, but understand why he’d want to move on now that the transformation he spearheaded is complete. He will be a tough act to follow. Professors, supervisors and recruiters regularly mention that he is the best dean of a law school they’ve ever encountered, and those of us who worked with and studied under him will tell you the same. Tough, tough loss.

This alumni tipster concurred:

I’m out of the loop in SLS gossip, so I have no idea if there were any rumblings of discontent prior to the announcement. But I’m surprised: Kramer took the lead on implementing the move to the quarter system, the end of letter grades, the creation a clinical rotation, etc., and I would’ve expected him to stick around a little longer to see how everything panned out.

I think most students liked Kramer personally, although there was an even split on whether his reforms were good ideas or bad ones, and that probably colored how people viewed his deanship. Hewlett Foundation seems like an odd pick (I mean, even America’s third best law school got to see their dean become Solicitor General), although it sounds like there’s some history between SLS and Hewlett. Paul Brest, former dean, currently runs the foundation, I believe.

The tipster is right. Paul Brest is the current president of the Hewlett Foundation — and he makes a ton of money. Hewlett has to disclose what it pays people. In 2010, Paul Brest earned $631,694 in cash compensation, plus another $110,791 in benefits (according to the foundation’s public financial statements).

And Brest isn’t the only former Stanford Law School dean making bank. Remember Kathleen Sullivan? That former SLS dean cashed in at Quinn Emanuel, they of the $4 million in profits per partner. We don’t know exactly how much Sullivan, a name partner at the firm, takes home, but we can assume that I can’t count that high. (Disclosure: QE is an ATL advertiser.)

Meanwhile, what happens to deans at other elite schools when they go out to pasture? Well, former Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan is making just a shade over $200,000. Sure, she gets a fancy black robe, but that’s pedestrian money compared to these former SLS deans. Plus, Kagan’s locked into that not-top-1% salary for life (unless Congress suddenly feels really generous).

And hell, I don’t even know what former Yale Law School dean Harold Koh makes at the State Department, but I don’t think Sharia Law calls for lawyers to make Sultan money.

So, former deans of Harvard and Yale go into government service, while the ones at Stanford go on to make bank? How is this school ranked only #2? Sounds like SLS is #1 in terms of deans who know how to shake their money makers. For the love of God, the HLS dean before Kagan was Robert C. Clark, who cashed in being a dean at HLS to… being a professor at HLS. What the hell? Former Stanford deans make former Harvard deans look like ex-rappers who didn’t invest their money wisely.

The answer to all the Stanford people asking Dean Kramer “Why now?” might be, “Why not?” When your ship comes in, you get on for the ride.

Earlier: Larry Kramer Is Stepping Down as Dean of Stanford Law School

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