Paul L. Caron

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Are Law Professors Greedy?

Deborah Jones Merritt Greed(Ohio State), Greed:

I spoke recently to a senior law professor at an unnamed law school. We discussed the financial problems facing law students and graduates:  the rising tuition, the mounting debt load, and the difficulty finding legal jobs -- let alone jobs that will sustain debt repayments. We also touched upon the pressure that law schools are now facing, as declining enrollments squeeze budgets. I commented that we were starting to see the consequences of our own greed. "We haven't been greedy!" he replied indignantly.

This professor earns more than $200,000 per year. His law school falls outside the Tluxe, but it enjoys a healthy endowment. The school has raised tuition by 130% since 2002 -- a period during which other prices increased only 25%. Like most law schools, this school raised tuition during the Great Recession, as job prospects for law graduates plunged, as median starting salaries for those graduates plummeted, and as graduate debtloads soared. After our talk, I checked the website for this professor's school:  The school will raise tuition and fees by another 6% during the coming year. Inflation, meanwhile, is just 1.7% -- and trending downward.

If this isn't greed, I don't know what is. This particular school isn't unusual; its figures parallel numbers at schools around the country -- including the salary for one of its most senior, valued members. Yet this professor, like so many others, doesn't believe that law schools have been greedy. Why not?

One reason is the very human tendency to believe that we are worth the money and perks given to us. If salaries and research support have gone up over the last ten years, while teaching loads have gone down, that must be because we are such terrific scholars. Or maybe it is because we offer such a wonderful education that students are willing to pay more for our classes. If we're paid what we're worth, that's not greed. Self-interest stops faculty from asking whether some other factor could lie behind this shower of tuition money.

The other reason is that, with a slight amendment, the ideology LawProf suggested earlier today is one that a majority (most?) Americans vigorously endorse: "Grab, within the outer limits of the law, everything that isn't nailed down for as long as you can get away with it." ...

Higher education has enthusiastically joined the chorus. As long as the federal government will allow us to charge whatever we want, let's do it. Students will take out the loans, no matter how high we raise tuition, because they need a degree to have a shot at a decent job and standard of living. There's nothing illegal about what we're doing: Somebody arranged this gravy train and we'd be pretty stupid to refuse the gravy. In fact, we'd fall behind all of those other schools eagerly loading up! And that, of course, would cause our rankings to fall. ...

We certainly have the legal right to take advantage of these market distortions; the government itself created the programs. But when we take those steps, we have to recognize what we are doing to students, their families, the taxpayers, and the future legal profession. We certainly have to acknowledge that we are being greedy -- and not in the good way that feeds a free market.    

Note:  I edited this post to lower the salary named in the "This professor earns more than . . . " sentence. The focus here isn't on the particular professor, but on law professors and schools generally. The best information we have on law faculty salaries appears in a TaxProf Blog entry. [More here.] Note that none of the top 27 schools participated in that survey; their median salaries almost surely are higher than the ones reported there. It may also be true that law professors deserve the salaries they currently earn. If we could keep those salaries without raising tuition repeatedly on the back of government loans, I would be the first to endorse our salaries. If it's a free market, it's not greed. If it's a government subsidized market with other people (students and taxpayers) paying the price, then it's greed.

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I will say this for our OSU Professor. She uses her real name.

Posted by: Rick Underwood | Aug 15, 2012 9:15:05 AM

"Oh, and I also recently overheard two full-time, tenured law professors who were teaching bar review courses over the summer discussing - without irony - which color Acuras they were going to buy with their part-time income."

Sounds like a predictable conversation among the sort of limousine liberal poseurs who populate law faculties from coast to coast. No surprise that these self styled crusaders for "justice" and "critical inquiry" would buy non-UAW built vehicles. Another reason why most working Americans will have no sympathy for what happens to law faculties over the next decade.

MacK's 10:04 post is on time and on target.

