Posted on May 26, 2009 by Carolyn Grose
The debate about job security and status has been with us continually for over 30 years, and it will be with us for many years to come. There is no most correct answer. I can agree with almost everything that has been written in this [clinic list serv] stream. The most important issue, however, is … who makes decisions about the educational goals of the curriculum and which courses will be offered? If you cannot influence curriculum decisions, you have no power to implement or shape the reforms that are needed.
The debate about job security and status, however, should not be suspended. It is important for all members of a law faculty to have equivalent job security and academic freedom. During my career, I had everything from none to total job security. At first, it did not seem important, but I came to realize that it really mattered whether I had equivalent job security and academic freedom to other members of the faculty. Until I acquired that, my career was at risk (and it frequently was) and I was potentially a pawn for those with more power and job security than I had. I survived. Many in my situation did not. If everyone on the faculty has one year contracts, that’s fine. If everyone has a fair opportunity to achieve lifetime tenure, that’s fine, too. But it is not fine for one group to have lifetime security and others to be on year to year contracts (unless, I would concede, there is an exceptionally good reason to have a very limited number of people on truely temporary year to year contracts). By the way, my preferred form of job security for everyone would be renewable long term contracts.
I am beginning to wonder whether it is useful to continue to refer to ourselves as “clinicians.” In the early days of efforts to increase the influence and security of clinical teachers, the question came up: how do we tell if someone is really a clinician? The answer at that time was that if anyone was willing to self-identify themselves publicly as a clinician, they must be one. Today, I would be hard-pressed to draft a definition of a clinician. Wouldn’t you? I think I’m correct to say that the Best Practices book neither speaks of law school faculty as clinicians or professors, but rather as “law teachers.” I think all law teachers should be using similar approaches to educating students, but with different emphases depending on the specific goals of our courses.
In closing, doesn’t setting a goal of having all students graduate with at least one “clinical course” miss the message of Carnegie and Best Practices about where law schools should be going (although in some contexts that might be the most achievable first step)?
Filed under: Who is Using the Best Practices Book?