In an otherwise compelling Weekend Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing for increased pay for federal judges (Judgment Pay), former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker writes:
[W]hat is the reasonable level of judicial compensation? Consider the district courts where the greatest number of judgeships are. While judges cannot expect to equal the salaries of partners in large law firms, the National Commission determined that their compensation should be comparable to that of law school deans, senior professors and other nonprofit leaders. Today, at $165,200, district judge salaries fall more than 50% below what many law school deans or their top professors make. Moreover, unlike those academics and the leaders of nonprofit institutions, there is very limited possibility of earning other income.
Is it really true that "many" law professors (let alone deans) make $330,400 a year? The data suggest not:
• The most recent salary data peg the median law dean salary at $229,561 and the average law professor salary at $136,634.
• The latest SALT salary figures for the 88 responding law schools report the highest median salaries for full professors at these schools:
- Texas: $185,037
- Hofstra: $179,000
- Touro: $172,125
- Ohio State: $164,774
- Houston: $157,301
- George Washington: $154,900
- Illinois: $153,829
- Pace: $153,352
- Florida State: $152,990
- Connecticut: $151,500
Of course, these are average and median salaries and thus may not reflect the salaries of the "top professors" to whom Volcker refers. But I have previously blogged the Top 10 law faculty salaries at the University of California law schools (Berkeley, Davis, UCLA), Michigan, and Virginia, and they fall well short of Volcker's $330,400 figure:
Update: For additional data, see More on Judge and Law Professor Salaries, which notes in part:
From the 2003 Volcker Commission report:
A recent study by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts of salaries of professors and deans at the twenty-five law schools ranked highest in the annual U.S. News and World Report survey found that the average salary for deans of those schools was $301,639. The average base salary for full professors at those law schools was $209,571, with summer research and teaching supplements typically ranging between $33,000 and $80,000.
Adjusted for inflation, the $301,639 average dean's salary at the Top 25 law schools would be worth $338,023 in today's dollars, while the $209,571 full professor base salary would be $234,850 which, when combined with the inflation-adjusted summer stipends of $36,981 - $89,650, would put the total compensation of full professors at Top 25 law schools at $271,831 - $324,500.