Saturday, February 03, 2007

Follow the Money

Does the idea of following the money have any application to legal education? Not directly but the theme can be applied.

In its conventional form the question means who benefits from a misdeed. In the law school context the question is “who loses the money if misdeeds are corrected.”

The misdeeds I am referring to are (for some but not all schools) a lack of interest in seriously evaluating teaching effectiveness and deliberately sloppy scholarship reviews at tenure time. You know what I mean, internal reviews written by log rolling buds and shopping in the easy letter market for outside reviews.

Who gets the money? That’s easy, legal education is controlled by the graduates of a handful of elite law schools and law professors are disproportionately from the privileged classes.

My hunch is that if Moneylaw principles were adopted – which I take to mean hiring, promotion, tenure, and raises based on rigorous and objective evaluation -- there would be a shift of the “money” from the elites to the non elites.

Could I be wrong? Of course I could be but the elites generally seem to agree. When is the last time one of them aggressively advanced an agenda of honest teaching and scholarship review? Why take the chance when the system is rigged in your favor?


Laura Appleman said...


To follow up from one of your other posts (on Moneylaw, I think), how *do* you get honest teaching reviews? Do you have your senior colleagues evaluate you, or is that too easy to manipulate (quid pro quo, etc)? Do you have outside observers (seems unlikely)? What if you're one of the few on your small faculty who teaches in your field, like me? Not to be obsessed about this, but as a first-year professor, I'm dubious of student evals but also wondering how to get honest teaching evaluations.

Jeff Harrison said...

Laura: I am not sure. The purpose of my post on Moneylaw was to remind people of what I think we know which is that student evaluations have not be tested for their reliability. If I were first year and just interested in informal feedback on how I am doing I might ask someone on the faculty with whom I am completely comfortable to have a look. I would als video tape myself and (as painful as it might be) and have a look.

The "game" changes when it is time for official evaluations. The written evaluations are generally useless because most law profs will not write anything down that is negative about another law professor. On the other hand, I think they will be relatively candid in a post class debriefing.