TaxProf Blog

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

'Full Citizenship Project For All Law Faculty' Launched To Correct Gender Disparities Among Law Profs

My Dean 3Press Release, On International Women's Day, Advocacy Groups Launch “Full Citizenship Project for Law Faculty”:

Professional associations unite to support full institutional citizenshipan effort to correct gender and related disparities among law faculty

The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) announce the launch of a new initiative aimed at correcting gender and related disparities among U.S. law faculty.  Organizers chose International Women’s Day (March 8) to launch the “Full Citizenship Project for All Law Faculty” because of the professional status challenges that continue to plague skills-based and academic support law faculty, who are predominantly women.

As law faculty status and salaries decrease, the percentage of women faculty increases. Based on available data, roughly—and only—36 percent of tenured or tenure track faculty are female, whereas 63 percent of clinical faculty and 70 percent of legal writing faculty are female. This disparity is due to faculty teaching in skills-based areas often being denied the opportunity to earn the same security of position and academic freedom that traditional law faculty enjoy. Yet security of position and academic freedom are needed for a robust classroom and innovative teaching in all areas of law.

The Full Citizenship Project kicks off the start of a campaign to raise awareness about the challenges facing many of the many women and men who teach in skills-based positions. “The goal of this project is to gain support among all law school administrators and faculty for our view that no justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method,” said Kim D. Chanbonpin, President of the Legal Writing Institute. “We believe these rights are now necessary more than ever before to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.”

The first step of this project involves gathering signatures from across the country endorsing the Full Citizenship Statement, which has already been adopted by these organizations and by the Society of American Law Teachers Board of Governors. A copy of the Full Citizenship Statement is available here.

We invite all interested parties—both within and beyond the legal academy—to endorse the Statement by signing here. The signature campaign begins on International Women’s Day (March 8) and will end on Equal Pay Day (April 4). Organizers plan to report and present the results of the project to interested organizations, including the American Association of Law Schools, the American Bar Association, and the American Law Deans Association. More information about the Citizenship Project is available on the LWI website.

About LWI and ALWD: The Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving legal communication by supporting the development of teaching and scholarly resources and establishing forums to discuss the study, teaching, and practice of professional legal writing. LWI has nearly 3,000 members representing 38 countries. The Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) is a non-profit professional association of directors of legal reasoning, research, writing, analysis, and advocacy programs from law schools throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. ALWD has more than 300 members representing more than 150 law schools. The mission of ALWD is to pursue activities to help law schools provide excellent legal writing instruction.

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This works if legal writing faculty have the same qualifications, aside from gender, of other facultly. Often they don't.

Posted by: mike livingston | Mar 8, 2017 9:33:02 PM

At our school they do, and are tenured/tenure track as a result. Our legal writing faculty do scholarship, and are an equal part of our faculty, as are our clinicians. If they are not as qualified, it generally speaks to a deficiency at the school in the hiring process, rather than the field itself - for example, if there is no tenure track, and no supports for scholarship, how do you expect to attract the best qualified candidates?

Posted by: Lori McMillan | Mar 9, 2017 7:50:27 AM

I'm not sure what "qualifications" you're referring to. LWI and ALWD are advocating for equal faculty status and equal pay -- Surely all full-time faculty who devote themselves to teaching, service, and scholarship are entitled to things like academic freedom, faculty voting rights, and equal pay.

Shameless plug for my article on this subject:

Posted by: Catherine Christopher | Mar 9, 2017 8:33:39 AM

The equal pay argument makes no sense. LRW faculty, like tenure-track faculty, are recruited in a free labor market. At my school, we get a hundred applications from local attorneys every time we advertise an LRW position. Those folks are thrilled to escape legal practice for a job that pays half of what a tenure track faculty job would pay. Tenure track faculty, in contrast, are recruited on a very competitive national market. If you tried to hire a tenure-track faculty member for $75,000 per year, you would get only the worst of the bunch to accept your offer. On the other hand, you very well would be able to get a very fine LRW instructor. Raising LRW salaries to tenure track levels in that circumstance would be a financial travesty. You would, in essence, be telling students that they need to pay much more in tuition than they otherwise needed to pay, in order to give a salary windfall to people who very willingly would have worked for much less.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Mar 9, 2017 4:59:26 PM

Jason, if I read you correctly, your position is that LRW faculty should be paid what they’re willing to take, while doctrinal faculty should be paid what they’re worth. I reject the dichotomy. Law schools could certainly fill doctrinal slots with folks willing to accept less pay, but doctrinal faculty slots are not auctioned off to the lowest bidder. They shouldn’t be, but neither should LRW -- or clinical, or academic support, or library -- positions. Using a free-market theory, higher LRW salaries would attract better candidates. (I do not mean to disparage your school’s current LRW faculty, of course.)

