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July 09, 2013


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Susan Appleby


Just what I was thinking. The best students hope is to have a prof who maybe grades in a fair and open manner and gets grades in on time. Maybe a prof who can get them a clerkship with a phone call, though how many are there?

The arrogance of assuming that faculty at one school are smarter than faculty at other schools is breathtaking. This link of arrogance and prestige with grades/ school attended is a stink that permeates law

Susan Appleby

Is there any evidence of law faculty leaving jobs where they did not practice and getting a big law job?

I recall a thread on here a while ago about the serious issues that lawyers with stellar credentials had getting a job after doing visiting teaching or spending a year or two in a teaching program at a law school.

I simply do not believe that a large firm would have any use for a law professor. The time to parlay credentials into a job has long passed for most professors. Would they go in as junior associates? Would a firm believe that a former professor would be willing to take a junior position possibly below their own former students?

Please, please post all the evidence of how easily faculty can just go back to big law.

Market Reality

Susan is right that demand is falling. The question is how much more demand is going to fall and what will happen as a result. We're probably near the bottom. Maybe enrollment will fall another 15% below where we are this fall, which will be about 40,000.

The truth is that people do want to go to law school. BoredJD argued yesterday that people will pay for Seton Hall. I guess there aren't a lot of other good options. Despite the hopes of scam bloggers, half the law schools in this country aren't going to close. I doubt more than 10 or a dozen will close. The remaining schools will continue to enroll between 35000 and 40000 first year students per year. That's the world we're going to live in for a while. Everyone needs to get used to it, whether you're Mack, Susan Appleby, a university administrator, or a faculty member.

Now, Susan asks about where will the few law faculty who're laid off go? We need to figure out whom we're talking about. The faculty at top 50 schools aren't going to lose their jobs. Not one will be laid off. We're talking about faculty at unranked schools, mostly (and some ranked schools like Seton Hall that are private and cost a lot and are in saturated markets). Quite frankly if those faculty went back to a big firm as first year associates they'd be making more than they do now. Substantially more. If they went to a job in the DOJ, they'd make a comparable amount, maybe more depending on their level of seniority. If they take a job in the state government, they'd be making a comparable amount. Realize that the huge sums people through around for law faculty are for the people at the top schools. The faculty at the unranked schools make low 100s, if that. Often less for non-tenure track faculty, like legal writing instructors.


Susan, I like your posts and we are coming from similar perspectives. One thing though, again WUSTL gave their additional full-tuition scholarships from a "gift" or one-time lump sum from their central university so it does not mean "lower tuition" nor does it mean lower tuition revenue. I hate to drive this home but people seem to keep ignoring this fact, which I think is an important one. Put another way, without the previously negotiated lump sump from central university, WUSTL would not have done what they did.

Susan Appleby

Mike: giving full tuition scholarships doesn't mean that WUSTL is getting smaller tuition revenue from students?

Oracle at Delphi

It seems clear that Susan has the better of this argument: if a law school is giving away legal education, in mid-June, to people who have already withdrawn their applications, on an exploding basis, it bespeaks a very weak demand curve. Do you think Yale or Harvard would ever have to resort to this to defend their GPA/LSAT means? Or even T20 places like UCLA or Vanderbilt? I think not.

Also, money is fungible: even if central agreed to forgive any taxes normally due on tuition revenue, or in fact is paying the law school the foregone revenue (which seems highly doubtful), the fact is that Washington University thought it necessary to give away legal education to attract high quality students, and did so in a truly bizarre way (the exploding offer was extended only to folks who had already said "no thanks" to WUSTL, and also well after first deposit deadlines has long passed). Presumably a T20/T25 law school ought to enjoy a sufficient demand curve to collect at least something for its legal education.

Again, Susan has this right: law schools with healthy enrollment profiles should not have to resort to desperation "hail Mary" type plays for 1L students in mid-June. What's more, this was a total PR disaster for Washington University. See (describing the free tuition offer as reminiscent of "used car salesmen tactics"). Mike can spin away all he wants, but I predict Washington University never repeats this tactic again going forward.

John Thompson

"Quite frankly if those faculty went back to a big firm as first year associates they'd be making more than they do now. Substantially more."

