Wednesday, August 15, 2012
My post last Friday promoted a lot of comments, and I appreciate very much all of the people who took the time to read the post and think about the points in it. So many readers commented that the blog won't display them all, and we haven't been able to get that glitch fixed yet. So, I'm reproducing the ones that don't show in the original post here. We lost any formatting you might have done, but I'm guessing at what it would have been. To comment on these or the prior post or comments, comment to this post.
Jeff Hirsch said:
Here' the most thorough study I'm aware of on the scholarship-teaching connection. Quick take, there's little to no connection between the two. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=913421
The problem with studies that use existing tenured faculty is that all such faculty (except perhaps the very oldest) were hired under the status quo criteria. Among such a pool, both scholarly output and teaching output are largely correlated with continued enthusiasm and engagement post tenure. You are essentially simply comparing the dynamic members of the faculty with those who have checked out. To properly study the question the comparison group would need to have comparably compensated and supported teachers who were hired, tenured and evaluated based on thier accomplishments in the classroom. If this latter group underperformed in the classroom as compared to those hired under the status quo then those advocating an inextricable link between scholarship and teaching would have powerful data. I don't expect any such experiment to take place, because it would be too high risk to the dominant ruling class.
Orin Kerr said:
Nancy Leong writes: Howard mentions that he has seen a correlation between good teaching and good scholarship. I tend to agree. Of course this sort of thing is very difficult to measure empirically, but I am familiar with data from two different institutions (not necessarily my better evaluations. Of course there are all kinds of limitations to these data, but I mention them as one item in a suite of measurements that own) that found a strong correlation between scholarly output and student evaluation scores -- that is, more productive scholars tend to get schools might consider examining internally as we think through the important issues that Marcia has raised.
FWIW, an empirical study by Prof. Ben Barton found no correlation between teaching and scholarship: This empirical study attempts to answer an age-old debate in legal academia: whether scholarly productivity helps or hurts teaching. The study is of an unprecedented size and scope. It covers every tenured or tenure-track faculty member at 19 American law schools, a total of 623 professors. The study gathers four years of teaching evaluation data (calendar years 2000-03) and correlates these data against five different measures of research productivity/scholarly influence. The results are counter-intuitive: there is either no correlation or a slight positive correlation between teaching effectiveness and any of the five measures of research productivity. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=913421
David Yamada said:
I really appreciate this exchange. I'm going to offer a few points as an omnibus response and then be quiet.
1. THE ATM ISSUE/ELITE SCHOOLS -- Let's get back to the important question of universities using their law schools as ATMs. I think it's an arguably defensible practice at the elite law schools, whose graduates are still likely to command high salaries upon graduation, even if their options aren't as seemingly endless as during the heyday.
2. THE ATM ISSUE/REGIONAL SCHOOLS -- But the ATM practice is downright wrong, even immoral, at regional law schools where even the successful job seekers are getting law firm job offers in the $30-60k ranges. I'm going to guess that many regional universities that drain their law schools dry are run by high-ranking administrators and boards who have been allergic to fundraising work for a long, long time.
3. IF YOU CUT THE SUBSIDY -- Let's say a regional law school is being taxed 20 percent of its tuition revenue by the parent institution, a middlin' figure. If you cut the figure to "mere" tithing (10 percent), you could cut law school tuition by 10 percent without skipping a beat. At a law school charging, say, $35,000 tuition, that 10 percent cut would result in roughly $10,000 less in student loans per student over a 3 year program. In other words: Why aren't we talking more about the ATM issue as part of the financial crisis in legal education?
4. FACULTY PAY -- Likewise, professors at regional schools shouldn't expect to earn what colleagues at elite institutions pull down. In the competition for candidates with elite credentials, some regional schools are breaking the bank and the morale of current faculty to attract candidates who "just missed the cut" at Top 15 Law, and I think it's a huge mistake. That said, the now-standard bashing of the "six-figure salaries" is a bit overdone, at least when it comes to folks 10-20-30 years out of law school. These days, a low six-figure salary is not unusual for lawyers with a decent chunk of seniority, especially in expensive metro areas. At my school, the median salary for a full professor is just above the starting salary for a BigLaw associate, although there are HUGE variations that I won't get into lest I start throwing things.
