Does Barack Obama Have Enough Administrative Experience to be a Law School Dean?--

I was thinking about the story (whether true or not) that George Bush once suggested to a fellow baseball owner that he might want to be the commissioner of Major League Baseball. The felllow owner responded that Bush wasn't bright enough.

Then I thought about jobs that Barack Obama and John McCain might--or might not--be qualified for, including law school dean. McCain probably doesn't have the intellectual style of a typical dean — and he lacks a law degree and experience teaching in a law school.

In most respects, Obama would be an excellent choice for dean of a top law school, but I wonder whether (before this year) he had enough administrative experience to get the job. Running a small Senate staff would probably not be enough experience. And we know very little about Obama's work for Project Vote and Chicago's Annenberg Challenge educational programs.

Thus, I would say that, until the last year, Obama's administrative resume may have been too thin to be an obvious first choice to be a dean at a top law school. Ultimately, however, I think that Obama's very successful presidential campaign suggests that he has more than enough administrative skill and experience to run a faculty of 75 people, a staff of 100-200, and a law school of a thousand students.

From the Washington Post last year:
Obama's Campaign Takes In $25 Million
He Nearly Matches Clinton, With Twice as Many Donors
By Anne E. Kornblut and Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 5, 2007; Page A01

Sen. Barack Obama raised at least $25 million for his presidential campaign in the first quarter of the year, nearly matching Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's record-setting total and making it all but certain that Democrats will face a costly and protracted battle for their party's nomination.

Collectively, the Democratic candidates raised nearly $80 million in the first quarter, outpacing the Republican field for the first time since the Federal Election Commission began closely tracking such figures in the 1970s.
Seems qualified to be a law school dean to me.
5.8.2008 12:13pm
Thales (mail) (www):
His fundraising capability and personable nature alone makes him a lot more qualified than my own law school dean (who shall remain nameless).
5.8.2008 12:22pm
Is administrative experience necessary to be a law school dean? Arent professors with little such experience typically hired?
5.8.2008 12:33pm
James Lindgren (mail):
As I said, even before last year, in most respects Obama (unlike GWB or McCain) would be an excellent law school dean. My question was whether he had had enough administrative experience for the job. Now he has more than enough administrative skill and experience.
5.8.2008 12:36pm
Steve P. (mail):
hawkins — I don't know about law schools, but if it's similar to other universities, deans are often former professors with administrative experience. That's the ideal transition: professor to department head to dean, with smaller incremental administrative responsibility in between. I suspect that it isn't easy to get tenured professors to do what you want, thus the need for experience.
5.8.2008 12:43pm
Mikeyes (mail):
The real question is whether Hillary has the experience.
5.8.2008 12:45pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Still though, sometimes those law school deans get world changing phone calls at 3 a.m. . . . is Barack HUSSEIN Obama up to the task?
5.8.2008 1:15pm
Waldensian (mail):

Ultimately, however, I think that Obama's very successful presidential campaign suggests that he has more than enough administrative skill and experience to run a faculty of 75 people, a staff of 100-200, and a law school of a thousand students.

Obama will be tremendously relieved to hear this.
5.8.2008 1:30pm
Old33 (mail):
Prof. Lindgren, not to put you on the spot, but what administrative experience with David VanZandt have prior to becoming the dean at NULaw? I ask as a NULaw '02 grad who thought DVZ was an outstanding dean who has made great improvements to the school and its place within the national legal community.

As a student, all we knew was that he rose to the position from his role as a professor teaching primarily corporate law. Did he have administrative experience behind the scenes among the faculty that we students were not privy to?
5.8.2008 1:34pm
jsn (mail):
Most law school deans aren't qualified and lack the experience to unclog my bathroom toilet. What do they know about modern plumbing?
5.8.2008 1:37pm
Crunchy Frog:
That depends on your toilet, I imagine.
5.8.2008 2:14pm
Why would anybody -- except, perhaps, a burned-out scholar -- want to be a law school dean?
5.8.2008 2:43pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I'd expect that being a dean requires much more admin skill than being a president. My experience in gov't was that work and worry decrease as you go up the scale. Staff attorneys work hard and know their stuff. Assistants above them have to manage 6-8 people who know their stuff. Associates above that have to manage 3-4 assistants who know their stuff and are supervising the others who know their stuff.

