Yesterday, ATL posted about an email attachment gone awry at a top law school so that the names/grades/ranks of students with judicial clerkships was sent to something close to the whole world by now. (i'm pretty sure you can find it if you want to see it, so I don't feel the need to link.) That unfortunate event seems newsworthy, though not unprecedented. And, I do feel for the students, who have to endure the unwanted (for some) publicity. I would think, however, that a simple post would be the beginning and end of the story, but that would mean the story would disappear after one news cycle: Law school official makes mistake; law school apologizes.
But, ATL "mines the data" and appears shocked to find out that a 3.40 gpa puts a student in the 50% percentile. Um, yes. That means that the schools has a 3.4 mean, I'm guessing. Not exactly a conspiracy here. Here at the Glom, we've talked about grading curves before. (here and here). In the comments to an ATL editor's FB post, I argued that a high grading curve was not nefarious, but the response to my defense was that it certainly wasn't transparent. I understand that "transparency" is the buzzword of the day among the scambloggers, and I'm all for transparency, but I'm not sure who the curve is supposed to be transparent to. I guarantee you the students at the school know what the curve is.
But there seemed to be some concern that schools didn't post grading curves onto the website. There's a great deal of difference between something being hidden and something not being on the website. The grading policy at Illinois is on the intranet in a policy handbook, accessible by the law school community. Just because something technologically could be on the external website doesn't mean it has to be. Is this something prospective students should know? I can't even imagine that students would compare schools based on the mean gpa. (At school X, I would have a 3.4 instead of a 3.2 at school Y if I were in the 50% percentile!) Prospective students might want to know if they were accepting a scholarship with some sort of continuing gpa requirement, but surely they could ask about that also. Employers benefit the most from knowing what the curve is at a school if they are not savvy enough to ask about class rank. Yes, there may be some sense that by raising your mean gpa, a school is giving an advantage to its students over others for those smaller employers who look at bare gpa's without asking about rank. Among nontransparent behavior, this seems rather mild to me and something that I thought was common knowledge among legal educators and most legal employers.
I guess I'm getting a little prickly, but I'm a little tired of the blogosphere reporting on regular law school activities as if they were scandals. (Professor A has detailed class rules! Professor B re-used an exam question every student had access to! Law School X is closing the library for a few days due to HVAC problems!) So, my apologies to those who prefer to be more easily offended.
Here is an old saw: the best way to predict bubbles is to look at the industry to which Harvard MBA grads are flocking. I used this as a laugh line when I spoke to David’s students at Wharton in October. Now Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post Wonkblog extends the analysis to Crimson undergrads.
O’Brien’s article is the latest salvo in the analysis of what makes “Organization Kids” flock to finance. Kevin Roose’s Young Money made a splash when it was published earlier this year. Academics looking to understand students should consider delving into what makes students who enter finance and law with more than a dismissive lament of “kids these days.” Indeed, the modern university seems designed specifically to create organization kids. Think of how the bizarre gatekeeping rituals of college admissions filter down to create an achievement junky culture that begins in middle school if not earlier. Students and parents seek to anticipate the divinations of middle aged oracles who themselves attempt to divine meaning from personal statements and lists of extracurriculars.
The Harvard MBA Indicator is a fun parlor game. But it also suggests that in trying to understand deep questions such as why bubbles begin and how financial institutions operate, we might look at a broader set of disciplines than just economics. Some very interesting legal scholarship on bubbles, financial markets (think Stuart Banner’s history) and financial institutions (Annelise Rile’s sociological studies of Japanese firms) serves as examples of the possibilities. If academics lament their students being organization kids, they should have a little self-awareness and step outside their own institutional comfort zone.
Haskell Murray and Anne Tucker recently blogged quite engagingly about their Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). They made me feel old--not only because of these newfangled acronyms, but also because I remember feeling that way myself. I found particularly brave their articulation of the suspicion that they weren't "good enough" and had somehow lucked into the job. I remember feeling that way, too, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there are 2 kinds of junior faculty members: 1) those who think they're not really as smart as everyone else, and 2) those who really aren't as smart as everyone else. "Arrogance" is just a few letters away from "ignorance."
