Joan Wexler

There might be too many cooks at this law school.

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…

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Make it rain, law schools!

* With the Supreme Court’s term winding quickly to a close, it’s likely that conservative justices will write for the majority in some of the most closely watched and controversial cases. Uh oh. [Washington Post]

* Judge Edward Korman, the man who slapped around the FDA like it owed him money in a ruling over access to the morning-after pill, is actually a very soft-spoken, kind-hearted fellow. [New York Times]

* Wherein a Chicago Law professor and a Vedder Price partner argue that instead of cutting law school down to two years, financial aid should be given out like candy. Hey, whatever works. [Bloomberg]

* Brooklyn Law’s got a whole lot of drama these days: Their president is stepping down, their dean is apparently still a full-time partner at Patton Boggs, and a law professor is suing over alleged ABA violations. [New York Law Journal]

* That’s not the only New York-area law school awash in scandal. Chen Guangcheng has received the boot from NYU Law due to alleged harm done to the school’s relationship with China. [New York Times]

* When questioned about the need for his school, Indiana Tech’s dean says the lawyer oversupply and lack of jobs don’t matter. It’s about the quality of the graduate. Good luck with that! [Journal Gazette]

* This came too soon (that’s what she said). The alleged porn purveyors at Prenda Law will close up shop thanks to the costly litigation surrounding their copyright trolling. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan won’t be allowed to use a “defense of others” strategy in his murder trial, because not only does it fail as a matter of law, but it’s also ridiculous. [Associated Press]

* Harvard Law grad Cate Edwards, daughter of disgraced pol John Edwards, took a dramatic step away from her father’s tabloid-esque pubic interests by opening her own public interest firm. [WJLA ABC 7]

* Judge Thomas Jackson, well-known for his antitrust ruling against Microsoft, RIP. [New York Times]

Law dean v. Law faculty. In this analogy, the students are the dirt.

Thing is, I like law professors. I like professors. I think it’s an achievement of civilization (and, you know, agriculture) to have a class of people whose only job is to think and teach.

Law professors have a great life. They’re paid generously, they work occasionally, and they’re fired rarely. No, I don’t hate law faculty, I want to be on faculty. Even at a relatively poorly ranked school (not Cooley, a man’s gotta have a code). The life of a professor involves writing, interacting with young people, and occasionally crushing the dreams of people too stupid to parrot back to you exactly what you want to hear. What’s not to like?

Of course, if we want serious change in legal education, we’re going to have to take a flamethrower to the lives of law faculty. And they’re not going to give it up quietly. When an ambitious law dean takes on the law faculty for the benefit of students, that will be a great war.

But for now, we just have the less interesting skirmishes that happen when law deans take on faculty without benefiting students in any meaningful way…

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