Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The absurdity of UC-Irvine

A few years ago, somebody decided it would be a good thing for the University of California to open another law school. Now even a few years ago this was obviously a terrible idea.  Today . . . well.

So it has come to pass that UC-Irvine's dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, has taken to the pages of the National Law Journal to explain why it's actually a good thing that the dumpster fire that is the California market for new (and old) attorneys has now been supplemented by another law school. And not just another law school, but one that will charge nearly $47,000 this year in resident tuition and fees, and $53,000 to non-residents, while conveniently located smack in the middle of one of the most expensive places to live in the USA.  (Estimated cost of attendance at UCI this fall is $71,000/$77,000.  Debt-financing a law degree  from the school will result in a total debt of $250,000 to $280,000 for the class of 2015 six months after graduation, assuming COL increases).

But a funny thing happened on the way to the apologia: Chemerinsky's article is around a thousand words long, and exactly none of them are dedicated to explaining either why California needs a new law school or whether that school is worth anything like the cost of attending it.

Instead, the article is dedicated to the proposition that it's impossible -- literally impossible -- to provide a "quality" legal education for much less than the mind-boggling price UCI is charging for this increasingly less in demand product.  This argument takes the form of an attempt to refute some of the central claims of Brian Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools, such as that law professors are paid too much.

Tamanaha is correct that law professors are paid significantly more than university faculty in disciplines like English, philosophy and history. Imagine that a law school tried to pay at that level, say roughly half of current faculty salaries at top law schools. Who would come and teach at a school where they got paid half what other law schools would pay them, and who would stay there when other opportunities arose?
Current faculty salaries at top law schools range from nearly $200,000 for entry-level hires (including summer money) to double that or more for the highest-paid senior people.  So Chemerinksy's argument -- which as so often the case in our business lacks any reference to concrete numbers -- is that you can't staff a "quality" law school faculty with people getting paid $100,000 to $200,000 per year.

Now it just so happens that the latter pitifully inadequate salary scale  is a higher pay scale than that which obtained at elite (let alone typical) law schools not so long ago, as in the early 1980s. (I am of course adjusting for inflation).  So the idea that one can't staff a "quality" law school with people getting paid half of what professors at top law schools today is obviously absurd from a historical perspective.  (Not to mention that there are plenty of lower-tier law schools today that have salary scales that look like those of elite law schools 30 years ago).

Of course it isn't the 1980s any more. Expectations have changed. Indeed they have -- law professors at top schools expect to get paid stupendous salaries for teaching two to three classes per year, supervising the composition of law review articles, counting SSRN downloads etc.  And professors at third and fourth tier schools expect to have the same salaries and teaching loads that professors at elite schools enjoyed a generation ago.  But what has changed can change again.

Chemerinksy claims raising teaching loads wouldn't do much to alter legal education's absurd price structure because lots of professors at UCI are teaching four courses per year.  As so often is the case in this business of ours an anecdote fills in for data: The actual data indicate the standard teaching package at all top 50 schools and many second tier schools is three classes per year, and the functional teaching package at the elites, once one takes into account research leaves, sabbaticals, etc., is closer to two.  Again, a generation ago four courses was the standard package at a few elite schools, while five and six courses were standard everywhere else.

So cutting faculty compensation and raising teaching loads to those which obtained when Chemerinksy was getting what I assume he still considers an adequate legal education would in fact result in an enormous reduction in law school budgets, since faculty salary and benefits make up 50% to 60% of the typical law school's expenditures.  Now it's true it's difficult for schools to proceed in this direction, because of a collective action problem.  But that collective action problem will start disappearing faster than cashews in a bowl of mixed nuts as soon as a few central administrations decide that the envelopes coming over from the law school seem way too light this year.

Of course even bigger cost savings can be realized by returning to the faculty-student ratios that existed 30 years ago.  Across legal academia, faculty-student ratios have been cut in half, going from 29.1 to 1 in 1978 to 14.9 to 1 in 2008.  (Harvard had a ratio of 21 to 1 as recently as the late 1990s. Today it's 10 to 1 -- and that's actually quite a bit higher than most elite schools).

In other words we're not talking rocket surgery here.  Chemerinksy's argument that such measures will result in an unacceptable sacrifice in quality is the kind of argument one always hears from defenders of cartels that maintain wildly inefficient price structures.  (Not to mention that, if anyone has even tried to establish that American legal education is appreciably "better" than it was 30 years ago, I'm unaware of the effort).

But all this is really quite beside the point.  Let's assume for the purposes of argument that it really does cost as much as Chemerinsky says it does to provide a quality legal education.  The problem is that, going forward very few of UCI's graduates are going to get jobs that even begin to justify UCI's cost.  Even making the extraordinarily optimistic assumption that UCI ends up placing its grads down the  line as well as UCLA and USC do, this means that perhaps one third will get six-figure jobs, and maybe half of those people will hold on to them long enough to have a reasonable shot at getting their educational debt down to manageable levels.  And that, needless to say, is the optimistic projection.

The more realistic projection is that UCI ends up placing people in high paying legal jobs about as well as Hastings does.  And that outcome doesn't come within a light year of justifying either school's cost.

Ultimately what happens to UCI isn't very important per se (except, naturally, to the people who are reckless enough to enroll there this fall without a massive discount on advertised tuition).  What's important is that the model of legal education Chemerinksy is defending is economically unsustainable. That's Tamanaha's point, and there isn't a word in Chemerinsky's reply that's responsive to it.


  1. Doesn't UCI have like 100% employment? It seems to me that they deserve to exist more than say, Loyola, Southwestern, Chapman and the countless other dumps in California.