But I digress. I remember feeling this way, and I had a mentor give me excellent advice my first year:
Just say no.
At least, your default answer should be "no." To my chagrin, I realized something at the end of my first year of teaching: This job has infinite demands. There are 3 elements to it: teaching, scholarship, and service. You could devote every waking moment to your teaching, and still have more you could do. Ditto for service. Ditto to the nth degree for scholarship: always another talk you could attend, an article you could read. But you can't do those things and write. At least, I can't. You have to get used to always feeling like there's more you can do. You'll feel guilt, but you have to make your peace with it.
I set boundaries for myself, like trying not to travel more than once a month while classes are in session. But the best piece of advice I got was that your default answer should be "no."
P.S. Haskell, I'd love for people to think that I'm some kind of superwoman, but that was my schedule for a brief period of my life. Baby #3 started sleeping through the night at about 6 months. Hallelujah!
Looking to the future of legal education and the legal services industry, the University of Chicago announced today a radical new curriculum that respond to claims that law school is too expensive, too long, and irrelevant to the delivery of legal services. These changes will go into effect beginning with the incoming class of 2014-15.
A new orientation day will replace earlier attempts at "welcome to law school" programs. New legal careers will begin on Day One. On this day, students will be given a type of aptitude test that will tell students in which broad legal field they may thrive in and in which they are most likely to find satisfaction. The results of these tests are confidential and not mandatory, students will be able to choose the next day which field of study they will enter; however, this choice is irreversible.
Chicago has announced five fields of legal study, which will be organized into "factions": Abnegation, which will focus on public interest work and "street law;" Amity, which will focus on dispute resolution; Erudite, which will focus on the most cerebral of legal work, corporate, securities and tax law; Candor, which will focus on governmental agency work; and Dauntless, which will focus on litigation. Each field of study will require different lengths of training. Dauntless training will be completed in three months by zip-lining from the Sears Tower through downtown Chicago. Erudite training will take six years and take place exclusively indoors.
However, should a student drop out or be counseled out of training, the student will be "factionless," or in other words be unable to sit for the bar unless a law school beyond the fence is willing to retrain the student.
The law school acknowledges that some educators (and parents) believe that some students may have skills or talents that could serve them well in different factions; however, this gifted "divergent" student is more myth than reality, according to experts.
Gary Rosin has a post at Faculty Lounge with interesting statistics about law school-funded jobs to new graduates. Of course, the reason that we care is because of the rankings. Law schools report their employment statistics and put these jobs in the "Bar Admission Required, Full-Time, Long-Term" category according to the post. So, if you back out these jobs, then the numbers are different for about 14% of law schools. The differences range from 1 percentage point to 20, with a median of about 2.65 percentage points.
I agree that students would be much better off if these law school-funded jobs were reported in a separate category, and that in general, if all employement statistics were reported at a much more granular level.
However, the tone of much of the discourse about law school-funded jobs is that students would be better off if there were no law school-funded jobs. And there I feel I must disagree. Disclosure: Illinois is above the median on that list.
Shenanigans designed to merely move schools up or down in the rankings generally have no positive non-ranking effects. However, law school-funded jobs have substantial non-ranking effects. First, a law graduate without a job now has a job, with a salary, where there was none before. Second, the best designed law school-funded jobs convert to employer-funded jobs. For example, a law school may ask a firm, public interest organization, or corporation to take a chance on a law graduate with a promise of salary support for a certain period of time. At the end of that period, if all goes well, then the employer will put the law grad on the payroll. And, next year, that same organization may be more inclined to hire a new law grad on their own. As long as this arrangement is disclosed, it seems similar to a summer internship for credit or a graduate school post-doc.
Of course, critics will point to two things, even if disclosed. The first is just a variation on the scamblog meme: See, you guys can't get your graduates jobs, so you have to offer them this second-rate "opportunity." They went to law school because you said they would get real jobs. OK, awesome. It would be great if every graduate had an employment offer at graduation, but when it happens that they don't, isn't this a better solution than nothing? Second, one argument would be that the law school is funding all of this with tuition dollars, so students are subsidizing these arrangements. Yes, students tuition pays for many things, including facilities, utilities, salaries, programs, speaker series, colloquia, clinics, and scholarships. Some students pay more than others, and some students get "costlier" education. So yes, students without scholarships subsidize students with scholarships. Students that don't take colloquia or clinics subsidize those that do. At some schools, students not on journals may subsidize students on journals that are not self-supporting. In undergraduate colleges, students in cheaper majors may subsidize students in more expensive majors.
