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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, March 4, 2017

AALS Refuses To Address Political Imbalance Of Law School Faculties

AALS (2018)Following up on my previous post, 28 Conservative/Libertarian Law Profs Demand That AALS Address Political Imbalance Of Law School Faculties:  Randy Barnett (Georgetown), AALS Executive Committee Responds to Our Letter Concerning Faculty Diversity:

[A]s we noted in our letter to the Executive Committee, we appreciate the efforts that were made to provide a more balanced program at the AALS Annual Meeting. But we also asked for two specific action items to address the current radical imbalance of law school faculties, neither of which is addressed in the Executive Committee’s response to our letter.

  • First, we repeated our request for access to the Faculty Appointments Registry [FAR] data so an objective analysis could be made of the current fairness of the hiring process—access that was previously granted other researchers researching matters related to diversity. As we told the Executive Committee, any such research should adopt protocols, such as omitting any identifying information so as not to threaten the privacy of any job applicant.
  • Second, because we were a self-selected rump group of professors, we did not feel authorized to make specific reform proposals. Nor were we a deliberative body with access to the logistical hurdles of implementing an AALS policy. Instead, we urged the formation of an Intellectual Diversity Task Force like the one that was formed in 1999 to address the problem of racial diversity on law school faculties and others that were formed more recently on other topics, such as globalization. Such a task force would then make recommendations to the Executive Committee for its consideration. Only such a task force could thoroughly consider possible AALS initiatives. But such a committee should be chosen for its political balance, unlike the Executive Committee itself, which (to our knowledge) includes no identifiably right-of-center member.

During our general discussion with the Committee, we mentioned one idea that such a task force might consider recommending: asking AALS member schools to report on the intellectual diversity of their faculty as part of their sabbatical evaluation–the way they currently report on other forms of diversity. In response, various Executive Committee members expressed objections to such a proposal—objections that Dean Areen reiterates in her letter on behalf of the Executive Committee. Fair enough. But this is the sort of issue we proposed be hashed out by a balanced task force, not between our rump group and the currently unbalanced Executive Committee. And we did not mention this idea in our letter of last week.

As we previously expressed in our letter, we are grateful to Dean Areen for her courteous reception and to the Executive Committee for meeting with us in January of 2016. We wrote our letter because we had received no formal response to our requests in over a year, and appreciate the response we have now received. But, with all due respect, this response fails to address, or even mention, the thrust of our proposals to address the current imbalance on law school faculties—proposals which we reiterated in our letter of last week.

Indeed, this letter can fairly be read as a silent rejection of these suggestions. Oddly, it discusses an idea we do not mention in the letter to which it is responding, while failing to respond to the ones we do.

I cannot speak for other members of our informal group. But I, for one, still believe that the Executive Committee should make access to FAR form data available to an outside researcher who will follow agreed-upon protocols, and should name a politically-balanced task force to investigate and make recommendations to the Committee for how the current imbalance on law school faculties might be improved.

In the end, this not about us. I, for one, am very happy with my position at Georgetown and how I am treated by my colleagues. This is about the quality of the legal education we provide our students. Imagine how political progressives would react if all, or nearly all, constitutional law courses were taught by political conservatives. Without some semblance of political balance—especially in their public law courses—students on the left, right, and center are deprived of information about the legal and constitutional positions that are now being debated in courtrooms and in Congressional committee hearing rooms—positions they may one day be asked to advance of respond to in litigation.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Legal Education | Permalink


Well, it's time for state legislatures to take their toys away from them.

1. Stop requiring a law degree in order to take the bar exam.

2. Replace the JD degree and it's BA antecedent with a 16 credit calendar year program for which the antecedent would be an arts and sciences certificate and a business certificate which could be completed in about 18 months of study. Add to this certificate programs for law firm employees in specialized areas of law.

3. Cut the number of law degrees the state system hands out. About 450 per year for a state of average population (say, Indiana or Missouri), about 1,100 for a populous state like Illinois, 170 per year for a small state like New Mexico, and scholarships to attend in neighboring states in lieu of a state law school in places like Montana and Vermont. Have the state comptroller audit the school and order faculty dismissals pari passu with enrollment reductions.

4. Limit continuous tenure to 38% of the faculty labor force and debar faculty members who are under 50 and have less than 20 years of service from applying for tenure. Require retirement after 35 years of f/t service.

