Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

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TakeItToTrial
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Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:03 pm

At both of my top choices, the deans are "stepping down" to join the faculty. Is this normal? Or is this a reason for concern?

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KissMyAxe
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby KissMyAxe » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:12 pm

No, I wouldn't read into it and it is probably no reason for concern. Dean isn't the most glamorous job in the world. Most professors become professors because they are intensely interested in a subject and want to research it to the fullest extent. A handful do it because they love teaching. A dean constantly has to handle administrative issues and suck up to alumni to raise donations. They basically have to put their research on hold for the duration of their deanship, and are severely limited in the classes they teach (some do not teach at all, some a class a year). This is not something most professors want to do, as it defeats the reasoning of their becoming a professor in the first place. Many other professors become dean, but eventually step down out of boredom. For example, at YLS, Robert Post has reached the end of his second term and is stepping down to join the faculty (after taking paid leave). The hiring committee found only a couple faculty were willing to replace him. So yeah, it happens everywhere, and is no cause for concern.

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TakeItToTrial
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Fri Mar 17, 2017 2:19 pm

KissMyAxe wrote:No, I wouldn't read into it and it is probably no reason for concern. Dean isn't the most glamorous job in the world. Most professors become professors because they are intensely interested in a subject and want to research it to the fullest extent. A handful do it because they love teaching. A dean constantly has to handle administrative issues and suck up to alumni to raise donations. They basically have to put their research on hold for the duration of their deanship, and are severely limited in the classes they teach (some do not teach at all, some a class a year). This is not something most professors want to do, as it defeats the reasoning of their becoming a professor in the first place. Many other professors become dean, but eventually step down out of boredom. For example, at YLS, Robert Post has reached the end of his second term and is stepping down to join the faculty (after taking paid leave). The hiring committee found only a couple faculty were willing to replace him. So yeah, it happens everywhere, and is no cause for concern.


Okay, thanks! I was mainly wondering whether "stepping down to join the faculty" is a euphemism for being fired. It doesn't sound like that is the case.

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KissMyAxe
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby KissMyAxe » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:12 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:No, I wouldn't read into it and it is probably no reason for concern. Dean isn't the most glamorous job in the world. Most professors become professors because they are intensely interested in a subject and want to research it to the fullest extent. A handful do it because they love teaching. A dean constantly has to handle administrative issues and suck up to alumni to raise donations. They basically have to put their research on hold for the duration of their deanship, and are severely limited in the classes they teach (some do not teach at all, some a class a year). This is not something most professors want to do, as it defeats the reasoning of their becoming a professor in the first place. Many other professors become dean, but eventually step down out of boredom. For example, at YLS, Robert Post has reached the end of his second term and is stepping down to join the faculty (after taking paid leave). The hiring committee found only a couple faculty were willing to replace him. So yeah, it happens everywhere, and is no cause for concern.


Okay, thanks! I was mainly wondering whether "stepping down to join the faculty" is a euphemism for being fired. It doesn't sound like that is the case.


Well, I'm sure it could be a euphemism for being fired. But there'd be no way of knowing, and I would doubt it in most circumstances.

dirac
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby dirac » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:32 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:At both of my top choices, the deans are "stepping down" to join the faculty. Is this normal? Or is this a reason for concern?


No worries. I assume the two top choices are YLS and HLS. Dean Minow at HLS has finished her second term and everyone here including students, faculty, administration loves her.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Mar 17, 2017 4:39 pm

TakeItToTrial wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:No, I wouldn't read into it and it is probably no reason for concern. Dean isn't the most glamorous job in the world. Most professors become professors because they are intensely interested in a subject and want to research it to the fullest extent. A handful do it because they love teaching. A dean constantly has to handle administrative issues and suck up to alumni to raise donations. They basically have to put their research on hold for the duration of their deanship, and are severely limited in the classes they teach (some do not teach at all, some a class a year). This is not something most professors want to do, as it defeats the reasoning of their becoming a professor in the first place. Many other professors become dean, but eventually step down out of boredom. For example, at YLS, Robert Post has reached the end of his second term and is stepping down to join the faculty (after taking paid leave). The hiring committee found only a couple faculty were willing to replace him. So yeah, it happens everywhere, and is no cause for concern.


Okay, thanks! I was mainly wondering whether "stepping down to join the faculty" is a euphemism for being fired. It doesn't sound like that is the case.

It can be, but it doesn't have to be (and it wouldn't mean they did something that could get them fired for cause, so much as that they and the admin didn't get along). If someone "steps down to join the faculty" but then bails on the institution in the next year or so there was probably some hostility over their actions as dean.

But it's not likely any kind of issue that you should be concerned with when choosing a school.

Paul Campos
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby Paul Campos » Fri Mar 17, 2017 5:12 pm

As others have said, the phrase "step down" means nothing in itself -- it's a routine phrase for rejoining the regular faculty.

To fill out the picture a bit for anyone who is curious about this, the job of law school dean has changed a great deal over the past generation.

30 years ago at most law schools it wasn't much different than being the chair of the history department, For one thing, fund raising was a relatively minor part of the job (amazingly from today's perspective, it wasn't that long ago, relatively speaking, i.e., the 1960s and 1970s, that many law schools had no formal fund raising operations at all). Being dean mainly meant being the chief academic officer within a unit of the university.

Today, the dean is a fund raiser first and foremost. He or she probably spends half their time on fund raising of one kind or another. Also, the administrative side of the job has gotten more burdensome, because law schools have far larger administrative staffs than they used to have. So why would anyone take a job that most academics would consider far less pleasant than being a regular faculty member? For two reasons: money, and career ambition.

First, the money side of the job has changed a lot. A generation ago at most law schools the dean didn't get paid any more than the senior faculty -- in fact it wasn't unusual for him (it was almost always a him back then of course) to make less than some of the faculty members he was supervising.

Today that would be considered ridiculous. At most schools the dean routinely makes 30% to 50% more than the highest-paid regular faculty member. At some schools he or she makes two or three times as much (this tends to be true at free-standing bottom feeders mainly). Now at a place like Yale, the faculty is already getting paid so much and have such incredibly cushy jobs that it's harder to get them to bite, hence KissMyAxe's story. (Also the only people YLS will consider for the job are current YLS or in a real pinch HLS faculty, so that shrinks the pool quite a bit). But at most places, offering somebody a $100K or $150K raise is more than enough incentive to get plenty of candidates into the pool, whether from inside or outside the faculty.

The second reason people do it is that some of them want to bail on being academics altogether, and instead pursue a career in university administration (check out how many university presidents are former law school deans).

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TakeItToTrial
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:20 pm

dirac wrote:
TakeItToTrial wrote:At both of my top choices, the deans are "stepping down" to join the faculty. Is this normal? Or is this a reason for concern?


No worries. I assume the two top choices are YLS and HLS. Dean Minow at HLS has finished her second term and everyone here including students, faculty, administration loves her.


I wish that was my choice, but sadly no.

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TakeItToTrial
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Re: Why do law school deans "step down" to join the faculty?

Postby TakeItToTrial » Fri Mar 17, 2017 6:22 pm

Thanks to everyone for the responses. It seems like this is not something to worry about.




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