    Oh I forgot Hastings and Davis. and hell, USC and UCLA too, they don't have 100% employment.

    You two are just jealous because in two years his school already surpassed Colorado and Ohio State.

  2. LawProf, you didn't actually respond to Chemerinsky's argument on faculty salaries:

    "Imagine that a law school tried to pay at that level, say roughly half of current faculty salaries at top law schools. Who would come and teach at a school where they got paid half what other law schools would pay them, and who would stay there when other opportunities arose?"

    That law faculty were paid less in 1980 is not relevant.

  3. Shame on Chemerinsky for being the mouthpiece of con artists. He doesn't need this job. He could teach almost anywhere. He should make a noisy withdrawal.

    Driving into work this morning, I heard Beasley Reece being interviewed about the Penn State scandal and Joe Paterno. As Reece put it, "character is a great thing until you have to show some."

  4. How the hell did Erwin Chemerinsky convince the State of California to spend millions of dollars to open a new law school. That guy should quit the naval gazing business and go to work selling firewood in hell or ice cubes to Eskimos.

    What I found most striking about the law cost argument was, "A secretary's $45,000 salary cannot be cut in half." Do law school secretaries really make $45,000 per year? That is a lot of money. It's the per capita household income in this country.

    A quick search of administrative assistant positions in Irvine California (thank you Craigslist) indicated that the admin's salary at the law school is way, way too high.


    ($28k to $30k, plus bonus is the market).

    This guy really has no clue. He and his fellow do-gooders at the leftist ivory tower can talk about injustice, and economic disparity, etc. But they don't mean it. To them it's all bullshit. "But, we're the good guys. We at least talk the pie in the sky sacrifice societal change lefty bullshit that you want to hear. Don't ask us to sacrifice though."

  5. hahaha "In other words we're not talking rocket surgery here."

    I wish I could take a summer writing class from LawProf. The man can turn a phrase.

  6. most law schools are predators, not sexual predators, but propaganda predators. They feed off of our youth using a propaganda lure. Forget the "Want some candy, little girl?" from some old van. It's now "Want a high paying job, little girl/boy?" from the cushy ivory tower.

  7. "But a funny thing happened on the way to the apologia: Chemerinsky's article is around a thousand words long, and exactly none of them are dedicated to explaining either why California needs a new law school or whether that school is worth anything like the cost of attending it."

    Because the true reason for opening the school cannot stated: to get millions of federally guaranteed dollars into the hands of the law professors for as long as it's possible to get them. Sure, it may be unsustainable in the long run, but who wouldn't try for five or six years of a $250k salary given what the legal market is like these days? That's a better income than you'd make doing 40 years of scutwork at $30K, if you could even get it.

    Stop guaranteeing the loans, and people like this would have to do something useful with their lives. Keep the guaranteed loans, and they have tax-funded sinecures. This is one of the most perfect examples of market-distortion around.


  8. 7:22:

    What about this one:

    "But that collective action problem will start disappearing faster than cashews in a bowl of mixed nuts...."

    Fucking awesome. I think my writing skills have actually improved since I started reading this blog.

  9. I think the question was answered. It might very well be true that it would be impossible for a dean to hire "quality" professors at half the going rate. And if that's the case, then this salary-trap is another reason why the business model is not sustainable.

  10. Law school is the new Field of Dreams. Build it, and they will come.

    Regarding Chemerinsky, the guy apparently has the requisite intellect to recite a 40 page outline from memory. I have not seen this first hand, but I am told so by folks whom have had the distinct pleasure of sitting through one of his presentations/lectures/speeches/instructional moments in the sun. But, even so, he ain't above a good old fashions scam when the bread smells right.


  11. It's now "Want a high paying job, little girl/boy?" from the cushy ivory tower.

    So true.

  12. UC-Irvine Law is nothing more than a manifestation of the Chemical Dean's egomania. He wanted to create a law school that would rank in the top 20 by manipulating and gaming data that the USNWR uses in compiling its annual list of "most popular law schools," which is porn for most OLs. The Chemical Dean limited class size, gave full tuition scholarships to the FIRST class (then discounted them in subsequent years e.g., 50% for second class, 33% for third class, etc.) which was comprised of highly qualified candidates with admissions numbers to make them viable candidates at most T20 schools. This was a bribe but most bribes benefit both parties. I am afraid the guinea pigs of UC-Irvine didn't get much of a bargain here since the school has no alumni network and is unheard of. How does the Chemical Dean plan on manipulating bar passage rates? Reputation among judges? Reputation among other lawyers? It is an outrage that the Chemical Dean can open another ice depot in Alaska and give away ice for free when federal tax dollars are subsidizing his venture. This is truly sickening.

  13. I do not wish to detract from your larger point, but I have a question about what appears to be some very careful wording. Can you explain your motive in saying, "supervising the composition of law review articles" rather than "writing law review articles"?

    I acknowledge that there is a message in this language for those in the know and that I think I know what you mean, but I ask only to be sure.

  14. @Porsenna "Because the true reason for opening the school cannot stated: to get millions of federally guaranteed dollars into the hands of the law professors for as long as it's possible to get them."

    Crony capitalism at its finest.

  15. UCI isn't that bad of a law school.

    Also, law professors aren't as replaceable as you think. You don't become one overnight, and most (of my) professors have hardcore practicing backgrounds as partners at firms or government attorneys or some significant academic pedigree. But then again, I go to HYS.

    But even at UCI's level it isn't so much a scam in the classic sense as a bad investment, especially ITE.

