Wednesday, August 24, 2011
As everyone knows who has read a legal blog the last couple of weeks, "LawProf" (Paul Campos) has created a blog that excoriates law schools and the legal teaching profession. While he has made some valid points, his hyperbole and total disrespect for his hard-working colleagues has brought a great deal of justified criticism to his blog.
Because his blog has already received a great deal of commentary, I want to focus on one point–his lack of respect for his colleagues. He attacks law teachers both on their teaching and their scholarship. To begin with, the legal education profession is very much like other professions and law teachers are just like other individuals in society. The problems in legal education are very similar to those in other professions, such as medicine, engineering, and teaching, the costs of education are too high and in the current economy there are too few jobs for everyone. Law professors, too, are like other individuals in society–some are hard-working, some are lazy, some are good teachers, some are bad ones. In other words, I do not think that one can view legal education as being any worse than other professions and law teachers as being any worse than other professionals.
It is hard to criticize law professors for what administrations are doing, regardless of what Law Prof says on his blog. (Orin Kerr has also raised this issue.) Law professors do not generally control budgets, tuition, or scholarships. It is hard for faculty members to work for changes, especially if you are not a tenured faculty member. Also, the reason for administrations is so that law faculty can teach and do scholarship. In defense of deans, however, they have their own problems in light of the poor economy of the last two years.
While LawProf may have dropped out of legal scholarship over the last few years, the majority of professors in the legal academy are producing significant scholarship. I know a few professors at the law schools I have taught at who almost stopped producing scholarship when they attained tenure, but these professors don’t represent the majority of law professors. Mr. Campos you can easily find the lazy scholars through their resumes on line or SSRN pages, please don’t attack the entire profession because of a few rotten apples.
The same is true of teaching. The vast majority of law professors are dedicated teachers. They prepare for class, they meet with students, they even answer e-mails in the middle of the night. Most law professors are very concerned about their students. They want to see their students do well in law school and in the legal profession. One of the most gratifying things about being a law professor is seeing a student succeed–to see a student improve over the semester, to see the student write a well-thought out brief, to see a student do well on an exam, to see a student get a good job. I also think that it hurts most of us when a student fails.
I also believe that you overstate the case concerning law professor salaries. Most law professors could make more as lawyers. Most of us went into law teaching because we love to teach, we love interacting with young people, and we love learning and scholarship.
I also believe that you have ignored part of the legal teaching profession–those who are not tenure track and who teach important courses like legal writing, clinics, and other legal skills courses. These teachers do not generally make nearly the same salaries as tenured law professors, yet they go to work everyday and teach law students with a great deal of dedication and enthusiasm. In fact, these professors usually interact with students much more than other professors.
In sum, while some of your criticisms of legal education are valid, you will never accomplish anything with your hyperbole and attacks on dedicated colleagues. There are a lot of us who are already working to change legal education, but we are doing so with facts and constructive alternatives.