Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Are Law Schools Recession Proof?

The pecking order at law schools is pretty well set. First are the tenured professions then the tenure track but yet to be tenured. Next, oddly enough are the yet to be hired untenured people. After that are year to year, untenured people who typically teach skills courses. Then secretaries of various sorts and finally the maintenance crew. I suppose actual and potential students fit in here somewhere and I am inclined to say at the very bottom.

When budget cuts come, the ordering of cuts can follow the ordering but in reverse. A school may or may not save money by reducing its enrollment. If it can, the potential students will be first to have opportunities removed. Next up the line in terms of vulnerability are the people who earn the least and, thus, can least afford to lose their jobs.

Law school policy, even with respect to budget cuts, is largely faculty driven. Perhaps a test of the character and humanity of the faculty of a law school is how it deals with cuts. For example, if it is possible to preserve opportunities for students or the jobs of those at the bottom of the pecking order, are those at the top willing to teach extra hours or courses that are not their main interests. Are they willing to open classes they do teach to greater numbers of students? Are there programs that seem to have outlived their use that could be eliminated? These things mean reducing the need to replace retired professors with new ones or with visitors.

Only in the rarest of instances are tenured law professors likely to have their job security threatened by economic conditions. Their decisions, however, do affect the job security of others. Maybe they are not the Godfathers of those lower in the pecking order but they have the capacity, if they care to, to soften the blow of economic hard times.


Jim Milles said...

Do the librarians and library staff merit a mention at all?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

I am not sure where they are in the pecking order. Some,I think, are tenured and others not and, this parallel to faculty. (Perhaps you can enlighten us on the status of librarians) In any case, the question remains of whether those who are "safe" are willing to do what is necessary to assist those who are not.