There was a post not too long ago about the predicament faced by VAPs who failed to win tenure-track positions. One professor opined, "The typical VAP is someone who can go back to practice if things don't pan out." Several subsequent comments offered personal anecdotes as to why that opinion was wrong, including this first one which hit the bullet points for the rest:

Really? You think firms would be eager to hire someone who is probably a minimum of five years out of law school (clerkship plus two years practice plus two years VAP) but who likely has only very junior-level practice experience? Oh, and throw in that it's obvious that the only reason that the person is looking for a job is that s/he totally failed in an attempt to get a job in his/her preferred field (teaching) -- AND the person is probably a flight risk if the law school hiring market ever rebounds?

My guess is that firms won't want to touch failed VAPs with a ten foot pole. They'll either be able to beg and plead for the firm that they left to do a VAP to take them back, or they won't be able to practice law. Maybe the VAPs who had more substantial experience -- as in, 5+ years -- might have some success. Maybe.

I say this as someone in a similar-but-slightly-better situation. I'm not VAPing/fellowing, but I'm also doing a term-limited job. On the plus side, it's much less obvious that I am a failed academic job-seeker (for a couple of plausible reasons), and I have a good bit of meaningful practice experience. And still, a couple of recruiters have said something to the effect of "top 5 law school, federal clerkship, several years of impressive practice experience -- well, I might be able to get you a staff attorney job at a firm."

Those are your VAPs whose practice experience is most recent. What is a tenured professor to a firm but a VAP with even less recent practice experience?

John Thompson

The link for that post is here:


"What is a tenured professor to a firm but a VAP with even less recent practice experience?" Probably a person with a better resume in terms of formal qualifications (law review, appellate clerkship, big firm experience, etc.), more success in job placement in the past, more experience in general, lots of public speaking experience, and quite a bit of research and writing experience.

The VAPs who've been unsuccessful aren't generally are strong as the successful recent candidates at even the worst law schools. Because, quite simply, if they'd been able to land a job at any law school they would be professors now.

It's popular and fun to blast faculty as out-of-touch, unemployment bozos. The reality is different.



I think you are failing to recognise something - current VAP candidates have very very strong resumés and are not getting faculty jobs. Their credentials do not differ in any significant way from those who are being hired now - and more significantly, their credentials are generally superior to those of faculty hired even a few short years ago. The market is that much more competitive.

Your smug assumption that the typical professor is better qualified than the VAPs who were writing the VAP trap posts pretty well labels you as an out of touch bozo.

In another way you are also out of touch - you have absolutely no idea how competitive the legal job market is right now, and how competitive it is in the fields where a lawyer could expect to earn what a typical US law professor expects. No one should plan on getting what a typical law professor currently earns without a book of business - clients. The first 10-20 years of a lawyers practice are about getting experience and developing a network that can bring in business. What has a law professor been doing for those years? If you want to earn $200,000 you need at least a $4-600,000 in billable work (more if the firm has high overhead.)

I look at resumés - I see who is looking for a job right now - worldwide. What law firms look for in someone 10+ years out of law school is experience, business and professional reputation (where has he/she been and done.) Whether you are YHS, law review, a former clerk counts for very little at that point. The typical resumé puts the things you value - publications for example - at the bottom of the document, almost a footnote while education, the the school you went to in the middle - and the experience right at the top.

Susan Appleby

realist: Do you know any firms that would hire the professors you describe? Or do you know any professors who have gone back into practice with a biglaw firm with only the qualifications of public speaking, research and writing? I am genuinely curious because I don't know a single law firm who would have any interest in hiring such a person. Now a superstar professor who also litigates major cases is a different matter of course. I am referring to the typical academic who isn't doing any work of practical value and who has nothing to bring in terms of clients to a firm.

No biglaw firm is going to hire a former law professor as a junior associate. That is just not ever going to happen. No one at the firm would be comfortable with that.


Trying to move this endless argument from its impasse, the biggest problem with Prof. Fleisher's hope that the problem can be solved through attrition of tenured faculty is doomed by the fact that university faculty are the one labor group (other than members of Congress)that show little interest in retiring at the traditional age, much less taking early retirement. Perhaps those in academia who are most concerned about job security can lobby to eliminate the federal ban on mandatory retirement for university professors, as was originally the case when the law was passed.


