In many constitutional democracies, the role of the president and prime minister are split. The prime minister functions as a kind of “head of the legislature,” kind of like a more powerful version of our “Speaker of the House.” He or she sets the the legislative agenda. The president is endowed with certain executive functions, like telling the army where to go. It’s not perfect, and in many countries with this split one person is clearly in charge and the other person is clearly the butt-boy.
Sometimes I think law schools could benefit from splitting the traditional responsibilities of the law school dean. We need one person who is the Prime Minister of the Faculty — I’d call that person “the dean.” That person would manage the curriculum, and would be ultimately in charge of student and faculty concerns. Issues such as practice-ready preparation, faculty hiring, and tenure decisions would ultimately fall on the prime minister’s desk.
The other guy would be the President of the Law School (Cash Money Overlord?) — he can handle all the business. Fundraising, capital projects, setting the budget, and the like. Students wouldn’t need to know his or her name. When the University President wakes up and says, “Fee-fi-fo-fum, someone stick it to the law student scum,” it’s the president who gets the call.
That way, there’s at least some nominal separation between the people in charge of milking the law students for all they’re worth and the people allegedly responsible for preparing these kids for an unforgiving job market.
On paper, it’s not the worst idea in the world. In practice, it looks like a complete disaster. A local law school has been trying to do it that way, and it looks like the whole thing just went up in flames…
We’ve written about the battles between the Brooklyn Law faculty and its president, Joan Wexler. Brooklyn Law, an independent law school, had pretty much the set up I described above, with a president who did presidential things and a dean who did dean things.
Unfortunately, the lawsuit alleged that the “presidential things” Wexler was responsible for amounted to a giant waste of money. And now, Wexler has stepped down. From the New York Law Journal:
Joan Wexler will step down at the end of this month as Brooklyn Law School president, a position she took in 2010 after serving 16 years as the school’s dean, the chairman of Brooklyn Law’s board of trustees announced Thursday.
With her departure, the school is turning its back on a short-lived experiment under which it was governed by two top administrators: a president handling business affairs and fundraising and a dean overseeing academics.
Now Brooklyn Law Dean Nick Allard will handle both roles.
So, okay, maybe I’m wrong that having two top administrators gave Brooklyn the best of both worlds. But now it seems that Brooklyn has the worst of this set up, because Wexler is still getting paid. She’s being placed on a two-year sabbatical, even though the law school says there are no immediate plans to have her teach anything. And she gets to keep her rent free apartment with skyline views of Manhattan… though she’ll be losing her car and driver. Sounds like it’s pretty good to be Joan Wexler.
Meanwhile, Nick Allard is also continuing to enjoy the good life. And by that, we don’t mean the good life of a “law school dean” — which is pretty good — but allegedly the good life of a practicing equity partner at Patton Boggs. The faculty lawsuit claims that Allard is still a “normal” practicing partner at the firm.
So in a way, it’s like BLS went from two deans to zero full-time deans… but they’re still paying two salaries. Beautiful system they’ve got for themselves.
This seems like a good time to point out that Brooklyn Law School charges a whopping $49,976 for first year tuition and fees.
Maybe the school should hire a dean to address that problem?
Departure of President Leaves Dean in Charge at Brooklyn Law [New York Law Journal]