Anyway, if I were a prospective students, as long as these arrangements were transparently disclosed and all other employment statistics were similar to peers, I would see them as a signal that the school supported its students and thought about problems in a creative way.
Over at the business prof blog, Haskell Murray has taken up the mantle of relaying job announcements for law professors in business schools, and he does a nice assessment of the three most recent opportunities to come over the transom. Well worth a look, if you're looking for a job.
Matt follows up on his posts about funding legal scholarship with a post on professor-produced publications that are sold, with the profits going (mainly) to the publisher and (in smaller quantities) to the professor-author. Some of the questions that emanate from this model are (1) why law schools/universities don't require these works to be "work for hire" with the profits going to the law school; (2) why professors engage in this type of time-intensive writing; and (3) [my question] wouldn't a direct-to-student model be better?
Work for hire. In my second year of teaching legal writing, my co-author and I sold a programming for teaching the Bluebook to Lexis. I remember a tenured colleague sneering at me that the profits should go to the university. Well, the university never called, and I never called them. I'm now at a university that has seen faculty create some extraordinarily lucrative products without much, if any, remuneration. I just don't think that universities are great about tech transfer or commercializing professor works, even when the profits are worth the hassle. Some universities are better about creating structures for professors and their universities to share in profits of lucrative discoveries. Books may just fall into a category of "not worth it on average." If the average book royalties professors received were halved with their institution, professors may not produce them. Because these books create some marketing/branding/prestige for their institutions, universities may be happy to let publishers pay the university employees for their production.
Incentives. Going to the first point, the incentives are fairly "on the line" for many professor publications. Casebook profits vary widely depending on whether its suited for a course that is widely taught and widely taken or for a niche course. I'm sure monographs also vary widely between "purchased by a few libraries but given as complimentary copies" and trade publications that end up on the best seller list, with most toward the former. I've heard proflific monograph authors tell me that they aren't looking for profitable sales; they just want the book on law professor shelves. And, once upon a time, university tenure standards required books to be a full professor because that's what people write in other disciplines.
The direct-to-student model for casebooks. I've been thinking about this since I discovered how much a new edition of the Torts book I use cost (gasp). So, currently, I can use my work time to write a casebook that is then sold to law students, including mine, who pay $200/ea, and I get $20/ea. For doing my job. (I know, others deviate from this model, including paying their own students back their royalties .) But why not just self-publish? I spend my summer coming up with my own materials (as many do for their own courses anyway) and make them free for my students online? All the cases are available on the internet, and so are all the statutes/Restatement sections/etc. The only thing missing is the commentary and the questions (which I usually skip). This could save students $1000/semester. I'm teaching a course for the first time this semester, BA II, and I put together my own materials -- cases, law review articles, public disclosure documents. It takes a lot of time, but it's not crazy. What about first-time professors? Well, I would be happy to share my materials. In fact, all the Torts professors here could combine forces. Just a thought.
I was pointed to an article on ATL last weekend, and you can tell from the name of the post the substance of it: A Law Professor's Detailed, Ridiculous, Condescending "Local Rules" for Class. The author, Joe Patrice, has posted the course description/syllabus from a professor at Santa Clara who teaches legal analysis, research and writing. The professor, Ray Bernstein, has designed his syllabus to read like "local rules" for his class. He has identified writing issues that students have, like not Bluebooking, having typos, not analyzing professor feedback via Word "Track Changes" but merely clicking "accept all" to the mark up, lateness, and more. For each of these areas of concern, the professor has created a consequence, generally having work handed back, or reduction in grade. Apparently this is just too crazy for words.
