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University of Houston Law Center officials swung into action when they wanted a top draft choice to join the team. To entice the potential recruit to come to their campus, the officials dangled money, perks and the promise of a nice lifestyle. The competition for top talent can be tough, and UH was up against another school trying just as aggressively to snag the star. In the end, Houston came out ahead. Leslie Griffin, an expert on legal ethics, will join the faculty of the UH Law Center this fall. Just as coaches try to put together a winning lineup, law school officials work to assemble a top academic crew. They relish the coup of landing one of the best and the brightest, especially when they outbid a rival university. “Frankly, my single greatest joy in life is to recruit top faculty from elsewhere,” UH law Dean Nancy Rapoport says. Rapoport has experienced a lot of happiness in her two years as dean. She counts at least half a dozen faculty members who recently picked UH over other schools as prize steals. Griffin, a lawyer and theologian who has taught at Santa Clara University School of Law in California since 1994, says she was approached last fall by UH and another university, which she declines to identify. The other school offered her, among other perks, a research assistant in the summer and possibly two in the fall semester, Griffin says. At UH, though, the library has students available to help find materials, she says. She settled on Houston, where she’s filling the Larry and Joanne Doherty Chair in Legal Ethics. “I thought it was a place that had a good environment to do my work,” says Griffin, who has a master’s degree and doctorate from Yale University and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. “The most important thing for me was support for my academic work in ethics.” The University of Texas School of Law also has convinced many top scholars to add to the legal brainpower at the Austin school, most recently a trio of high-powered catches. Lawrence Sager, Jane Maslow Cohen and Karen Engle start as permanent faculty members this fall. “It is extremely competitive,” Dean Bill Powers says of the battle to hire top teachers. “They are sought after all over the country.” The new hires show that UT is a winner in the battle for the brains, its officials say. Sager is a leading constitutional theorist who was a top draw at New York University, where he taught at the law school for almost three decades and was co-founder of its Program in Law, Philosophy & Social Theory. He is the author of numerous articles in his legal area and earned a degree from Columbia Law School in New York in 1966. In announcing his appointment, UT officials say that Sager was instrumental in transforming NYU into a top 10 law school. His wife, Cohen, is a specialist in family law, medical ethics, property law and feminist theory. She practiced law for more than a decade before becoming a faculty member at Boston University School of Law in 1983. Cohen, who graduated in 1971 with a degree from Yale Law School, is a prolific writer whose articles have appeared in numerous law reviews. Engle, a professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law for the past decade, concentrates in international human rights and employment discrimination law. She has published numerous articles and is well known for her works on women’s human rights. Engle, who grew up in San Antonio, earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1989. The law schools at Harvard, Yale and Stanford tend to compete among themselves, but UT holds its own against other highly ranked schools in recruiting, says UT law Professor Brian Leiter, a member of the appointments committee that recruited Sager. He says his university frequently goes up against other state schools — including Michigan, Virginia and Berkeley — for teachers. UT also has snagged professors from the law schools at Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania and NYU, he says. The UT law faculty of 60 full-time tenure and tenure-track instructors is stable, Leiter says, although occasionally Harvard or Yale picks someone off. However, even without a departing faculty member creating an opening, there’s always room for a top-flight lawyer, Leiter and Powers say, whether it’s as a permanent instructor, a visiting professor or an adjunct professor teaching a particular course. “We’re always in the market for first-rate senior candidates,” Leiter says, adding that other top schools also keep an eye out for select candidates. However, no matter how big a star, a professor has to benefit the students and their fellow teachers, say Powers and Dean John Attanasio of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas. Research has an important place, but teaching tops everything, Attanasio says. “We want our great faculty to be in the classroom,” he says. Once law school officials set their sights on a professor and determine a move might be possible, they assemble a committee to review the candidate’s writings and to talk to other scholars in the field for their assessments of the work. They invite the professor to come to campus to talk with students, faculty members and administrators. The prospective faculty member often gives a lecture while on campus. Frequently, a potential hire will teach as a visiting professor to experience what life would be like at the school. The three new UT hires took that route, spending one or two semesters in Austin before deciding to make the move permanent. Engle says she had a great job in Utah, but the Texas package — teaching requirements, time for research and a bigger enrollment providing more students interested in her area of the law — was too attractive to pass up. UT offered her the visiting professor position while she was still on campus meeting with people. “Some schools won’t make