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“Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?”…

… asks Algernon, in The Importance of Being Earnest; and it is a question a number of law professors have been posing lately about law students, whose duty is to set us (law profs, that is) a good example by paying $50,000 and up (plus living expenses) a year for law school, and then being unemployed or taking a public interest job that may pay close to nothing.

As you probably know, law jobs are collapsing in this country, largely due to far too many law school graduates constantly being added to the job-seeking pool. Some schools are looking for ways to respond to this problem. Others are not.

In response to this New York Times opinion piece, written by two law school professors who basically deny the problem, Paul Campos first debunks their optimistic statistics, and then remarks:

The most nauseating aspect of …this [op-ed] is the gelatinous patina of sanctimony the authors slather onto their exercise in profoundly anti-intellectual — if “intellectual” is taken to mean “minimally honest” — hucksterism. “Legal education is still an excellent choice for those committed to serving others in a rewarding career,” they primly observe. Yes, it’s certainly been an excellent choice for them. Let’s take a moment to contemplate how well these public-spirited scholars are doing for themselves by “serving others.”

The first person Chemerinsky hired onto the UC-Irvine faculty when he got this self-abnegating enterprise rolling five years ago [Erwin Chemirinsky, notes Campos, is dean of a brand new law school that, “in a hyper-saturated legal employment market,” [charges] $47,300 in resident and $53,900 in non-resident annual tuition.] was his wife. In 2012 this dynamic academic duo pulled down a combined salary of $597,000 from the University of California’s perpetually cash-strapped system.

Meanwhile [the co-author of the NYT piece] took home a salary of $320,000, so it’s safe to say a career in public service is working out OK for her as well.

Obviously there’s plentiful comic territory here for those who enjoy either Wildean languidity about class privilege or straightforward Tartuffian riffs on hypocrisy (if you haven’t read Brian Tamanaha’s hilarious classic on this subject, do so).


Add to Chemerinsky’s hearty assurance that all is well the rage of University of Oregon professor Robert Illig at the possibility that he and his colleagues in the law school might not get raises this year. The blog UO Matters quotes from two emails Illig sent to the faculty in which he worries about the possibility that the dean of the school (this might be a faculty proposal rather than something from the dean; it’s not clear at the moment) might take away raises and invest them instead in enhancing job prospects for recent graduates.

I feel that having given up the chance at a seven-figure annual income [for a six-figure one] is charity enough for the students.


Campos wonders if Illig’s thing is “an elaborate parody.”


More information on the faculty resolution.

Margaret Soltan, April 15, 2014 11:36PM
Posted in: professors

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