Present Salaries for Law School Faculty at Select Schools
Salaries are for tenure track positions, and do not include administrative salaries. Note also that these salaries do not include summer research stipends, which most faculty at most top 100 law schools receive more or less as a matter of course. Summer research stipends tend to run at 10% to 20% of base salary. For example at Michigan they are 15% of base, making the top salaries (excluding fringe benefits such as employer pension contributions etc) in the $330K range. Michigan’s law school dean received a salary of $447,000 in 2009-2010.
Florida -- 2009
4 of 48 making $200K+
Illinois -- 2009
15 of 49 making $200K+
Ohio State -- 2010
11 of 36 making $200K
Texas -- 2010
33 of 69 are making $200K+
Median salary: $218,000
38 of 63 are making $200K
These are all first-tier schools, and average salaries are somewhat lower at many lower-ranked schools (Still, there are lots of law faculty making 150K and even 200K at plenty of third-tier law schools).
The article also claims that law professors work an average of 40.3 hours per week, over a 40-week work year. Um, OK.
Nothing I've written on this blog has upset my colleagues throughout the law school world as much as my somewhat casual observation that it didn't appear to me that most law faculty worked very hard. It turns out this is totally not true, as every single law professor who has responded to that remark has pointed out that he or she personally works very hard indeed (there may be self-reporting and sample bias issues with this data however).
For what it's worth I asked a particularly hard-headed colleague with a serious business and business law background -- who by the way disapproves of this blog quite a bit on purely prudential grounds -- to estimate how many hours per week the median law professor works, assuming a European-style four weeks of vacation per year. He said "twenty." I was like, c'mon John (not his real name), how about thirty? "No way. Twenty." (He was willing to go close to thirty for the mean though).
Now on one level it doesn't make much difference how hard law faculty do or don't work. What matters is whether the work they're doing -- and which their students are paying for -- is something their students are benefiting from. If law professors were all working 60 hours a week, but 50 of those hours were spent doing things of little or no educational value, then the structure of legal education would be every bit as dysfunctional as a system that effectively paid people $200,000 per year to provide ten hours per week of arguably useful educational services.
Which brings us back to the question of what all these hard-working legal faculty are doing. They certainly aren't teaching much -- at first tier schools law faculty typically spend about 100 to 130 hours per year inside classrooms. Of course many of them write lots of law review articles, but for reasons I've touched on the law review article production system is a stupendous waste of human resources. The first rebellious thing I did in this business was to stop writing them, after producing a whole bunch in my first few years in academia (In the years since published three books, several articles in peer-reviewed academic venues, and about seven hundred pieces of journalism).
I challenge anyone who wants to mount a defense of the law review publication system to perform a simple experiment. Go visit the offices of your school's law journals, and pick up 20 randomly selected submissions. This is what you're going to find: about 15 of these purported scholarly contributions are going to be more awful than you can possibly imagine. I don't mean they're going to be boring and lifeless and uninteresting: I mean they're going to be the products of people who almost literally can't write coherent English, let alone think interesting thoughts about interesting questions. Don't believe me? Fine, get back to me after you perform this experiment. Of the remaining five articles, four will be at least minimally competent exercises in the boring and lifeless and uninteresting attempt to produce something that at least looks like scholarship. One (if you're lucky) will be something you could conceivably imagine wanting to read if it were on a subject in which you had any interest, which it won't be.
All of this is a perfectly predictable consequence of our present system for producing what is called "legal scholarship," but again, there is no substitute for the actual experience of confronting the heart of darkness that is your law journals' submission process. If the stuff coming over the electronic transom represents nearly half of what students are paying for, then it really doesn't matter how "hard" law professors are working to produce it. (And let's be candid: anybody who can write at all and has half a brain can crank out a "law review article" as easily as he or she can write a brief. Indeed that's why so many research assistants -- future judicial clerks -- end up "drafting" so many of these things. But that's a story for another day.)
In any case, happy Labor Day everyone!