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August 11, 2011


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The ABA and law schools need to come to a new realization...not every law professor needs to be a scholar and not every law school faculty needs to operate as a scholarship machine. Law schools' focus on scholarship is too damned expensive, not to mention entirely meaningless to the law students who are funding this avalanche of unread and useless scholarship. Is there some worthy scholarship? Sure, so let’s keep five percent of the law journals out there. But we can get rid of the other ninety-five percent without risking much harm to society. Let Harvard and Yale bid for the top academic talent to join their faculty and publish until their hearts’ content. And then let T2-T4 schools hire teachers who won’t publish, but will teach twice the load at half the salary. After all, you don't need a Harvard JD to be a great contracts professor, you just need to be a great teacher.


The Anonymous Law Prof's post is hyperbolic nonsense. It's nonsense because it paints with too broad a brush and unfairly besmirches the profession. I can tell you for myself, I prepare about 1 1/2 to 2 hours for each hour I teach. I not only read case books (the one I teach from and others that arrive in my mailbox) but look at judicial decisions and law review articles on the subjects of particular lectures. I then integrate that information into my notes and into my discussions with students. Moreover, my scholarship informs my teaching. I know the subjects I've written about in far greater depth than about the ones that I've only read about but never analyzed at the level of detail it takes to produce serious scholarship.

Jake Stevens

Why is there any reason to take an anonymous blogger at his or her word? No offense to those posting above...


I'm with Jake. The scam may be the blogger him/herself.

Kim Krawiec

Jake and anon -- if you are questioning the blogger's identity, Inside Higher Ed verified it: "He agreed to reveal his identity to Inside Higher Ed, and his description is accurate. He teaches at a law school that doesn't make the "top 10" lists, but that is generally considered the best in its state and is well regarded nationally. His C.V. shows plenty of scholarship and professional involvement. And while "LawProf" (as he calls himself) is disdainful of the prestige hierarchy of American law schools, he said in the interview that it was important for the law school world to hear from someone "at a better law school," because so many law professors write off the current complaints from new graduates "as the concerns of third-tier law schools, which don't matter.""

Now, if you're questioning whether, of all the things that are admittedly wrong with the law professoriate, teaching from the same book, earning roughly the same as an entry-level associate, or working from home in the summer count among them, then that's a different story . . .

Jake Stevens

Well obviously I am one (visiting assistant clinical) professor too lazy to follow the link...I guess I don't know why I should engage with an anonymous tenured law professor on issues like this. (And of course due to my status I have just noted, I have no opinion of the value of my betters.) Seems easy to lob accusations when faceless. And yes, claiming law professors haven't reinvented the wheel every year is hardly the worst accusation. Perhaps aforementioned blogger is also revealing his ignorance of what lawyers do as well. We cut and paste all the time. The skill is in hiding the seams and delivering the lines effectively while addressing the unique (and no so unique) needs of your audience.
Back to finishing up my summer course.


Anon - doesn't your post prove the point that law professors are underworked and underpaid? Your formula is "1.5 to 2 hours" of prep time for every hour you teach. Let's say you had a really busy semester and were teaching two entire classes, a 4 credit and a 3 credit class. That's 7 hours of teaching plus 10.5-14 hours of prep time. That's as much as twenty-one hours of class related work. You say you need to time to write? Well just teach one class next semester and then take the whole summer off. We won't mind. Frankly, most law professors work a part-time schedule at twice the pay of other faculty. Don't get me wrong, I'm not posting because I dislike law professors or think law school is a scam. My professors in law school were brilliant and supportive and going to law school was a great decision for me. The reason I am posting is because I see a generation of law students suffering from outrageous tuitions and consequently outrageous debt loads. Those of us in legal education must find ways to lower the cost and redefining the expectations for law professors in terms of course load and pay is a great place to start.


whoops - I meant "underworked and overpaid"


"And then let T2-T4 schools hire teachers who won’t publish, but will teach twice the load at half the salary."

What exactly do you think the starting pay of professors at T2-T4 schools is? Are you really proposing that lawyers would give up practice (including giving up the chance to be partners or giving up an actual partnership position they already hold) for 40-45K a year? That's probably less or equal to some of the lower paying lawyer positions (e.g. public defender). It's less than most undergrad assistant professors.

As to teaching twice the load, yeah, that is a money saving proposal that keeps popping up in my head too. The problem is that if that is going to be a money saver, then either you have to double the number of tuition paying students while keeping the number of professors the same or fire half the professors while keeping the number of students the same.

I doubt all the graduates currently raising hell would go for the first method, and I'm not sure how you would go about implementing the second method in a tenure system. You could increase the number of tuition paying students without increasing the number students by getting rid of scholarships. Of course, while that would allow schools to lower tuition rates, it wouldn't decrease the mean level of student debt. It would just even it out.

Scaling back costs is going to be very difficult. Good starts would be (1.) nuking the USNEWS Rankings from orbit (just to be sure) and (2.) convincing public universities (and the states that are supposed to fund them) to go back to being public universities. I think if public universities went back to charging the low amounts to in-state students like they used to that they would start pulling students away from more costly schools and create a downward pressure on law school prices.

And what are law students paying for casebooks each semester? One quick google search turned up figures from $1000-2250 a year. It's an incredible racket that needs to be done away with. I know $3,000 to $6750 over three years is only a small chunk for most total law school costs, but it's something to start with.

I could go on, but unlike the apparently common perception of law professors, I have work to do late at night on a Thursday (after a long day at work).

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