5. Require a minimum of 7 years as a f/t working lawyer before one may apply for a faculty position in the state system. That's private practice (not the public interest bar), prosecutor's offices, agency counsel, &c. Two years in clerkships could count toward the 7.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 4, 2017 10:18:42 AM

Excuse me, a 16 course (48 credit) calendar year program.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 4, 2017 10:19:22 AM

One other thing. Have a state admissions office which conditions admissions to professional schools on a vector equation which incorporates board scores and college GPA. Limit the discretion of law school faculties to the award of financial aid.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 4, 2017 10:21:46 AM

Gee, the AALS appears to be a nest of left-wing hackery. File this along with gambling in Casablanca.

Posted by: Evergreen Dissident | Mar 4, 2017 12:33:32 PM

"US chamber of commerce refuses to address political imbalance in Fortune 500 boardrooms."

Posted by: Anon | Mar 4, 2017 2:11:22 PM

There's already a dumbed-down law degree. It's called a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies. Or accounting. Or social work. Or "criminology."

If you think people or firms or companies want to hire dumbed down lawyers when they can hire lawyers with real 3-year law degrees--or better yet an LLM in tax on top of that--good luck to you.

Posted by: Dumbed down law degree | Mar 5, 2017 8:42:52 AM

Actually, the AALS did respond.

Barnett just didn't like the response.

After reading some of what these self-proclaimed conservative and libertarian professors have been saying, I would feel very uncomfortable taking one of their classes unless I agreed with their political views.

I'd be worried they'd feel obligated to push for "affirmative action" for people who agree with them by doling out grades according to ideology.

Posted by: Respond | Mar 5, 2017 8:47:34 AM

No one will be surprised to learn that some arrogant professors think they are so much better than everyone else that if not for discrimination against people with their [ideology/politics/race/sex] they'd be at Yale or Stanford by now instead of mucking around at Georgetown or UCLA.

Right guys. I'm sure that's what's holding you back.

Posted by: Arrogant Professors | Mar 5, 2017 9:14:18 AM

Paul, your headline on this post is a fraudulent misrepresentation of the response!

Posted by: Brian | Mar 5, 2017 11:28:53 AM

If you think people or firms or companies want to hire dumbed down lawyers when they can hire lawyers with real 3-year law degrees--or better yet an LLM in tax on top of that--good luck to you.

Abolish the JD entirely. Eliminate inter-state recruitment to JD programs by federal statute and then eliminate intra-state recruitment by state statute. It's padded anyway.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 6, 2017 5:41:14 AM

"US chamber of commerce refuses to address political imbalance in Fortune 500 boardrooms."

There almost certainly isn't a political imbalance, certainly not one on the scale of law faculties.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 6, 2017 5:42:22 AM

The responses here are indicative of what the academy is: a collection of snotty bourbons who need to be stripped of their function as gatekeepers of the labor market in the interests of justice. Employment discrimination law has decayed into a racket for self-aggrandizing lawyers so should go. Occupational testing can go a long way toward replacing signaling degrees. Restructuring degree programs (in particular eliminating the four-year baccalaureate degree) is another measure that will assist. Ending subsidized and guaranteed student loans is another measure which can be employed.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 6, 2017 5:52:17 AM

Yes, Art Deco. Let's get rid of all of the law schools. And all of the colleges. And while we're at it, let's get rid of the high schools and middle schools too. After all, they employ unionized workers!

This will do wonders for the economy. Education has been holding us back from reaching our true potential.

Literacy? Pheh! A liberal conspiracy. Mathematics? I know math was really big in Communist Russia.

Posted by: Burn down everything! | Mar 6, 2017 8:06:02 AM

Art Deco: "US chamber of commerce refuses to address political imbalance in Fortune 500 boardrooms. There almost certainly isn't a political imbalance, certainly not one on the scale of law faculties."

You cannot be serious. Have you ever been to a country club? Or a corporate meeting of any sort?

Posted by: Anon | Mar 6, 2017 8:29:28 AM

Lawyers act more like medieval guilds than any other profession and they protect their privileges well. Doctors think I can understand biology. Engineers think I can understand mechanics. Accountants think I can understand a balance sheet. Only lawyers think you can't understand what they do, that you can't understand the plain meaning of words (because lawyers wrote those words to have special meaning that can only be divined by a JD).