MacK, I have undoubtedly read more resumes of VAPs and other recent candidates for law professor positions than you have. I have a very good sense of who's getting jobs in the legal academy and who isn't. Most aren't. It takes enormous talent and experience to get a job anywhere in the legal academy. This has been true for years. Recent hires at even the worst law schools are by and large better than the VAPs who aren't getting jobs. I also have a very good sense of the law firm market. I deal on a daily basis with students and former students who are on the market and on a regular, though not daily, basis with former students, former colleagues who remained in private practice, lawyers I have worked on cases since I started teaching, and even former classmates, who are doing hiring (or not hiring as the case may be).

Susan, I have seen all of the following categories of people get jobs in the private sector: legal writing instructors whose contracts have not been renewed; legal writing instructors who are tired of the high workload and low pay; untenured facutly who have been denied tenure; untenured faculty who are tired of the high workload, and lack of pay; tenured faculty who are tired of the low pay. I have specific knowledge of people in each of those categories who have left the academy in recent years and have gone on to jobs in the private sector at substantial pay increases. These are facts, not reasoning from contempt for law professors. The are anecdotes, I confess. But these are all actual cases.

Susan, you can continue to believe that your firm would not hire a professor. It might not. But that does not mean that there are no job opportunities out there for faculty outside of academia. Faculty can and do get jobs outside it.


One more thing, MacK. This talk of typical law professors earning $200,000 a year is absurd. Virtually no law professors earn that much. Certainly none of the ones who are going to be laid off earn anywhere near that. Such astronomical salaries are earned by faculty at the best law schools and a few of the top earners at very good schools. Even self-professed scammer Paul Campos doesn't earn that much.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has some data. They list the mean salary of law professors as $118,000 per year. The 75% percentile earn $158,000 per year. The law professors who earn $200,000 a year are not typical. They're not common. They're a small number of the very finest in terms of credentials and experience in the business.



I give you credit for thinking you know what you claim to know. There is an enormous gulf between "students and former students who are on the market," i.e., classes of 2010-2014 and someone who was class of 1990-2004 looking for a legal job with 1-2 years of junior associate practice who expects to be treated as a hot property because they (and I suspect you mean yourself) have "formal qualifications (law review, appellate clerkship, big firm experience, etc.), more success in job placement in the past, more experience in general, lots of public speaking experience, and quite a bit of research and writing experience."

Let me dissect what make you in your fantasy a better hire and give you an idea of what a law firm would think of it.

"law review," new JD - impressed - 3rd year plus associate - who cares about a few months cleaning up professors typos or your "note" - no-one (and that you though it was important is in itself revealing.) My advice, I would not mention law review after your first job.

"Appellate clerkship" - who cares - did you argue cases? Actually US district court in the right court might be more interesting - but generally, its a great credential when you look for your first associate job - not after.

"big firm experience," 1-2 years of document review before you fled. Nothing substantial (1-2 year associates are not given anything involving paying clients) - maybe a pro-bono project you try to talk up. And you washed out of Big Firm - or fled.

"More success in job placement" - where - in academia? Who cares?

"More experience in general" - oh bullshit! Identify what specific experience you mean - bag carrying for a year or two - serving on faculty committees. Are there any General Counsels who have you on speed dial? Who have you actually represented in your years as a prof???

"Lots of public speaking experience" - are you delusional - what proportion of legal practice do you think consists of public speaking? And have you ever dealt with a hostile judge - a pissed off board? You have spoken to tame captive audiences. Again, try that on at an interview and the lawyers would laugh at you.

"Research and writing experience" - you mean what junior lawyers do when they are not doing document review - and by the way research and writing with no solid deadline and a vague hand-wavy law review article as the objective. Could you turn around a brief in 3 days, research and PERSUASIVE writing - not turgid inconclusive law review BS? A hint - don't submit your articles as a writing sample to a law firm.

No comments in North Korea or on

As one of only a handful of professors that acknowledge, and tries to fix, the current state of affairs, Campos & co are the only ones who actually earn their paychecks. Not to mention that, unlike his critics, he has the stones to allow comments on his blog posts (TFL notwithstanding).

That the academy hates him so much for speaking the truth is telling.



I just read your latest posting - and frankly your handle is becoming somewhat oxymoronic.