Posted by: Voodoo94us | Aug 14, 2012 11:08:06 AM

MacK-- give it up. Everyone knows you are making way too much of this. It looms to large in your mind. You've grown tiresome.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 14, 2012 10:25:45 AM

At a faculty meeting this past spring, our dean opened by announcing that the University was significantly cutting the law school budget for the then-in-progress fiscal year.

The first question from one of the faculty members?

"How will these budget cuts affect our summer research stipends?" (Some of our faculty are paid $10,000 over the summer - in addition to their regular salaries and any income they get from holding an endowed chair - to do academic research.)

This seems like a fairly greedy attitude to me.

(In case you were wondering, the dean then went on to assure the faculty that their summer research stipends - with an aggregate value of around $150,000 - would not be touched.)

Oh, and I also recently overheard two full-time, tenured law professors who were teaching bar review courses over the summer discussing - without irony - which color Acuras they were going to buy with their part-time income.

Posted by: anonymous | Aug 14, 2012 8:40:16 AM


"MacK , that's a pretty slippery and dishonest move." Somehow I think you exhort your students to think like a lawyer.

For your information - I have done all of these things. Most law firm partners and a good few senior associates I know have done most of these things. You were "present when [other] people did." You think that on pro bono projects you did:

3. Had final signoff on any legal pleading
4. Argued at a legal hearing
5. Devised a litigation strategy
9. Ran a case

But almost certainly in 3, 5 and 9 you had a senior lawyer looking over your shoulder and in 4 you were advised as to how to handle the hearing. I note that a pretty basic task was not something you did - drafting a contract - nor have you ever personally brought in a client or negotiated a fee.

Here is the catch - as a law professor you probably think that when you grace actual legal practice with you brilliance and depth of knowledge you should arrive as say a partner, or maybe at least a senior associate. But you do not have any of the skills and experience I would expect someone to have to do these roles. Indeed, you don't even have the judgment to do these roles as evidenced by your own postings, or a real idea of what these roles involved as evidenced by your naïve vanities posted through this thread. You would not be hired as a junior associate by most law firms and you certainly would not be paid what you are currently receiving as a law professor - or likely even half of that.

The situation right now for law schools is pretty grim - a number of law schools are going to close and it is pretty easy to list the most certain to go amongst the ABA accredited schools. Others will have to find a way to restructure to lower revenue, higher workloads for professors and a demand that they change emphasis to be more practice orientated - which most of their current faculty are not qualified to do.

I think law professors who are too young to take early retirement over the next 3-10 years (i.e., 20s-40s) need to start thinking long and hard about this - is their school one of the likely to close - and if that happens who will employ them and how much will that employer pay. The answers are painful to think about

Posted by: MacK | Aug 14, 2012 7:04:38 AM

MacK , that's a pretty slippery and dishonest move. I said that several years at a law firm would allow an associate to know what lawyers do. You turn that into me saying that I did all the things that senior associates and partners do. You conflate knowing what lawyers do with doing it. I never said that. As for your list, I have been present when people did 1,2, 5, and 8, and thus knew what those lawyers were doing. I did do 3,4,5, and 9-- but for no money, pro bono cases. Your list of what activities a person has to have engaged in before they can be said to know what it means to be a lawyer would disqualify even senior associates at some firms.

Yabba Dabba Doo, or whatever, -- that's just silly. There are plenty of experienced lawyers who have not done those things. There are plenty of other things that lawyers do that you don't have on your list. And, as a matter fact, I do know how to do some of the activities on your list.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 10:28:59 PM

JMH- I use the standalone example to indicate that the reason that law school faculties are not cutting salaries/wages or decreasing tuition probably has nothing to do with a belief that central will refuse to go along with it. If this were the case, standalone schools seem to be in a perfect position to compete with other schools on price. You seem to be under the impression that law faculties want to do this but are constrained by a fear of central. The standalone example illustrates that this is probably not a determinative factor.

However, a number of law schools have managed to decrease class size by significant amounts- including affiliated law schools. See this thread This would also cut into the amount of revenue gained by central. It is likely that they are doing this to maintain USNWR medians and increase employment percentages. This makes me think that law schools have more discretion than you let on, or that central is more amenable to the practical/USNWR arguments in favor.

