Today the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) hosted the breakfast which began at 7:30 a.m.  The speakers shared a lot of very interesting information with us.  Large firms have clearly been affected by the economy.  There have been a number of lay offs which puts an increasing strain on the career services office to provide services for students and alums.  The national placement rate for 2007 overall was 92%.  The prevailing large firm wage was $160,000, but there were fewer summer offers.  Another trend is that federal judges are switching to experienced clerks and some of the judges in state courts are moving to permanent clerks.  Another current concern is whether law firms will rescind offers.  The NALP principles say that firms should honor their commitments unless extraordinary situations arise, but if they are unable to honor those commitments the firms must communicate the changes and must do something to mitigate the harm to the student.  I wasn’t aware of those rules and found that information helpful.  Some of the things firms are doing rather than rescind offers are deferring the start dates for offers, staggering start dates for offers, delaying the start date with an incentive, offering part-time work and also providing stipends for pro bono work until they can bring the person in-house.  Mitigation includes severance pay and placement services.

Melissa Essary, Bucky Askew, and Jeremy Paul

Melissa Essary, Bucky Askew, and Jeremy Paul

The morning panel from 9:00-10:15 a.m. was entitled “The Dean as Financial Manager,” and the members of the panel were Dean Gail Agrawal, Larry Ponoroff, Bob Jerry and Rick Matasar.  They focused on managing through challenging financial times.  It was very, very helpful.  They talked about a number of issues both in terms of how to (as a practical matter) make budget cuts or to manage your resources, as well as the emotional part of managing in tough economic times.  I thought it was a very helpful session.  Dean Matasar talked about the fact that sometimes we have programs in our law schools that we’ve adopted but never really dealt with and the question becomes when do we get rid of them?  It’s our responsibility as dean to take these on.  He said that the privilege of a lifetime job in the academy is the sacrifice that comes during down turns and he thinks should be borne equally by all the faculty members.  He talked about the psychosocial impact, that it’s very important for deans to be open, that the conversations come from the core, that it’s the dean’s place to take the hits, and that it’s just one of the tough things that comes with the job.  I found that to be a bit of a wake up call because, of course, nobody likes unpleasantness, but I think he’s right.  Dean Matasar was my civil procedure teacher in law school, so we have a special bond, and I went up and visited with him afterwards about his presentation.

Following that, from 10:30-11:45 a.m. there was a breakout session on “Budgeting and Finance.” The public law schools met with Dean Larry Dessem from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, the private law schools met with Dean Kellye Testy from Seattle University School of Law, and the stand alone law schools session was lead by Dean Joan Wexler of Brooklyn Law School.  Again, the breakout session was very helpful, particularly the way that the sessions were broken out because many of the public schools share the same concerns and some of our colleagues have already had to make 20% cuts, so it was very painful to listen.  They shared what that was like, both in terms of the impact on the programs as well as the emotional toll that it took on the law school community where they were.  It was a very open, honest and helpful session on how to manage.

Breakout session

Breakout session

Lunch, provided by the Access Group, was a steak, asparagus and potatoes, a pretty heavy lunch.  There was a lively discussion around the restructuring of the Board for Access Group lead by Dean Rick Matasar, and then a final session from 1:00-3:00 p.m. on “Strategy and Marketing.”

At the end of the day most of the deans departed, but as you know that was the week the ice storm hit Northwest Arkansas.  I had been in contact with Deans Beard and Kilpatrick, my mom, and Prof. Susan Schneider and knew how bad things were.  They told me that Monday the weather started to get bad as temperatures dropped during the drizzling rain, and by Tuesday it was clearly hazardous so the University was closed.  As a result Tuesday after most deans departed, I called American Airlines.  My flight was scheduled for the next day but they told me it was unlikely I would be able to get in, so I moved my flight to Thursday which left me an extra day in Phoenix.  This was fine except that, believe it or not, I really wanted to get back to check on my house and my mom and I felt concerned about all the people without power including our students.  Biding my time, that night I had a quiet dinner in the hotel and kept up with e-mail traffic and phone calls.

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