  16. What I love about this is that Chemerinsky acknowledges everything Tamanaha says, and then concludes with "(I do not) believe the picture is nearly as bleak as he believes it is."

    At least 45% of the class of 2011 (you know, the ones who didn't find full-time, JD-required employment within 9 months of graduating) would happily tell you that it's pretty goddamned bleak out there, chief.

  17. When the best and the brightest are in charge you get Vietnam and UCI. People with ideas but have never mowed a lawn in their life.

    Chemerinsky? From what I can tell, there has been some value in his other work. But a man that can recite 40 pages from memory will almost be by definition so out of line with the ordinary person, that to put him in charge of project like this illustrates ignorance of character by other "elites", and proves that he does not have the capacity to empathize with normalcy.

  18. 7:14:
    The answer to the Dean's question of "who would come and teach for half of the presently bloated salary" (my paraphrase), is: almost everyone. Literally almost every professor would continue teaching at his 2nd, 3rd, or 4th tier shithole for around $100k/year, when you consider that his real-world alternative is essentially...jack s**t.
    Maybe you're making the argument that all these professors would just jump right into biglaw, although I can't believe anyone is stupid enough to offer that argument at this point. I'll admit that deans and professors have proven quite shameless in spraying around profoundly stupid arguments in defense of their tawdry little scheme, so maybe I'm wrong here.

  19. @ 7:40 A.M.

    And so The Chemical Dean takes his rightful place in the rogues' gallery of law school scammers, alongside Joan King, Joan Wexler, The Valvoline Dean, and Dean Matasar.

  20. You probably can't cut the professors' base salaries, they probably have some sort of protection against that.

    You could possibly hire new professors at lower salaries, but then you'd run into the problems this dean is talking about. It would be hard to compete with other schools who were not doing that. It would be a collective action problem.

    But that just brings us back to Lawprof's point that the business model is not sustainable. If the facts on the ground make indeed make it hard or impossible to cut labor costs, then the business will go bankrupt once and if the money stops rolling in.

  21. I know you can find good professors for less. They know it is a good gij. What I want to know is if Chermeninsky bothered to try to find anyone at a lower salary? He is living in another world. He is making assumptions that people studying the LSATS learn not to make.

  22. Read all this already in your (quite fine) draft paper a few weeks ago.

    Doesn't mean it's not relevant - bit it is a bit of a retread...

    Except for the fun mixed metaphors. Gotta enjoy stuff like, "...we're not talking rocket surgery here."

    Can you work that particular one into your paper somewhere?


    Also, previous to the snippet quoted above, I enjoyed "... will start disappearing faster than cashews in a bowl of mixed nuts" which nicely foreshadows the mixed metaphor.

  23. ^^^ 8:26, oops, should say, "... - but it is a bit of a retread".

    The Department of Typographical Errors Corrections regrets this typographical error.

  24. "But that collective action problem will start disappearing faster than cashews in a bowl of mixed nuts as soon as a few central administrations decide that the envelopes coming over from the law school seem way too light this year."

    This is the crux of the issue. It really doesn’t matter what kind of specious justifications Dean Chimera-In-The-Sky or any other cartel huckster offers for the outrageous, economically indefensible costs of attending their schools. The scammers will never reform themselves. But when 0Ls finally wise up to the fact that the expense in time and tuition (even at steep discounts) just ain’t worth it, and STOP ATTENDING THESE OVERPRICED LAW SCHOOLS, the scam will collapse. It will happen two ways: gradually and then suddenly. (See? An English degree is good for something.)

  25. Is the figure about law faculty comp representing 50-60% of the law school's expenses generally true? I know you posted one school's budget a while back so I was just curious if you've found this to be the case at other schools. Or are you referring specifically to operating expenses and excluding payments towards capital improvements, etc. I find the numbers interesting which is why I ask, thank you.

  26. Reforming the scam entails turning off the spigot.

    There must be political pressure applied to reform Grad PLUS lending and IBR indentures. Fixing these immediately causes a funding crisis to law schools. The good students will still be able to attend law schools, as they will be good risks for private lenders.

  27. If one or two (or three) law school shut their doors, there will be plenty of "experienced" law professors willing to work for cut-rate. Chemerinsky may find his bargain employees after all.

  28. FatGuy at 8:37, who asks, "Is the figure about law faculty comp representing 50-60% of the law school's expenses generally true? I know you posted one school's budget a while back so I was just curious if you've found this to be the case at other schools."

    See Dean C's arguments at Law.com (linked at the top of this post). - "About half of our budget is faculty salaries and benefits, but even slicing these in half wouldn't save nearly enough ... The only way to accomplish that would also be to cut the size of the faculty at least in half. "

    So UC Irvine is another data point in faculty costs being half of budget.

    Of course, cutting faculty size in half would put UC Irvine back at the same student/faculty ratios of the bad old days, like HYS had in, say, the late `90s... ...Dean C never really says anything about this in his article other than assuming as a foregone conclusion that cut faculty must be replaced with adjuncts.

    What's that old legal phrase? Oh yeah -

    Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence.

  29. ^^^ Follow up on my 8:48 above. Dean C also states that faculty and staff together are over 70% of budget. But states outright that they can't fire staff because they need them. Because he said so. So there.

    What's that old legal phrase (again)? Oh yeah -

    Objection! Assumes facts not in evidence.

    There's considerable discussion of the explosion of (possibly unnecessary) staff/admin position at law schools over the last 20 years, in LawProf's paper that I mentioned above at 8:26.

    While Dean C was responding to BrianT and not PaulC, I wonder does BrianT also make some of the same points in this regard* that Dean C should have at least tried to cover/discuss.