Additionally, even if the effort does fail, what is the harm in trying? If the vote is to cut tuition, then either central rejects or accepts it. If they accept, that is money that is not coming in, so they can't use it for their own "selfish" purposes, as opposed to the selfish purposes of law professors. If the vote is to slash salaries/benefits/increase teaching loads/layoff employees, then the university risks being publicly shamed.

Posted by: BoredJD | Aug 13, 2012 7:56:22 PM

Professor Caron,


Judging by the sheer number of comments (Are people just getting back from vacation? Discovering the internet exists?) I can only say:

The Revolution Is Here, Baby!

Posted by: cas127 | Aug 13, 2012 7:31:51 PM

One does not have to practice law for years and years to know basically what lawyers do.

It's all in the word basically. Do you know how lawyers structure cross border acquisitions, what steps bring disputes to final judgment, and what are the "commercial" terms in a real estate work-out? Can you describe the basic elements of an SPA or class action status? What regulatory & commercial bridges are crossed in opening a brick 'n' mortar business, a PE or hedge fund, an Internet service? I would not say that I basically know all of those things, even though I have seen them all accomplished from the front row.

Posted by: Yo Gabba Gabba | Aug 13, 2012 11:29:59 AM

Really JMH - and in your time as a gilded child of big law did you:

1. Plan a pitch and deliver it to a major client,
2. Negotiate a fee agreement with a client
3. Have final signoff on any legal pleading
4. Argue at a legal hearing
5. Devise a litigation strategy
6. Negotiate a contract
7. Draft a contract (not use a form book, or adapt a contract - but draft one)
8. Negotiate a settlement
9. Run a case
10. Deal with a budget
11. Deal with leases, office equipment and overhead.

Somehow I think you were sheltered from just about everything on this list. Somehow I think that you are convinced that you did all these things as a BigLaw junior associate (I bet it is on your resumé.) Don't kid yourself.

Posted by: MacK | Aug 13, 2012 11:18:46 AM

@BoredJD-- Yes, there are stand alones. But they are the decided minority. Why not deal with the question that affects more students?

On the second point. What evidence do you have that this will work? Unless you intend this as symbolic a gesture. Universities use money from divisions that do well to help divisions that do less well. It does not strike me that they would be amenable to a move that gave them less money to do that.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 10:56:13 AM


1) Some law schools are not affiliated with central university and so can do this unilaterally.

2) The cut tuition along with a note to central that says "in order to remain a competitive institution and fulfill our mission of improving the lives of our students, we cannot continue to charge this extreme level of tuition. So we are voting to lower it." CC: the media. Then central will either 1) agree to the cuts, 2) be seen by other departments as directly flouting the collective will of an entire department and by the public as miserly.

Posted by: BoredJD | Aug 13, 2012 8:36:54 AM

I had a previous comment that is apparently a misfire. If it shows up, sorry for posting on this subject twice. Look, I know how my firm staffed cases/deals. And I know what I did during the time I was there. Not all associates do the same things and have the same courses through their time at firms. If you spent your time in BigLaw doing nothing but document review, then that was your experience. It was not mine. If you never talked to senior associates and partners about what they did, that was your experience.It was not mine. I stand by what I said. One does not have to practice law for years and years to know basically what lawyers do. That's all. It's not a big deal. I don't know why you are so agitated by this.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 8:21:51 AM

JMH - thank you for taking the time to reply. As for "would not take years for an observant and interested person to get a sense", I think you're right but I'm not sure getting "a sense" of the profession is the standard I would apply to this particular conversation.

To my way of thinking, having worked at, worked with, and now (as a client-attorney) acting as a purchaser the services of what I might crudely refer to as "noob" attorneys (those with a year or two of practice), those couple of years tend to give not more than a fish-bowl view of the practice of law. I frankly don't think that I or any of my colleagues had a good grip on it sooner than year 4 or 5. And I don't mean "an expert grip" (more like year 10-12 there), just a firm grip.

