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Roberts ready for last year at bat

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As dean of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Gary Roberts has long been telling his faculty that the business model for their school would have to be revamped to address changing needs and new challenges.

But, he acknowledged, as the school’s enrollment stayed healthy even while applications to law school declined nationally, both he and the faculty became complacent. They thought they were immune to the drop in the number of students going to law schools.

roberts-gary083112-1col.jpg Dean Gary Roberts (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

That changed with the incoming class for the 2012-2013 school year. After recording an increase of 12 students in the class that started during the 2011-2012 school year, enrollment fell to 268 this year. Roberts thinks the school will be lucky to bring in another 270 next year.

For his final year in the dean’s chair, Roberts has the additional task of finding ways to cope with fewer students and lower revenues. He has ideas for a new business model as well as a new degree program that could serve the business community.

Indeed, if not for a university policy requiring deans to step down when they turn 65 years old, Roberts might not be preparing to retire as the head of the law school. Being the leader brings a lot of pressure and stress, and on a bad day he can wonder why he accepted

the position. But, he said, he has experienced more positives than negatives and has found the deanship to be fun, satisfying and enjoyable.

When he does retire as dean in June 2013, he intends to join the law school faculty where he will engage in his love of teaching.

“Being a law professor is the best job in the world,” Roberts said.

Rethinking education

Seated in a comfortable yellow chair in his office, Roberts calmly described the tightrope law schools are now walking as they try to allocate fewer resources to meet their research missions and obligations to students.

Traditionally, the business model has been to use tuition dollars to continue expanding programs and provide more compensation to faculty. With declining enrollments, law schools can no longer rely on tuition increases to fund operations and also must adjust to a smaller revenue stream.

“We’re confronted with having to make tough choices and major decisions,” Roberts said.

The national conversation about legal education has not only focused on the loan debt the students are graduating with but also on the content of the classroom. Roberts agrees that law schools need to do a better job of preparing students who are closer to being able to practice law.

However, some of the skills required of practicing attorneys, like plea bargaining, for instance, cannot be taught in a classroom, Roberts said. Instead, these skills are best presented in the real world where they are actually done.

Providing skills training can be very expensive, he noted. This adds to the necessity to change the current business model so law schools can continue to deliver good theoretical and analytical education and skills training to students on fewer dollars.

Roberts proposes law school partnering with bar associations and the legal community so they can take a greater role in teaching practice skills. Forming partnerships may also enable the school to offer real-world training without dramatically increasing the cost.

Other options to control costs and balance resources include giving the faculty heavier class loads, reducing faculty compensation, or bringing in more adjunct professors and lecturers to teach students. Roberts believes the school will likely institute a system with more part-time faculty because that will be the least painful. There will be more resistance to an increase in workload and less income.

Consequently, theoretical research will decline, Roberts said. A smaller percentage of the faculty will be doing scholarly research 10 to 20 years from now, but the standard of quality, along with the standard of tenure, will be much higher.

Roberts is an eloquent advocate for the importance of university-based research, pointing to historical examples where scholarly work changed the world.

dean_facts.jpg“Much of the great progress made in law is the product of scholarship that came out of our law schools,” he said. If law schools were to stop doing scholarship activities, that would, in the long term, be a disaster for society and the legal profession; but at the moment, schools cannot invest as much into research.

Looking ahead

Roberts became dean of the law school in 2007. Previously, he was a faculty member for 24 years at Tulane University Law School, where he built the sports law program, served as vice dean for academic affairs and deputy dean.

Reviewing his tenure at McKinney, he counts the strengthening of the school’s financial health as one of his primary accomplishments. The most notable contribution was the $24 million naming gift from Indianapolis attorney and business leader Bob McKinney.

As part of that gift, the school will be able to establish five endowed chairs to attract and retain nationally recognized scholars to the faculty. Each chair will be endowed with $1.5 million from the McKinney gift to which the university will add a matching $1.5 million, creating what Roberts called “super chairs.” The law school is raising funds to complete the endowment for the first two chairs, and Roberts hopes to be able to fill the chair in intellectual property this year.