The president in theory supervises a bunch of cabinet agencies that have big administrative staffs do that work. He'd make major policy calls, and have a million or two people to implement them.
5.8.2008 3:01pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I agree with most of the posters here - the average law school dean doesn't have enough administrative experience to be a law school dean, at least when first acquiring such an office.

But Obama probably does have enough fund raising experience to be a law school dean, which may be more important in many law schools.
5.8.2008 4:15pm
jnet (mail):

such faint praise, indeed
5.8.2008 4:54pm
Old33 (mail):
There is a significant difference on the fundraising aspect, though. Sen. Obama's fundraising is for him personally...his donors have bought into HIM, want to see HIM in the White House. He's not raising money for something intangible like a foundation, or a law school endowment. He's raising money for something which, to donors, is quote tangible.
5.8.2008 4:55pm
buford puser (mail):
I don't think he'd be interested in such a position for about eight years, but it is a possible future career option; I'm assuming with the additional eight years of administrative experience in the White House, you'd find him qualified to run a really big law school?
5.8.2008 5:27pm
Gringo (mail):

Here is another article on Obama's work with the Annenberg Challenge with Bill Ayers. An interesting aspect about this article on Obama and the Annenberg Challenge is that it links to a analysis of the effectiveness of the Annenberg Challenge Here is the summary of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge Experience . (271 page .pdf) (I apologize in advance for any mistakes in my typed transcription.)
"It highlighted the period between 1996-97 through 2000-2001. Results suggest that among the schools the Challenge supported, the Challenge had little impact on school improvement and student outcomes, with no statistically significant differences between Annenberg and non-Annenberg schools in rates of achievement gain, student behavior, student self-sufficiency, and social competence. "

IOW, Obama chaired a project that handed out $50 million in grant money for improvement in Chicago schools, and the $50 million had no result. That doesn't say much about Obama's abilities as an executive. It also stereotypes the stereotype of liberal solutions for social problems: throw some money at it. One can see why Obama has apparently not been inclined to volunteer to gush about his experience with the Annenberg Challenge, given its ineffectiveness. One usually does not volunteer that one handed out $50 million with no result.
5.8.2008 5:57pm
Minor Quibble:
Without commenting specifically on Obama's qualifications or lack thereof, I'd just like to point out that evidence of a well-run presidential campaign or a successful fundraising effort does not necessarily reflect at all on the candidate's management, leadership, or fundraising abilities. The candidate is not the implementer or executive of these organizations; s/he is the product being managed, moved, packaged, and sold by those who are actually running the organizations.
5.8.2008 6:43pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
If schools were rightly viewed as businesses with customers and "products", I suspect the qualifications for Dean would be substantially different, and vastly more substantive. As matters stand, "wimpy liberal suck-up" pretty much summarizes the position (which includes "frequently bend over" as a basic physical dexterity requirement), in which case yes, Obama would qualify.
5.8.2008 7:13pm
>>>Why would anybody -- except, perhaps, a burned-out scholar -- want to be a law school dean?

The fantastic amount of money he'd be paid every month?
5.8.2008 7:26pm
LM (mail):
You don't take that job for the money. You take it for the satisfaction of convincing people like Hillary Clinton and John McCain to something worthwhile with their money.
5.8.2008 7:48pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
I think there is a rarified atmosphere here that some people live in that think that being a dean of a law school is a good thing.

Whether you like McCain or not, he has plenty of administrative and leadership experience to run a modestly large organization such as a law school. Obama certainly doesn't.

But not everyone needs experience to do a good job. I've no doubt that Obama has the ability to run a law school, and even McCain can do it without being a lawyer. You don't need to be a subject matter expert to be the leader, that's proven in every field every day.

The only question about these men is not their potential as leaders, but the direction in which they wish to lead us.
5.8.2008 9:27pm