A few rants:
1. I taught LRW for 5 years, 4 as a director. Many professors run their LRW classes in this way (no, not at NYU where Joe went -- maybe he had that slacker David Zaring for a professor or used a silly textbook written by me). The idea, which doesn't seem that hard to grasp, is that students need to learn that many courts have picayune rules with draconian consequences. I don't, however, think Prof. Bernstein's rules or consequences are unreasonable at all. I have seen syllabi where lateness equals a zero. Moreover, go read some local rules. The Delaware Chancery Court even has supplemental guidelines to the rules. Importantly, many law students have not done a lot of writing in their educational career, and most have not butted up against actual real-world rules. I think Prof. Bernstein is doing them a service.
2. Joe believes that students don't need this transition, this law practice boot camp. He thinks that students can pivot between the laissez-faire world of law school and the crazy, rule-infested world of law practice without condescending professors pointing out that "the practice of law is hard." OK, maybe. Professionalism is rarely innate. Some students have acquired this skill by the time they get to law school and may be able to turn it on and off depending on the arena. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on how widespread this is.
3. It seems like ATL and other blogs like to rant about law schools not teaching practical courses, not preparing law students for law practice, and generally just taking in tuition and offering not much in return. Here is a professor who is trying to provide a service and run his class like a courtroom, and we will mock him for that? I won't. My former Dean Nancy Rapoport doesn't seem inclined to do so, either.
About four years ago, my then 10-year old daughter said to me, "Wouldn't it be great if all the really smart people who lived before could talk to the really smart people now?" I tried not to jump up and down, but instead said calmly, "That's what we call the academic record. That's why really smart people write their ideas and discoveries down, so future smart people can build on their work."
Matt's blog post this week on Funding Legal Scholarship doesn't focus on this aspect, so I'll take up the torch for awhile. Matt gives us the breakdown of how scholarship is funded (salaries and summer grants to professors; law schools may fund law reviews, which defray costs by selling subscriptions; law schools and law firms purchase direct/indirect subscriptions) and then the speculation on how much an article is worth to the professor (incentive summer grants, raises, lateral moves) and to the institution (prestige). (The creation of really pricey practitioner treatises, pricey textbooks and not-so-pricey monographs was not mentioned.) But this closed system cannot be the reason that scholarship is produced. If so, then there is no "there" there.
In other units on this campus (and I assume yours), research is expensive. Labs, graduate assistants, materials, animals, human subjects. But the end result is for the public good. Research conducted by universities creates medicine, fills in gaps in the historical record (where were dinosaur ears?), explains human and animal behavior and development, makes hardier crops, etc. Every week I get a campus newspaper with exciting discoveries (i.e., research). In other units, prize-winning novels, plays, music performances. This type of scholarship has great value to science, to knowledge, to art.
Legal scholarship has to have a value beyond the value to the creators, professors and their institutions. Our scholarship should strive to add to scholarly knowledge and directly or (mostly) indirectly move the law. Or at least explain it better so that others can understand it. With the decades-recent push to have more scholarship produced by professors at every institution (even traditional "teaching" institutions), we may have a glut of articles that were created not because the author had a lot to say or a passion to say it, but because that was the expectation.
The take-away from Matt's post (and the comments) seems to be that scholarship is a luxury good that not all law schools can afford in the near future. I don't disagree with that. A few weeks ago something was circulating on FB that said that professors tend to send their own kids to liberal arts colleges, where the professors aren't focused on their own research and teach undergraduates. I look forward to market differentiation. But, high-level, quality legal scholarship is necessary so that really smart people today can continue to talk to the really smart people who haven't been born yet.
Over at Prawfs, Matt Bodie has a provocative post on faculty compensation. I'm not sure I have a lot to add, but that has never stopped me before.
Apropos of many current compensation discussions (faculty buy-outs, faculty reductions, faculty salary cuts), Matt throws out an example of what an alternative compensation regime might look like. The general theme of these discussions are that many tenured faculty are overpaid compared to their contributions, but tenure insulates them from either being fired or having their salary cut substantially. Because law schools are losing revenues, they must cut their fixed costs; salaries are the big ticket item. Matt's thought experiment goes something like this: If a professor's salary is X, cut it to .6X. Then give professors the opportunity to be granted up to .3X in discretionary amounts, maybe .1X for scholarship; .1X for service; .1X for teaching. The comments hit on a lot of points, including the benefits of public disclosure of salaries, and here are mine.