5. SCHOLARSHIP AT REGIONAL SCHOOLS -- We should recognize that regional schools cannot copy the compensation systems and work expectations of elite schools without some monstrous tradeoffs at the expense of their students. That said, all law schools are graduate-level professional schools, and there should be room for professors at those schools to contribute to the world's knowledge through scholarly work. Modest research stipends aren't the reasons for the financial crisis in legal education. I speak as someone who entered the academy attracted by the opportunity to teach, originally regarding scholarship as something of a chore in order to secure my job. Now, I have a strong appreciation for both, as well as for pro bono service. It's about balance, not all or nothing. Good teaching and good scholarship are not mutually exclusive, and in fact can be complementary. David Yamada Suffolk
Mitchell Rubinstein said:
This is cross posted from Ryan's website. Ryan: This is a great idea. I have two comments. First, I would not use data from Rate My Teachers. Rather, I would try to get data from the law schools themselves. A much better comparison would be to compare adjunct prof rankings to FT prof rankings. I think you know my thoughts. I cup of coffee says that the adjuncts will win every time at every law school. I am going to cross post this on Workplace Prof Blog. Mitch
"troubles me too because it seems to already presume that some things may not have value unless they are easily commodified." I suggest that the Professor's students place this common self-serving sentiment on the tuition checks that they write to the Professor's law school - at 10% of the demanded tuition price. Posturing profs like these (probably a majority of the profession) only talk about "priceless" things when they are ones cashing (not writing) the checks.
Alex Reinert said:
I think it is pretty difficult to make the kind of connection between teaching effectiveness and faculty experience that people are looking for (on either side of this debate). Mostly that is because I do not think student evaluations are a very good indicator of teacher quality -- they might be a good indicator of some elements of teacher quality, but if so I think they are very limited. More troubling to me is comments like the most recent from AnonProf, which seems to equate anti-intellectualism with a concern with training in the practice of law. Maybe AnonProf did not mean to imply that training students how to practice is somehow less intellectual than training students how to engage with complex theoretical concepts. But to the extent that AnonProf did, I think it is an unfortunate byproduct of the general lack of practice experience that most professors have. Basically, everyone wants to justify their own bona fides, so practical experience must somehow be marginalized as anti-intellectual by those who are steeped in high theory, and theory must somehow be marginalized as irrelevant by those who have principally practiced. It all seems like a false choice to me. I happen to think it is embarrassing that my six or so years of practicing law (with some continued forays after joining the academy) is considered to be a lot by some law professors. And I think that for some classes (Civil Procedure comes to mind), it is valuable to have at least some professors who actually have stood up in court, drafted pleadings, etc. That said, practice experience is not essential to being an effective professor, even in a course like Civ Pro -- it can help, but it is far from sufficient or necessary. Similarly, it is important to have professors who are well-grounded in theory, especially when they care about connecting that theory to decisions that lawyers make every day. But theory is not so mystifying that one is disabled from engaging in it by virtue of having stepped into a courtroom one too many times. So it would be nice if we could stop the sniping -- I get that many law schools have tended to favor the theoretical frame over the practical one, but I don't believe that reversing that trend will solve our problems. I think what we are generally lacking in law schools, regardless of who is teaching our students, is good measures of how well we are communicating to our students, and how much what we do in class is of assistance to them as they prepare for their careers (clinical teaching may be an exception, at least when it is done within the difficult pedagogical framework that most good clinicians aspire to). I don't think that makes me an anti-intellectual; I want to be an effective teacher, and if we think that we can be effective without caring about what our students are going to do after they graduate, we are in a sad place. As for medical scholarship, AnonProf, it has always been my perception that the gap between theory and practice in medical schools is much narrower than it has been in law schools. My understanding, limited as it may be, is that the professors at medical schools are both experienced practitioners and researchers -- and medical research is often informed by practical experience at least as much as abstract theory.
