Henry Manne on his first year as Dean of George Mason University School of Law

March 6th, 2013

From the SEC Oral History Archives:

My friends Jim Buchanan and Gordon Tullock were at Mason then, and I said, “Look, I have no reason to think that I could do anything with an existing law school. If I could start a new one, it’d be fine.” They asked me if I would come up and talk to the president about law schools, because he wanted a law school. So I did, and he was a very good salesman. He liked the proposal I had. He was not a profound man, but he had a very good sense of public relations. He sensed that this would be something different and he wanted that in his law school.

He sold me. He committed enough money that I could buy out a lot of the existing faculty and fire those that didn’t have tenure, and I did. I got rid of fourteen people in one year and hired eleven new people, twenty-five personnel actions without a single faculty meeting. Nothing like that has ever happened in the history of higher education. By the second year, we were already an important law school, and embarked on implementing the Rochester program at Mason.

Manne also commented on the influence of GMU on other schools who have hired Law & Econ scholars.

As another measure of Mason’s influence, one could count the number of Law and Economics people that William and Mary, Georgetown, American University, and George Washington hired after I started this program at George Mason. The idea of professional specialization in law school certainly got kick-started at Mason. It’s a very expensive thing to implement with the existing accreditation system in legal education, but more and more schools are doing it.

My moves at Mason also caught the coattails of the rising influence of Law and Economics. The Law and Economics Center that started at Miami had been successful in establishing this as very serious intellectual work. Not many people before that realized that it was. But by 1986, everyone throughout the academic world knew that Law and Economics was big, important and not to be ignored.

I think the judges’ program you mentioned had something to do with this; certainly, the law professors’ program had a lot to do with it. Then the existence of a whole law school built around that paradigm had a lot to do with it. I think it was mutual, that was part of the reason for the success of George Mason, and George Mason in turn had influence on the growth of Law and Economics. Today the school is a powerhouse.

And on the influence of GMU on D.C. think tanks:

The school is having a considerable influence in Washington. Now, it is not alone. There’ve been a number of factors – the development of the Mercatus Center at George Mason has I think been very important. The think tanks like Cato, AEI, Heritage, have all become a lot more legitimate and a lot more intellectual than they used to be because of George Mason University and its law school.

I owe Dean Manne a great debt for the education I received at GMU. Many of the Professors he hired gave me a first-rate education. When I first applied to GMU (see this story for background), I really did not understand the place it occupied in Washington, D.C.  Only years later did I realize that all of the people I was exposed to are the leaders in the field. I would not be where I am today without GMU.

H/T Stephen Bainbridge