It's now official. Bill Powers, Dean extraordinaire of the UT Law School, will be the next President of the University of Texas at Austin, come February 1. I have written previously about what an outstanding Dean he has been, so it makes me sorry, indeed, to lose him in the law school, though very glad for the University which is so important for me and for the law school's success. I have often remarked on the tangible, "external" indicator's of a Dean's success, and Bill Powers's are very tangible indeed: he recruited faculty from tenured posts at NYU, Stanford, Northwestern, Michigan, George Washington, and elsewhere; he retained faculty in the face of bids by Penn, Michigan, NYU, Cornell, and Vanderbilt; he made possible outstanding programs and colloquia series in Constitutional Law & Theory; Law, Business & Economics; Law & Philosophy; and International Human Rights; he revamped the curriculum to make it more friendly to interdisciplinary students and more personal and engaged for all students; and he decisively established the Law School's connections with the rest of the University.
I'm confident that Bill Powers will do as well by the University as he has done by the Law School. He inherits leadership of one of the fifteen best research universities in the United States, and one of the five-or-so best public universities; his task, as it were, is to make that top ten and number one-or-two. If anyone can do it, I believe it will be Bill Powers.
Of course, this means UT will now be seeking a new Dean for the Law School. Fortunately, we already have several outstanding internal and external candidates...more on that in due course.
Mark Graber (Political Science, Maryland) has some wise words of caution about the current enthusiasm for "empirical legal studies." While there has been a lot of first-rate empirical work done by legal scholars over the past half-century, my own impression (mostly from the appointments process) is that too much of the current work that attaches itself to the banner of "empirical legal studies" substitutes statistical pretense and mountains of data for actual analytical and argumentative content. That hardly counts against the importance of empirical studies of the legal system, of course, since most work in most genres isn't very good.
Constitutional theorist Frank Michelman at Harvard Law School has received the Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence from the American Philosophical Society, the nation's oldest learned society. The HLS press release is here. Previous recipients have included Bruce Ackerman, Joel Feinberg, John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Louis Henkin, Karl Llewellyn, Lon Fuller, and Willard Hurst. (As the list of distinguished recipients might suggest, "jurisprudence" is interpreted quite broadly for purposes of the prize.)