NYT – The Unseen Costs of Cutting Law School Faculty

Take a look at this NYT’s article by University of San Diego Professor, Vic Fleischer, noting that “The law school at Seton Hall University has put its untenured faculty on legal notice that their contracts may not be renewed for the 2014-15 academic year.”  While disagreeing with the Seton Hall decision, Fleischer offers some suggestions of his own on how law schools could cut costs, “Post-tenure review (by faculty, not administrators) can ensure that faculty members remain productive. Libraries can be moved online. Clinics can be closed, and adjunct faculty can be better utilized to team-teach practical courses alongside research faculty. The size of the administrative staff can be pared down, especially those who manage programs that might be considered luxuries.”  

At a time when law schools are being criticized for paying insufficient attention to training in practical lawyering skills and professional values (not to mention, the advent of scalable online teaching technologies), I do not see how closing clinics is the answer.  I would prefer for the discussion to recognize that if we eliminate clinics altogether, then what remains to be taught in law schools could easily move online.  In an article I will be sending out next week, I go into this in a lot more depth. 

4 Responses

  1. Move all non-clinical courses on-line? I’m skeptical — but eager to see your article!

  2. I totally agree that closing clinics is not the answer. Such a proposal reflects an outmoded view of what is essential and what is a luxury. I doubt those who hire our graduates think of experiential learning opportunities as a luxury. While every element of curriculum must be examined given cost pressures – and pressures associated with changing realities in the profession – we must bring careful, fresh analysis to the difficult questions that we face. Maybe a clinic will need to olose. Or (or may be and) maybe some seminars will go by the wayside. Lots of tough choices will have to be made. Blanket statements about what is expendable will not save the day.

  3. I felt that the article demonstrated narrow thinking about academic freedom priorities and an ignorance about the necessary educational and professional role clinics play in any modern legal education. He also seemed unware of the links between the attacks on law school’s for their “ivory tower detachment” from the reality of our current broken justice system and the role law school’s must play in fixing it. The clinical courses which focus on the professional education of young lawyers-to-be not only provides enormous “value added” to the tuition that pays professorial salaries. But in addition, it helps law school’s redeem their reputation for failing to be part of the solution in fixing the United States terrible record on access to justice and provision of necessary bespoke legal services for non-affluent, non-corporate “persons.”

  4. Externships and Online Education? Reminds me of the early history of the legal profession – why not just let them “read law” (these days online) and shadow an attorney for a few years without the need for any expensive campus based law schools? One of the concerns with an externship model these days is that the firms and government agencies are also hit by the economic downturn. If they’re not hiring or providing paid internships now, why would they take in more pre-lawyer “readers”? The poor aspiring lawyers would have a very difficult time finding any placements especially those who would not benefit from the nepotism that would surely arise or who would face opportunity barriers seen for decades by minorities in the profession. I just wonder why law professors get paid so much – why is a Criminal Justice or Legal Studies undergraduate professor with the same degrees (or more given the high numbers of JD/PhDs) and experience getting paid $40K while a law professor gets $100K?

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