1. My salary is public, as are all UI salaries. I don't know if the public nature of salaries adds much to the debate, but it does provide us with data, which is helpful.
2. In law firms, (and I would guess in other businesses), a very easy metric has emerged for differentiating the contributions of lawyers: billable hours and the collectibles they represent. Associates may be paid lock-step, but their billable hours (or collectibles) may be used to award bonuses or at least remembered for purposes of partnership. Bringing in business is also easy to quantify: how many billable hours did you provide to the firm, in the form of your billables or other lawyers. How many lawyers do you keep busy? Partners' compensation varies widely and is hashed out by the whole or by a committee, with partners being awarded "shares" in the profits based on billables/collectibles/business brought in that keeps others busy. All dollars earned for the firm are equal. Now, there may be cases where particular partners get/retain shares based on intangibles (being President of the local bar association, which takes a lot of time, etc.), but I would guess that hard numbers are used more often than qualitative measures.
3. This model is hard to map on to academia (or any business model). We don't have an easy metric like dollars. Yes, some people bring in grant money, but in most law schools that is not widespread enough to design a compensation scheme around. So, we would have to resort to "measuring" service, scholarship and teaching. This will be fairly discretionary -- how do my Y number of articles compare to your Y-1 peer reviewed articles or your Y-2 articles plus monograph? Or my Y+2 articles last year and zero this year? Or my teaching evaluations in this class compared to yours in your other class? Or the fact that I chaired a committee, but the Dean didn't appoint you head of any committees?
4. Raises at many law schools are to be doled out according to Matt's metric. Say the pool would be $3000 if applied evenly. I would guess that most faculty are put into batches, with the variance being the lowest being $1000 and the highest being $4000. Maybe one faculty member would get lower than $1k (if any). There just isn't that much variance. ( I have personal knowledge of the variance at one institution being $500). Mostly because we don't like to distinguish on squishy factors (which is why we grade students mostly A's and B's and don't use the entire grading range) and because the amount is so small. So, in a law firm, compensation can range from the 100Ks to the millions with many, many gradations. But in a law school, the differences between the highest and lowest paid tenured professor is not that wide (100k?).
5. But the regime that Matt throws out would make the gap a little wider by lowering the "guaranteed" portion of the salary. While a merit raise scheme assures your current salary will not decrease, here a large portion would be up for grabs. I just have doubts that your peers would be that calculating. Would anyone really get .6X? I would predict that if the ceiling is .9X, then most faculty would end up with .8X, .85X or .9X. As, Bs and Cs.
6. Incentives. Would those who expect to always be .8X take a buyout? Because you would want the .8X people to do so, not the .9X folks.
7. Incentives 2. How would professors adjust the way they do service, teaching, and scholarship? As some of the comments suggested, you would spread out your scholarship. You wouldn't publish a lot one year and not so much the next. (This could be fixed by being adjudged according to a 3 year-window or something.) Also, you might not be innovative in your teaching. Students don't reward innovative teaching, even when it is good for them -- they tend not to give good evaluations when their are written assignments or midterms in doctrinal classes. Innovative teaching also takes time to work out the kinks, so even if the students were eventually on board, the first couple of times would have a lot of bugs, which would show up on the evaluations. I would personally bring a lot of food and show a lot of movies. We just don't have a great way of evaluating teaching. We could base this component on how many courses/hours you teach or how many students, or have that be part of it. But then professors who teach small enrollment classes (Corporate Tax, for instance) would lose out, even though the courses aren't hobbyhorse classes. Professors may be more inclined to take on service opportunities, but the institution would have to define "service."
8. Morale. At least one commenter pointed to studies that showed that salary differentiation led to bad morale. I can definitely see that. In a law school, the decisions would be made by a dean or probably a committee, all of whom are faculty who will be subject to the same differentiation norms that they set. So it will be in the interest of the committee members not to make the range .6X to .9X with a flat distribution. In corporations (and law firms), those who set salary generally don't go back in the ranks to be adjudged by those that they just assessed.