But my standard here differs from yours as mentioned above, and I didn't earlier read yours carefully enough. For this particular conversation, I am thinking, "practiced long enough to have a solid enough background to enable re-entry to the marketplace", while you're thinking more in terms of having a basic understanding of the practice.

In that regard, it was probably unfair of me to specifically direct my question to you, but I'm new here and your comment struck me as much more thoughtful than those of "Eric" or "Aaron".

Thanks again.

Posted by: Who, Me? | Aug 13, 2012 6:47:46 AM

@Mack-- You don't know who you are talking to, or what you are talking about.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 6:27:33 AM

JMH " two years into my stay, having worked with a number of excellent lawyers, I can say that I understood the basics of what lawyers do"

Wow, you were unusually precocious - and that was at BigLaw? 2 years of document review ... proofreading ... drafting objections to RFIs ??

You are deluded.

Posted by: MacK | Aug 13, 2012 4:20:15 AM

So, BoredJD, the law professors at Law U. could vote to cut tuition at the school, send it over to central administration and central would say, what...?

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 4:12:55 AM

@ Who,me? It would not take years for an observant and interested person to get a sense of what the practice of law is about. You seem to be conflating being an expert in the practice with the ability to be basically knowledgeable about what lawyers do. That does not require many years. You don't have to know every single detail of an activity or a thing to know its general properties.

Okay, I practiced more than the average. But by two years into my stay, having worked with a number of excellent lawyers, I can say that I understood the basics of what lawyers do. And again, I know many law professors who gain knowledge of practice through their family relations and the other circumstances I mentioned above. It's just an exaggeration to say that law professors know nothing about what lawyers do.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 13, 2012 3:50:43 AM

The charge of hypocrisy is more fairly brought against against the advocates of social justice and a fairer society that populate law schools and their administrations, who fail to notice that implementing these concepts should start close to home. Many law professors are vocal about such issues, but fall uneasily silent when the focus turns to law schools – if not simply flinging accusations of hypocrisy.

It also falls IMHO heavily on those who a teaching law, but have no real knowledge of the legal professions. To take a few examples:

Senior professors may get a little bit more than $200k but an attorney with the same number of years of expertise earns much much much more.
Aaron G

Aaron G – are you delusional or just ignorant? Have you heard of the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Should you be teaching law school if you do not know of it … of how in 10 seconds to check your statement. The median attorney earns $112,760 a year, the mean $130,170 – and most in that category would be as experienced as the typical law professor. That number is what the typical 20 year veteran is making.

Anyone who is a professor could make more money in another job.
Eric Rasmusen

Again – ignorance? Does Mr. Rasmussen have any idea how the average pay of a law professor stacks up against the average pay of well – other people? Does he have any idea how the salary of a law professor (with tenure) stacks up against the income of the typical lawyer?

The idea of the academic who has no idea what lawyers do is an exaggeration designed to make a caricature.

JMH – you did notice that Aaron G’s and Eric Rasmussen’s postings were ahead of this statement by you??

I think most professors are well aware of the differences between private practice and the academy. I, and many of my colleagues, did practice law before coming into academia.

JMH – have you actually looked at the statistics on the typical experience of law professors – 2.6 years. Have you read the comments on academic job searches that suggest that too much practice experience hampers the ability of candidate professors to obtain a position? Do you really think that the experience of the academically bound JD in any firm or agency is typical or practicing law – in that say 1 year to 18 months?

Posted by: MacK | Aug 13, 2012 3:26:01 AM

"The information that there is a bubble in law is out there in a prominent way and impossible to miss, moreover, law students are not really vulnerable or uneducated to a point that they need (or indeed appreciate) 'help and protection' here. But I do agree that the entire thing is grossly overpriced, caveat emptor is the word here."

Caveat emptor is not a defense to fraud. And law students are hardly "rational actors," having been heavily socialized into overestimating the value of higher education, as well as displaying a number of obvious cognitive biases in their decision-making process. The system regularly exploits these biases. Not something a non-profit organization made up of supposedly ethical people and funded by government backed loans should be relying on to continue its business model. This is what DJM is talking about when she says they are "greedy."