Looking ahead to his final year in the dean’s office, Roberts noted he does not want to institute major policy changes that his successor would then have to implement. Still, he does intend to keep the school moving forward.

One initiative he is eyeing would be to lay the groundwork for starting a master’s degree program in legal studies. Students graduating from this potential course of study would not be eligible to sit for the bar exam, but they would acquire a knowledge of the law which would be useful as they pursue careers in business or with a nonprofit organization.

Roberts said the proposal is a little controversial because some lawyers contend this would create low-cost competition at a time when many in the legal profession are struggling with unemployment. But, he said, short-term worries about a tight job market are not reason enough to table this program.

He believes the proposal could get faculty approval before he retires. However, the work to get approval from the university administration and the state will likely not be done before he leaves the dean’s office.

If baseball calls

Early in his career, Roberts clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco before he joined the firm of Covington & Burling LLP in Washington, D.C. There, by happenstance, he fell into sports law. In the years since, he has become a national expert in the field.

From his experience in private practice and in the classroom, Roberts maintains teaching is “a heck of a lot more fun.” He will teach once he retires as dean, unless, he noted, something unexpected happens like an offer to be the Major League Baseball commissioner.

“I’d take it,” Roberts said.•

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  1. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

  2. Low energy. Next!

  3. Had William Pryor made such provocative statements as a candidate for the Indiana bar he could have been blackballed as I have documented elsewhere on this ezine. That would have solved this huuuge problem for the Left and abortion industry the good old boy (and even girl) Indiana way. Note that Diane Sykes could have made a huuge difference, but she chose to look away like most all jurists who should certainly recognize a blatantly unconstitutional system when filed on their docket. See footnotes 1 & 2 here: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html Sykes and Kanne could have applied a well established exception to Rooker Feldman, but instead seemingly decided that was not available to conservative whistleblowers, it would seem. Just a loss and two nice footnotes to numb the pain. A few short years later Sykes ruled the very opposite on the RF question, just as she had ruled the very opposite on RF a few short years before. Indy and the abortion industry wanted me on the ground ... they got it. Thank God Alabama is not so corrupted! MAGA!!!

  4. OK, take notice. Those wondering just how corrupt the Indiana system is can see the picture in this post. Attorney Donald James did not criticize any judges, he merely, it would seem, caused some clients to file against him and then ignored his own defense. James thus disrespected the system via ignoring all and was also ordered to reimburse the commission $525.88 for the costs of prosecuting the first case against him. Yes, nearly $526 for all the costs, the state having proved it all. Ouch, right? Now consider whistleblower and constitutionalist and citizen journalist Paul Ogden who criticized a judge, defended himself in such a professional fashion as to have half the case against him thrown out by the ISC and was then handed a career ending $10,000 bill as "half the costs" of the state crucifying him. http://www.theindianalawyer.com/ogden-quitting-law-citing-high-disciplinary-fine/PARAMS/article/35323 THE TAKEAWAY MESSAGE for any who have ears to hear ... resist Star Chamber and pay with your career ... welcome to the Indiana system of (cough) justice.

  5. GMA Ranger, I, too, was warned against posting on how the Ind govt was attempting to destroy me professionally, and visit great costs and even destitution upon my family through their processing. No doubt the discussion in Indy today is likely how to ban me from this site (I expect I soon will be), just as they have banned me from emailing them at the BLE and Office of Bar Admission and ADA coordinator -- or, if that fails, whether they can file a complaint against my Kansas or SCOTUS law license for telling just how they operate and offering all of my files over the past decade to any of good will. The elitist insiders running the Hoosier social control mechanisms realize that knowledge and a unified response will be the end of their unjust reign. They fear exposure and accountability. I was banned for life from the Indiana bar for questioning government processing, that is, for being a whistleblower. Hoosier whistleblowers suffer much. I have no doubt, Gma Ranger, of what you report. They fear us, but realize as long as they keep us in fear of them, they can control us. Kinda like the kids' show Ants. Tyrannical governments the world over are being shaken by empowered citizens. Hoosiers dealing with The Capitol are often dealing with tyranny. Time to rise up: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/17/governments-struggling-to-retain-trust-of-citizens-global-survey-finds Back to the Founders! MAGA!

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