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October 21, 2014

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Former Editor

Lander and Adam,

Thanks for the thoughtful responses. I look forward to getting into the weeds of balancing the scholarly conversation with you both in future posts. The role of clinical education in this conversation is particularly important these days, I think.

Another anon,

Just... why? There's really no need for the kind of attack I just read. Lander and Adam seem to be making honest, productive observations. If you disagree, fine, but I don't understand the tone unless it is to discourage future posts by either of them which, as someone who feels the discussion is productive, I would respectfully ask you not to do.

As an aside, I'm not sure what sorts of "facts" in this area you think are really available. If you have looked into it, you probably know that legitimate, current research into these kinds of issues is close to nonexistent. If you know of some good resources that I've missed, please point me to them. If not, I'm afraid we are going to have to make do with the experiences of those who came before us.

adnon

I think that the way that you lump all adjuncts together is not particularly helpful. Some of your descriptions seem to be geared more towards the practitioner who teaches a law course here and there as opposed to a baby prof or wannabe prof or whatever you want to call them (i.e. an SJD/JSD student who is teaching a class) who would perhaps display more of the qualities of your standard tenure-track faculty members.

anon

Adam

1. I've explained why adjuncts are less likely to be immersed in thinking about teaching than people who teach FT, even though both groups are in the main doing similar things. I don't see any prospect of persuading you on this point.

Right. Not very persuasive.

2. " I recommend Stephen Gilles' "The Invisible Hand Formula", which traces the astonishingly limited impact of what is for academics the most famous statement of negligence law"

Sorry. Again, obviously uninformed. Many jury instructions actually expressly incorporate the notion of balancing the cost of avoiding harm against the magnitude and probability of harm. Perhaps it is too harsh to blame you for living in a bubble, but you really aren't scoring any points for knowledge about the world of practice. Which is ok, one supposes, because that topic is so totally off point. Here, we are discussing adjunct teaching, which you seem to equate with practicing law because practitioners often act as adjuncts (as do judges, btw, who, as we all know, are totally oblivious to "theoretical concepts" and basically incapable of engaging in the the heavy thinking engaged in by all law profs).

4. "I take it that your view is that adjuncts teach just as much theory as FT profs."

It depends on the course, Adam, and the adjunct (and, of course, the law prof). Obviously, full time faculty members are more likely to indulge idiosyncratic points of view about the importance of their own musings in the classroom. However, by and large, your unspoken assumption that all adjuncts are practitioners and that practitioners are incapable of understanding and conveying theoretical concepts is empirically wrong, condescending and biased.

FE: about the tone. the fist in the velvet glove is no better than pointing out illogical or false arguments bluntly. You don't get to say that adjuncts ignore the faculty rules on grading and don't care as much as others about it without someone pushing back (except, of course, in the real faculty lounge).

Nothing strikes me as more pompous and arrogant than a law prof demeaning adjuncts and practitioners on specious grounds, especially because the sort of greedy, self referential life style enjoyed by many such profs is often supported, in part, by the hard work and devotion of the people who serve in this capacity.

It's sort of like the rich sob beating his workers, and justifying this conduct because he is "better" than they are, accusing them falsely in the process (while describing the reasons he is better in risible terms).

If one wants to write a screed slamming adjuncts, have at it. But, as long as it is allowed, the answers hopefully will be more persuasive than the attack, and cause the speaker to at least try to engage in a bit of self examination and more thoughtful analysis.

Anon

An important point from an active adjunct prof (apologies if the point has been made already in this unwieldy thread): few practicing attorneys can teach more than once a week. Take a quick look through a random sample of law-school course catalogs and you will see that adjunct profs, whether "good" or "bad," whether offering "life-changing" courses or not, typically teach one session a week for 2-3 hours. (Even then, it's often necessary for practicing attorneys to cancel or reschedule class on relatively short notice.) Such limitations constrain the types of discussions I can have with students and the amount of material we can cover. So while a seminar on ITC Section 337 litigation, for example, is certainly manageable in scope for a once-a-week course - and, yes, something I could probably teach *more effectively* than most doctrinal professors - I would not say the same of foundational courses in Admin or Patents, both of which students should probably have taken by the time they enroll in my hypothetical Section 337 seminar.

anon prof

I also didn't read through all the comments (especially the mean-spirited and unprofessional ones), but there is another important point that I think is missing here. Different law schools have access to very different pools of adjuncts. My guess would be that schools in DC or NYC have access to very high level adjuncts. I am less sure about small state schools in towns like Ada, Ohio. For prestige/interest reasons, I am sure that top quality adjuncts are also more willing to work for free (or peanuts) at a top school than at a fourth tier school. So, I don't think any one school's experience can really translate across the spectrum.

Another Anon Prof

Anon Prof-

I generally agree with your first point that there could be different pools to draw from - that's simply a matter of attorney numbers in a given area.

On your second point, I would issue a note of caution on the top v. lower tier distinction. I'm at a U.S. News labelled lower 3d tier school, but we have a different regional reputation and a huge pool of invested and highly competent attorneys around us who serve as adjuncts for very little money.

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