    *Haven't yet read "Failing Law Schools".

  30. Thanks 8:48, guess I need to learn to RTFA ;)

    I'm curious as to whether the budget he refers to is their entire budget or their discretionary budget. I guess I'm just surprised, I had always thought (nothing to support this so I'm not arguing) capital expenditures (mortgage on the building, etc.) were a significant % of the budget.

    I also think he incorrectly states his applications are up 105%. In all likelihood they are only "up" 5%.

  31. "I'm curious as to whether the budget he refers to is their entire budget or their discretionary budget."

    You're welcome.

    Don't think it could be discretionary; headcount is normally a fixed cost budget item.

    But don't forget that leases or mortgages etc. spread their costs over many years, so even an enormous mortgage is small in any given year compared to its total sum. So if you have for example 40 profs costing an average of 300K each including their benes, that's $12 million right there.

    Whereas (just taking any old wild number), the P&I on a $1,000,000,000 (yes, 1 Billion) dollar mort at 4% over 30 years is still under $5 million per year.

    And I doubt they've got a billion in property mortgaged. Just used that so you can see how headcount costs can swamp other considerations.

    Good catch on "up 105%". But that does seem to twist people up. I see people referring to a doubling of an amount as "up 200%" all the time.

  32. @8:39

    Exactly right.

  33. Now I really wish for a retractor switch.

    TOTAL MATH FAIL, TWO DIFFERENT WAYS on my comment at 9:21 above.

    Make that 100 million at 4% is under 6 million a year...

  34. Lawprof;

    I bet that after one week of dealing with whiny douchebag clients who want 24/7 access, seek free legal advice regarding answers to pointless questions; and constantly pay less than they owe, the average law professor would come running back to law school for significantly less than $100,000/year.

    Private legal practice sucks. It's a horrible way to live that offers nothing but monetary rewards to a very small few.

  35. Agreed, 9:26, and I would add government and public interest work to that list. Unless the profs have saved some of their riches so they don't have to be poor AND deal with all the bullshit associated with litigation. Where are these miraculous legal jobs out there that are BETTER than being a law professor? Do the profs all think they're going to be on the Supreme Court instead?

  36. 9:26,

    I agree. I think all but 3 or 4 of my law professors would have a very difficult time surviving private practice.

    There's this myth that law faculty are desirable or marketable. They are not. Frankly the only full time university faculty who could do quite well in the private sector (note that almost all med and dental faculty are part time), are:
    1. Engineers
    2. Some of the economists
    3. Some of the accountants
    4. Some of the chemists
    5. Some of the comp sci profs.

  37. The purpose of the UCI fiasco sounds less like an intentional scam and more like massive ego masturbation for Dean Chemerinsky. But the effect will be the same: graduates with massive debts and poor job prospects.

  38. It's never an intentional scam, kid.

  39. I could not agree more with 9:26. I just don't see law professors, with a few very limited exceptions, having any kind of soft landing anywhere in the actual legal job market, -especially- in private practice.

  40. @ 9:49 AM

    Not even Cooley?

  41. Law Prof & DJM:A hypothetical (I assume law profs still do hypotheticals). You are at a well ranked but not elite law school -- ranked say 40 or 60 but nowhere near T 14. One fall there comes an announcement from She Who Must Be Obeyed in College Hall (or Old Main or Old Queens or whatever they call the place where the central adminiatration dwells in marble halls). "Due to declining enrollment and tuition revenue it is hereby ordered and decreed that faculty salaries at the law school are cut 20 %. You may keep your reserved parking spaces. Have a nice day."

    What percentage of the faculty will actually have the ability to bolt and find a job with pay and benefits comparable to what they were making befre the cut?


  42. Won't this whole situation correct itself now that it's so well-known that law degrees aren't what they once were? Surely students won't keep coming to the lower-ranked places in the numbers they used to, which will force such law schools to cut costs drastically... either in faculty salaries or elsewhere.

    And if students still go to these places in 2012 given how publicized the job situation is now, isn't it largely their fault? You can't even google some of these law schools now without half the first page of hits talking about scams and lawsuits and so on...

  43. RPL @9:53--

    Ask the faculty at McGeorge (substituting ranked say 100 in your hypo).

  44. @ 10:14 A.M.

    The faculty will inform him that MCGEORGE DOMINATES.

  45. RPL,
    I guess I've always thought of it in terms of the salary needing to attract new qualified candidates, which, in the current model is people with top grades + a few years biglaw experience (that's how it is now, no opinion expressed on the whether that's the appropriate emphasis). I would think $100K would probably be enough but I suppose with the debt people are carrying maybe it wouldn't. Then again, maybe as schools close / cut faculty there will be enough of a glut in the law professor market that there will be enough time for multiple schools to lower their prices.

  46. 9:37:

    The average lawprof would run screaming from most non-profit jobs the minute he/she realized how much fundraising those jobs entail.

    Lawprofs have just about the cushiest gig around.

  47. Under what conditions (if any) can the salaries of tenured professors be lowered?

    Do tenured profs tend to have individualized contracts, or is it basically one-size-fits-all as to everything except pay?

  48. 10:47--it IS the cushiest gig around. Six figure salary, work part time, no worries about fundraising or bringing in clients, no business overhead to worry about, long vacations, take a sabbatical every few years. Cushy pension plan and esp. if a state employee there are legal salary protections.

    I agree, I couldn't see most of my professors being successful in private practice.

