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October 22, 2014


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Nathan A

I'm sure adjunct pay varies across law schools, but given that schools only make a small financial commitment to adjuncts it seems like a stretch to ask adjuncts to now also (a) participate at faculty presentations, (b) sit on a curriculum committee, (c) vetting new faculty, (d) increased office hours, (e) sitting down with TT faculty to go over the grading of exams and evaluations.

To clear, I'm sure all of the above-mentioned suggestions will help adjuncts better prepare there students. Its a question of money and time. Not sure there's enough of either.

Orin Kerr

A few responses to the three suggestions:

1) On inviting adjuncts to attend faculty paper presentations: Yes, absolutely.

2) On inviting adjuncts to help the curriculum committee: Maybe, but it depends on how. (Invite them to do what?) And if the tenured faculty members who teach in the area are not invited, it might be odd to only invite the adjuncts.

3) On inviting adjuncts to vet new (tenure-track) faculty: What does it mean to "vet"? If that means to comment on, then that's fine. If that means to vote on, then that's very problematic. For example, how do you define the relevant field? And what if adjuncts are voting against someone who would teach in their area and might threaten their appointment?

Jason Yackee

In theory, sure, but all of this increases the "cost" of hiring adjuncts and introduces less flexibility into the process. Some schools will have the administrative capacity to do the things you suggest, others (perhaps sadly) will not.


Unlike the last post on this topic, I have no quarrel with this one.

This sort of discussion, which includes constructive recommendations, is so much better because the bogus pejorative generalizations about adjuncts have been (mostly) omitted.

Larry Rosenthal

I am extremely supportive of adjuncts and believe it would benefit students to integrate them fully into legal education. Having been an adjunct prior to moving to a full-time tenure-track faculty position, however, I have become sensitive to a particular problem adjuncts face not mentioned by the post. Successful lawyers have extremely limited time to focus on curricular and pedagogical issues. The result is that adjuncts all too often default to the most popular available casebook, which tends to also be the most conventional, and utilize fairly conventional teaching methods as well. This is understandable; successful lawyers have limited time to consider innovative curricula and pedagogies. The result, however, is that adjuncts often utilize quite conventional approaches to teaching, rather than offering an experiential pedagogy that can better help students to transition from the classroom to practice. To develop successful teaching methods that go beyond the traditional case and socratic methods (which I quite agree are of limited value especially after the first year), I have learned that substantial time must be devoted to curricular development. Here at Chapman, we are increasingly trying to encourage and support adjuncts to utilize more innovative methods that focus more directly on discrete skills and abilities that entry-level lawyers require, which of course go well beyond close analysis of appellate decisions. It therefore seems important to me that schools direct and support adjuncts in a manner that helps them to pursue an experiential pedagogy that focuses on the particular value that a practitioner can offer, rather than merely duplicating the pedagogy that students already encounter in conventional courses taught by full-time faculty.

Larry Rosenthal
Chapman University
Fowler School of Law


"It therefore seems important to me that schools direct and support adjuncts in a manner that helps them to pursue an experiential pedagogy that focuses on the particular value that a practitioner can offer, rather than merely duplicating the pedagogy that students already encounter in conventional courses taught by full-time faculty."

Should adjuncts implement experimental pedagogy so that students don't encounter, in their courses, the conventional methods utilized by the full time faculty?

I've heard so much about this "experimental pedagogy" ... other than midterms, the occasional problem solving exercise, writing a series of small papers rather than one big final, etc. (all very conventional methods, actually, going back to secondary school education fifty or more years ago) can you provide some non clinical examples of this "experimental pedagogy"?

Please also explain the reasons that ENTRY LEVEL practitioners of the law - especially in fields of law OTHER THAN CRIMIMAL LAW - do not need to be very skilled at close analysis of appellate decisions, treatises, scholarly articles and other sources, i.e., the study of the "law" as applied in a given field.

Finally, please explain how "theoretical concepts" are best conveyed using ""experimental pedagogy" ...

Just to preview, I've actually seen references to using Seinfeld or the Simpsons as "experimental pedagogy" ... I know you know better.

Larry Rosenthal


The word is "experiential."

The ability to analyze appellate opinions and "theoretical concepts" is quite important to the practice of law, but it is primarily a foundational skill. I practiced law for some two decades, and no one ever offered to pay me to analyze an appellate opinion or a "theoretical concept."