Last week witnessed two very different views of how faculties can and should evaluate junior scholars for hiring and tenure. Compare this academic study (with the catchy title Moneyball for Academics ) with KerryAnn O’Meara’s essay in Slate on countering implicit bias in tenure reviews.
Both works leave a lot of questions unanswered. Even if the Moneyball approach one day delivers on its promise – to use network analysis of citations to predict the success of junior academics – it would also prove less than satisfying. Scholars who start out at citation hubs and collaborate with other scholars at those hubs – may be more likely to be cited going forward. But does that make their work more valuable? If financial markets are marked by fads, fashions, herding, and information cascades, the “market for ideas” (whatever that means) is even more susceptible to these dynamics. At least financial markets have arbitrageurs. (If only Socrates was able to ride out his short sale of Athenian democracy a little bit longer.)
The Slate article lies at the opposite end of the spectrum of Moneyball. O’Meara is critical of excessive reliance of quantitative factors –including citation counts – in evaluating scholarship. She argues that, to address problems of implicit bias, faculties should take a broader view of what constitutes scholarly contributions than traditional measures, including the use of external reviewers. But what does that look like in practice? If there is an inescapable level of subjectivity to any evaluation of scholarship, what standards should apply?
HT: Tax Prof Blog.
Caren Ulrich Stacy, a legal development professional, has created "OnRamp" fellowships, or "returnships" aimed at creating a pipeline for women to re-enter the legal profession. These fellowships seem to be targeted toward female attorneys who left (generally big) law firm life to focus on family or other opportunities and now would like to return. As summer internships are (still, for the most part) the pipeline from law school to large law firms, these one-year fellowships are designed to be a pipeline for experienced past associates to rejoin the work force. So far, four firms, including Baker Botts, a firm at which I enjoyed spending many billable hours, have signed up for the program. Applications are due February 28, and the target start date is in April.
I think these fellowships could be fantastic, and at the very least, interesting. The pay is $125,000, which is an awful lot of money, but less than a first-year associate at these firms, and less than a summer associate on a weekly basis. So, a firm could get an experienced attorney who may need a little time to get back up to speed cheaper than a new attorney who might take a lot longer. Then, at the end of a year, the firm could hire the fellow at some negotiated rate, or not. Either way, the fellow would be in a better position to interview for a different job now that she is in the game. Could this program be a threat to new law graduates? Would a firm that normally hires 40 summer associates for (40-X) slots now hire fewer associates for fewer slots, filling the difference with OnRamp-ers? Or, will the number of OnRamp applicants be so low that the difference won't be felt. I hope we see information on the number of applicants, the number of fellows, and the conversion rates. Depending on the strength of the resumes, law firms might be silly not to participate.
I also wonder how the fellowships play out over the span of a year in terms of lifestyle and culture. Say Associate W works at a law firm for 5 years, then leaves to have a baby. Now, 3 years later, Associate W is hired by one of these four firms as an OnRamp fellow in April. By June, the summer associates arrive, who are making more than she does, even though she may be supervising them. How many billable hours are expected of Associate W? Is she sheltered, and recruited, like a summer associate, or fully operationalized, like a fifth-year associate? After a few more months, will Associate W be wondering why she is working as much as other 5th years, but making substantially less, or will she just be happy for the opportunity to prove herself again? A year is a long time to try out for a job, particularly when you are billing full blast. But, I assume that fellows who treat it like a contract job and think "I'm not getting paid to work around the clock" will be treated like a contract worker at the end of the contract.
Between knee surgery (arthroscopic,torn meniscus, recovering well) and holiday travel (6 day trip to Maryland and back with 3 children ranging in age from 1-6, recovering so-so), my blogging and blogreading has been light of late. So I am late to the Nancy Leong kerfuffle (which made Slate, no less): a recap of sorts available here, and Professor Leong has a series of worthwhile posts here. As far as I could tell yesterday getting up to speed via cellphone screen southbound on I-85, Leong has been the target of cyberbullying and attacks based on her gender and race. Mostly by a public defender in Colorado who seems oddly fixated on her (writing 2 plays about someone? Really?) as a manifestation of the privileged, entitled law professor that has no business teaching law and must have been hired because she looks good. Many have decried these identity-based attacks, and rightly so: they are unjustified, loathsome, and wrong. I don't feel I have anything to add to these protests, but I agree with them.