Posted by: Catherine Christopher | Mar 10, 2017 7:15:13 AM

Jason, if your school advertised locally for a Torts professor or Contracts professor, I'm sure you'd also get a hundred resumes from local lawyers willing to take $75k salary. You say that you'd only get the "worst of the bunch." To assume that a local lawyer could be a fine legal writing instructor but not a fine contracts professor or Torts professor is incredibly insulting to the field of legal writing. I teach Torts and legal writing. It is a LOT harder to teach legal writing than Torts. A lot more time consuming. A lot more student interaction. I have to learn new substantive law each year depending on the subject matter of the problems we are using. Etc.

Posted by: Todd Bruno | Mar 10, 2017 10:44:21 AM

Jason, you are correct, of course. I am an LRW professor and many of us want to make less so as to not have a scholarship requirement. Your position is anathema though to those in the LRW community. In fact, your comment was shared on the LWI listserv with a call to action to come here and disagree with you. Thus, if you see a large number of postings pushing back, please know that was artificially generated.

Posted by: contractfaculty | Mar 10, 2017 11:17:35 AM

I agree with Catherine. In a hiring decision, when choosing between a good-enough lawyer seeking to escape the rat race, and a highly qualified candidate who wants pay equivalent to her colleagues, I think the highly qualified candidate wins. It is a mistake to assume there is a supply of good-enough lawyer candidates who are willing to remain at these jobs despite the low pay. The school then suffers loss of experienced teachers, institutional memory, and continuity in teaching. And the initial comment assumes that skills teaching simply requires one to find a good lawyer. But being a good lawyer and teaching others how to be a good lawyer are two different disciplines. Teaching others the skills necessary to practice law requires knowledge different from that required to practice law, in the same way that being an excellent contracts law professor requires a skill set different from that required to be an excellent drafter of contracts.

Posted by: Jennifer carr | Mar 10, 2017 11:18:46 AM

Yes, you could run a law school that hires its tenure-track professors from the local legal market, and it would be a lot cheaper than hiring them through the AALS. But would this be a good law school? It certainly wouldn’t be one that does a particularly good job of engaging in the study of law at an intellectually high level. We make fun of law prof research quite a bit, but it is still hard to do, and most practicing lawyers don’t have the interest in or capability to do it. For law schools attached to major research universities, such a model of hiring would be hugely problematic as well. How would you ever get your law professors through the University tenure committee?

Anyway, the case for “equal pay” for LRW faculty would be more compelling if LRW faculty (and clinicians) were hired through the AALS process, and held to the same standards of prior academic accomplishment and promise of engaging in intellectually serious and interesting research, held to the same tenure standards, and so on. I guess, though I don’t know for sure, that most LRW faculty are recruited from the local legal market. I guess, though I don’t know, that most LRW faculty aren’t expected to conduct legal research at a high level. And so on. The point is that LRW faculty candidates and tenure-track faculty candidates compete in very different markets (usually), and have very different expectations placed upon them. Neither “deserves” a particular salary though. The suggestion that this is what I meant is just silly rhetoric. Tenure-track faculty get higher salaries because they compete in a market in which there is a lot of demand for candidates that have a particular, and relatively rare, set of attributes, skills, and interests. LRW faculty compete in a market in which there is less demand for a different and more common set of attributes, skills, and interests.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Mar 11, 2017 12:26:21 AM

Many law schools either have 3Ls teach legal writing, or have VAPs who are basically temporary workers trying to burnish their resumes before becoming doctrinal faculty.

For better or worse, teaching legal writing is an entry level job with no career progression that does not pay well.

Don't like it? Practice law or produce serious scholarship.

Posted by: Legal writing | Mar 11, 2017 8:40:52 AM

"Jason, if I read you correctly, your position is that LRW faculty should be paid what they’re willing to take, while doctrinal faculty should be paid what they’re worth."

No, Jason is saying that people are paid what the market has determined they are worth.

Some law schools have tried to cut salaries for tenured faculty and the result has been a mass exodus of the best faculty--the best scholars, the best teachers, the most gifted administrators--to competitors.

If universities could cut wages without consequence, they would.

Posted by: market | Mar 11, 2017 8:45:06 AM

Dear Professor Yackee,

In a way, I thank you for articulating the mindset that continues to prevent integration and respect across law faculty. I am somewhat heartened by the singularity of your response. Often, disagreements in a venue like this are not productive because posters do not really talk and listen to each other. However, as an organizer of this project, I am listening. I would also like to emphasize that the main point of the project is not about "pay" so much as it is about opportunity.

Speaking for myself, I believe that many legal writing faculty would love to compete in a national competitive market, which would presumably entitle them to the rights and privileges, including a better salary, pertaining to tenured positions. The problem is that many traditional faculty (and by that I mean those who teach courses devoted to a single subject of law or typically taught in the first year) who do not believe in the intellectual value of teaching applied legal analysis and persuasion as a separate art prevent us from doing so. In all other respects (and I expect you to disagree with me on this), we are similarly situated.

