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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Washington U. Dean Syverud Tells ABA Task Force: Law Profs, Deans Are Paid Too Much; 50% Pay Cut Would Solve Problem

ABA Logo 2Following up on last week's post, ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education Releases Working Paper:  ABA Journal, Legal Ed Task Force Urged to Address Faculty Salaries, Federal Role and Core Competencies:

The Task Force on the Future of Legal Education got an earful of reaction Saturday to the findings of the working paper it issued earlier this month. Much of the response was favorable. But all eight of the people who spoke at the task force's last scheduled public hearing had specific suggestions for things they’d like the task force to include in its final report. Some examples: ...

Kent Syverud, chair of the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, ...  offered some eye-opening observations of his own. Syverud urged the task force to take a “cheerful and positive tone” in its final report, saying the challenges facing legal education are “mild" compared to those our parents and grandparents faced.

"The future of legal education is bright," he said. He also pointed out that the accreditation standards are minimum standards, not maximum standards, which "leave incredible leeway for law schools to do innovative things."

In response to a question about what’s driving the costs of legal education, Syverud said that the focus on particular types of classes or faculty is a "red herring." "The painful truth is that the problem with costs is that law professors and deans are paid too much relative to the amount of work they do," he said. "The whole problem of costs would go away tomorrow if our salaries were halved."

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Comments

A couple comments:

1. The future of legal education is not bright. In fact, it is extremely dismal.

2. When law professors talk about making widespread changes to legal education, or allowing a wide variety of models of legal education to flourish, the entire profession loses credibility. Do you see major changes/variations in the way civil engineering or spinal surgery are taught? I hope not! What advocates for change/liberalization are really seeking is a curriculum that is suited to the less intellectually capable. What good does that do anybody?

4. Only some professors need a pay cut. The ones that actually confer significant value on their students are fine (Harvard, Yale, Chicago, etc.). The rest of the crowd belongs in the $80-$100K income bracket.

Posted by: JM | Aug 11, 2013 1:58:42 PM

How about firing the Deans, who created the problem,and leaving professors alone?

Posted by: michael livingston | Aug 12, 2013 6:24:35 AM

JM, I am not sure why you believe that the professors at Harvard, Yale, or Chicago actually confer value to their students. One could easily make the argument that value was conferred through the brand and the signal that sends to the market. I'm not convinced that instruction is better at Harvard than Boston College.

Posted by: HTA | Aug 12, 2013 10:07:33 AM

Michael L -- Deans are not tenured as deans and work pretty hard. When they leave a deanship, they often get an easier job as a professor. A lot of the deans who created the problem are now professors.

Posted by: To Michael | Aug 12, 2013 10:19:10 AM

HTA - That is essentially what I meant. They work at institutions that confer value to students.

Posted by: JM | Aug 12, 2013 1:32:38 PM

Deans are frequently, indeed most frequently, hired as deans on the condition that they become tenured professors on retirement. But if your suggestion is to fire the people who used to be deans, that is fine with me too!

Posted by: michael livingston | Aug 12, 2013 3:51:53 PM

Strangely enough, Mr. Syverud failed to call for administrators to have their salaries cut - but I'm sure that was just an oversight.

Posted by: ChicagoRefugee | Aug 12, 2013 6:23:52 PM

I'm neither a lawyer nor a professor, but it seems to me that the legal "profession" is facing a crisis it does not want to acknowledge - much like any other profession which has negotiated a similar maelstrom. Value for work is going to be negotiated downward - as is true for any other "expert" profession. Whoever realizes this first and adapts is going to win; whoever doesn't will lose.

Posted by: Charles | Aug 12, 2013 7:23:14 PM