Clear and effective communication is essential for any organization, including a law school, to operate effectively. But communication is often one of the trickiest skills a law dean must seek to master. Once a person adds “Dean” to the front of his or her name, communication norms change. A dean must be sensitive to power structures—whether real or perceived— that exist within the law school. A dean also must be vigilant about how she communicates with others, and how others communicate on her behalf. And she must understand that people will communicate differently with her than with others in the organization, and that some people will purport to speak for her, even though they have no authority to do so. The communication conundrums a dean must navigate reflect the notion that, as a leader, the dean bears great responsibility for clear and effective communication within the organization. Communication theory—specifically organizational-communication scholarship examining supervisor communication— may provide insight and recommendations for how best to resolve these conundrums. What follows are common communication conundrums that a law dean might face, along with the communication theories that explain the situations and practical solutions to help resolve them.
Darby Dickerson & Marjorie M. Buckner, Communication Conundrums: Theories About and Tips for Effective Decanal Communication, 48 U. Tol. L. Rev. 211 (2017)