Daniel Fischel

How hard is it to write an exam for a course you’ve taught all semester? Seriously, tell me, how hard is it? On a scale of one to ten — ten involving programing a rocket ship, one somewhere around putting on pants in the morning — where does formulating a law school exam rate? A two? Maybe three if you are teaching the course for the first time?

It cannot possibly be so hard that you have to use the same exam over and over again, in the digital age. We’re not talking about something as complicated as the wheel. A law school exam can be reinvented, every year, with subtle and simple changes.

Using the exact same exam is just lazy. There’s no other word for it. LAZY. The high cost of law school is largely attributed to the hefty salaries of law school faculty. The least these people can do is write a novel exam each and every semester that they teach.

And yet during this finals period alone, we’ve got students from three law schools, including two law schools in the top ten, alleging that their professors couldn’t be bothered to come up with fresh exams for this year’s students….

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Marc Dreier courtyard.jpgLaw professors generally don’t earn as much as Biglaw partners. Legal academic salaries, while generally in the low six-figures, rarely go over, say, $400,000.

But some law profs own very, very nice homes. See, e.g. (in descending order by value):

  • Columbia professor Hans Smit ($30 million mansion — yup, that’s seven zeros);
  • Yale professor James Whitman ($5.7 million co-op);
  • NYU professor Cathy Sharkey ($5.2 million apartment);
  • “Feldsuk,” aka Harvard professors Jeannie Suk, who has a new book out that looks quite interesting, and Noah Feldman ($2.8 million mansion);
  • Columbia professor Edward Morrison ($2.6 million townhouse); and
  • Columbia professor Sarah Cleveland ($2.5 million townhouse).

Sometimes the professors get financial assistance for these purchases from the schools that employ them. But sometimes the professors buy them on their own, without any university help.

For example, as reported in the New York Observer, Daniel Fischel, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, just picked up an $8.45 million Manhattan pied-à-terre. As breathlessly described by writer Max Abelson, the apartment features “custom electric shades, a steam shower, and a Sub-Zero wine refrigerator.”

Sounds fabulous! Maybe Professor Fischel can donate a weekend in this apartment to the CLF public interest auction?

Fischel’s famous neighbors, plus the story of how he got this rich — being a law school dean pays well, but not that well — after the jump.

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