Students Interview Bayless Manning

The following article is reprinted from the Stanford Law School Journal of December 10, 1970.

Two editors of the Journal interviewed the dean in what, in their words, turned out to be a frank, informative, and entertaining discussion of the history and future of the Stanford Law School.


When Bayless Manning came to the Law School in 1964, he became dean of an institution very unlike its 1970 counterpart. There was recalls Manning an “exceedingly able faculty,” and a core of professors who wanted to “turn the Law School around.” What followed was a period of dramatic innovation and augmentation, as significant as any in the School’s history.


Among the more important changes has been a major curricular revision which the dean feels has put Stanford “far ahead of other law schools” in this area. He also noted that the faculty has been built up and enlarged. Professors have been attracted to Stanford not so much by financial incentives, as by the opportunity to participate in the forming of new educational structures…. In addition to curricular change and faculty build-up, the School has experienced the expansion of student activities, the planning and funding of a new law school, improvement of the library, organization of alumni, implementation of new methods of accounting and fiscal control, and the creation of a body of Law School literature.

Dean’s Power

The dean cautioned against crediting him with changes that have been the work of many. People tend to exaggerate the power of the dean, he said. “The fact is that the dean has no real power.” He is an administrator in his dealings with the Law School staff, but in his relationship with students, faculty, trustees, and alumni, he must necessarily be a “negotiator and persuader”-a “catalyst.”

While conceding the importance of his fund-raising function, Manning warned against divorcing this from other concerns of the School. “The Law School is an organism,” he said, “and it has to develop in balance.” It is fruitless to raise funds at the expense of the School as a whole. Money is rather useless without a faculty, of course, but a good faculty requires not only money but good library and a bright student body. Manning mused that he was perhaps an ‘orchestra leader.”

The dean found that one of the chief pleasures of the job was its hectic diversity. “You spend four minutes with students and suddenly there’s a crisis because the Xerox machine has gone out of operation. Fifteen minutes later a government or bar official calls wanting to draw you into some matter in which ‘you’re considered a neutral party.'”

Money Problems

Manning had no difficulty naming the greatest problem faced by the Law School. It’s money-“fuel to run on.” He said he wished that all concerned could have a better appreciation of “the reality of dollars in these operations.”

Law schools simply do not have the sources of support common to other departments in the modem university, he pointed out….

Yet, according to the dean, “the bar as a whole doesn’t support law schools either. It has never felt that this was its responsibility.”

Tuition pays only about 45% of the School’s operating costs, the dean said. Income from endowment is insubstantial and mainly limited to the School’s endowed professorships. The other 55% must be derived from a continuous flow of gifts, but for various reasons the alumni group cannot yet provide an adequate base of support.


The School has approximately 4,000 graduates, Manning explained, of which 3,000 have graduated since World War II.

The 1,000 who graduated during the 50-year span from 1898 to 1949 and are probably in the best position, financially, to donate to the School have the weakest ties to the institution in its present form. Many of them are not in continuing contact with the School. The dean does not find this lack of support and interest surprising. “The institution bears little resemblance to the University the senior alumni attended,” he observed, “and it is difficult for them to identify with the School as it is today.”

It is not just a question of loyalty to the institution, however. The dean pointed out that lawyers as a class are not wealthy professionals. A successful practitioner is “a comfortable, extremely comfortable, upper income man,” but “he is typically not in an asset position to make significant contributions.”

There is one encouraging development, according to the dean. He sees a “backbone” of support for the School developing in the postwar alumni. At present, this group is just emerging. But he believes that by 1980 it will provide a substantial base of support for the School.


The ultimate solution, in Manning’s view, is for each graduating law student to repay the amount of his subsidy at some point in his career. Assuming that the cost of educating each student is currently $2,300 per year greater than the tuition he pays, he should reinvest the subsidy of $7,000 over the period of his professional career to make it possible for a later student to receive his education at the Stanford Law School.

Looking to the future, Manning described the Law School as a plane which is flying too fast on too short a financial wing span. Stanford has gone through a period of dramatic development, he concluded, and it must be a major responsibility of the dean to develop for it a commensurate financial base–which today it does not have. To provide that base is the purpose of the School’s six-item AGENDA for Legal Education-a two-phase $16 million program to fund faculty, student aid, library, research, student organizations and building….

The Future

Dean Manning discussed his decision to leave the Law School at the end of the current year. He feels that it is healthy for a law school in these days to have new leadership every five to seven years. Most of what a person can expect to accomplish in a new job, he observed, can usually be accomplished in that period of time. Eventually, though, a dean may find himself the defender of programs and policies instituted during his deanship. Manning added that he hopes he has not yet come to that position, but at some point the risk becomes great and the institution stands much to gain by introducing “the fresh energy and viewpoint of a new cycle of leadership.” . . .

The dean feels strongly about insuring an orderly decanal succession. “Universities often do such a bad job of handling decanal successions,” he said. Too often there is a pause of an acting deanship between deans in which the important and difficult matters are put in abeyance. When the new man comes in he must dispose of the backlog, often without the benefit of his predecessor’s experience.

Asked about his plans for the future, the dean replied, “At this point I haven’t the faintest idea and have not really yet begun to focus on the topic.”