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Are Law Professors Just Plain Lazy?

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  • Are Law Professors Just Plain Lazy?

    Law professors seem to have it pretty good. They teach a few hours a week, host office hours for an hour a week, and spend the rest doing whatever else they do out of students’ sight — write law review articles and blogs, attend conferences, interview potential colleagues and, well, frankly, we’re not entirely sure.

    But lazy? Is it fair to call them lazy just because they don’t sweat and toil in an office or cubicle like the rest of us nine-to-fivers?

    Absolutely, writes Ursula Furi-Perry in this article at the National Jurist.

    We love the lead to the story:
    As in most other aspects of life, the “Seven Deadly Sins” manifest themselves in legal education.

    There’s plenty of Professor Kingsfield–style wrath (see class discussions with unsuspecting 1L’s). There’s both pride and envy (Google “law school rankings” for some examples). And there may even be lust.

    But the one “Sin” in legal education that is the most pervasive and serious, in light of today’s legal landscape — affecting not just groups of students but every law student and recent law grad — is sloth.

    Example numero uno, writes Furi-Perry: the examination process: Several recent news stories have broken about law professors “accidentally” using questions from previous exams or previously released practice questions, no doubt resulting in huge headaches for their respective administrations. On this point, she quotes ATL’s Elie Mystal:
    I know most law professors don’t like giving or grading exams. They’re busy people with many commitments that don’t have anything to do with preparing the next generation of lawyers. But given the legal economy, given how important law school grades are right now, how can professors justify putting almost no effort into the examination process?

    Okay, but is there really a problem here? So a couple schools have issues with exams. It’s certainly not desirable, but is it really something to get worked up over?

    Yes, says Furi-Perry. She points a stern finger at the tenure process, which, yes, confers a huge amount of necessary academic freedom, but also makes schools vastly more expensive than they need to be, and simply reduces the quality of students’ educations.

    Furi-Perry quotes St. Johns law prof Brian Tamanaha, who’s written about the inefficiencies of tenure: “[M]ost of the time [tenure] functions to confer immunity on professors to work as little as they please beyond teaching their assigned classes. And that imposes a high cost on law schools (in money as well as institutional productivity and morale).”

    Many law professors do work hard. But to all of them, Furi-Perry throws out this challenge:
    As for the profs: If your institution is perfect; if your work is excellent; if all of your students are graduating as successful new lawyers who feel that they received a quality education, then congratulations to you. You probably needn’t change a thing about what you do and how you do it. But for those profs who could use some improvement, I propose this: Make this the year that you do just one thing to improve education at your institution.

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