Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another perspective

This message was sent to me by a very successful (and in my view very distinguished, which needless to say isn't the same thing) mid-career law professor at a top ten school. I'm posting it with his permission.


[The current employment situation] is definitely not good.  It is not an exaggeration to say that just a few years ago any [school name redacted] law student who wanted legal employment would get it, so this is a significant change.  We are all hoping, obviously, that it is a short-term change.  For those who choose (and are able) to work in public service (including things like US attorneys offices), our loan forgiveness program is now sufficiently robust that it can eventually pay off all of a student's loans.  Another change [in the statistics] is that in the past we were asked to report only students who were actively seeking employment and thus not folks who were pursuing graduate studies, went to law school on a lark but never wanted to practice, etc.  Now, however, we are required to report these folks in the unemployed column, so the data is complicated.

In terms of your other posts, here is my situation and I believe it is similar to many "successful" legal academics out there:  I love my job and it is certainly less stressful than being a partner at, say, [elite law firm] (where my best friend from law school earns about 1 million per year).  But I work well over 40 hours per week during the school year.  I've actually kept track of my hours at times just to see.  Where does the time go?  Preparing for and actually teaching is not the biggest component, as you rightly point out.  Probably about 15 hours per week total.  (I always re-read the cases, often look at recent articles on the topic to try to keep things fresh, sometimes even switch casebooks, etc.)  I spend a number of hours each week on administrative work -- hiring committee meetings, etc.  I also meet with students about their research projects and after class, help them with student groups and activities, etc.  I also read and comment on drafts of my colleagues' work, as well as the work of faculty at other schools.  I further read workshop papers and attend workshops at my law school (at least one per week, sometimes more, particularly when recruitment candidates are coming through).  I also participate in a lot of conferences and external workshops.  The rest of the time is spent on my scholarship.  Even after [many] years of teaching I often work on the weekends, to my [spouse's] dismay.  This weekend I am working on a new article; last weekend I was editing a new edition of my casebook; when vacationing in [  ] the week before I was also reading a book manuscript for a colleague and giving him detailed feedback at night.  When I was teaching [a new type of] seminar last spring (a particularly demanding but rewarding class), I was working at least 60 hours a week.  Of course not everyone is diligent, but as far as I can tell many of my colleagues are diligent because they've always been that way in their lives and they don't suddenly become new persons when they get tenure.  I say all of this recognizing that we have great jobs, with amazing flexibility, both in terms of time and in terms of intellectual freedom. 
This is a useful corrective to the mis-impression the previous posts on this blog might create in some readers that I'm claiming all law professors work much shorter hours than they would in practice, or that there aren't people who are both hardworking and talented on legal faculties.  Obviously there are, and it should also be obvious that one is more likely to find such people the higher one goes in the legal academic hierarchy (as my friend points out, genuinely driven people don't usually lose their drive just because they've been granted tenure).

One also tends to find such people, naturally, among those in legal academia who engage regularly in print and on the internet with legal, academic, and other public issues, since these people are likely to be considerably more engaged with their professional lives than the average law professor.  This may lead to some natural over-estimation on their part when such people try to generalize from their own work experiences to the work habits of legal academics in general.

His comments also suggest another topic worth exploring, which is how desirable it is (or isn't) for all of legal academia to be imitating the economic, intellectual, and pedagogic structure of the elite national law schools.  One consequence of the ratings game is that schools feel impelled to do so, even though it should be obvious that, say, the Stanford Law School and a fourth-tier law school are both legal academic institutions in roughly the same sense that Japan and Sierra Leone are both sovereign nation-states.

22 comments:

  1. I see Brian Leiter's post where he warned you of the consequences of your posts has gotten to you. Understandable but please do not call yourself a scamblogger anymore. You might as well do as he says and delete your entire blog.

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  2. http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2011/08/isnt-it-obvious-who-the-lawprof-writing-the-latest-law-school-scam-blog-is.html

    for those who don't know what I'm referring to.

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  3. Regarding public service debt forgiveness as a safety net, its important to keep in mind just how competitive government jobs are. What we really need is document review loan forgiveness, that is where most of these people end up. A job with the US Attorney's office is hardly no easier to get than a spot in Biglaw.

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  4. Don't let those eggheads bully you! Leiter's a fuckwit. If he had any real idea about the state of the legal profession for recent graduates he would have hung himself by now.

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  5. Something like 800 people apply for two spots in the DHS honor program. Profs and admins need to stop acting as if public service is a safety valve.

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  6. "This is a useful corrective to the mis-impression the previous posts on this blog might create in some readers that I'm claiming all law professors work much shorter hours than they would in practice, or that there aren't people who are both hardworking and talented on legal faculties."

    Yes, I'm really happy we're now onto clearly the most important issue in this entire fraud, namely whether you're being fair enough to other law professors. Yes, don't hurt anyone's feelings. If you ever wondered how things got the way they were for you and your loans or for current students, now you know - You discovered yourself following a bunch of self-obsessed idiots who can't see beyond the end of their nose. Hm. Spineless and self-obsessed just ain't doing much for anyone now, and you're a joke at this point. Next up: How to Speak Up without Saying a Goddamned Thing.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Obviously the author is doing something right to get such a reaction from colleagues. It's only right that the author tries to be fair--this will only make her or his criticisms of the legal academy more credible.

    Other attorneys or law school faculty might find the anonymity aspect distasteful, but they can't compel the author to reveal their identity or to cease blogging. When I was in law school, many of my classmates posted, anonymously of course, on a blog that involved, among other things, scathing criticisms of current law professors and baseless commentary about several female law students' sexual lives and sexual health. The dean refused to intervene, citing free speech concerns.

