It’s an important time to analyze the impacts on the use of adjuncts of the downturn in law school enrollment and of the Post Macrate Report efforts to change law schools and perhaps reduce the costs.
Historically, financial expediency has combined with other factors to encourage schools to increase the number of adjuncts rather than adding full time faculty. On the other hand, in the current environment at most schools, the reduction in students may lead to a reduction in the number of courses being taught which may decrease the number of adjuncts. And if a school is looking for a quick way to cut a few thousand dollars from its expense budget, reduction in the number of adjuncts may seem a handy way to find that reduction while asking "underutilized" tenured faculty to teach the courses the adjuncts had been teaching.
Because most adjuncts are practicing lawyers, reform advocates often see the use of adjuncts as helping to make teaching more practical and less theoretical.
The last surveys and analysis on the use of adjuncts, one by an ABA committee (since then decommissioned) in late Spring 2010 in conjunction with its report on “Best Practice on the Use of Adjunct Faculty” and one by me in 2007 in conjunction with an article in the Dayton Law Review are now several years out of date and it may be difficult to obtain new accurate information in the current atmosphere.
Over the next couple of weeks I will revisit some of the impacts, tensions, risks and benefits caused by the use of more or fewer adjuncts in law schools and propose some ideas for the optimal mix. It is important to keep in mind that there are significant differences along with some commonalities between use of adjuncts in law schools and use of adjuncts in other undergraduate and graduate programs.