Law Professors, Law Schools

The More Law Schools Change, The More Law Faculty Will Start Pitching A Fit

Law dean v. Law faculty. In this analogy, the students are the dirt.

Thing is, I like law professors. I like professors. I think it’s an achievement of civilization (and, you know, agriculture) to have a class of people whose only job is to think and teach.

Law professors have a great life. They’re paid generously, they work occasionally, and they’re fired rarely. No, I don’t hate law faculty, I want to be on faculty. Even at a relatively poorly ranked school (not Cooley, a man’s gotta have a code). The life of a professor involves writing, interacting with young people, and occasionally crushing the dreams of people too stupid to parrot back to you exactly what you want to hear. What’s not to like?

Of course, if we want serious change in legal education, we’re going to have to take a flamethrower to the lives of law faculty. And they’re not going to give it up quietly. When an ambitious law dean takes on the law faculty for the benefit of students, that will be a great war.

But for now, we just have the less interesting skirmishes that happen when law deans take on faculty without benefiting students in any meaningful way…

Brooklyn Law Dean Nicholas Allard has had a pretty interesting tenure at the school since coming over from Patton Boggs. The school plummeted in the U.S. News rankings (and didn’t make the top-50 in the Above the Law rankings), prompting Allard to “receive” the resignation of the school’s Career Service director.

More recently, Brooklyn has been begging for press over its new two-year J.D. program. We haven’t covered it here because I didn’t feel like pretending that a polished turd doesn’t stink. The “two-year” program has just as many class hours and costs just as much money as the three year program. In fact, instead of saving students money, the program is designed to remove summer breaks. You remember the summer right? It’s that time during a decent economy when students can work full time to defray some of the costs of attending law school.

Whatever, maybe Brooklyn is tacitly admitting that students aren’t very likely to get lucrative summer associate positions while attending Brooklyn.

In any event, a change in Brooklyn’s faculty firing policies is what is making news this week. Last month, Brooklyn changed it’s tenure policy to be able to fire professors for “lack of collegiality” or “poor student evaluations.”

I’m not sure what lack of collegiality means and I don’t think professors should be fired just because of student evals, and I’m a guy who is in favor of tenure reform. You can imagine how actual tenured faculty reacted to it.

And so yesterday we got a lawsuit complaint. A complaint from a tenured Brooklyn Law faculty member to the ABA. The professor alleges waste and excess on the part of the Brooklyn Law administration. The worst allegations were reprinted in Tax Prof Blog:

The salaries for executive positions have increased every year without any justification based on performance. Examples of self-dealing have involved appointment of Board members to the salaried teaching staff, free use of luxury apartments to Board members, the payment of exorbitant salaries to administrative officers and selected faculty, salary determinations based on friendship and loyalty rather than merit, and lack of transparency about financial matters of the law school and its faculty. …

The supra competitive levels of executive compensation along with the salaries paid to the top five professors at the law school, as reported in recent IRS 990 filings, rival and exceed the compensation levels of tenured professors of law at Harvard or Yale. In times of acute crisis in legal education, compensation levels at Brooklyn Law School for a small handful of professors and administrators represent a level of mismanagement, waste, and self-dealing that violates Standards 201, 204, 206 and 404.

Discussion: The total value of the salary and benefits provided to the president of the law school—which include a tax-free furnished apartment complete with designer kitchen and skyline views of Manhattan, a car, and a driver—exceed a million dollars. This is the highest compensation paid to any law school dean or administrator in the United States. The salary and benefits lavished on the administrators of the law school impose a drain on the resources of the institution that detract from the educational mission of the law school, increase tuition costs of students, and add to the financial burden of law school graduates. The health and continued survival of the institution to which I have dedicated my career is threatened by waste, mismanagement and potential self-dealing creating serious violation of Standards 201, 204, 206 and 404.

The president of Brooklyn Law, Joan Wexler, gets skyline views of Manhattan? Figures. Who the hell would want to look at Brooklyn?

Brooklyn Law says it hasn’t yet seen the complaint.

If you are a student who is thinking about going to Brooklyn Law, I’d pay attention to all of these shenanigans. It seems like the school may be more interested in having cockfights between the administration and faculty, instead of getting jobs for graduates.

Tenured Brooklyn Law Prof Files ABA Complaint Against School [Tax Prof Blog]
Brooklyn Law School to Permit Dismissal of Tenured Faculty for Lack of Collegiality or Poor Student Evaluations [Tax Prof Blog]

Earlier: Responding to the New U.S. News Rankings: The Parade of Butthurt Deans Begins Now
Musical Chairs: From Patton Boggs Partner to Brooklyn Law School Dean

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