"Clearly this is a management problem and it would be insane (and impossible) for employees to fix it, moreover, you'd be destroying the non-existent free market here even further -- if you hand wages back, the tuition will not get cheaper, but the incompetent management will probably buy gilded marble frescos for their offices... given their current track record of wasting resources ;)"

On the contrary, the tenured professors are the management (or more accurately, the partners in a general partnership). They are the highest paid employees. The benefits, perks, and resource increases accrue mostly to them. Unlike the deans and administrators, they can almost never be fired except for seriously egregious conduct. Although a dean may be more powerful than any one professor, he can hardly stand against the entire faculty. To say that the professors could not move to lower tuition is ludicrous. Whether they have the will is another question.

Posted by: BoredJD | Aug 12, 2012 10:20:03 PM

Why professors may attack Ryan:

Ryan's Higher Ed Record best-known as the architect of a House of Representatives budget plan to slash discretionary spending, including federal research funding, student loans and the Pell Grant program, over the next decade.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 12, 2012 8:57:30 PM

JMH writes, "I, and many of my colleagues, did practice law before coming into academia..."

One wonders though, "for how long"? Many lawprof CV's show 12 months in federal court, then 18-24 months in biglaw before jumping to something more administrative in nature and then teaching. (I do not know JMH, s/he may have much more law practice under his/her belt.) In any event, many of the CV's I've seen barely have enough actual law practice to have gotten the feet wet.

Very interesting points about lawprofs being well-connected in a long-term sense to "real" law practice in other ways (via spouses, other family members). Even more interesting is that Prof. Merritt's reply here, which JMH may not have seen, really reinforced that notion.

Posted by: Who, me? | Aug 12, 2012 6:41:33 PM

I think that "greed" is a poorly chosen word here. The phrase, "If it's a free market, it's not greed. If it's a government subsidized market with other people (students and taxpayers) paying the price, then it's greed," tries to justify the use, but doesn't do nearly a good enough job. Just about everyone in the US participates in a distorted market. Law Profs and other Profs (myself included) participate in a market that is more distorted by government intervention than most. But few of us have much to do with creating the distortions. It is wrong to criticize those who try to gain as much as possible within the system by producing what the system demands. Greed comes not cashing the paychecks from a flawed system, but from supporting more distortions.

Posted by: Bob_R | Aug 12, 2012 5:52:03 PM

What amount would not be greedy? Why not take the same pay as the janitor? Or, work for free, since all those years of tenure have made everyone rich? How about, donating whatever you think is too much of your earnings to the IRS?

(I don't think that 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is a good strategy here.(or anywhere for that matter))

Clearly this is a management problem and it would be insane (and impossible) for employees to fix it, moreover, you'd be destroying the non-existent free market here even further -- if you hand wages back, the tuition will not get cheaper, but the incompetent management will probably buy gilded marble frescos for their offices... given their current track record of wasting resources ;)

Finally, the tax payer is indeed a forced 'customer' but the student voluntarily enters the agreement and decides to pay the tuition. The information that there is a bubble in law is out there in a prominent way and impossible to miss, moreover, law students are not really vulnerable or uneducated to a point that they need (or indeed appreciate) 'help and protection' here.

But I do agree that the entire thing is grossly overpriced, caveat emptor is the word here.

Posted by: Hexe Froschbein | Aug 12, 2012 4:42:39 PM

"Anyone who is a professor could make more money in another job."

Don't flatter yourselves. Like zoo raised big cats, you'd starve if not hand fed.

Posted by: Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat | Aug 12, 2012 4:18:58 PM

In a competitive market, as apposed to a monopoly, the unit quality of the goods or services produced would improve while the unit costs of those goods and services would decline:The only sector I've observed where costs decline while quality improves is computers. Surely the disproportionately gross staffing patterns of the administrative state, predominantly by lawyers who make up only .5 percent of the population, explains a good deal of that inelastic monopoly pricing of professional services during deflation?

