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Defining Our Responsibilities: Being an Academic Fiduciary

55 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 2008  

Richard Allan Matasar

New York Law School


Legal education is evolving from a traditional model of shared governance focused on teaching, scholarship, and service to concerns about our stakeholders: students, graduates, donors, regulators, etc. Market sensitivity may indeed be a superior metaphor to organize us than one relying solely on the faculty-centered holy trinity of teaching, scholarship, and service.

But the market metaphor fails to embrace the spirit and nature of higher education. The market conjures up too deep a commitment to selfish ends. This essay suggests another metaphor that may more comfortably fit our schools. I argue that the next step is to delineate our responsibilities as academic fiduciaries - a definition more closely comporting to the way we must act than either as self-interested governors or market actors. First, I discuss the move from faculty centered enterprises, to commercial enterprises, to an emerging trust model. I then define this trust and the consequences of a fiduciary model for every beneficiary of the trust. Next I turn to what a new law school culture might look like and the various forms it might take. This is not merely a question of metaphor, or of nebulous institutional culture. The essay suggest a variety of practical ways that a law school - its faculty and administration - can be successful as fiduciaries: advancing the legitimate ambitions of the school and its faculty through a spirit of trusteeship rather than of self-dealing. Finally, I argue that this model may be the only way for our schools to continue to prosper in the years to come - and the risk to our futures if we persist along the current path.

Keywords: Law Schools, fiduciary, stakeholders, measuring success

JEL Classification: K00, K10

Suggested Citation

Matasar, Richard Allan, Defining Our Responsibilities: Being an Academic Fiduciary. Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, Vol. 17, 2008; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 08-036; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09-11. Available at SSRN:

Richard Allan Matasar (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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