  49. 9:56 I think a lot of these lower ranked schools will have to close at some point. You are right, the info is out there and anyone who applied for law school after 2008/2009 would know what they were getting into with a modicum of research. Still doesn't mean it's not a scam, but I agree that the most recent grads/current law students appear somewhat less sympathetic. And then there are the SLS's who didn't do the research because they had stars in their eyes and just had to be A Lawyer.

    (See Barnum, P.T.)

  50. SLS = "Special Little Snowflakes"

  51. I think UCI will be responsible for the destruction of many lower tier law schools in SoCal. Chapman, Whittier, TJ, Cal Western, Southwestern, USD, Pepperdine, and Loyola(maybe) will all have much more limited reach into Orange County. These are the schools that need to close not UCI.

    However, I do not think that the school is inherently a bad thing. It is shooting to be a top tier school and has a Dean that every Con Law student depends on.

  52. I may be missing something (wouldn't be the first time), but I don't think tenure protects professors against pay cuts. At some point a professor might successfully argue that an individualized pay cut constituted a constructive discharge. And if the cut were large enough, even an across-the-board cut could be construed as constructive termination of the department/college, which would invoke a whole series of rules giving some protection. But I think a law school (or its central university) could cut faculty salaries by 20% without violating tenure contracts.

  53. What would happen if a law school cut tenured-faculty salaries by 20%? There would be a lot of teeth gnashing and groaning--and some people may gnash me for saying this--but I think relatively few people would leave. (1) If the cut were forced by economic pressure, then other schools would be facing much of the same pressure--so there wouldn't be that many other places to go. (2) Even in good times, it's harder than many people think to move from one school to another. (3) As others have said here, most tenured faculty really like being professors--they would think long and hard about giving up tenure for a different job. And I think they would realize that few other jobs pay as well as even the reduced pay for faculty.

    Perhaps most important, I think law schools have already demonstrated the possibility of cutting faculty salaries through what we currently pay legal writing and clinical faculty. Many schools now have full-time faculty, rather than adjuncts or temporary fellows, in these positions. These clinical/writing faculty members are full-time, dedicated professionals; I don't think anyone doubts the value they offer to students. They spend many more hours *teaching* (grading papers, supervising students, giving feedback, designing exercises) than tenured faculty do. And they don't get the protections of tenure! Yet they are willing to take these positions for considerably less money than schools pay tenure-track faculty; many of them (perhaps most nationally) earn less than $100,000 per year, even with many years of seniority.

    If that's the market price for teaching legal writing and clinics, surely we can find excellent teachers/scholars who will eagerly teach their favorite doctrinal subject and write some excellent scholarship for 20% less than the current rate?

    [I note, though, that I would propose graduated cuts instead of a straight 20%--something like 25% for those earning over $200,000; 20% for those earning 175,000-200,000; 15% for those at 150,000-175,000; 10% for 125,000-150,000. It's uniform percentage raises that have gotten us, in part, to the place we are today.

    I'm very grateful for my salary; since I'm the sole wage earner in our family, my husband and disabled adult son are very grateful as well. But there's no doubt that law faculty salaries are much higher than they need to be.

  54. Law faculty salaries - the high price of mediocrity.

  55. I can hear the hissing as a fellow faculty member lets the air out of DJM's tires even as we speak....

  56. God Bless you DJM.

  57. our local symphony cut salaries of orchstra members by 30 percent. you should have heard the screams of how this will cost us so many talented musicians and our orchestra will be third rate.

    the last number i saw were about five or so that leftwhere would they go? they were replaced and from what i read, the orchestra sounds exactly the same. no one could tell.

    the same would happen to law professors is their salaries were cut. some would leave, but it wouldnt really matter.

  58. I don't share the optimism of some surrounding UC Irvine's Law School, as marketplace conditions have changed radically since the State decided to move forward with this school in 2006.

    I am even more skeptical about the tuition discounts/scholarship programs used to attract students. They represent a significant investment, and I do not see how the school can continue anywhere near that level of discounting. And if they don't, the quality of student they will have matriculate will suffer. Look at the tuition. 47k for a new, untested hyper-regional law school? Yikes. It doesn't make any sense to me, and given the efforts of Prof. Campos and others, it shouldn't make sense to many in an increasingly efficient (finally) legal marketplace. Is there something I am not getting?

  59. Some people will probably find this post annoying, sexist, etc.

    My summer vacation may be going down the pan. My lovely wife is noted for explaining loudly on our honeymoon almost a decade ago how she was going to insert my phone where the sun does not shine, a statement which ever since has led my colleagues (who were on the conference call) to assess my phones with either an "ouch" or that looks easier - the Nokia e61 (she helped design) led to real winces and a "I bet those keys hurt." I have an obscene number of miles I cannot use - and we were planning nice vacation, but I did a good job this week - which means that pouf, there goes a vacation - and the last time I had a real vacation, i.e., no one calling me, no briefs, contracts, documents to review.... I don't really recall. And I have to look for clients, worry about them. etc.

    Now $100-200 would be a big cut in income - but then - I would have a real vacation, I would have a job that had a regular paycheck, I would not have to employ an accountant to do tax returns - or worry if I had put enough aside for tax payments, and I would not have to make my own pension arrangements - someone else would have to read resumés from great kids that I cannot offer a job for, I would not have to deal with some of the people I need to deal with.

    OK, I'd be a professor - but f*ck me, no way does being a law professor match what a practicing lawyer deals with. Frankly, if you offers $100-200k, secure, pension to many top law firm partners, they would bit your arm off.

    I could spend my time with she who must, which would be nice, rather than travelling. Hell on $100-200k solid - I could live a better lifestyle than I do now on a rather higher number. I could teach contracts, Civ-Pro, International law, intellectual property, antitrust....and I have done it!