Posted by: don | Aug 12, 2012 4:06:14 PM

Anon 10:27 reminds me of the adage that law is the one lucrative profession open to the mathematically ignorant. The value of a law degree (which is more like a rent than a service) cannot reasonably be estimated without considering i.a., opportunity cost of seven years as a student, interest on loans and probability of ever working as a lawyer.

Posted by: FC | Aug 12, 2012 4:01:37 PM

One way that might help to cross-pollinate real lawyers with law schools and law students would be for an MCLE requirement to include one class per cycle--in person, not online--at an accredited law school. Make the cost nominal.

As for charges of hypocrisy, well, even if that's correct that doesn't bear on the truth of the claim. It's just attacking the speaker for saying something you don't like, which is, for most people, screw you, I got mine, I'm elite, let the rest perish. Well, that may be what your intellect tells you to think, but it doesn't make you a hero.

Posted by: jon | Aug 12, 2012 2:51:11 PM

It's a market distortion because, in properly functioning markets, there is no fraud. With the product of law school, fraud (such as the placement statistics which two District Courts have characterized as unbelievable) is the key driver of demand.

Posted by: anon | Aug 12, 2012 2:18:26 PM

Law professors. Massively overpaid compared with other academics -- with proper academics, one might well say. Required to do very little actual teaching compared with real academics. Produce faux "scholarship" that virtually no one ever reads and has no practical value, published in journals run by resume-padding students. Waste countless hours on the internet. Enjoy agreeable stress-free lifestyle far removed from the rigor of law practice. All at the expense of naive students and unsuspecting taxpayers. And when someone finally exposes your boondoggle, whine about hypocrisy.

Posted by: Barbara Seville | Aug 12, 2012 1:59:45 PM

I think most professors are well aware of the differences between private practice and the academy. I, and many of my colleagues, did practice law before coming into academia. And what people forget is that, for quite some time now, lawyers have been marrying one another. I know a number of lawyer couples with one spouse who teaches. Then there are the other family connections. I read not long ago a study that suggested that law profs tend to come from more affluent backgrounds. Not always, but in some cases, that affluence comes from having had a lawyer parent. I have several colleagues whose fathers were attorneys. Then there are the academics who consult or volunteer their time in pro bono cases. This happens enough that there are rules designed to prevent them from spending to much time doing this to the detriment of their teaching jobs. Through a variety of ways, law profs know what is going on in practice. The idea of the academic who has no idea what lawyers do is an exaggeration designed to make a caricature.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 12, 2012 11:59:31 AM

A few thoughts in response: First, I wrote a post about institutional rather than personal greed. The title here wasn't my title, Aaron G., but I don't mind the amendment for this reason: I deliberately used the word "greed" because it makes clear that institutional decisions get made by people. We talk a lot about "tuition rising" or "law schools raising tuition," and it sounds very impersonal. The tuition seems to rise all by itself.

There are people behind those decisions, and we professors are among those people. We may or may not be personally greedy, and we are certainly not the only ones making the decisions, but we are allowing our institutions to do some very economically questionable things. And we do, as tenured faculty, have the power to speak up.

Some of you know my scholarship from other areas. I think I am someone who looks at the facts. I have also, B. Mannerheim, done serious empirical research (and I am preparing a project on law graduate outcomes). Over time I have advocated for positions that don't always line up ideologically in the minds of others. I have done that because the facts and analysis led me there.

I'm a strong supporter of scholarship; if you look at my CV I think you'll see that. I'm also a supporter of teaching innovations, based on the cognitive science research. I am the staunchest supporter ever of legal education--my father was a law professor and I have spent my entire life with professors and lawyers.

That's why I am so passionate about this issue: We are breaking legal education. We are also breaking the lives of many students who come to our institutions. I know and talk to many, many graduates--not just the ones who come to alumni events or have the six-figure jobs.

I urge all of you to check into the facts, just as you would for good scholarship. Some of the facts are already out there. I'll be posting soon on how you can obtain more facts about students and graduates at your own individual schools.

