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Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Shrinking Law Faculty Lateral Market

Lawrence Cunningham (George Washington) reports on the decline in the number of law faculty lateral moves this year:

Year

Schools

Faculty

2006

71

132

2007

72

131

2008

80

136

2009

68

114

2010

72

92

2011

55

93

2012

56

84

2013

21

28

As Larry notes, the 2013 figures are preliminary and although more moves certainly will become public after the March 15 AALS deadline (I know of seven lateral moves not yet reported), 2013 undoubtedly will see a sharp contraction in lateral market. Larry notes that the figures reflect

the general decline in student applications to law schools and the considerable uncertainty facing legal education now. Whatever else critics might say about the legal academy, such a decline shows deans and faculty making big changes in operating procedures. The import may be mixed, however. It’s one less way that many schools can demonstrate that they are competing with each other, though schools that are able to compete in such an environment (e.g., Alabama) send a signal that they have the resources and confidence to buck the trend. It may be one less tool prawfs have to negotiate raises and other perqs, though, again, those that are able to do so may have greater leverage than predecessors.

Jim Diamond argues that "Georgetown’s annual study of the legal profession confirms enormous overcapacity. It would therefore be totally irrational for any law school to add faculty. That explains much of the decline in lateral moves reported. To the extent that some schools have hired anyway, that may explain why they have not reported doing so publicly."

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Comments

I'd expect this trend to continue for at least the next 5 years. Only the occasional Supreme Court Clerk or PhD/JD will land a tenure-track position during this time.

Instead, schools will increasingly rely on cheap VAP's who have no realistic chance of rejoining major law firms. That will be a great way for schools to lower costs and still breathe some new life into the faculty.

It would be pretty funny if we end up with schools that are run by administrators getting paid $300k-600k, but with a faculty predominantly comprised of far more intelligent VAPs that are making $50k/yr with no job security.

Posted by: JM | Mar 3, 2013 10:30:42 AM

Why would law schools need the cheap VAPs if the number of students stays low? The existing tenured faculty can teach whatever needs to be taught.

And why would the tenured faculty allow lower cost replacements (i.e., VAPs) to be appointed, undermining their own position?

And why would recent graduates of HYS want to accept $50K positions without hope of tenure when they can make $180K in a law firm (to start), get up to $300K by year 5, and then either go on the market when legal education has turned around, or go in-house to a client and make half a million?

Or if work-life balance is a concern, work for the government and earn low 6 figures with good job security.

VAPs just aren't competitive. If you can't get a job in legal academe without one, at least at a top 100 school, it might be time to think about a different career.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 3, 2013 2:00:37 PM

And if you really want an academic apprenticeship, do not go for a VAP.

Spend the extra three years and get a PhD.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 3, 2013 2:01:47 PM

Still wondering about all the talk about moving to a 2-year program or a 4-year law degree program for undergrads. Talk about missing the point!

Posted by: Larry | Mar 4, 2013 12:04:07 PM

PhD is not necessarily the answer either. Too many being graduated in general, though that is probably not true in law. The problem though is it becomes one of everybody jumping on that band wagon and pretty quick there are too many PhDs and still not enough students. I have mine in IS and that is the situation for us. Too many graduating with way too few jobs. Many are taking positions at schools that 10 years ago would not even be thought of. I am starting to see them show up at Community Colleges of late.

Posted by: Rich | Mar 4, 2013 1:27:50 PM

Adjuncts are cheaper than VAPs. What is meant by VAPs breathing new life into the faculty?

Posted by: anon | Mar 4, 2013 3:51:02 PM

I'm always fascinated by how universities preach social justice but practice essentially the same market-driven behavior as everyone else.

Posted by: michael livingston | Mar 5, 2013 2:22:50 AM