  60. Geeeeez DJM, what happened to you? Being all sympathetic, honest, and normal. What a weirdo.

  61. RPL says . . .

    Thanks DJM. That's pretty much what I thought; you could cut law faculty salaries because, well, law professors have nowhere else to go. I don't know the world of legal academia at all but I was 20 years at what is now an Am Law 100 law firm and the chances of our paying, say, $250K to hire a law prof from a mid market school who had been teaching contracts, torts and law-and-something-else for fifteen years, had no business, had never tried a case, closed a deal or landed a client, in fact had never practiced law except for three years as an associate at Cravath 20 years ago was, well, zero. In fact if you proposed it some of my partners would hurt themselves laughing.

    Similarly, I don't see a problem hiring new law profs. Opportunities for graduates of the New Haven School of Public Policy and Law Teacher Training Academy (aka Yale) and not what they were when I graduated from what is now called a T 8 school (once upon a time, kids, there were no USNWR rankings). New law profs will have to expect less, like practically everyone else in this profession.

    Dean C does not see this because he is trapped. He started a shake-and-bake top tier law school by hiring big names and rising stars from other schools. These are the small minority of law profs who, for now, can (and will, as Dean C knows, move. So he has to keep paying them and charging enough to cover their salaries as long as he can. When he can't, well, he will probably be retired anyway. Its not a particularly good business model; just ask the former partners at Dewey, LeBoeuf.

    BTW: I don't think you will see across the board 20% cuts either; that was just a hypo. I do think you will start to see salaries trend down.


  62. I will say one more point - given $100-200k average salary to dispense with tenure - I think I could replace the entire faculty of a law school with senior lawyers (partners and government lawyers) whose resumés would give the average BigLaw hiring partner hot flashes - hell I suspect I could get some of those hiring partners to take the job.

  63. MacK

    Can I have some of your miles?

  64. No, she who must has plans for them ... and as long as I have them, she might put up with a tedious, overweight, crotchety lawyer who is always gone when she needs me.

    What else do I have to offer?

  65. MacK

    A sense of humor? Money? Good in bed?

  66. Yeah, I mean, honestly, some of the best profs I had were adjuncts, because they had actual "stories from the field" to tell and were grounded in reality. True, maybe some practicing lawyers won't necessarily be amazing at teaching, but on the other hand, neither were many of the "career profs" I had. A lot of the best legal scholars who had gone straight from law school to the academy were great at writing law review articles and books, but then got up in front of the class and droned from an outline (the same one every year, naturally). There's got to be some way to determine whether someone is good at teaching when they are hired, other than "they've taught law school before."

  67. No one is laughing at my jokes here (at me probably)? She earns a pretty good salary... Do I sound like I'm good in bed?

    If she had any sense she'd divorce me now. It has to be my millage balances.

  68. FWIW, I think DJM is right about the effect of a 20% across the board cut in salary, especially if it occurred at many schools at the same time. As Lawprof points out, salaries have gone up considerably over the last decade or two; it's hard to see why they couldn't return to where they were before. Some profs might move if the salary cuts were not occurring at every school, and some profs might do less scholarship and consult more to try to make up the difference. But I would think that most profs would stay put, especially if the cuts were occurring at all schools at the same time.

  69. MacK - she keeps you on because you're gone all the time and the guy down the street is hot.

    That, and she likes the funny way you walk after she's shoved your phone where the sun don't shine.

    More seriously, what I worked out with my wife about 10 years ago (which works well in maintaining marital vacation happiness) was the rule that I don't work more than about 4-6 hours a day while on vacation, and that has to be split into before the kids drag out of bed in the morning and after they drag to bed at night.

    And never, ever cancel the vacation. Fly out and back in midweek if some meeting pops that has to be attended, but never cancel the whole family's vacation, and travel with them both ways.

  70. Aside from the elite schools (where, I guess, the faculty's scholarship is a selling point), does anyone care whether law profs do any scholarship?

  71. DJM - best you not leave any coffee mug unattended in the lounge, or if so, sip gently at first. Might find it's been dosed with some salt and sour grape juice. Just sayin'.

  72. 1:53, you mean, "anyone besides other law profs"?

    CJ Roberts has some thoughts on that topic.

  73. @1:52

    Without revealing where I live

    He may be hot but ... gay, gay, gay (lesbian couple), very christian (wtf-wtf-wtf), gay, weird?, gay and in the other direction, gay, gay, gay and married to a new york fireman ... we are in the minority.

  74. Hi Prof Kerr. Enjoyed your brief review the other day on the salary distribution over time and "sticky" BigLaw starts.

    Across the board cuts at all 200 would definitely keep the profs essentially in place (other than normal movement that you have now). Problem is, it ain't gonna happen.

  75. MacK - so, Greenwich Village?

  76. 1:32 pm, you can have some of my miles if you pay the transfer fees. Mostly mine are Delta, which means the transfer fee essentially eats the value of the miles. I looked into it a while back to see if I could split some of mine off to my wife and in-laws. But you can only transfer 150K miles per year, and they want a penny a mile transferred... ...which means the transfer is essentially worthless in view of getting better deals just by shopping around and buying at the right time.

  77. No - but there is an annual drag race that ends shortly before out front door (I keep a glue gun handy for broken heels.) The fireman commutes.

    The neighborhood we live in is notoriously liberal, figures in right wing-speeches and we are at the end where the gay community feels most comfortable, if they would not make so many jokes about how many pansies my mother planted in our flower beds (as the straight couple you never know how to respond, do you join in? laugh, umm...)