The Carnegie Report makes the case far better than I can, but, in brief, law school, especially in the second and third years, should focus on developing the skills and abilities that entry level lawyers will need in practice. As it happens, few entry level attorneys, even in fields outside of criminal law, spend the bulk of their time analyzing appellate opinions, treatises, scholarly sources. It takes some time and thought to develop a pedagogy that focuses on a fair cross-section of the skills that lawyers require in practice, but it can be done. The conventional law school pedagogy, however, gives short shrift to too many valuable skills and abilities. Even when it comes to analysis of "appellate opinions, treatises, and scholarly sources," consider the anomalies in the conventional method for evaluation: In the practice of law, the term used to describe one who writes a legal opinion within a predetermined period of time, and without having the relevant sources of legal authority at hand as one writes, is malpractice. In law school, it is called a closed book final exam, and it is widely used as the primary if not the sole basis for grading.

Larry Rosenthal


I'm not sure what Larry means by a "foundational" skill. It seems to me that good litigators in common-law jurisdictions should be thinking theoretically (AND strategically, AND logistically, AND economically, AND ethically) all the time. Maybe that's what he means: that "theoretical" reflection is necessary but not sufficient for someone to be an effective litigator. True, but that doesn't necessarily warrant changing the entire structure of the traditional law school curriculum. I didn't need my professors to teach me how to review documents or use the e-filing system of X court; indeed, had they done so, it would have come at the expense of some educational experiences that helped to make my approach to litigation that much more creative and, in my opinion, successful. And I'm not an appellate lawyer.



Quite right, and my mistake. I was thinking of the comments on the last thread when I referenced "experimental" pedagogy.

No real difference, though. You seem to be saying that full time faculty are adhering to more conventional teaching methods and that adjuncts present the opportunity for the law school to offer a different approach. I don't necessarily disagree: but I note that this is very different from point made in the previous post that adjuncts are more likely than full time faculty to rely on "lecture and an abusive Socratic method."

The author of this post (and some supporting his view) also has made the point that adjuncts are less likely to teach "theoretical concepts" - Larry, you seem to be saying that is a good thing.

Again, it all depends on the course. All in all, however, it is my view that full time faculty need to reject the simplistic notion that 1. adjuncts are practitioners and therefore, practicing law when teaching law; and 2. those who are practicing law when teaching law don't understand or convey legal theory (one commenter actually claimed that torts would not include the Hand formula, or at least a deep understanding of it, if taught by a practitioner, because practitioners of tort law have little use for such "theoretical concepts").

Larry, as I know you know, the ability to read the law and apply it to the circumstances, both novel and routine (and write a brief explaining the law as applied) is a skill that should be shared by ALL professors of law. Whether they know it or not, most full time faculty are already teaching the "foundational skills" necessary in the practice of law. That is because, in the main, they are adhering to a process that is literally hundreds, if not thousands of years old.

Assembling authorities, explaining how the authorities apply to the facts and circumstances, and then articulating these concepts are skills common to all lawyers, especially but not exclusively litigators. Transactional attorneys need to regularly consult "the law" which many include in their milieu more positive law than common law and then communicate their opinions and recommendations. Ultimately, a lawyer must be able to answer legal questions.

Where full time faculty sometimes go wrong, IMHO, is thinking that mid terms, a series of short papers, the occasional problem solving exercise, etc. are novel teaching techniques (these techniques are, indeed, begun in grammar school) that make any difference in this respect. The belief that these "novel teaching techniques" place legal education on a better footing is as misguided as believing that new buildings make better students.

Larry, you seem to be saying that adjuncts have a special ability, however, to instruct students in ways that full time professors are likely not able; in ways that transcend "foundational skills." In this, I tend to agree, but would argue that ALL professors of law need to be properly prepared to so instruct students.

In reality, where law school falls short, perhaps, is in the way that full time faculty tend to disparage the skills associated solely with practice: client relations, business development (including identifying and filling needs in the legal marketplace) and management, ethics (in some respects), trial advocacy, etc. These are the skills full time law professors seem to feel too superior to appreciate.

This may be because these skills are not "theoretical" enough, but my view is that most law professors, having no experience in any of these skills, simply don't understand the degree to which practicing law involves an important mix of what you, Larry, refer to "foundational skills" and what some might refer to a "practical skills" that can be taught "experientially."

The disconnect may be this: practitioners understand theory in practice, but full time law professors tend to discount and thus disregard the value of the latter. Hence, failing law schools, because the administration of these schools have lost sight of a key truth: law schools exist to benefit and improve the legal system, not to enable the idle "knowledge generation" of the type some believe is of benefit, but, in reality, is of little benefit to anyone, ever.

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