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January 15, 2015

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Derek Tokaz

Give the professors who want to do scholarship a minimum 2/2 courseload, and create a second teaching-oriented track with a 3/3 courseload. That should let you cut about a third of your faculty.

The two obvious objections to this are that faculty scholarship will suffer with the extra teaching load, and that no prof has time to grade papers from a 3/3 courseload, so teaching will suffer in those classes. Worse academics, and worse teachers!

To address the scholarship concern, we simply need to change the emphasis from quantity to quality. What good comes from a professor writing 10 papers in 10 years which no one reads and even fewer people cite to? Everyone would be better served by the same professor writing 1 paper every 3 years, and that paper being of some note. The summers provide ample time to grind away at research, and anyone who's serious about writing knows that most of the real intellectual work is done in the shower, while driving, and washing dishes. They're not losing any of that back-burner, stew-simmering time. I'd think professors would welcome the chance to leave a mark on their field, rather than having all of their time and energy result in nothing but a pile of obscurity. (The exception being hacks, who if asked to produce quality would be revealed as importers.)

As for the 3/3 teaching-oriented professors, there are ways to make grading more manageable. You can add small assignments throughout the semester, and thus have a shorter, less weighty exam at the end. (A wise professor would stagger the due dates in his classes.) With small assignments, grading and feedback can be easily streamlined. A detailed grading rubric can allow the prof to simple check off boxes explaining a grade (B organization because X, C+ support because Y); it's not as helpful as a page-long letter explaining the grade, but it quickly and easily tells the student what to focus on improving. Combine that with an hour or so of class going over common issues, and you've got yourself a pretty efficient method for assessment and feedback.

Finally, it might help for law schools to create a new junior rank for professors; similar to the VAP position. Have them teach a 1/1 load, work on scholarship, and act as a professor's assistant (grading papers, teaching a couple days in the semester, etc). Pay would be something like $50k. That's less per credit than we pay profs now, and they're doubling as assistants to help increase the productivity and workload of other professors. I know some will argue that's not enough to entice someone away from a BigLaw salary, but it works for judicial clerkships, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of VAP candidates, and anyone who wants to be a professor but ends up in BigLaw isn't there for the money -- they're there because they couldn't get a job teaching.

MacK

A couple of points for Derek Tokaz. I agree that most legal scholarship deserves the nickname scholarshit. But Richard Posner senior manages and managed to teach at Chicago, be a federal judge, grade his papers and write 40 plus books and hundreds of articles and is still the most cited legal scholar BH a wide margin (many of his papers being heavily cited too.) Of course, most of what Posner writes is relevant to the law and legal practice ....

So the idea that law professors should cone out with one paper a year and - to do that must not teach, is not borne out by Posner. I'd add that Ken Feinberg was one of my professors - and he found time to grade papers, write articles, practice law and serve as a special master simultaneously - and did and does all if these things quite splendidly.

public interest lawyer

Stanley Fish teaches English 101 as often as he can, and he does it because he wants to. It's not a question of credentialing, but of respecting the project and sharing in it. It's quite simply at the core of the discipline of literary studies.

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/what-should-colleges-teach-part-2/?_r=0

There's an enormous gap between his freshman composition classes and his graduate seminars in seventeenth century poetry. In contrast, there's almost no gap at all between first year LRW and any second or third year law school seminar or course.

I didn't mean to say that every doctrinal teacher would be a good legal writing teacher. What I meant to say was that any doctrinal teacher should want to teach legal reasoning and writing to new law students, detached from any particular doctrinal field, just like Stanley Fish wants to teach the elements of language and rhetoric to freshmen. It goes without saying that a disengaged, arrogant, and muddled doctrinal teacher would not be a good legal writing teacher.

I've taught in many different law schools and have never come across a legal writing teacher who has any formal training in composition and rhetoric or even narrative theory (by which I suppose you mean a graduate degree in those English and Comp Lit specialties). That's different from the autodidactic skills that all lawyers acquire as they prep for different cases. I suppose many law professors (including me) were English majors in college or have certificates in primary or secondary school education, but I would not call those law school teaching credentials.

In fact, across the board, new law school teachers are thrown into the classroom without having been trained in educational theory and practice. That includes doctrinal faculty and legal writing faculty. Maybe law schools should provide some.

I must disagree with the claim that all legal writing teachers teach doctrine. In fact, I would say the opposite. No legal writing teacher teaches doctrine unless he or she teaches a separate doctrinal course. A doctrinal course covers a doctrinal field in a systematic manner. If anyone wants to construe teaching a legal writing assignment that addresses a legal issue as teaching doctrine, then no harm, I guess, but I don't think that's a valid claim.

ML

It seems to me that if schools are overstaffed, their faculty teach too many, not too few, courses.

One obvious option is to lay off most of the faculty, using the "emergency" clause of a tenure policy.

But here's another, somewhat less cruel, option. So why not just say: everyone teaches half the load for half the pay? The older faculty would be able to ease more gradually into retirement, and the younger ones might do a little more lawyer work on the side.

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