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February 28, 2015


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Enrique Guerra Pujol

Since Harrison and Mashburn are saying that the costs of legal scholarship exceed the benefits, doesn't this line of reasoning apply to their own work too?

Derek Tokaz

"These assumptions result in an estimation of $960 million per year in law faculty salaries [including 30% in benefits]. One fourth of that figure--$240 million--can be attributed to the production of scholarship."

I'd be curious to hear if this is how other professors see the teaching/scholarship time allotment. What I've often heard is closer to a 40/50/10 divide between teaching/scholarship/admin duties (and where blogging during office hours fits into this is anyone's guess).

Given that a quarter of the year (give or take) is the summer, a professor could hit JH&AM's 25% mark with only minimal research throughout the school year -- only what is needed to offset lesson planning and grading done during the summer.

If a professor is spending a quarter of the regular school year on scholarship, as well as the vast majority (90%) of the summer, we get up to 41% of their time being scholarship, for $396 million per year. If it got up to a 50/50 divide in the school year, the professor would be spending 60% of his total time on scholarship, for $576 million. That's more than the National Cancer Institute spent on breast cancer research in 2013.

When it comes to measuring the value of that research, I agree with JH&AM that citations in academic works of are dubious value. Sometimes scholars really will offer valuable contributions to future scholarship, I don't think anyone doubts that this can and does happen. However, a mere citation is far from proof of that for any particular article. For instance, in response to the "Law Review Quote of the Day" thread a couple weeks back, I jokingly looked up some other silly quotes from the OP's own works. In one he writes "To be sure, the United States government [after 9/11] did not completely obliterate civil liberties," and cites an article by a UNC law professor. Not to diminish that professor's work, but I think we would all know that some civil liberties endured after 9/11 without any citation at all. Of the 100 academic citations the JH&AM study looked at (and I think this is too small a sample), 98 were junk.


The legal academy seems to be obsessed with numbers, even though most lawyers have little to no expertise in quantitative analysis. It seems much more productive to look at the arguments and ideas shared and modified by legal scholars over time; just as in other fields, such scholarship advances the dialogue about important social, jurisprudential, and public policy issues incrementally, making it impossible to quantify the value of "an article" (or a number of articles, or a citation, or a lack of citations...)

Derek Tokaz


While I'm sure your approach sounds good to many, at the end of the day there is a decision to be made about how much money should be spent on legal research. There must be some criteria for that, and it ought to be something other than "however much we can get the kids to pay for."

And that reminds me of another point which goes into figuring out the cost of academic legal research: debt financing. That half a billion dollars is largely paid for with student loans, and as such the real cost is going to be something like 50% higher. It wouldn't be at all surprising to find that within a decade, academic legal research has run up a price tag of a billion dollars a year. In the meantime though, can we maybe spitball some ideas about how to get free labor from students in order to close the justice gap; or better yet, have them pay for the opportunity to work. I realize that's a bit off topic, not sure why it came to mind just now.

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