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Want to be dean of a law school? If so, there are plenty of rings to throw your hat into. In the Bay Area alone, three schools — the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, Santa Clara University School of Law and San Francisco’s Golden Gate University School of Law — are looking to fill the top slot. And there are quite a few openings nationally as well, including places like Harvard Law School, Cornell Law School and University of Michigan Law School. In fact, 20 percent of the nation’s 186 accredited law schools are in the market for new deans, reports the American Bar Association section of legal education, the accrediting institution. Locally, Santa Clara is farthest along in its search, with a short list of five candidates to replace outgoing dean Mack Player, who announced his resignation in September. The school assembled a search committee in October and presented its list in December. The school’s five finalists all have experience in the dean’s chair — four are current or former deans and one is a former associate dean. Candidates are currently going through a process of two-day meet-and-greets at the school, where they spend time with students, alumni and faculty. Professor Kenneth Manaster, who chaired the Santa Clara search committee, said the school had no problem finding applicants. “We had 23 applicants over the course of about a month and a half. We have been very excited about the caliber of people who are applying,” he said. The challenging part has been getting more women and minority candidates. “Despite extensive efforts to invite women candidates, we had very few applicants. It was a big disappointment,” he said. Manaster added that the school did have several black and Asian applicants, some of whom made the final cut. “With the fairly recent growth in women and minorities in law teaching, it seems to be an even more recent phenomenon that those people are getting into administrative positions. We don’t seem to be at the point where we are getting a significant number of women and minority applicants yet, but it will come,” he said. Peter Keane, who will step down from the helm of Golden Gate next year, said the many openings for law school deans across the country is “not a new phenomenon.” Keane turned down the school’s five-year contract extension in October and said that while many people believe “it’s a real stressful job, but my opinion is it’s not stressful — it’s definitely less so than being a practicing lawyer.” Keane said the average tenure is “about three years or less. It’s been that way for the last 10 years at least.” At Boalt, the search for a replacement for the former dean, John Dwyer, is moving slowly forward. Dwyer resigned in November amid sexual harassment allegations by a former student, and the school named tenured professor Robert “Uncle Zeb” Berring as an interim replacement in December. “There’s not a lot of perks to the job,” said Berring when asked why there’s such a high turnover rate of law school deans. “At one time, deans ruled with an iron hand, but now it’s more like herding cats. Law school faculty are independent and don’t do what they’re told. And much of the job now is fund raising.” Berring said that while UC Chancellor Robert Berdahl will name the dean search committee members soon, no one knows when a permanent dean will actually be in place. “An optimist would say six months, a pessimist 18 months,” he said. As law schools search for new leaders, the skills they are looking for have changed as well. Traditionally, law school deans came from academia, but the skill needed to succeed as a dean today — fund raising and more fund raising — is not what most academics spend their careers honing. “Most deans are academics, and they don’t make good administrators because they have had little stress in their lives,” said Keane. “They lead a sheltered, guarded life. But everyday administrating can be stressful, and the political situation can be difficult.” Betty Hasler, a recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles Inc., who helped Golden Gate hire Keane, said it’s become more common for schools to look at an equal number of practitioners and academics in their dean searches. Recruiting more minority candidates has also been a focus. “We have developed a network of people of color. Heavy networking activity is a part of every search. We also advertise in publications targeted at legal professionals of color,” Hasler said. Barry Currier, a deputy consultant at the ABA’s section of legal education, said there has been a concerted effort to open up senior jobs at law schools to women and minorities, but progress has been slow. “There are a lot more women deans now,” he said. “But there’s only been a slight increase in minority deans — we still have a ways to go.”

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