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March 05, 2015

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public interest lawyer

This is my own experience with the major state university with which I have been most recently affiliated. http://www.law.buffalo.edu/current/aCalendar.html
I suspect the deal SUNY Buffalo made with the ABA isn't completely kosher, as with so much else about the place, but here it is:

Fall 2014

Monday, August 25 (first year orientation week *tenured faculty excused*)

Thursday, September 4 (first year classes begin)

Wednesday, October 1

Thursday, Oct. 2- Monday, Oct. 6 (fall break - no classes)

Wednesday, Nov. 26 - Friday, Nov. 28 (Thanksgiving Break - no classes)

Friday, December 5 -last day of classes

Saturday, Dec. 6 - Monday, Dec. 8 - reading days

Tuesday, Dec. 9 - Friday, Dec. 19 - final exams

December 20 - winter recess begins


Spring 2015

Monday, Feb. 9 - spring classes begin

Monday, Mar. 16 - Friday Mar. 20 - spring break, no classes

Monday, March 23 - classes resume

Friday, May 8 - last day of classes

Saturday, May 9 - Monday, May 11 - reading days

Tuesday, May 12 - Friday, May 22 - final exams

Saturday, May 23 - commencement


I count roughly September, October, November, December, February, March, and May as owned by the Law School. That is seven months. It leaves June, July, August, and January entirely free. There is fall break, Thanksgiving break, and spring break in the mix, and December and May are really only half months. During the seven months on campus, there's at least two days in the workweek that have flexible commitments. So there is a lot of open time for scholarship with salary checks distributed on a twelve month basis and no other academic duties. Law professors don't have to write their scholarship on the run the way Scott Turow was said to write his novels on his commute to the office in the morning. I don't see where Scott Turow had to justify if his writings qualified as a public good. The only question is whether he was wasting his own time and whether what he was doing was any good, period.

Enrique Guerra-Pujol

One commentator wrote: "Legal scholarship, on the other hand, can just drift from one pointless topic to another. Don't get me wrong, there are great examples of legal scholarship. However, there are a lot of half-baked musings masquerading as "scholarship" in legal academia. This shouldn't surprise anyone since legal academics don't have to justify the value of their work to anyone. This probably also why there are a lot of computer science journals that publish a lot of hooey."

The problem with this line of reasoning is that we often won't know until many years later what forms of research are "half-baked" and what forms are worthwhile. Think of sports, by analogy. Until the season starts, we don't know with certainty which teams and players are great and which are mediocre. That's the whole point of creating a marketpace of ideas and scholarship generally ...

Anon

California already enables a model that allows law schools to hire faculty who only teach. Yet demand for schools that make research central to their mission are the highest ranked and in the greatest demand from applicants. If you can't convince students to change why should the law schools?

Barry

Michael: "But tuition is higher!

"I'm not convinced this is completely true. Tuition for undergraduate schools is pretty expensive. But tuition and professor pay are what the market will bear. The market is bad right now, and tuition (after discounting) is going down, and hiring is down (and I suspect faculty salaries are not growing at the moment). "

First, as has been pointed out, the legal education industry is heavily subsidized. The government and quasi-governmental agencies pay the law schools (through checks endorsed by students), and then collect later.

Law schools are allowed to publish deceptive statistics, with the blessings of the courts (and aided and abetted by every career center in every college in the USA).

These loans are privileged, in that bankruptcy can't be used. This is unlike almost all other loans in our economy.

The most loathsome practices in law schools are approved by the ABA, and supported by every tenured professor who doesn't spit on faculty from those schools whose placement rates are in the basement while their tuition rates are in the penthouse.

If students had to borrow directly, the market would have long since dropped by at least 50%. If law schools loaned money to their students, most would be bankrupt.

John Jacob

"The problem with this line of reasoning is that we often won't know until many years later what forms of research are "half-baked" and what forms are worthwhile. Think of sports, by analogy. Until the season starts, we don't know with certainty which teams and players are great and which are mediocre."

