FROM THE EDITOR
Talking with deans. These days, I can’t get enough of it. But
back in the day, it was an interaction I preferred to avoid. Ah, the errors of
This month, we run another in our series of Q&As with Arizona’s legal
education leaders. In their turn, the three law school’s deans have shared their
insights with our readers. And it is a tradition we hope to continue, with the
deans’ courtesy and cooperation.
Dean Shirley Mays now helms the Phoenix School of Law. PSL is the
greenhorn among the state’s law schools, but it arrived with a business plan and
pedagogical strategy that went in an unorthodox direction. Over the years, it
has earned accolades for diversity, community service and bar pass rates, among
other things. And along the way, it earned full ABA accreditation.
As I prepared for my interview with Dean
Mays, I wondered what made these “dean
people” so interesting to me. What about
school administrators—who are just as much
in charge of student parking as they are of
student achievement—makes me sit up and
It wasn’t always that way. When I went to
law school, my few interactions with my dean
were brief and a tad awkward. Perhaps it was
my looming tuition bill, and my stack of
nightly reading, that kept me from engaging
on a deeper level. And that, I see now, was
unfortunate. Law schools, and their leaders,
play a unique and valuable role.
And so I’ve gone from “pain” to “paean”
in about 20 years. I guess education works.
The analogy I draw is in regard to federalism, which still makes an occasional
appearance, even today. In that rubric, there may be a larger body politic that
gets the big headlines and makes the big decisions—let’s call that the federal
But then there are the states. Sure, they could secede, but more often they
launch unique local experiments in governance. Smaller and more agile than
their federal counterpart, they test, and try, and test again. As Supreme Court
Justice Louis Brandeis said, they are laboratories of democracy.
Law schools share some of those qualities. Yes, the legal profession wants the
product schools turn out—sometimes more, sometimes less. The schools’ grad-
uates fuel the firms’ engines. And legal employers tend to think that they are
where the action is, where progress is made, where the future of
the law is tempered and forged.
But law schools have quite a bit of that laboratory thing
going on (as we see in ASU’s incubator project, on page 30).
True, they are not beyond revenue concerns, as my tuition bill
attested. But they occupy a space that is unique in the law, where
inquiry and investigation are acknowledged as vital to an entity
that adorns itself with the label “profession.”
Every dean with whom I’ve spoken must wear that odd three-
cornered hat, which encompasses the triad of their mission. They
must be boosters, they must be stewards, and they must be
transformative change agents. No single person feels equally
comfortable in all those roles. But the harmony each brings to
her or his mission leads to their level of success, personally and
for their schools.
And that’s a lab director position that earns my respect.
Our Q&A with Dean Mays begins on page 16. AZ AT
Law school deans
must be boosters,
and stewards, and
That’s hard work.
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