Note: I wrote this post primarily for fellow law professors who have been sounding the "hypocrisy" theme. I don't mind trolls; I used to dress them up as a child.
I'm getting a little tired of the hypocrisy charges, in comments here and elsewhere. So let's address that issue head on. First, people can call me a hypocrite only because they know my name. I, along with LawProf, Brian Tamanaha, Herwig Schlunk, and some others, have been willing to speak up--under our own names--about what the facts tell us. If I were a hypocrite, I would pocket my salary--despite what my research and the research of others reveals--and say nothing. I'll be 57 in two months, and I have tenure. My job and retirement accounts are secure; I foresaw the stock crash in fall 2008 and moved any money I had in stocks out for a while. Why rock the boat?
Second, I am paid to do research, teaching, and service--and that is what I am doing. I don't just get up and post some ideas that pop into my head over morning tea. Nor do I write things just to aggravate other law professors. I have done a lot of research about law school tuition, the costs of legal education, and the career prospects of lawyers today. I have also done a lot of research (and teaching) about how the business of law has changed and continues to change at breakneck speed. Most professors, in my experience, know very little about those facts. And that is what is so dangerous about the present moment.
Unless law faculty understand how their students' loans work, what jobs are available to their graduates, and how their alumni at various professional stages are faring--using real empirical research rather than samples biased by selection--they simply cannot make good plans for their schools, their graduates, and the profession. So I will continue to do research, teaching, and service on these subjects.
Some people may not like what I say; that has been true of other scholarship I published. When, together with two social scientists, I pointed out the statistical defects in a process that state supreme courts had used to raise the passing score on bar exams, I really ticked off members of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, as well as a researcher from Rand who had designed the process for them. But, you know what? A few state supreme courts read our analysis and agreed; they didn't raise passing scores in the unfair way that many other states did.
Law faculty look critically at laws, judicial decisions, empirical data, societal norms, and institutional practices. We teach our students to do the same. A senior lawyer told me recently that "lawyers are the people who ask the hard questions." If that's true, we have to be willing to ask those questions about ourselves. I'll keep researching, teaching, and advocating on these issues. I welcome disagreement--that's how we get to the bottom of pressing social and economic issues. But I'd like to have disagreement based on fact and analysis, not name calling.