UVA Law School

We write so many positive things about UVA Law School that we could be the school’s publicists. We gave UVA top honors in our ranking of southern law schools based on reader responses to the ATL Insider Survey. We praised UVA’s innovative public service fellowships for recent graduates. We pointed out that UVA is a top law school for government and public service jobs and for prestigious judicial clerkships, especially Supreme Court clerkships.

(UVA also excels when it comes to producing funny Law Revue videos. They won once in the past and have been in the finals several times. Don’t be shocked if they make an appearance again in this year’s contest, whose finalists we’ll be announcing on Wednesday.)

What are the secrets to UVA’s success as a law school? For one thing, they have an amazing faculty, full of leading scholars and inspiring teachers.

But such talent doesn’t come cheap. Let’s learn more about law professors’ salaries at UVA….

The UVA university newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, recently posted information about 2012-2013 faculty salaries that the paper obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. You can access the full spreadsheet here. The law school listings begin on page 10.

There are 110 individuals listed as law school faculty. Note that this figure goes beyond tenured or tenure-track academic faculty; it also includes clinical professors, librarians, scholars in residence, and other positions. Here are some highlights:

  • The law school’s total payroll for 2012 to 2013 was $19,490,300.
  • The average faculty salary is $177,185. Being a law professor: nice work if you can get it! (But you probably can’t, given the incredible credentials of UVA law professors.)
  • On the low end, there are a few salaries in the $60K range, mainly librarians or people in lecturer-type positions.
  • Two members of the $60K Club are former Supreme Court clerks. Michael Passaportis, a 2004 UVA Law grad, clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist and Chief Justice Roberts, and James Stern, a 2009 UVA Law grad, clerked for Justice Kennedy. Stern turned down the opportunity to collect a $280,000 SCOTUS clerkship bonus. As he told the Wall Street Journal, “I had some concern about the golden handcuffs — getting locked in and finding it hard to walk away from the money once I started down that path.”
  • On the high end, there are four faculty members who earn more than $300,000.
  • All four are big names with endowed chairs: Dean Paul Mahoney ($450,000, which seems to be the going rate for T14 law deans); his predecessor as dean, Professor John C. Jeffries Jr. ($329,500); Frederick Schauer ($302,000); and Kenneth Abraham ($300,700).

In fairness to UVA, it came up just because of the recent article in the Cavalier Daily that people emailed to us. You can generally find salary information for law professors at state universities online. To access compensation databases for other public law schools, check out the links collected at the end of this post. Law professors like Paul Caron and Dan Filler have covered the subject of compensation for law faculty at public law schools extensively, and we’ve written about the topic before too (e.g., here and here).

(We plan to do additional stories on professorial pay at different state law schools; we don’t intend to single out UVA. If you have information or opinions you’d like to share, feel free to email us or to text us (646-820-8477)).

Law professors are well-paid, especially when you consider that they can work less hard during the summer months, when they generally aren’t teaching. Many of them work on their scholarship during that time, but not all of them (especially those who already have tenure and aren’t in “publish or perish” mode). Some professors supplement their salaries with outside consulting or litigation work or earn royalties from books (such as very expensive casebooks).

Should we be troubled by high professor pay? I don’t think so, at least as long as the professor in question is doing her job and working reasonably hard. Law professors are some of the most brilliant minds in our profession, and many of them could be earning far more money in private practice (as some of them frequently remind people). Entering academia involved financial sacrifice for many.

But even if you dispute that — some professors don’t teach in areas that are amenable to lucrative private practice, and some professors wouldn’t want to bill 2000-plus hours a year — robust compensation for profs is still far from objectionable. I agree with my colleague Elie Mystal:

[Y]ou know who you shouldn’t blame [for the high cost of law school]? Law school faculty. That’s right — they might get fancy new buildings and make six-figure salaries, but it’s not really their fault that the cost of a legal education has outstripped its value. Who among us would not take more money and more perks for doing our same job?

…. [D]on’t blame the professors for maximizing their earning potential. You would do the same thing. Lord knows I would take a six-figure teaching job at UT Law, and if I didn’t want it, they could easily find a few thousand qualified individuals to fill the spot.

Sure, professors could do some things to help, but at the end of the day it’s not their fault. If you want to fix this, you need regulatory control.

If you have a problem with high-earning law professors, then don’t go to law school. Law faculty pay is a function of what the market will bear, and as long as thousands of students troop off to law school every year, professors have to be paid to teach them.

And here’s another fact: law professors count as gainfully employed law school graduates. Given the state of the legal job market in 2013, that’s a good thing.

UPDATE (4/25/2013, 3 p.m.): A clarification from a knowledgeable law professor, received after we posted the Berkeley Law salaries:

The Berkeley data is comprehensive, it includes the full 12-month packages, including summer money, housing allowances, special stipends, everything. The UVA salary data does not include various supplements (especially those from private sources), which vary among faculty.

So the comparison is a bit apples and oranges. Add in cost of living differentials, and the UVA salaries are off the charts by comparison!

Thanks to this source for the information. No matter which way you slice it, though, law professors at top law schools do quite well for themselves.

Faculty salaries disclosed [Cavalier Daily]
Public Law School Faculty Salaries [TaxProf Blog]
Faculty Salaries At The University of California (UCLA, UC Berkeley, Davis, UCSD, UCSF, Merced, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara) [The Faculty Lounge]
Law School And University Faculty Salary Data: A Compensation Compendium [The Faculty Lounge]

Earlier: Comparing the Law Schools of the South
In Defense of Law Schools Hiring Their Own Graduates
Your Tuition Dollars Hard At Work
Skaddenfreude: Private Law School Salaries, Please


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