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December 29, 2009


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Brian Tamanaha

Current incentives in law schools heavily favor scholarship over teaching (raises, research grants, teaching reductions, the leveraging of lateral offers). Professional advancement in legal academia is not based upon excellent teaching. In the context of this imbalance, teaching awards amount to token gestures (albeit appreciated and well deserved). Scholarship hardly suffers from insufficient rewards, and, given already high tuition and the terrible legal market, this is not the time to suggest (even implicitly) that scholarship deserves additional support.

Jacqueline Lipton

Brian - I take your point, and thanks for sharing your views. I deliberately used four terms - encouraging/facilitating/recognizing/rewarding scholarship. I did this on purpose to try and tease out in my own mind what an administration's role is with respect to scholarship. So it may be that many schools already do too much in the way of "recognizing" and "rewarding" already productive faculty, and perhaps not enough in cases of "encouraging" and "facilitating" faculty members who are, say, having problems with a scholarly agenda or scholarly productivity more generally. So I wasn't meaning to suggest explicitly or implicitly a specific agenda for law schools - merely to tease out what is an appropriate role for the administration with respect to scholarship bearing in mind the different needs and different levels of scholarly productivity within a particular faculty. I also recognize that many people who are not particularly productive scholars contribute to faculties and universities in many other extremely significant ways and I'd like to see that recognized too. I had been thinking of doing a series of posts in coming weeks on recognizing and facilitating teaching and service as well. Just thought I'd start with scholarship because I've been having some conversations about it with colleagues recently.

Mike Madison

Jacqui - Be sure to link back to Kim Krawiec's excellent series of posts on tenure and related institutional/organizational issues, from last June and July. My reaction to those posts, which I'll elaborate on at soon, is that conceiving of the issue in terms of incentives for faculty members -- even if those incentives are cast as broadly as you've cast them here -- may miss something important about what the school itself wants out of the equation. Put differently, institutional interests and individual faculty member interests do not necessarily align -- and that may be a good thing, or at least not a bad thing. Mike

Greg McNeal

One difference I've noticed from school to school is the manner in which the summer research grant is awarded. At some institutions the process is purely a matter of decanal discretion, at others it is a committee consisting of the dean and others. Also, the likelihood of being awarded the grant varies from institution to institution with it being automatic (basically guaranteed compensation) to contingent.

I think the best model is a committee model, with partial contingent awards (e.g. half up front, half after the article/chapter/book whatever is published or meets the terms of completion established between the scholar and the committee). I think this model serves two goals, first leaving all the power for scholarly awards in the hands of the Dean can lead to favoritism or an unwillingness on the part of a faculty member to rock the boat on an issue because it may come back to bite them when summer grant time comes around. The contingency part is necessary to maintain motivation through the tedium of "finishing" and publishing. Granted, not everyone needs that motivation, but some do and this seems to me to be the best model (from an institutional perspective of course).

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