With that caveat, amidst all of Leong's persecutor's vitriol, one note sounds true: the grievance of the practictioner against the law professor who has never practiced. While Leong has practiced, I predict that we will hear more and more complaints of this kind. Looking at the future of law and the tenuous state of the legal academy, it doesn't seem wise or even sustainable to me to continue to hire significant numbers of law professors who haven't practiced.
There, I said it.
In my experience, most practitioners actually like and respect law professors a good deal. But if you're a law professor and talk with alums or lawyers of any kind, eventually they'll come around to this observation: "It's great to talk to a law professor who has actually practiced." Sotto voce, what they're saying is, "How can there be so many law professors who haven't actually practiced?"
Law school is a professional school, no longer able in this economic climate to be the liberal arts finishing school it only ever was to the privileged few. I can't help but think that voce will be less sotto going forward, as alums, hiring partners, and prospective students seek professors that can credibly impart the skills and thinking that will get them a job. Lawyers, particularly the ones who are hiring, tend to be smart and skeptical. Particularly of claims that people who never practiced law know enough about the practice of law to help students prepare to practice law.
I'm not saying that every new law professor needs to have practiced, or that there aren't many superlative professors who have never practiced--indeed, I know many. But going forward, I predict that that model will be harder and harder to justify.
Update: It has been pointed out that Professor Leong has one year of practice experience on her CV, as a fellow for the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. In addition, she practiced in a pro bono capacity. When reviewing her C.V. initially, I mistakenly read "fellow" to be an academic position, as it often is in academia. I apologize for my implication that she has never practiced.
From our friends in New Orleans:
Tulane Law School is currently accepting applications for a two-year position of visiting assistant professor. The position is being supported by the Murphy Institute at Tulane (http://murphy.tulane.edu/home/), an interdisciplinary unit specializing in political economy and ethics that draws faculty from the economics, philosophy, history, and political science departments. The position is designed for scholars focusing on regulation of economic activity very broadly construed (including, for example, research with a methodological or analytical focus relevant to scholars of regulation). It is also designed for individuals who plan to apply for tenure-track law school positions during the second year of the professorship. The law school will provide significant informal support for such. The person selected for the position will be expected to participate in scholarly activities at the law school and at the Murphy Institute, including faculty workshops, and will be expected to teach a law school course or seminar in three of the four semesters of the professorship (presumably the last three semesters). The annual salary for the position is $65,000 plus eligibility for benefits. To apply, please send a CV identifying at least three references, a law school transcript, electronic copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining your teaching interests and your research agenda to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, please contact Adam Feibelman at that same email address. The law school aims to fill this position by March 2014. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and encourages women and members of minority communities to apply.
So, last night we were introduced to the ACT "World of Work" map at a meeting designed to prepare us for our sophomore daughter preparing herself for college. I can't get past the map. Besides the categories being just plain weird ("working with data" equals "police officer," but "statistician" is working with "ideas and things"), law school applicants are getting some very bad advice. So, law is contained in "community services," located straight out on the "working with people vector." Lawyer is included with social worker, counselor and other helping professions such as nursing and teaching.
Of course, the practice of law is a helping profession, but if your instincts tell you that you would like to work closely with individuals to help them, then law school is a pretty expensive way to do that. Yes, some lawyers do work one-on-one with individual clients to solve daily problems, and there is great satisfaction in those jobs. And, lawyers have the tools to help in ways that social workers can't. But if you go to law school to do that, you may find yourself in a job very far removed from that in order to recoup your investment. A job like this.
Possibly, law careers could be broken down into different groups, some in "working with ideas" (appellate lawyers, transactional lawyers," some in "working with people and ideas" (trial lawyers). And this doesn't even touch on the potential law jobs working with data. But telling high school sophomores that "if you like the idea of helping people, you might think of being a nurse or being a lawyer" might be contributing to disillusionment of law students and lonely first-year associates (and a shortage of nurses).