    Not hurting people's feelings and not offending delicate sensibilities has never been part of free speech jurisprudence.

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  11. This guy isn't criticizing the legal academy. He's writing a delicate excuse for them and for what they did or allowed happen to students. He's a pig.

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  12. Since we may not have LawProf too much longer (if his or her identity is that obvious, it's sensible to quit while he or she is ahead), I'd like to thank him or her for breaking ranks.

    To all of you terribly offended law professors who can't believe that the word "scam" has been used to describe you and your life's work, get over yourselves. If you're tenured faculty, you're usually making well over $100,000 anywhere in the U.S. to take that accusation in stride, while you devote "(p)robably about 15 hours in total" a week to preparing for your classes.

    That 15 hours a week probably isn't spent thinking, "Is what I'm doing in class essentially ridiculous, from the perspective of communicating to absolute beginners the basic outline of some very complex ideas?" It certainly isn't spent thinking, "How will my students best remember this for this state's bar exam?" or "Are there cases that were recently heard in local state or federal courts that would show how new attorneys like them use these concepts to practice?" I had four professors in four years who actually devoted time to service of a client's needs in the context of their course. All were adjuncts.

    If the milk and honey soon returns to the legal market, tenured law professors, you'll be fine. The firms and government offices will go back to providing the real training for your graduates, because they were trained that way and they don't expect anything more from you. If it really doesn't, or increased transparency in employment outcomes hurts your recruitment efforts the way I think it will, then you will have to change what you do and how you do it. Just think about it for a while.

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  13. That you assume that the author is a man, Heave Ho, suggests to me that you are a man as well. Your hostility towards the author confuses me. One acknowledgment of a potential rebuttal to her/his argument and you dismiss her/him as a pig?

    What is needed are reasoned, rational articulations of the problems and situation, not emotionally charged dualistic perspectives of a complex situation. You, Heave Ho, are only fueling the arguments of the "pigs" that you oppose.

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  14. Yes. One acknowledgement. That's unacceptable. There are certain responsibilities of people in positions of trust - like law professors (and especially those who pay lip-service to law as a ethical profession) - that are essentially moral responsibilities, and at that point, when you're one of those who has utterly and completely failed to acquit yourself of that responsibility and have, therefore, failed magnificently on the most basic requirement of your profession (and then - because there has been no response - failed to admit that you failed or otherwise defend yourself here) - then the objectivity of the counterargument is rather unsavory. We're not operating in the world of logic, of argument or - jeez - of complexity. Complexity? What's complex about it? Nobody did a damn thing, and, now that this guy sort of feels bad about it and has dipped his toe timidly into the waters, he's recoiled back to the safety of nuance and apology at least twice as quickly. The legal academia has had a chair at the table for this entire thing, and despite the fact that legal education - really - is not much more than the professorship, they've not done or said (with maybe one exception) a thing, despite having both the power and the responsibility to do so. This entire scam - I guess we're questioning whether it's really that bad now, are we - depended on applicants and students trusting law schools. I was told in particular the first week of school that, "No matter what you might hear, you go to a great law school, and you'll do fine when you graduate." So, this guy's amusing himself with some objective self-obsessed inquiry into whether any professor could possibly have truly "intended" this scam and then his jovial entertainment of some "highly-respected" colleague's counterargument about whether this is really, technically a "scam" is highly insulting. That's like saying that Citibank are "highly-respected" bankers or whatever. Who cares? And, hey, you know, I'm sorry, but you, my friend, don't get to take the emotion out of a circumstance that has resulted in people leaving for Asia for good because their loans are out of control, the institutionalized fraud that are employment statistics, and have in some exceptional cases led to suicide. As I said in one of my previous posts, I think this looks very, very different (and far, far more like a desperate circumstance) if you're looking up the hierarchy as a student, graduate, or unemployed lawyer than if you're looking down the hierarchy and chatting up grads at alumni cocktail hours. This is about individuals' desperation, so spare me the "what is needed is not emotionally-charged perspectives." Utter nonsense. What would be helpful would be a wholesale acceptance that the legal academia could have and should have been paying attention and/or caring, should have done something, could have done something and failed students, some of whom will never, ever recover on any account, whether financial, professional, personal or, yes, sir, emotional. I don't think you quite get it, and I know the author of this blog definitely has no good clue.

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  15. And another thing: If you want some reason-driven, practical, objective, non-emotionally-charged discussion of this problem, then, you know, I actually think that you'll find a lot of people willing to engage with you, but just as long as it follows a wholesale admission that none of this should have happened, that it was the law schools' fault that it did, that it could and should have been prevented by the academics who have ultimate responsibility for what the schools do - because there quite literally is no school without them - and that they bear the large majority share of responsibility for it. Once that is made not only public, but officially-endorsed and uniformly accepted through the legal education profession, then under those circumstances, I'm sure the kind of discussion you claim . . . to want will happen and be beneficial for just about everyone.

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  16. My mistake; his profile does say "male".

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  17. Friends,

    I think the following site may be of interest: https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/forms/mailfraudcomplaint.aspx

    It seems to me that most law schools have committed mail fraud over the past few years and should be reported to the US Postal Inspection Service. Hopefully if enough people submit reports something will be done.

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  18. Yo Law Prof - if you're so selfless and smart, post on here how we can successfully sue the law schools for fraudulent employment stats and get our tuition money back.

    What...you're just another whoopie cushion...what what

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