  78. http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/2010/12/unaccredited-overpriced-piece-of-trash.html

  79. This comment has been removed by the author.

  80. 1. Biglaw, small law, mid-law will not hire washed up law professors. I don't care how many Supreme Court justices they clerked for or how many articles they authored on Nietzche. It's about the coinage you can bring to the firm, not how much you can take away and under that scenario with former law professors the coinage will flow the wrong way.
    2. Public interest groups might hire former law professors, but will pay them about 75k a year; they will need to produce something that persuades a jury or an appellate court (which means no dense theoretical crap); and they will need to do it with a skeletal support staff. I mean, sorry, but the Brookings Institute doesn't have that many openings for Nietzche lawyers. Most public interest organizations are hiring young Columbia grads who can handle working more than 25 hours a week.
    3. For the very few that actually have some political connections, the Federales may hire a few, but it will not be at the prestige level a law professor believes is his or her due ( not Attorney General, not Supreme Court, not Ambassador to France). Maybe special counsel to the agricultural inspector general for chicken sexing.

    The rest are down here with us chickens pecking at the crumbs. Ergo, I believe, after discovering how arid are their prospects, they will take a huge cut in pay if it means they can stay in their pretend world (they pretend to teach/know the law and their students pretend to learn it).

    Sorry Prof Campose and Merritt. Not my intention to catch you in my sweeping generalizations.

  81. U of I News:
    (Crain's) — The University of Illinois College of Law was fined $250,000 for publishing false admissions data that made six years of incoming classes look better on paper.


    The ABA said that an unnamed assistant dean inflated 109 LSAT scores and 58 grade-point averages for the 2011 incoming class.

    U of I's law school will have to prominently display the ABA's public censure for two years on the home page of its website. In addition, it must publicly issue a corrective statement, hired a compliance monitor for this year and the 2013-14 academic year and end its early admissions process.


    — Lorene Yue

    Read more: http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20120724/BLOGS08/120729886/university-of-illinois-law-school-fined-for-inflating-admissions-data#ixzz21a277Fwt

  82. Where exactly does the fine money go?

  83. tdennis, I agree completely. There was a time (20 years ago? 30?), when law firms might have hired an ex-professor at a fixed but decent wage as a senior consultant type. But those times are long gone. I would have a very hard time finding a job in law practice--certainly not one that pays my academic salary.

    But I'm pleased to report that I'm preparing for the worst. I have in my possession (no joke) the classic work, "The Specialist Chick Sexer" by R.D. Martin. I'm going to nail my interview with that ag guy!

  84. @ 3:05 PM

    BTW, former dean Heidi Hurd is still touting the inflated data as one of the accomplishments of her tenure: "Under her deanship, the College of Law significantly increased incoming student credentials to place them among the nation's Top 15 based on LSAT scores and median GPA[.]"


  85. Law professor salaries provoke me to fury. I except the rare few who are great teachers, experienced lawyers, and whose scholarship is helpful to practitioners.

    Mr. Chemerinsky: If you want to hire a quality criminal law professor who will take a cushy law professor gig for way, way, way under 200K why not visit the local public defender's office?

    I am quite familiar with a certain appellate division of a public defender's office. The lawyers there (massively debt-ridden, thank you law schools) start at 55K. At 10 years, the lawyers make about 75K. This salary is frozen for the forseeable future in light of budget cuts. True, the job is interesting and socially useful--unlike many law jobs--but the production pace is grueling.

    After 10 years, these lawyers know criminal law and criminal procedure cold. They have briefed approximately every permutation of the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment. They know all the hot statutory challenges in the state, and exercise their wits thinking of others. They have finely-honed written and oral argument skills. Many have taught in the appellate clinics that the office runs in conjunction with local law schools. Many have published law review articles based on issues and cases they have briefed and thought about.

    For a mere 75K/yr and the light workload of a law professor, these great lawyers are available as faculty, Mr. Chemerinsky, and the money you save on faculty pay can be passed on to students. What do you say?


  86. I'm a law student who will probably be competitive on the meat market if I go that route (HYS, other graduate work, etc.). I don't plan on going that route because of the ethics of it, but I've thought about it.

    I'll say this: If I could choose between a job that gave me 250k per year but devastated the lives of the majority of my students and a job that gave me 100k and had tuition costs that reflected the value of a typical T50 law degree (say, 10k a year), I'd choose the 100k salary without hesitation. Maybe I don't make the same choice if I'm acclimated to making 250k as a lawprof, but starting out I certainly would.

    The quality argument is a red herring. What the quality argument amounts to is that the school won't attract the kind of candidates that will help it move up in the rankings, or produce the same amount of scholarship, etc. It has nothing to do with the quality of teaching and everything to do with the reputed "prestige" of the school.

    If a T50 was starting from scratch was offering 90-100k salaries to entry-level lawprofs it would have zero shortage of young and accomplished lawyers willing to take the positions. The school wouldn't get the "market stars" but its unclear they make the best teachers anyways.

  87. Let's assume that the constant babble from UCI about being a law school that is dedicated to training lawyers for a career in the public interest isn't just some public relations stunt to justify an otherwise unjustifiable law school. Let's assume that all of its graduates can and do get jobs in public interest law. Their tuition is $50,000 a year and the total cost of their education is over $250,000. Their salaries will be in the mid five figures. This means that no UCI law grad, not one, will be able to pay their student loan. William Ockham

  88. The jobs I think law professors would probably be most "suited" for based on their skill sets would be high ranked government positions that are heavier on policy than they are on law. Professors at my law school seem to move between the academy and NYC, federal, and state government fairly frequently for 1-2 year stints. These are jobs that also happen to pay much lower than even tenured professor positions at my school and even a 50% cut in faculty salary would probably still be more than these jobs. They are also much higher pressure, as a now former prof of mine discovered when he joined a city agency as a high level bureaucrat.

