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Thursday, July 28, 2011

NLJ: Rick Matasar, Law School Reform, and $300,000 Faculty Salaries

Matasar Following up on my prior posts (links below), National Law Journal, 'Poster Child' Shares Frustration About Pace of Law School Reform:

That law school tuition is skyrocketing at a time when law jobs are scarce is hardly news to anyone paying attention to legal education. But a lengthy story on the front of the July 17 business section of The New York Times examining that disconnect got people talking. The story raced up the most-read list on the paper's Web site and loads of Internet commentators weighed in. It used New York Law School and its longtime dean, Rick Matasar, to illustrate the larger problems facing law students and legal education.

Matasar, who is leaving the law school next year after nearly 12 years at the helm, made a fairly easy target. He has written numerous articles and delivered many lectures on the need for reform and lower-cost legal education. Yet New York Law School ranks No. 135 out of 196 law schools, according to U.S. News & World Report, and charges a hefty $46,460 in tuition. ...

NLJ:  You wrote a response to The New York Times article that said, essentially, that law schools can't cut costs because of the accreditation requirements set by the ABA. It seems a little too easy to place all the blame on the ABA. The ABA didn't require New York Law School to build a new building, and it doesn't dictate what you pay your faculty. A recent IRS filing indicates that a few faculty members earn more than $300,000. Don't you have a responsibility to keep costs low for your students outside the ABA requirements?

R.M.:  Yes, we do have that responsibility. ... [W]e've also managed to put together a first-rate facility for our students and substantially increase the quality of our faculty with people who are doing almost all skills training, as opposed to doctrinal teaching. ... Hiring a full-time faculty in a city like New York, you're going to have to be competitive with the salaries and benefits of other New York law schools. We don't have housing, as some of the other law schools in the city have. We don't have a university with hospitals where faculty can get their medical services. We're a stand-alone law school and we compete with law schools at very large universities that offer quite substantial packages for their employees. ...

NLJ:  Do you think the typical New York Law School student would prefer a higher-profile faculty over lower tuition?

R.M.:  All people want lower cost and higher quality. In the long run, we're talking about the preparation for a 50-year career. We can only reduce tuition by so much because we have a fixed set of costs in the people we've hired, and we have a fixed set of costs in the physical plant we maintain.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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The problem is, if a law school cut costs, it would instantly tumble in the rankings and no one (including the critics) would go there.

Posted by: mike livingston | Jul 28, 2011 5:54:39 PM

I have no objection to a school charging all the market will bear for their services. However. If all a high law school ranking means is “our teachers are grossly overpaid”, that does not reflect well on the whole system. It leads to schools making stupid decisions based on price competition (School A: “School B has a professor teaching X who makes $50k more than ours. We should raise our salary to stay competitive.” School B: “Low ranked schools have raised their salary for X to what we are paying. We need to raise the salary of X $100k to keep our high ranking.” Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)

This will price many good future lawyers out of the market, and leave the graduating classes filled with deeply-indebted, over-egoed, money-starved, immoral greedy prostitutes, who are willing to do *anything* to make a buck and get themselves out of the giant hole they have dug.

I thought that was a stereotype that lawyers were trying to shed?

Posted by: Georg Felis | Jul 29, 2011 6:59:34 AM

Are these the ones we'll find in that bus at the bottom of the ocean?

Posted by: teapartydoc | Jul 29, 2011 10:56:31 AM

I can not comment on law professor salaries, but given that I teach at a NJ research university and just having read that there are professors at Rutger's earning 250K+ I just can not imagine how absolutely fantastic these people must be in the classroom - NOT!
Years ago, (1973), while at City College in NY I had a class with Kenneth B. Clark a very famous psychologist, who taught one class. While it was good and I learned a lot, was he worth all the money he was being paid at the time? I would have to say - no. Same with Kurt Vonnegut, who was also teaching there, same thing one class for supposedly big bucks.
Sorry, most of the time these really high salaries are for the ego of the administration or as a bargaining chip to get themselves, administration, higher salaries.

Posted by: Rich | Jul 29, 2011 12:28:01 PM