Like a lot of people in the academy, I've been mighty worried of late about the effect of the economy on schools. We never do really well and in tough economic times, we're hit particularly hard. So this news (also here) from Williamsburg that the College of William and Mary has frozen hiring doesn't surprise me. Sounds like a responsible move. (By the way, belated congratulations to Taylor Reveley, William and Mary's new president--and former dean of the law school. They've very lucky to have him as president.)
I'm expecting freezes on hiring at many universities. I asked a friend at a major law school a few weeks back what he thought the effect of the economy would be on law school hiring. His response was -- characteristically -- insightful. First, fewer people are going to be retiring; second, schools will be reluctant to fill vacancies. A handful of elite schools will be insulated from the downturn, I suppose. For all the rest of us, get ready for some more belt-tightening, which may include increased teaching loads. Maybe the real crunch will be felt next year; that's hard to know. You may recall that I mentioned these issues of slowing down on (at least lateral) hires and increasing teaching loads last spring in a post on trend spotting in the legal academy (points four and five). That was before our nation's financial crisis become so severe. Finances will just accelerate those trends.