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).[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.
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.