Law prof, in your experience are most law faculty evil opportunists, frightened cogs, or just clueless navel gazers? If I had to venture a guess, I'd say:This generated a bunch of good comments. It was pointed out that the fact that the large majority of law faculty, and the overwhelming majority of more recent hires, come from a few elite schools, and in particular HYS. In addition most law faculty these days spent little or (increasingly) no time in the practice of law.
1. Evil Opportunists: approximately 20%, mostly at the administration level.
2. Frightened Cogs: approximately 10%, these are the faculty who recognize the problem but don't want to rock the boat too much.
3. Clueless Navel Gazers: approximately 98%, I know this double counts, but it approximates my experience in law school.
Both these factors naturally make it harder for law faculty to appreciate the depth of the employment crisis faced by their graduates, especially if they teach at any of the 198 ABA law schools not named Yale, Harvard, or Stanford.
Another commenter pointed out that the employment crisis has been around for quite a long time outside the T-14, and that what has changed the most in the last few years is that significant percentages of the classes at even top ten schools are struggling. Indeed I suspect that the HYS/No real practice experience distortion factor is much higher at elite and sub-elite schools, because these faculties in particular are now so dominated by people of this type, and because faculty at these schools are still semi-understandably surprised to discover how many of their students and graduates are getting into dire straits.
By contrast, anybody who teaches outside the top dozen schools or so would have to be willfully blind not to see by this point that a whole lot of the school's recent graduates are having severe difficulties. But unfortunately a lot of people are quite capable of being willfully blind when it's in their self-interest to be so, and it's certainly in the short-term self-interest of legal academics to close their eyes to the severity of the situation.
Here are what in my view are likely to be the most powerful factors, beyond their own increasingly narrow educational and professional pedigrees, that keep law faculty outside of HYS from understanding the extent of the problem:
(1) The cemetery effect. Law faculty are far more likely to have contact with successful students and graduates than unsuccessful ones. This is a powerful source of cognitive distortion: people are very prone to base their reasoning on personal anecdotal experience, especially when doing so bolsters rather than threatens their sense of professional and personal identity.
(2) Pure wishful thinking. Law school employment and salary statistics are still vague enough to create endless opportunities for rationalization. We can pretend that lots of our graduates are getting good non-legal job which their law degrees helped them get. We can pretend that bad outcomes nine months after graduation mean relatively little in the context of -- increasingly fictional -- multi-decade legal careers. We can and do fail to understand basic statistical concepts such as the difference between correlation and causation, and basic economic concepts such as net present value.
(3) Class bias. This is different from, though obviously related to, narrow academic and professional experiences. As American society gets more economically and educationally stratified, new law faculty hires tend increasingly to be people from highly privileged backgrounds. It's inevitable that such people are going to have more difficulty grasping concepts such as "not being able to pay your bills" as anything other than pure abstractions. This, I believe, is having a real effect on the ability of legal academics, especially younger legal academics, to genuinely understand what it means to have $200,000 in non-dischargeable educational debt, no decent job prospects, and no bail out option in the form of one call to Dad, who could stop it all.
All of which is to say that, while plunging enrollment and declining revenues are slowly doing their work as the most effective forms of reality therapy, it's not surprising that plenty of law faculty remain in various stages of denial.