There are five finalists for the dean of University of Baltimore School of Law that will visit campus beginning March 26. I will review these candidates for you and make my selection. To be fair, I have never met or even heard of any of these people. I’ve limited my education to a three minute Google search of the candidates.
- Nicholas Allard: A lawyer at political heavyweight, Patton Boggs, Allard is a former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and former legal counsel to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. While I’m not pretending I’ve ever heard of him, this is the celebrity pick. Moynihan was one of the few politicians in the last 50 years who the left and the right deeply respected, and Kennedy was Kennedy. That’s the big time. He is knee-deep in pedigree, attending Princeton, Oxford, and Yale which, in a bizarre coincidence, are the same schools my children will attend in 13 years (although they are not going to law school). Here’s my concern: is there a risk that hiring Allard is like hiring Michael Jordan to play baseball? Dean Closius came here with a history of turning around a law school. Allard would come with a history of being great at lots of things other than running a law school.
- >Penelope Bryan, dean of Whittier Law School in California. She appears to be a family law attorney of note before coming to academia. My concern is that Whittier is not exactly a legal titan. Whittier wants to be UB one day. Why does she want to leave there (who leaves southern California?) and why has she been unable to turn Whittier around? Do we have evidence that she is a great dean instead of just being a great lawyer? Alfredo Garcia, who is a professor and former dean at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Florida. My first problem with Mr. Garcia is that when you Google his name, you learn that there was a movie called “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.” This is a bad omen as is the fact that he ran a law school that sounds like it belongs on a Caribbean island. Garcia has a compelling personal story, he is the first Cuban born dean of a U.S. law school. But the question I have for Garcia is the same for Bryan: why didn’t you turn around St. Thomas (and, for Garcia, why did you step down as dean?).
- Patricia Salkin, associate dean at Albany Law School. The upside is she is a serious scholar and even has her own Wikipedia page (although unconfirmed sources say she wrote it herself). She’s a good writer, too, I just looked at some of her stuff. The downside is that she is an associate dean at a school that is ranked similarly to UB. If I’m picking off a defensive coordinator to be my coach and there are 100 teams better than me, don’t you want to look at coordinators on one of those teams that are ranked much higher?
- Ronald Weich, who works as assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in the U.S. Department of Justice. He is the former chief counsel to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. My first question is just how many lawyers did Teddy Kennedy have? Did we just stumble upon two of them, or are there thousands out there? Resume wise, Welch looks like Allard right down to the power pedigree: Columbia, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Yale. The same questions are sitting out there for Welch, too. Can we assume that because you are successful at everything else you have tried, you would be a good law school dean?
Now for my much sought after endorsement. First, my final two: Allard and Weich. Why? For the same reason, I would rather have RGIII than Joe Flacco. The other candidates sound to me like Flacco. You know what you are getting. They might be the safer plays. But Allard and Weich could be rock stars that could take the University of Baltimore into the Top 50 and beyond. And if they are not superstars, they probably will not muck it up too bad because UB has a solid group of associate deans and professors that will make the trains run on time.
I’ve been teaching at the University of Baltimore for 14 years. Before Dean Closius arrived, the school was on a treadmill. Two steps forward and two steps back. The other three candidates are solid picks I’m sure, but on paper, they remind me of that painful era where progress seemed like a pipe dream. Because they have been running schools that dance that same Paula Abdul step.
So back to Allard and Weich. It is hard to distinguish between these two guys. Weich is younger, which I think is probably a good thing because I think it is tough to be crazy ambitious when you are in your 60s when you are walking into a new job. Still, I will go with Allard. He’s a Rhodes Scholar, which always impresses the heck out of me because I was a finalist myself. (Not really.) He also seems really social and well connected, getting involved in committees to commemorate the anniversary of this and that. I’d blow my head off if someone made me do those kinds of things. But I think it really helps to enjoy that kind of stuff because all 5 of these candidates will be new to town and will need to meet many people, suck up shamelessly to Peter Angelos, and so forth. Finally, look at their pictures. They both look like nice guys but Allard has that “I’m a super nice guy” look about him, doesn’t he? So he’s the pick.
Obviously, I’m just having fun with this. I’m only about 40% serious. I really don’t know who the best candidate is. Will one of these 5 interviews be like John Harbaugh’s with the Ravens when they hired him after 35 years as the assistant ball boy for the Eagles? Do any of the candidates have an actual plan and vision for the University of Baltimore? This will be a huge decision for the school and I hope the folks making the choice can put the pieces to this puzzle together to make the right call.