Did you know that you can become an actuary without taking any college level courses? You just have to take some tests that prove you can do math. The legal profession used to be the same. Now, however, it is run by gatekeepers intent on protecting their own interests, an interest that seems to involve indoctrinating lawyers to be good little leftists.

Posted by: Johann Amadeus Metesky | Mar 6, 2017 10:16:54 AM

You cannot be serious. Have you ever been to a country club? Or a corporate meeting of any sort?

You can't be serious. Corporate HR is not the way it is because corporate America is dominated by votaries of Barry Goldwater. The tech industry, media companies, and casino banking are all liberally studded with Democrats. Do you really think BO was raising 10 figure sums from the likes of Barbra Streisand?

You want to find conservatives in business, you'd best attend a local Chamber of Commerce. Among senior executives, you'll find Democrats, you'll find people who think of politicians as fungible, and you'll find Republicans of the ilk of Amory Houghton thick on the ground.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 6, 2017 6:00:26 PM

Yes, Art Deco. Let's get rid of all of the law schools.

If you had an argument, you'd do something other than trade in crude caricature.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 6, 2017 6:01:43 PM

Mr. Deco: Your multi-point program reeks alternately of socialism, fascism, and state control of markets. (After re-reading, I wonder if you are not writing with your tongue firmly in cheek and I/we took the bait. But it wouldn’t be the first time, so here goes.) It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise free-market types are willing to limit entry to the legal services markets by limiting the number of law licenses handed out by the states or seats in law schools. At present, the demand for legal education is declining. In other words, the legal education market is shrinking. Why is this bad? If in the future, there is demand for more legal services, the demand for legal education will grow. But back to your program: Why not just federalize the whole thing, eliminate state bars and bar exams, and have the Feds determine how many U.S. citizens get to be lawyers and where they should work? The DOJ could open a new division to examine and license lawyers, and then assign them to different localities. While we’re at it, the Feds could tell us what kinds of lawyers we can be. And how long we can work as lawyers and/or legal educators and for how much. BTW, what does “the number of law degrees the state system hands out” have to do with anything? The vast majority of law schools are private, and the 15 largest law schools in the U.S. are all private institutions. I am no fan of the current state of the legal academy, but really Mr. Deco. I have now removed my tongue from my cheek.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Mar 7, 2017 6:26:32 AM

Mr. Deco: Your multi-point program reeks alternately of socialism, fascism, and state control of markets.

If you'd gotten a sensible degree instead of going to law school, you wouldn't bandy about nonsense terminology.

I uttered not one word about rationing law licenses. I did say that a law degree should not be a condition to take the bar exam, a provision that certainly would not ration law licenses.

I have nothing to say about private sector law schools bar this: those choosing to attend receive no public subsidies and the loans they take out to attend receive no public guarantee nor creditors receive hypertrophied protection in bankruptcy court; that interstate and international contracts for legal education respect standards articulated in federal law and that intra-state contracts respect state law. Both should articulate an understanding of what a law degree is, and such an understanding would rule out the present-day JD degree in favor of a briefer program with briefer antecedents. Supplementary certificates and degrees might be defined in law, but these would be optional and supplementary,

I did say that state legislatures should direct state schools to cut the number of degrees awarded (something one can accomplish by cutting matriculations). Who else is properly empowered to direct the policies of state institutions? (Yeah, I understand that academics fancy everyone else should cut them checks and let them play in sandboxes without any oversight, I'm just not taking that seriously). What is understood, or should be understood, is that there is currently wretched over-production of law degrees. You could staff today's legal profession readily with 26,000 admissions per annum, but you're awarding 49,000 law degrees per annum. What's wrong with state institutions declining to participate in such overprodcuction? (Yeah, I know, failing to do so would be injurious to the careers of law profs).

It never ceases to amaze me how otherwise free-market types

In case you hadn't noticed, higher education is heavily subsidized, commonly provided by state institutions, and, in this case, is preparing students for a state-dependent career which is state licensed.

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 7, 2017 11:12:42 AM

A market for rent-seeking, interesting concept. That concept makes the health care industry seem like a traditional supply and demand market by comparison, and it most definitely is not...

Posted by: MM | Mar 8, 2017 7:55:59 AM