The view that faculty who likely practiced law and teach skills-related courses have no "particular, and relatively rare, set of attributes, skills, and interests" is a holdover from the days of Langdell, who mistakenly believed law could be taught as a science and eschewed the humanities to the great detriment of law teaching and scholarship. It is the same view that caused David Segal to "out" law schools for not preparing students to practice law.

Law schools have either come to recognize or been forced to recognize that law students need more than pure doctrine to be successful lawyers, law teachers, or scholars. The development of clinics, as well as "law and ___," legal research and writing, and academic support courses, evidences this understanding. It does not seem a stretch to suggest that faculty with a particular and rare skill for teaching clinical, legal writing, or academic support courses should have the same opportunity to participate in the life of the law school as their colleagues teaching "doctrine."

Your argument seems to be that as a general matter, legal writing faculty do not deserve to be tenured because we are ineligible for tenure. Spoken as someone who can make the rules about who may and may not apply, this is circular and disingenuous. No professor's career-long devotion or motivations for teaching can be reduced to free market principles, nor do legal writing faculty compete in a "free labor market" as you suggest. From my perspective, it is the power of a longstanding, biased, and predominantly male majority that allows this situation to continue and pretend it is fair or just.

Posted by: Kristen Tiscione | Mar 11, 2017 11:25:50 AM

Would this mean that doctrinal faculty should be paid the same salary as the Dean? I could get behind that.

Posted by: Anon E. Anon | Mar 11, 2017 9:06:00 PM

I'm also appalled that so many legal writing instructors are being discriminated against by not being paid the wage they want or being given tenure as they believe they deserve. Instead of launching a pressure campaign, however, wouldn't it be easier for these instructors, whom we are informed have particular and rare skills, simply to seek out and get a tenure offer from another law school and then use that as leverage to get tenure at their home institution? If the legal writing instructors are right about their own value, and the value they provide students and law schools, surely other law schools would be eager to snap them up?

Posted by: ap | Mar 12, 2017 10:06:52 AM

36 percent of tenured or tenure track faculty are female

Sooo, a 1.8-to-1 disparity in this realm is a problem and a 6-to-1 disparity in that other realm is not a problem. Why am I not surprised?

Posted by: Art Deco | Mar 12, 2017 1:23:01 PM

According to the 2015 ALWD/LWI Survey, no law school LRW programs are solely student-staffed. 30% of law schools have a hybrid staffing model in their LRW programs that include tenure or tenure-track professors hired to teach LRW solely or in combination with other courses.

Posted by: Nancy Soonpaa | Mar 12, 2017 4:15:55 PM

Here's a question. For those advocating this on behalf of LRW professors, where do you proposed the money come from for the salary increases? Are you suggesting that (currently) tenured faculty take a pay cut? Or are you suggesting the school try to capture more tuition revenue? If so, I don't think raising tuition is an option for many schools since nominal tuition is already far higher than what almost any student actually pays. The only way to generate more tuition revenue for most schools is to reduce price discounts by lowering student quality. Is that the solution you propose?

Posted by: JM | Mar 13, 2017 7:15:10 AM

The fact the writing folks thinking spamming a comment section with nonsense and nonsequiturs helps their case speaks to their original problem to begin with. Newsflash guys and gals: prices reflect supply and demand realities. This is day one in macro one.

These salary prices and contractual conditions aren't the result of some random board somewhere pricking arbitrary prices out of the sky. They reveal the perferences of thousands of employees and employers bargaining. They speak to the willingness of people to enter the market for less than "full faculty" prices. Which transpires at every level of university, the sad fact is people that want to teach english, poetry, creating writing are widely over supplied in relation to number of university positions. It's not about subjective estimations of value, worth, student value, justice. It's about fiscal hard realities. No amount of campaigning can change that.

If you don't like this fact, I'm sure there are many other opportunities in many other career nitches. But asking law schools to ignore market realities in a time of austerity is silly. And it's especially silly to put up the facade of social justice and identity politics to hide the clear truth of it.

Posted by: James Chapman | Mar 13, 2017 9:24:50 AM

In fact, market rationality does not determine how much law professors are paid. If law professors were compensated based on the revenues they generated for their institutions, and if these institutions themselves competed with each other on price and value (as determined by their customers rather by themselves), then your rationale might be true. The question I have is whether any of these salaries could be sustained if legal education was a commodity or service that was freely traded in an open marketplace.

Posted by: JSM | Mar 14, 2017 8:01:28 AM

It's not a binary question. All markets are on a spectrum, and whatever law schools imperfections are, they don't negate the price element. And the imperfections, such as government student credit, are equally applicable to both types of faculty.

The key difference is one of supply and demand. Fairly or unfairly (signalling view of education, unfairly), folks with t5 law degrees and clerk/big law experience have many opportunities outside academia. Most lrw profs don't have those creds.

Posted by: James Chapman | Mar 14, 2017 12:23:34 PM