Skip to main content


  • When: October 4, 2017, 12 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

Calendar event Add this event to your calendar (Outlook, iCal, etc…)

Processes & Context: The Study of Co-Deanship Roles in U.S. Law Schools

A partnership approach to administrative leadership (alternatively referred to as “co-leadership” or dyadic leadership) has been posited as a potential way to address the increasing demands on educational leaders operating at the executive levels of higher education institutions. This presentation will provide an overview of the higher education and legal education context, and highlight initial connections between preliminary research findings and the literature on co-leadership. 

Rachel Montgomery is a PhD candidate in Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University.

 Rachel Montgomery's primary research interest centers on the study of leaders and leadership in higher education. Specifically, her work focuses on change processes and governance strategies employed in varied higher education contexts (e.g., law schools, professional education, liberal arts colleges).  Her dissertation examines the concept of "administrative co-leadership" through an in-depth analysis of its implementation in the form of co-deanships at several U.S. law schools. Such a partnership approach to administrative leadership (alternatively referred to as "co-leadership” or "dyadic" leadership) is seen as al way of addressing the increasing demands on leaders operating at the executive levels of higher education institutions. Her work argues that the assessment of this approach’s efficacy, or an alternative, must take into account the broader organizational challenges and strains leaders face. Key among them are institutional/unit size, structural complexity, the interests and needs of a diverse student body, marketplace competitiveness, rate of change, and technology usage. Her work is qualitative and interdisciplinary in character and builds on the intersection points among literatures in higher education, industrial/organizational psychology, and business management.

 Rachel has served as managing editor of the American Journal of Education and editor-in-chief of Higher Education in Review. Her published work has appeared in Higher Education in Review and the American Journal of Education Online Forum. She received an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Lynchburg College and an B.F.A in Art (Graphic Design and Photography) from Brevard College. 

Chasing Paper: Examining the Decision to Attend Law School in the 21st Century

In the last twenty years, the landscape in which both law practice and legal education operate has dramatically changed. Demand for traditional legal services experienced tremendous growth from the 1990s through the early 2000s. However, since the Recession, demand in the legal sector has languished and not yet recovered. With firms taking in less revenue, jobs in “big law”—firms employing over 1,000 attorneys—are increasingly unavailable to recent law graduates, despite turnover rates that have accelerated since 2008. Critics have remarked that, at present, there are simply too many law graduates and too few jobs to absorb them.  Based on uncertain job prospects and decreased likelihood of credentialing to enter practice for a majority of law school graduates, some recent studies conclude it no longer makes economic sense to attend law school, while others contend that the lifetime earnings premium for graduates of top law schools may still justify consumption of legal education.  Yet, despite significant declines in enrollment, there are a considerable number of current law students—110,951 of them in 2016—still pursuing a law degree.

Drawing on the economics of higher education literature—including theories of student choice enrollment management, and student engagement—and informed by the literature on organizational and behavioral economic theory, this study seeks to understand why and how current law students decide to enroll in a professional law degree program—and what makes them persist, in spite of broader economic shifts that suggest a disincentive to do so—and assesses the economic value to graduates of law school. This study employs mixed methods, leveraging existing national quantitative datasets and new information from forthcoming original survey data, to: (1) reveal the multiple sources of information on which current law students actually rely to shape their perceptions of the value of legal education and how these perceptions link to action, such as their decision to enroll in professional law degree programs; and (2) assess whether financial aid—the primary incentive that law schools have at their disposal to increase demand for legal education—actually matters to potential law students. In addition, this study contributes an original survey instrument to catalogue the decision-making process of law students, their risk tolerance, and their perceptions of value. By investigating these questions, this dissertation will uncover the extent to which sources of information and perception motivate decision making in the legal education marketplace, carrying profound implications for what legal education is and should be.

Christopher J. (CJ) Ryan, Jr. is a Ph.D. candidate in Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College.

Using a theoretical framework grounded in behavioral economics, along with  econometric methods, CJ’s research centers on law and policy. Specifically, his research examines issues of organizational and individual decision making in legal education, business, and intellectual property. His dissertation, “Chasing Paper: The Economics of Attending Law School in the 21st Century," explores the economics of legal education and examines the risk tolerance of and labor market returns to law school graduates. His scholarship has appeared in the Alabama Law Review, the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, Research in Higher Education, as well as other peer reviewed journals and law reviews published by the University of Notre Dame, University of Kentucky, University of Richmond, and John Marshall Law School. His scholarship has been cited in the Washington Post, Politico, Above the Law, and Inside Higher Ed. CJ’s published and working papers can be found at his SSRN page. He has taught courses on higher education law and organizational theory. 

Prior to undertaking his doctoral studies at Vanderbilt, CJ worked in law and university administration. He has also served as a higher education policymaker as a gubernatorial appointee to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. He received an A.B. from Dartmouth College, a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame, and a J.D. from the University of Kentucky.

« Return to ABF Research Seminars

Site design by Webitects

© 2018 American Bar Foundation (
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4403
(312) 988-6500
Contact Us
Media Contacts
Privacy policy
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in ABF publications are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Bar Foundation or the American Bar Association. The AMERICAN BAR FOUNDATION, ABF and related seal trademarks as used by the American Bar Foundation are owned by the American Bar Association and used under license.