Respectfully, I think the biggest problem with the quality of legal education stems not from the differing background of the professors but from the mere quantity of professors. Simply put - there are too many law schools and too many professors. Inevitably bad professors are hired simply to have a body to put in front of students to charge them admission. There's much talk about concern for the students getting a proper education and beginning a prosperous legal career, but the actions point instead to concern truly lying on the school being prosperous. And why not? The old wisdom is that, when it rains, you line up buckets, and right now it's raining law school application, so schools are lining up professors to teach them. Which, of course, is a disservice to the student. A shrinking market, reduced wages, lengthier partner tracks, "alternative tracks" that don't lead to partner at all, and more and more schools opening with more and more sections of students. The questions you should ask yourselves aren't "what value does my work add to society" or "what value do law professors as a whole add," but "what value will my students add, what value does my school add, and what value will my students receive?" Odds are the profession would be stronger if most of the schools represented in this thread went belly-up.
"With research emphasized, law profs are people who were at the top of their class from a good law school and presumably could have become $800/hour attorneys but chose not to." Lol this is the biggest myth around. Yeah you probably could have gone into biglaw and worked your way up to $800 per hour IF you were willing to work the hours, deal with the stress of a supervising attorney, and the demands of the clients. Most attorneys leave biglaw within the first five years for these reasons. The argument that your law professor salary is meager in comparison to that biglaw partnership you could have had is ridiculous. Becoming a biglaw partner takes a ton of work and a lot of luck. And even if you "win" the big money you still lose by having a miserable life. When TTT's like SLU shut down because they can't fill their 1L classes, we'll see how wonderful the legal job options are for experienced law professors. SLU increased tuition from $27,250 (04-05) to $36,440 (12-13). That's a 33 percent increase in eight years. You should be ashamed of yourself.
"Law school isn't vocational training. Nazi Germany's monstrous legal system also had its share of excellent practitioners. In law school, we teach social values, norms, and a host of other things unassociated with pragmatic exclusivity." Do you also teach them the law? Specifically, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law "I'm always curious by these anti-intellectual arguments about law professors. I wonder whether the folks who hold them would also do away with philosophy, classics, English, and other liberal arts programs that are not pragmatic and are areas few people get jobs in. After all, most undergrads will in the end get non-theoretical jobs. Doing away with theory in law school would have the same harmful effect on students and society as a whole as doing away with it in undergrad would have. I'm just glad the vocational training mentality hasn't taken root; otherwise, the result would be shallow lawyers. This is particularly true of students who haven't had the benefit of a liberal arts education, like engineers, who can be excellent lawyers but need to learn analysis and rigor that scholars can provide."
I'm a recent law school graduate of a top school and can tell you where my newfound anti-intellectualism comes from. Before law school, I never gave much thought to the anti-intellectual opinions that pervaded my family and community. I thought cries of "limousine liberalism" were overblown and baseless. Then I went to law school. And I saw professors speak in one breath about "social justice" and progressive ideology and in the next breath raise my tuition by 1-2K per year in a deep recession and tell me "you signed the contract" and "can just drop out if you don't like it." I saw law schools engage in conduct that is arguably fraud and defend their behavior with "caveat emptor." Standards of conduct professors would decry when done by banks or corporations, such as counting on people to make irrational decisions on incomplete information, were ignored or accepted when done by their own institutions for their own pecuniary benefit. This is why people don't like you, not because they don't share your values. It is because when push comes to shove, you are no better than anyone else. This would have been amusing, but for the fact that I took out about 110K in debt and am about to spend the next 30 years of my life in a profession that had taken a MASSIVE reputation and prestige hit because of your actions. Just today I talked to a recent BA holder working at a coffee shop who told me she would never go to law school because it costs too much and she personally knows graduates with high debt and no job. The quoted argument is an especially frustrating one. Rather than engage in the necessary value analysis from the perspective of the student, you would suggest that because theory adds SOME discernible value, that justifies whatever you charge. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Most people go to law school to get jobs as lawyers. That gives you some freedom to teach theory, for as long as people are getting jobs as lawyers, you can pretty much teach whatever you want. But the flip side to this is that when the jobs disappear, or when the cost becomes to high to justify the expected starting salary, students will abandon the effort. This discussion itself is part of the problem. The simple fact is that there are too many law students and they have too much debt. If law schools graduated fewer law students, and the decision to go to law school was not financially ruinous, you could stand on your head and read 50 Shades of Grey all day for all I care. You should be focusing your efforts on how you would structure a law school with 50% of current enrollment that charges around 15K per year.