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Staff Jobs and Professor’s Tenure Threatened at Law Schools
As law schools face the crunch of less student applicants and less resulting revenues, cutting costs becomes more of an issue than ever. Some of the biggest costs that a law school has to face are the salaries of its tenured professors. For decades law school professorship has been what CNN’s Fortune calls a “cozy perch.” Faculty isn’t tied to a PnL, they aren’t tied to productivity, they don’t have to pull all nighters to meet crazy deadlines, and instead they avoid the grindstone, get holidays and summers off and can earn six figures.
As more and more Americans face declining job security the legal industry follows suit. Law schools are figuring out their changes in structure, perhaps ridding their curricula of its 3rd year, or shrinking class sizes to accommodate shrinking student bodies. In that case, professors and staff won’t be needed without the students in their classes. Smaller budgets have many impacts. Some institutions are selling off parts of its campus or buildings, or even some of its schools. At this time, downsizing is a widespread trend affecting the legal industry and law schools around the nation.
Because full time faculty is the largest fixed cost that a school has on its statement of cash flows, shrinkage in the school budget will be addressed there firstly. Rutgers-Newark has a median salary of $186k for a full time law professor. The University of Iowa pays a median salary of $184K, while University of California-Hastings law professors earn a median salary of $ 187k, as told by a 2012-13 survey by the Society of American Law Teachers.
The problem with the situation of law schools having flexibility in tenureship is that the ABA has created policy and rules governing how tenure is tied with accreditation. Schools who are facing tough times looking ahead would like some revision to happen with policies that don’t reflect the times. Professor Paul Caron from Pepperdine School of Law comments, “changes are long overdue, it seems odd that an accreditation agency has only one model for hiring at all 200 law schools.” Other professors and deans speak out. Kent Syverud, dean of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis comments, “law professors and law deans are paid too much. The whole problem of costs probably would go away tomorrow if our salaries were halved.”
The American Law Deans Association has been pushing for more autonomy and flexibility on the issue of tenure for almost a decade. They have asked the U.S. Department of Education to step in and help ease the changes that need to be made so that law schools can be flexible enough to weather the bad times as well as grow in the good times. This autonomy is essential for their survival especially in this economy.