“At a time when law students and recent graduates nationwide have been struggling with large debt and poor job prospects, leftist law professors sojourned in Hawaii in mid-winter, many presumably at school expense, to discuss sundry topics of concern to legal educators – with the greatest urgency placed on perceived attacks against the law professoriate.”

Hilarious article in, of all places, a legal journal, by bad boy Brian Tamanaha, who has broken the decorous silence we’re supposed to maintain about the greed and hypocrisy of American law professors. Tamanaha rightly targets progressives – like the Critical Legal Studies (Crits for short) people – who pat themselves on the back for their advocacy on behalf of the world’s oppressed, but who jealously guard their own wealth and status — all the while ignoring the oppressed in their own classrooms.

Tamanaha isn’t the first law professor to go there – that would be Kristin Luker – but he’s way farther out than Luker.

As the cost of legal education rose to astronomical heights, loading more and more debt on the backs of students, erecting an enormous economic barrier to access to the legal profession with major class implications, the Crits said nothing. Like other law professors, they have been playing in the academic sandbox, enjoying the increased income and release from teaching that followed from and was funded by the immense rise in tuition.

“How,” asks Tamanaha, “could developments so contrary to progressive causes occur at a time when most law professors are progressives?”

His answer:

Why we did not resist is straightforward: we benefited personally. Tuition increases meant yearly salary raises, research budgets to buy books and laptops, additional time off from teaching to write (or to do whatever we like), traveling to conferences domestically and abroad, rooms in fine hotels, and dining out with old friends. A sweet ride it has been. After becoming accustomed to such treatment, it seems normal to desire even more pay, and not think twice about traveling to Hawaii or taking the family to the annual Southeastern Association of Law Schools conference, held every summer at a luxury resort.

He concludes with a series of questions, among them:

Can we tell our friends in [progressive legal organizations] that it is unseemly to attend a conference about the future of legal education in Hawaii when so many law students and recent graduates are struggling desperately in the here and now, and can we suggest that they should have fought the rise of tuition as hard as they fought to preserve job security for professors?

Can we ask the liberal law professors at California-Irvine how they can preach to their students that they should engage in public service when they charge $50,000 tuition, loading students with debt, while insisting on getting top dollar for their own professorial services?


At least conservative professors, like Todd Henderson, tend less toward hypocrisy. Henderson likes money, wants huge amounts of it, and seems to resent/consider himself in competition with people who make more than he does.


The progressive law professors’ quandary recalls, for UD, the immortal statement of one who has solved it — Fulvia Morgana, the sybaritic Italian Marxist in David Lodge’s Small World:

Of course I recognize the contradictions in our way of life, but those are the very contradictions characteristic of the last phase of bourgeois capitalism, which will eventually cause it to collapse. By renouncing our own little bit of privilege we should not accelerate by one minute the consummation of that process, which has its own inexorable rhythm and momentum, and is determined by the pressure of mass movements, not the puny actions of individuals. Since in terms of dialectical materialism it makes no difference to the ‘istorical process whether Ernesto and I, as individuals, are rich or poor, we might as well be rich, because it is a role which we know ‘ow to perform with a certain dignity.

‘“People who get in there and are trying to make money on the side: Why bother being a professor?” said Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco professor.’

“If you want to be a private doctor, be a private doctor, but if you’re a teacher, be a teacher,” [a university lawyer] said.

Und so weiter. It’s easy to find observers puzzling over the stubborn tendency of people who want to make a lot of money to also want to be professors. From the perspective of high-profile medical researchers who have developed lucrative ties to pharma, continuing to be a shittily paid professor (a few hundred thousand a year, versus millions from sitting on do-nothing corporate boards, pushing sketchy drugs and devices, and receiving all manner of other underhanded forms of payment in exchange for conferring an aura of legitimacy over what pharma does) would seem an obvious waste of time. And yet in many cases you don’t get to that coveted position of legitimacy-aura-conferrer without also first having gathered unto yourself the selfless idealistic purely intellectual aura academia gives you. You have to gird yourself with the symbolic capital of the university before you can generate real capital by passing yourself off as the neutral not-profit-motivated objective evidence-based independent respected expert pharma needs to gain FDA approval for oxycontin.

It’s a kind of Catch-22: You have to keep being a professor for pharma to want to use you as a classy unimpeachable kind of thing; but being a professor is a Real Fat Pain in the Ass. Universities are thrilled you’re bringing in a lot of corporate-sponsored research money, of course; but universities can’t look like the pharma-whore you are. They’ve got that whole… lemme look back over that list I just wrote… that whole selfless idealistic purely bumpadah bumpadah to keep going or they lose their non-profit tax status and a whole lot of other goodies. Universities have to make sure that they don’t look like institutions set up to house the profit-making activities of medical entrepreneurs, so they cook up rules to monitor how much outside money you’re making plus how much time you’re spending doing business off campus. Since many medical faculties are making money hand over fist by moonlighting for pharma, they rather resent the intrusion.

The way they deal with this intrusion is by the simple expedient of ignoring outside income/outside time reporting rules. It’s not as though only a few miscreants do this; chairs of departments do it. At some schools, everybody’s doing it.

Take this guy.

One UC Davis professor of veterinary medicine allegedly ignored the [reporting] requirement. In 2014, the UC Regents sued Dr. Jack Snyder in state court, accusing him of making — and keeping for himself — more than $1 million in unreported income from clinical work and consulting in multiple states, including California, Montana and Hawaii. Snyder, who is known for his expertise in equine surgery and has provided veterinary care for equestrian events at the Summer Olympics, frequently missed scheduled meetings, clinical shifts and laboratory classes without receiving prior approval, the complaint states.

In court documents, Snyder denied the allegations and said the university had not been harmed in any way.

Parker White, a lawyer who represents the university in the pending case, said the university does not discourage faculty from doing work outside the university, but it wants to take the profit incentive out of it. The primary responsibility of veterinary faculty should be their teaching and clinical duties, he said.

“If you want to be a private doctor, be a private doctor, but if you’re a teacher, be a teacher,” White said. “He’s not here showing the students how to be doctors.”

Synder left the university shortly before it filed suit in 2014. Last year, the federal government indicted him for filing false tax returns and tax evasion.


“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.

Latest UD posts at IHE