Clinical Faculty — Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

Robert Kuehn, Washington University School of Law

Though clinical faculty have largely moved out of the proverbial basement, they remain a distinct sub-group within most law faculties. Often labeled as something other than law professors (“clinicians”) because of their teaching methods and goals, faculty that teach law clinic and externship courses also differ as a group by gender, race, employment status, and salary from “podium” faculty teaching doctrinal courses. And unlike the movement out of the basement, it’s not clear that clinical and doctrinal faculty are moving closer to each other on those attributes.

So who are the faculty who teach law clinic and externship courses? Predominantly female, and more so today than in the past. In the latest survey by the Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education (CSALE) of over 1000 faculty who teach in a law clinic or externship course, 62% identified as female. Externship courses are more heavily taught by female faculty than law clinics, as 75% of full-time externship teachers are female. As the graph below shows, over the last decade an increasing proportion of clinical faculty are female.

Graph of Clinic Faculty make up by Gender
Faculty who teach legal writing are even more heavily female — 72% identify as female. In contrast, the ABA reports that females (now half of all J.D. students) make up 44% of full-time teaching faculty, and a significant part of that percentage is comprised of clinical and legal writing faculty.

Clinical faculty also are predominantly white, but less so than a decade ago. In the most recent CSALE survey, 21% of full-time faculty who primarily teach in a law clinic or externship identified their race/origin as something other than white. There was little difference in race/origin between externship and law clinic teachers. The percentage of minority clinical teachers has increased by over 50% since the first CSALE survey in 2007-08.
nullGraph of Clinic Faculty Make up by Race

Minorities make up a significantly greater percentage of clinical faculty than of legal writing and slightly more than law faculties as a whole. Only 11% of legal writing faculty are non-Caucasian, while 20% of all law teachers and approximately 32% of J.D. students at ABA-approved law schools are minorities.

There are no data on the percentage of LGBTQ faculty from available surveys of law faculty. The AALS Directory of Law Teachers surveys do ask whether the teacher is a member of the LGBT community. However, the AALS has not published reports on data from its annual directories since 2009.

There are stark differences in employment status between faculty groups. In 2016-17, only 23% of clinical faculty had tenure or were on tenure track; 9% had clinical/programmatic tenure/tenure track. The percentage of traditional tenure/tenure track clinical positions has declined from 31% in CSALE’s 2010-11 survey and 46% in 1998.[1]

Only 18% of legal writing faculty were tenured or on tenure track in 2016; another 6% were in positions with programmatic tenure/tenure track.[2] ABA data suggest that 90% of law faculty who primarily teach doctrinal courses (i.e., all 2013 full-time “teaching resources” minus clinical, legal writing, and skills teachers) are tenured or on tenure track.

Salaries are a final area of difference, even within clinical faculty. The table below illustrates differences in law clinic and externship teacher salaries between those entering or early in their teaching career and clinical faculty as a whole. There is no significant difference between the median salary for externship faculty and the median for law clinic teachers.

Salary Table

The median salary for legal writing faculty is estimated to be about $10,000 lower than the median for clinical faculty, based on a review of the median of average 2015 salaries for directors and other full-time legal writing faculty. Tenured and tenure-track faculty make considerably more than clinical and legal writing faculty. The median salary for an assistant professor on the tenure track was $105,000 in the 2015-16 SALT salary survey, approximately $20,000 more than clinical teachers at a comparable point in their careers and approximately $10,000 more than the median for all legal writing faculty. The median salary for a tenured professor was over $145,000.

Data, of course, present an incomplete picture of law faculties. And while we should be careful not to let our differences define us, it’s hard to move to where you want to be without first knowing who you are. This data will hopefully help answer “clinical faculty, who are you?”

[1] Richard K. Neumann Jr., Women in Legal Education: What the Statistics Show, 50 J. Legal Educ. 313, 328 (2000).

[2] Assn’ of Legal Writing Directors & Legal Writing Institute, Report of the Annual Legal Writing Survey (2016) (preliminary data from 2016 survey) (on file with author).

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One Response

  1. See Also the articles in Vol 66 No. 3 Journal of Legal Education, talking about the discriminatory effects of defining faculty by their learning outcomes. https://jle.aals.org/home/vol66/iss3/

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