First, when looking at BLS data you have to take account of the fact that it lumps all law professors together - VAPs, non-tenured and tenured and indeed those not teaching law students. Second, BLS allows you to actually look at pay by Metro area - I challenge you to do this - it was this data that led me to question law school salary statistics some 4 years ago - when I found schools in say the Washington DC metro area claiming that their graduates were earning above average and above median salaries (as compared to experienced lawyers) straight after graduation ("all our graduates are above average.") Do a comparison by metro area and law professors earn substantially more than median and mean.

Second, even taking your numbers into account - across the US law law professors earn more than most lawyers in the BLS data.

Third, your argument fails to account for the value of tenure, of having a secure pensionable job - most senior lawyers are effectively self employed, responsible for all their own benefits and pension arrangements.


“In the meantime law schools will no doubt continue to adjust their models to try to offer alternatives as needed that are consistent with their obligations as educational institutions. That limits them in certain ways. They are not like widget factories that can easily shut down and restart as needed, even though to non-academics the value of what universities do may not be clear.”

Ultimately, we only have to look at what law schools are actually doing in response to price pressure from JDs to demonstrate that your ideas are “whacky.” Law schools have not rushed to pay more to hire IP or corporate professors to create “synergies” or “strategic partnerships” or pay homage to other big business doublespeak. What they have done is (1) cut costs, (2) attempted to distinguish themselves from other schools by creating new programs for students and adding career services officers (without cutting tuition) and (3) creating new LLM programs and certificates.

“But it still takes real evidence to demonstrate that faculty salaries have much of anything to do with the problems facing law students and I don't see it. If BoredJD and Scalia think that replacing Harvard Law School faculty with the faculty at Thomas Jefferson is "irrelevant" and if what they teach is "irrelevant" that's fine. That's why we are lucky this is a big country where whacky ideas can float around and harm no one.”

I’m not going to rehash the work by Tamahana and others which shows that faculty salaries are a large category of law school budgets. Any organization with a core of relatively highly paid people who can never be laid off is going to have a problem in times of crisis, but also in times of relative prosperity. Law schools increased expenditures during the “boom” without making corresponding cuts to other areas, because they couldn’t. Efforts to cut tenured faculty have to come with buyouts- see Vermont's buyouts or Brooklyn’s claims that the professor who complained to the ABA was only doing so as leverage in severance negotiations.

In fact, the best way to get rid of professors may be what Weil did to partners. A school could slash salaries, and then we’ll see how the claims about professors being able to find lucrative jobs in the private sector play out. I suspect that the non-pecuniary aspects of being a law professor are more than adequate, and that very few tenured professors would take the deal. They were adequate in 1980, after all, and nobody has yet made a good argument that the quality of legal education delivered then was much poorer then now.

Yes, there are other areas that need to be cut. That some central universities are robbing law students at the rate of 40% to subsidize other programs is alarming. There are probably too many administrators, although I doubt many professors would want to deal with the nitty gritty of admissions, career counseling, or financial aid.


Susan, in response to: "Mike: giving full tuition scholarships doesn't mean that WUSTL is getting smaller tuition revenue from students?"...

...think about it like this, rather than loans or their parents, their income, etc. paying tuition another source happens to be doing so, in this case Washington University. It makes no difference for revenue streams who that source is.


In response to Oracle's "Mike can spin away all he wants, but I predict Washington University never repeats this tactic again going forward" I'm not sure what "ONE-TIME lump sum" does but imply it won;t happen again.

I feel zero sympathy for the students who, on their own accord, applied to Wash U Law earlier in the cycle and then later got a full scholarship. Most of the comments in that Above The Law article you referenced, which are from the only point of reference that matter here i.e. prospective students, agree that Wash U was fine in doing so. Many comments from impartial experts also seem to agree, e.g. The Executive Director of Law School Transparancy (

LSAC's Statement of Good Principles does not forbid offering money to withdraw but previously admitted applicants (unlike the NACAC Standards for undergraduate admissions), and if my view at least all this does is increase prospective student choice and options, which is always a good thing.

I do agree, however, that the 24 hour turn around was not necessarily the right thing to again. Again at the undergraduate level there are rules against this, you have to give at least 72 hours.

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