Wow, is that a lousy analogy. Before the season starts I can tell you that Matt Carpenter isn't going to win the home run title and that Ryan Vogelsong isn't going to win the Cy Young. Do we really need 10-15 years before we can tell that lousy scholarship is in fact lousy?

"That's the whole point of creating a marketpace of ideas and scholarship generally"

I'm sorry, but legal scholarship doesn't reside in anything resembling a market. Force legal academics to justify their work to a funding agency/foundation and we might have the semblance of a market.

Derek Tokaz

"The problem with this line of reasoning is that we often won't know until many years later what forms of research are "half-baked" and what forms are worthwhile. Think of sports, by analogy. Until the season starts, we don't know with certainty which teams and players are great and which are mediocre. That's the whole point of creating a marketpace of ideas and scholarship generally."

What a ridiculous analogy. A lack of certainty doesn't suddenly make the whole thing a toss-up. We don't know if next season Alabama will be better than Ohio State, but that's trying to decide betwtan two great teams. We do know that both Ohio State and Alabama will be better than Concord and West Chester, which we know will both be mediocre (though pretty good as far as mediocrity goes).

The real problem with your argument though is what you do in light of the uncertainty. You're saying "We don't know for certain that it's going to be useless, therefor we ought to fully fund it." The far more rational approach would be to say "We don't have much reason to think it will be useful, so at this point it's not going to get much funding if any, so you'll basically just have to do this on your own time and if in a few years it does look like it's going somewhere, we'll provide funding for future research." The risk of it not going anywhere needs to be on the professor. He has the most information and full control over the effort he puts into it, so it only makes sense that he also bears the risk.

Enrique Guerra-Pujol

"Thou shall not misrepresent or exaggerate a person's argument in order to make such argument easier to attack" (the straw man fallacy)

John Jacob

"Legal scholarship is in a terrible state, with counter-intuitive incentives for faculty. Status comes with publishing, but more publishing means less teaching and interacting with fewer students. In the legal academy, second- and third-year law students select which law professors’ articles to publish; while my second and third years are brilliant, they cannot select for quality the same way experts would. But even if you think the student-run system is fine, the value of legal scholarship, which is rarely read, has its skeptics, among them Chief Justice John Roberts. Scholars at the University of Florida argue in a recent study that very few articles are cited for their ideas. This broken system is also subsidized disproportionately by the tuition dollars of poorer law students.

Questioning the value of legal scholarship is heresy inside the legal academy – which is why I am grateful that I have tenure. Law schools are run by the faculty for the faculty. A former colleague once put it like this: “If we could run this law school without students, this place would be perfect.” He happened to be the dean. Such a system is unlikely to be changed from within.

But while faculty cannot be terminated, their summer research stipends can be. Other disciplines require faculty to obtain external funding to support their work. Law schools should take a similar approach. For all who argue that legal scholarship has merit, let the market decide. This won’t solve all of a law school’s financial woes, but it could be a place to start right now. My 20 years as a legal academic causes me to predict that no serious change will occur until a cataclysmic event occurs. My prediction: In three years, a top law school will close. Then watch how quickly things change."

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/03/09/law-schools-are-in-a-death-spiral-maybe-now-theyll-finally-change/)

public interest lawyer

I want to say something about the comparison between University law professors and University social science/humanities professors. The argument for law professors is that the job is the same in law schools as in those other academic departments, without any expectation that scholarship be justified by originality or utility. But two wrongs don't make a right. These other academic departments maintain the privileges of the tenured faculty by exploiting graduate students and adjuncts to teach classes they should be teaching themselves. The elite universities also can subsidize faculty privileges and cut tuition discounts from billion dollar endowments. Law schools can't use law students to teach their courses and are limited by the ABA in their use of adjuncts. So they have been raising tuition over the past two decades to levels as high as they can possibly go on the dubious logic that a legal education is priceless. It isn't a sustainable business model and it can't be justified by saying others are doing it too.

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