Leading Law Schools: Relationships, Influence, and Negotiation

53 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2022 Last revised: 17 Oct 2022

See all articles by Michael Thomas Colatrella Jr.

Michael Thomas Colatrella Jr.

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law

Date Written: April 18, 2022


This article explores how quality relationships with one’s constituents, especially faculty, lies at the heart of successful law school leadership. Achieving meaningful institutional goals is a group endeavor, and a law school leader must have the skills and abilities to focus faculty energies and enthusiasms to a unified vison. To marshal those energies and inspire those enthusiasms, a leader must master the triumvirate leadership skills of (1) relationship building, (2) influential power, and (3) negotiation with faculty.

Law school faculty members are highly empowered participants in nearly all aspects of the law school enterprise, and meaningful institutional advancement is possible only with their consent and support. Many of the traditional constructs of organizational power, such as coercive power and legitimate power, have limited utility under the flat organizational structure under which American law schools operate. Thus, a law school leader’s most potent potential source of power is the ability influence her constituents to embrace her vision for the school. If one is to be a successful leader in law school environments, formal or informal, one must accept the premise that the power to lead is one that law school faculty grants a person. This relationship can be enhanced by contributing to the greater good of the community and through an understanding and use of the “norm of reciprocity.” In its simplest expression, the norm of reciprocity dictates that “we should repay in kind what another person has provided to us.” All human cultures adhere to the norm of reciprocity to a considerable degree, making it one of the few social principles that transcends cultural boundaries. This article explores the ethical use of the norm of reciprocity as applied to the interaction among leaders and faculty members, which, if properly understood, results in the ability to influence systemic change within academic institutions.

Finally, the article explores the use of interest-based negotiation and the reciprocity of concessions in the context of working with faculty members. These are two of the most important negotiation concepts with which law school leaders must have a facility to effectively work through interpersonal problems that, if left unresolved or poorly resolved, can thwart institutional advancement.

Keywords: Leadership, power, influence, negotiation, ADR, leaders, reciprocity, law schools, relationships, organizational power

JEL Classification: I23

Suggested Citation

Colatrella Jr., Michael Thomas, Leading Law Schools: Relationships, Influence, and Negotiation (April 18, 2022). 91 University of Cincinnati Law Review 82 (2022), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4086895

Michael Thomas Colatrella Jr. (Contact Author)

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law ( email )

3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817
United States

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