Friday, January 05, 2007

This year's AALS was different....

I'm back from this year's AALS meeting in DC, and I don't know whether it was the panel discussions, the reunions with old friends, the shockingly long timespan between my first conference in 1992 and this year, or my recent return to being a law professor--but I had a wonderful time.

If any of you went to the rankings workshop, I hope you came away with some new ideas. Don't forget to download Andy Morriss's & Bill Henderson's new article, Measuring Outcomes: Post-Graduation Measures of Success in the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings. I keep thinking that there should be a Law Schools Rated Almanac, just like the old Places Rated Almanac, which took every population microcenter in the country and rated each one according to useful and verifiable categories (climate, health care, crime, recreation, educational institutions, etc.) Although it included a weighted score at the end, the organization of the book also allowed readers to consider their own priorities. (Doing a law school version of the Places Rated Almanac would be a lovely follow-up to my old article, Ratings, Not Rankings: Why U.S. News & World Report Shouldn't Want to Be Compared to Time and Newsweek--or the New Yorker.) The panelists all day, along with the leaders of the breakout sessions, did a great job. And for those of you who think that we should simply use SSRN downloads by author to rank law schools, just remember that Chris Fairman of Ohio State has cornered the market for all time--at least until six more people write articles with George Carlin's other famous words.

Last aside on SSRN for this post: I got one of those nice notes that start off with "Your Paper Makes SSRN Top Ten List." That, of course, led to a 45-minute search for exactly which two of LSN's journals were the journals with this particular list. The email referred to two lists: "IO: Firm Structure, Purpose, Organization & Contracting" and "Structure: Governance & Ownership (Topic)." If anyone knows how to locate the specific places to find those lists, please let me know.

I received that email just shortly before I went into the Section for the Law Dean's panel discussion on "What I Wished I'd Known Before." Not quite sure how far to go, given the context, I alluded to some of what I wish I'd known before, much of which referred to Not Quite "Them," Not Quite "Us": Why It's Difficult for Former Deans to Go Home Again.

My guess is that everyone on the panel came up with many, many more ideas after we'd finished the session. Here are some of mine for folks who are negotiating to become deans, all of which I forgot to say at the session:
  1. Make sure that your faculty slot is already funded. When I was negotiating the first time around, I didn't realize that there was a chance that my own faculty slot was tentative, based on whether my predecessor dean (who's now the chancellor there) left UNL for other options. Make sure that the budget already includes your own faculty line, or you'll find yourself cobbling together a budget sufficient to pay for yourself, let alone any potential new hires.
  2. There should be a mix, in the negotiation, of agreements on what your school needs (e.g., more lines, upgraded classrooms, different overhead charges, etc.) and what you and your loved ones will need. You should put your school's needs first, but so many of us (me included) are so excited to be serving as deans that we often forget to ask for what we will need as well. Which leads me to . . .
  3. PLAN AN EXIT STRATEGY that includes not just what your salary and length of leave will be, but also (a) whether you'll have to pay the leave back if you want to go elsewhere (glad I addressed this one, since I'm off to UNLV after this semester), (b) where your office will be located and what secretarial help you'll get (my uncle did this when he became emeritus, and he was glad that he did, especially as administrators changed over time), (c) what kind of research and travel budget you'll have (Ray Nimmer has been great about this), and (d) what your title, post-deaning, will be (Alex Johnson, for example, has dean emeritus status at Minnesota). And don't forget to plan your days once you leave--this is true for all research leaves, not just leaves for former deans. Time can slip away quickly.
But I digress: back to the AALS. What made it different for me this year was, more than anything else, the healing power of reconnecting in person with good friends who have been part of my support system this last year in so many ways. I am truly touched by the outpouring of kindness, and I'm still very grateful.

When I was a wet-behind-the-ears law professor in 1992, I was intimidated by the sheer size of the AALS annual meeting, and I hung out mostly with the other two OSU new hires that year, Ned Foley and Kathy Northern. It took me years to get comfortable hanging out in section meetings, let alone to speak at them. Now AALS's annual meeting feels like a favorite shoe, not too worn-in, but not too new.


Rick Bales said...

Congratulations on your new blog!!!

Nancy Rapoport said...

Thanks, Rick! I had toyed with the idea of blogging when I was the dean at UHLC, but too many folks there advised against it. Now Ray Nimmer seems to be doing fine w/his blog there, so I guess times have changed.

Recreation Fishing said...

Great tutorial! Very informative in how well worded and descriptive you were! You know they say that if one knows how to describe what they want really well, then life is just as good as how you describe it :)
Its great for people who feel like time is running against them and then land on your blog and feel like a whole burden was just lifted off of their shoulder.. I admire and respect people who take time to make it easier for others.. Thanks a bunch! :)