    Re: UCI, they love to plug their double digit federal clerkship rate. I wonder whether that is sustainable. I think we know how they are doing it (low class size in the early classes + faculties really hammering away at their black books calling in every marker they can.) It is unlikely this is sustainable. UCI will not be able to maintain high federal clerkship placement even if they enter as a top 20 school, and without offering close to full scholarships anymore they will not be able to attract high 160 LSAT students, so big firms and other prestigious employers are not going to disproportionately recruit from there even with such a "quality" faculty. Once the Dean burns through his capital with judges, his students are going to be SOL.

    The real bet is whether the school can debut high enough to get enough butts in the seats to make its operating budget.

  89. Some more information on UCI law school. In 2008 they received a "founding endowment" of $20,000,000 from Donald Bren an Orange County real estate grandee and the owner of the Irvine Company. In consideration for which the school was to carry his name. Seeing the problem of having a right wing Republican billionaire on their building they somehow talked him into dropping the name while retaining the $20,000,000. Presumably they have burned through a lot of this money in start up costs and scholarships for the first classes. But the man is reputed to be worth to be worth $12 billion and has given over a billion to other charities so maybe they'll make a go of it. William Ockham

  90. "Law professor salaries provoke me to fury."

    That may be the truest thing ever posted here!

    Fact remains that this is a market economy, and it's harder to get a lawprof job than a job as a public defender. Even Campos makes 170K.

  91. DJM

    You Go Girl! Actually, there will always be a market for clear-eyed realists like yourself. You would do just fine.

  92. @ 4:08pm

    There's no question that, in "general", a real experienced practitioner is going to be a better instructor than some pure academic with no real world experience just regurgitating from outlines.

    HOWEVER, prestige of your faculty isn't measured by how good you are as a teacher. It is primarily measured by your pedigree (where you went to law school, clerked, etc). That's it.

    You could be the greatest instructor of crim law due to your extensive background as a public defender or prosecutor and your great teaching skills. But if your "pedigree" is low, it won't add to the "prestige" of your school's faculty list.

  93. Anonymous 4:09: another HYS grad who used to be interested in academia who now feels the same as you do. I'm floored that our fellow alums - with full knowledge of the current market - are willing to go on the meat market and take jobs outside the T14. Not for "prestige" reasons, but because I have to believe they understand that it is unethical to have a significant portion of their salaries paid by the loans of students who have no serious prospect of legal employment.

    I find it easier to forgive academics who took their jobs 10, 20, or 30 years ago, when they could be fairly well assured that students from their schools would get jobs. But today's "aspiring academics" who will accept non-T14 placements? They seem to be the most unethical of the lot.

  94. Shut the front door, Orin Kerr said that! (@1:53) Mad props, OK.

  95. @ 6:05-- So , there should only be 14 law schools in the country?

  96. Re: Orin Kerr's claims above that if salaries are cut "profs might do less scholarship and consult more to try to make up the difference?"

    1. Who cares if they do less scholarship? That's like holding a profitable garage sale and mourning the worthless trash you sacrificed.

    2. Won't certain prestige-whores be incentivized to do MORE worthless scholarship? This industry is run by egomaniacs with an inflated sense of self-worth. The way you stand out - and schools like the T-14 hire you - is often by publishing something that gets noticed. The time-honored way of getting noticed for 90% of academics and 100% of pseudo-academics is by publishing early and often. Does Orin have any evidence for the claim that salary has any correlation for publishing output?

    3. Who, exactly, is hiring the average law prof as a consultant?! Firms are cutting budgets for such things, and law profs generally don't offer any trial-useful expertise (not even in a legal malpractice case). BigLaw partners have more experience in both litigation strategizing and transactional work, so what exactly are they going to hire a lawprof to "consult" on?!

    "Hey, Billy, you were an associate at [T100 firm/US Dist. Atty's office] and washed out after three years! We'd love to pay you coin to come "consult" with us on patent law in India / law and feminism / 17th century trover actions / the FRE in reality TV dispute resolution / useless blather about obscure finance law / etc."

    How the hell does that work? If you sucker one person into paying you double your market value, surely you can con someone else?

  97. Isen't Law Prof salary inflated due to the potential head hunting of top faculty at universities.

    I went to a tier 2 and one of my profs was making the same as a professor would make at Yale. But he was also the most prolific publisher.

    I also am trying to grapple the concept of law reviews and academic journals at lower ranked schools being anything more than an academic circle jerk(excuse my language). They cost a bloody fortune.

  98. One point, following Orin and DJM. I suspect law schools won't lower salaries, but rather will increase teaching loads from 10 to 12 credits a year (or maybe more). The effect will be to shrink the faculty, without doing anything quite so disruptive as cutting pay. I believe Hastings has done this just this year.

  99. If the argument is really that we can't afford to have as many public law schools as we do, why is no one talking about closing down Hastings or Davis? From what I've seen UCI beats both of them in every category (admissions statistics, student/faculty ratio, faculty rankings, employment placement statistics, clerkships). Shouldn't we be dropping the *worst* public law school, rather than the most recent?

  100. Anonymous @ 5:10, the argument made earlier was that the statistics generated by UCI were very likely inflated, due to unsustainable money spent during the start-up (e.g., offer almost free tuition to the first class).

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