Finally, I have stated many times (and will say here again) that I will readily take a salary cut along with other professors of my rank. But this isn't about one or two professors volunteering to cut their salaries; we need to make profound changes in the way that legal education is structured and financed. Faculties need to get together to talk about that--not denounce people who are willing to raise these questions publicly.

Meanwhile, I give significant amounts of money to PILF and our school's career-start program. I urge other professors to do the same; donating to your school's LRAP is another way to help. None of these donations get to the structural problems--in some ways they prolong the problems--but they will help particular students who need the help. I currently give 2.5% of my salary and plan to increase that. Are others on board with that? Or are you so confident that the federal government is still making money from your school's graduates, and/or that the degree is paying for itself ten times over?

Teaching load: I volunteered to teach 12 credits this year, not the 10 my school requires. That includes a new 4-credit prep. That's not unusual for me; I change my teaching package to offer what the institution and students need. This year I'll be teaching a large section of evidence and two clinics. I think perhaps employers care about those subjects?

Posted by: Deborah J Merritt | Aug 12, 2012 11:38:29 AM

As a recent law graduate, I am not sure how some law professors compare their employment to positions within the private sector. It's apples and oranges. Sure, most law professors have the intellect to work at large law firms. I doubt, however, that most could readjust to the demands of private practice. Associates are *billing* 2,500 or more hours at the law firms you speak of. That doesn't count all the non-billable work thrown on their desk. If you are at a large accounting firm, good luck getting through busy season. Give up on seeing your spouse or children for several months. I say this having worked at both a large accounting firm and at a large law firm.

Yes, perhaps I don't understand the stressors or workload of academia. But I think I have had enough exposure while serving on student-faculty committees, sitting on an articles board, and working as a teaching assistant. From my vantage point, I would gladly take a pay cut to teach three classes a year and publish a few articles.

Perhaps the grass is always greener.

Posted by: HTA | Aug 12, 2012 10:30:55 AM

Will some schools close? Sure, that is possible. Those professors will have to find other jobs. I was referring to your confident suggestion that the people commenting on this blog are at schools where that is going to happen. I apologize if you actually know commenters here and know their situations. The more likely scenario is that fewer people will get to be law professors as fewer people choose to go to law school. Those people will seek alternative employment. Because they will just be starting out, they will have the same shot at being successful on whatever path they take as their fellow graduates who had no interest in teaching.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 12, 2012 6:01:50 AM

Professors face their own wake-up call.

I know very few profs who would be able to make it through even the first year of a large accounting firm's tax practice. Professors' notion of the real world ("what they could do if they weren't law school faculty") is laughable.

(I exclude Prof Caron from the above criticism as he actually knows and understands what life is like for real-world tax practitioners.)

Posted by: Agreeing with Steven | Aug 12, 2012 3:30:38 AM

Wishful thinking, Steven.

Posted by: JMH | Aug 11, 2012 8:14:03 PM

DJM really struck a nerve with y'all didn't she? I'm so glad you choose to respond to her like this this because it relieves me and everybody of any need to feel the slightest bit bad over what is about to happen to you. Think you can make more in private practice? You're about to find out.

Posted by: Steven | Aug 11, 2012 6:07:19 PM

Given the out-of-control inflation of tuition, Obama could declare a wage-price freeze on all colleges that accept federal funds directly or through guaranteed student loans, as long as he's immitating Nixon in other ways. After all, professors shouldn't want to get more than their "fair share." How many of you are in?!

Posted by: Woody | Aug 11, 2012 11:49:44 AM

Can we please put the small handful of masochistic law professors who:

-want to cut their own salary,
-think law school is a risky investment (or outright scam),
-refuse to teach anything employers care about,
-don't know how to do serious empirical research,

Together at one law school and safely away from the rest of us?

How about we trade them for the faculty at SLU, who I'm sure are eager to exit?

The interim dean of SLU will be more than happy to deny the new faculty summer research stipends and cut their salaries.

SLU can then proceed to experiment with a low tuition, low wage, no scholarship model that will attract only the least qualified professors, the least ambitious students, and the least discriminating employers.

