Wednesday the programs didn’t start until 1:00 p.m. which is also a nice touch to give people a chance to get out and see and do.  That morning I got dressed in some shorts and tennis shoes and took a long, long walk down to the city of Lake Worth.  The street name was Lake Street and you can walk along A1A there and I just took a long walk looking at all the different condos and the parks and the water, just quietly.  That felt great and then I came back and took a shower and had lunch, checked e-mails and returned phone calls.  It was really nice and a nice pace.  I actually got a little bit of a New York Times read before attending an afternoon session on “Dealing with Difficult Economic Times.”  The moderator was Prof. Christopher Pietruszkiewicz from Louisiana State University.  The speakers were Dean Hannah Arterian from Syracuse; Dean Daisy Floyd of Mercer; John Plummer, Assistant Dean of Administrative Services for Florida; and Dean John White of UNLV.

Dean Floyd talked about when you are in a financial crunch at your law school or because of the state economy, the most important thing is to keep your prospective and remain focused on the long term goal for the school and to do what you really need to assess your priorities.  You should have that done before an economic crisis arises because that way you know which things are most important and you know how to prioritize in terms of having to cut the budget.  The other thing she emphasized was making sure to communicate to key constituencies exactly the situation and the choices you’re making and why.

Dean White talked about keeping the identity of the law school while weathering economic challenges.  He said that some programs are more expensive to run, but as a law school you’ve decided that that’s who you are and that those programs are important to you and that you shouldn’t lose sight of that because of a financial crisis.

Dean Arterian talked about the role that central administration can play and how central administrators can be valuable allies and I have certainly experienced that at Arkansas and am very greatly for the assistance I have received from Don Pederson and also Provost Smith during my past two years.  She also pointed out something that I guess I haven’t thought about and I’m really glad, that’s why you go to these sessions to get new ideas and, she said to be sure to keep untenured faculty in the loop because they are the ones who feel the most vulnerable.  She takes the untenured faculty to dinner on a regular basis and I think that’s a great idea and given that we have a number now of untenured faculty, I think that’s a good idea and I’m going to adopt that idea.  That was a good one that I gained from that panel.

Assistant Dean Plummer talked about things from the view point of a professional administrator and not an academician.  He said to look for things not as well as managed as they could be.  In other words, look for fat.  Look for things that you could do more or less expensively and I have to give a shout out here to Teri Stafford who has helped us in terms of the lunches that we host, finding a much lower price vendor who will provide more food for less money and we had a tasting and the quality of the food was as good or better than what we’ve had in the past.  So, that’s one example of looking for ways to cut back on expenses and to do things more efficiently and I’m grateful to her for that guidance.

The overarching theme for this panel seemed to be keeping focused on priorities and communicating what those are and the decisions that you make and why you’ve made those, so that was a very helpful panel, very interesting.

There was a reception that evening that was a lot of fun.  It was sponsored by Thomson West Group.  Afterwards, it was followed by a Dean’s Dessert sponsored by Dean John Carroll of Samford University.  I had a chance to chat with him briefly and thank him for the dessert buffet, particularly since chocolate was involved.