offers until after you leave, but Texas is proactive on lateral hires,” she says. PROFESSOR PAY Powers declines to reveal salaries of his new hires, but says a beginning instructor at UT makes approximately $100,000 once summer hours and other perks are factored in. Pay for law professors varies depending on the size of the school and where it’s located. Leiter says universities customarily at least match and usually improve the salaries of new hires, with seniority being a major factor. In some parts of the country, universities offer housing aid, boosting the total financial value of the package, he says. Salaries range from about $70,000 for a beginning instructor at smaller schools to between $200,000 and $250,000 a year, including summer grants and other support, for a top academic at a prestigious major university, according to law professors and published reports. At the University of Virginia School of Law, which many professors believe is the highest paying institution, 15 professors earned between $200,400 and $284,000 in 2001. The figures were published in The Cavalier Daily, the school newspaper, which annually lists the salary of every university employee. Powers says a school has to extend offers that are financially attractive, but that’s just the beginning. Prospective hires look at research opportunities, fellow faculty members and the students at a university to determine the most appealing package. Other inducements include the types of classes they’ll teach and teaching loads, time and money for research, and institutional and financial support for academic conferences. “Environment is extremely important,” Attanasio says. “We’re viewed as a vibrant, entrepreneurial place. The opportunities that exist for someone who comes here are really extraordinary.” That environment and other factors carry more weight than dollars for most professors and ultimately will decide the issue of where they work, teachers and deans at Texas law schools say. “At a public school, there’s not that much leeway with salaries, so you listen for other things that might make the difference to them: new projects they can run with, a collegial faculty, a lifestyle change or moving someone else with them,” Rapoport says. The dean says UH faculty, staff and alumni back her up in recruiting efforts by e-mailing, phoning and offering to meet with prospects. Wooing a top catch can take a few years and law schools have to be persistent. The most important factor, Rapoport says, is to be genuine and do what’s best for everyone. If coming to Houston isn’t the right move for a professor because of family commitments or other factors, she doesn’t put on any pressure. “In the end, I think that folks want to be valued and cared for — and we can do that better than almost anyone else,” Rapoport says. Law professor Peter Toll Hoffman, who took a permanent position at UH in January teaching advocacy, says the support of Rapoport and the school in developing his area of specialty, litigation skills and trial advocacy, convinced him to sign on. Hoffman had been teaching at the University of Nebraska College of Law, where Rapoport was dean before she came to UH. Steve Willborn, the Nebraska law dean, says Hoffman is a great professor and was a valued member of the staff. “Some might want to live in Houston and some in Lincoln,” he says. The backing of the Houston legal community also helped make up his mind to move, Hoffman says. “There are trial lawyers here willing to give their time and energy to developing a litigation program,” the professor says. Leiter says extending dual job offers can be another important inducement. “It’s one device for a school to use to get someone from a more prestigious university,” he says. “It’s one of the crucial issues these days. Academics are frequently married to other academics. You need to be willing to accommodate that.” The opportunity to work in the same city helped tip the scales for Sager and Cohen, but there were other factors, as well. Sager says he and his wife received steady offers over the years to move to another institution, including one where he would be dean and Cohen would join the faculty. They were happy at their jobs, but the desire to spend more time with their 6-year-old twin daughters made commuting between New York City and Boston a less attractive arrangement than it once was. Law Dean Ronald Cass says faculty departures are relatively rare at the Boston school. “But every once in a while, one gets away,” he says. “Having both of them [Cohen and Sager] here would have been wonderful. We weren’t able to put together a package that worked as well as Texas.” The two spent the past year as visiting professors at Texas. As top draws, Sager and Cohen already had permanent offers, putting them in the attractive position of having time to assess the school before making a decision. “What made us decide to come to UT, what we knew in advance and what we learned in the past year, is that this is terrific law school,” Sager says. “It’s a very attractive intellectual community of people who talk and share ideas. That’s enormously important. I thrive on conversation. The conversation here is terrific.” He says other factors in his decision were his regard for Powers as dean and the quality of UT law students, who enjoy being challenged. “I taught Constitutional Law I to a group of students, and it was one of the most pleasant experiences in classrooms I ever had,” Sager says. He says most teachers choose a university based on general lifestyle issues and what their colleagues and students are like. Although they might worry about whether they can afford a nice house, professors don’t move for a bump in pay, he says. “The best deans make people aware of how they’re appreciated,” Sager says, adding that he worked under a good dean at NYU. “They don’t want them to shop.”

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