And once this doomed social experiment fails, we can put this rather juvenile discussion behind us.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 11, 2012 11:10:34 AM

Post hoc, propter hoc. Law profs may be greedy but that doesn't account for the fact that tuition for higher ed generally has outpaced inflation. There must be other factors at work here.

Posted by: B Mannerheim | Aug 11, 2012 10:31:23 AM

The lesson learned here is, don't talk to people who blog for "Inside the Law School Scam" as they are big time hypocrites (This should be obvious). They'll tell anonymous stories on par with Harry Reid's "this guy I know" stories.

Oh, and how much does Deborah Jones Merritt make? $241,060 as of 2010.

GREEDY! How can she justify such an exorbitant salary. Oh I get it, now that she "blogs for the students" her salary is justified. She's railing against the system that funds her insane salary in a place with a super low cost of living.

$241,060 in Columbus, Ohio? That's like $364,292 in Washington DC or $397,533 in Los Angeles.

She can lecture me some more when OSU cuts its tuition and she ups her teaching load, cuts her own salary, and stops collecting royalty checks from her books.

I spoke recently to a senior professor and an anonymous student at an undisclosed location and they told me that the fact that she blogs for reform while collecting her exorbitant pay doesn't make her a reformer, it just makes her a hypocrite.

Her words: "If it's a free market, it's not greed. If it's a government subsidized market with other people (students and taxpayers) paying the price, then it's greed." SHE WORKS AT A GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZED SCHOOL! Students and taxpayers are funding her exorbitant salary and she has the gall to lecture anyone about greed?

Give me a break.

Posted by: LessonLearned | Aug 11, 2012 10:17:55 AM

I speculate that professors are more prone to envy than to greed. Anyone who is a professor could make more money in another job. We're like professional baseball players: fortunate because people offer us a lot more than our switch-professions wage. But we do have an inclination to feel deprived if our colleague earns $1,000 more than we do, or if we see someone in the private sector earning $100,000 more.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Aug 11, 2012 8:41:11 AM

After 32 years at my school I am paid around 130K. I am at my state's "flagship" university. We are below benchmark on every standard when it comes to support, and below benchmark on salaries. As the faculty, we want to keep tuition low, but we have no say in the matter. Tuition increases hurt us, because we become less competitive, but University Administrators are too short-sighted to care. From where I sit, your sweeping generalizations about Professor greed are a bit much, I think. Of course, being a graduate of your school, I could never get a job there making your salary, so you can disregard my views.

Posted by: Rick Underwood | Aug 11, 2012 8:14:09 AM

In what universe is charging a market price for a service that pays for itself 10 times over a "market distortion"?

That's a properly functioning market.

If you want to see a distorted market, look at government run schools (i.e., state schools) that have capped tuition and have been forced to cut back on all kinds of equipment and services. State schools have become B-leagues where the richer private schools can recruit under-appreciated and under compensated faculty talent.

The Federal Government turns a profit on its student loans, so that's not a distortion either.

Is it a market distortion when some things increase faster than inflation than others? No, because inflation is an index, primarily tied to consumer goods, not services (or asset values).

Increases in the cost of education are not out of line with increases in the cost of medical care or the cost of legal services.

What is DJM's vision of a properly functioning market for higher education?

Government imposed price controls?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 11, 2012 7:27:06 AM

I see many issues in this post. First of all, the title refers to professors but it talks mostly about tuition and its increase. As I am sure the author of the article knows, tuition's increase is not directly connected to professors' salaries' increase. I don't think that professors' salaries increased 130% since 2002. Money from tuition's increase goes somewhere else, to pay larger staff, to renovate classrooms and equipments, to create new programs for students, etc.

Another issue is that professors' salaries have a lower increase rate than any other profession in the legal field and they reach a lower maximum cap. Senior professors may get a little bit more than $200k but an attorney with the same number of years of expertise earns much much much more.

Posted by: Aaron G | Aug 11, 2012 6:24:07 AM