Saturday, August 21, 2010

Revenge is Sweet!

I hate to use this quote, because so many before me have, but it's so appropriate:
First they came for the law students and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a law student;
Then they came for the contract attorneys and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a contract attorney;
Then they came for the solo attorneys and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a solo.

Then they came for me, THE TENURED PROFESSOR, and by that time there was no one left to speak up.
(in the fashion of Pastor Martin Niemöller)

Ha!  So, the ABA has its way with us regularly, all for the benefit of Biglaw and the For-Profit Law School Industrial Complex.  It was only a matter of time before they started to search for new victims.  And those victims are ironically the very professors that so inadequately prepare us for lawyerdom and the bar exam.
Brace yourself.
A special committee of the ABA last week released the latest version of proposed guidelines on academic freedom — just days before an ABA committee met Saturday to discuss (but not alter) the draft language. In the weeks before the draft was released, many faculty leaders had urged the ABA panel not to do the two key things its draft does:
• Remove language from the ABA standards that has been interpreted by faculty members as requiring law schools to have a tenure system. (The ABA panel that wrote the revisions now says that tenure was never a requirement and that it is removing references to tenure for reasons of clarity — although that interpretation of current policy is being met with skepticism.)
• Remove specific language requiring law schools with clinical professors and legal writing professors to offer them specific forms of job security short of tenure.
Hmmm.  It seems, however murky the language was, it was a perceived requirement that law schools maintain systems of tenure.  I cannot be certain of the ABA's motivations, but I suspect it has to do with lining the pockets of the Deans the law schools, and perhaps their Board of Trustees--many of whom are in BigLaw. It is a paid position, is it not?

Or maybe this is a way to punish Law Professors for the recent backlash against them for not doing a good job educating the next generation of lawyers:
Law professors seem to have it pretty good. They teach a few hours a week, host office hours for an hour a week, and spend the rest doing whatever else they do out of students’ sight — write law review articles and blogs, attend conferences, interview potential colleagues and, well, frankly, we’re not entirely sure.
But lazy? Is it fair to call them lazy just because they don’t sweat and toil in an office or cubicle like the rest of us nine-to-fivers?
So, Professors have joined the other victims of the ABA's plan to separate the rich from the poor, and eliminate the middle class.
They are pissed as hell and not taking it sitting down.  Professors like Mr. Gorman are writing letters galore in protest:
Robert A. Gorman, an emeritus law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote to the committee that tenure was particularly needed for law schools.
"The research, scholarship and teaching of the law professoriate commonly deal with matters of public moment and controversy, more so than is the case in most other parts of the university; and the style of teaching is typically more challenging, argumentative and indeed on occasion confrontational," Gorman wrote. "Reliance on tenure as a buttress for academic freedom is thus particularly justified for law faculty."
That may be true of a handful of law professors.  Most are not that exciting.

The ABA claims that there is nothing in this change that will compel law schools to drop tenure, but they are simply not requiring it of Law Schools--in order for them to obtain/maintain accreditation:
The push started several years ago, and was led by David Van Zandt, the dean of Northwestern University's law school. Van Zandt said at the time that characterizing the changes as an assault on tenure was unfair. He said that it was wrong for the ABA as an accrediting group to require a tenure policy — and that institutions should decide such matters. "Sometimes some people portray this as an attack on tenure," he said in 2007. "The real issue is whether or not you're required to have tenure by an outside body such as the ABA. Not that we don't want to have that institution."
Well, that's not surprising.  Currently, the requirements for accreditation are heat, water, a fax machine,  bluebook and four walls.  Why would they require anything more?

The tenured professors are rightfully scared.  Why would law schools offer tenure if they didn't have to? Any big business would rather have employees that are "at-will."  You know, so they can treat them like shit and owe them nothing.

This will also have an adverse affect on professors who teach clinics, who are offered limited protections short of tenure.  Because they take on big and powerful industries, (i.e. Maryland Law v. Poultry Industry), they are likely to bring heat to the law school and get axed as a result.  By eliminating this "limited protection," it will have a silencing affect on clinical professors.  They aren't afforded tenure, as it is--but a little bit of protection.

So, my prediction is that law school professors will become more like college professors. We will see more adjuncts and less tenured professors.  Frankly, there are many BIDER readers that would prefer adjuncts with real life experience to the painfully intellectual and reality detached professors of yesteryear.  But I'm certain that the profits margins for those in charge will increase drastically.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.


  1. Please, these profs write articles that are possibly controversial, but since few people read them they don't need much protection. The only time their writing is scrutinized seems to be when they're under consideration for a post on the Supreme Court. Quite rarely then.

    Prior to going to law school and dropping out after a semester when the scales dropped from my eyes, I was an adjunct English instructor. I had to keep 6 office hours a week, teach 15 and I chose to research, publish and present at conferences - for far less than these "academics." Moreover, I graded several assignments a term and made it a point to actually help my students succeed by answering their questions, reviewing drafts prior to grading it and searching for new teaching techniques to insure ALL students succeed.

    Imagine my opinion of my law professors who did so little and often refused to answer questions. I couldn't get over the fact that if I did seek them out in their offices, I had to obsequiously ask if I could sit down in the chairs they had filled with papers and boxes, no doubt a sign of their "welcome" for students whom they clearly hoped would never visit them and interrupt their internet surfing as I did.

  2. Imagine a world where law school professors are paid $10 an hour to question socraticly.

  3. That's a world I'd like to live in..

  4. So pretty soon law professors will have to moonlight as contract attorneys just to make ends meet. Awwhh, breaks my heart. These are the same law professors who do nothing to stop their law schools from publishing false and misleading employment data and who do nothing to prepare us for the real practice of law. So screw'em I say.

  5. I have a solution for these law professors worrying about tenure: network, network, network!

    Stop acting so entitled to a job.

    You know, despite my attempts at this, it is actually appropriate for these people and they do fall under these points. It's just stupid when people say it to law grads.



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