Friday, September 09, 2011

Conferences and Opportunity Costs

One of my facebook friends, Babara Burke, wrote the following dead solid perfect post:
The NYLJ reports that Suffolk City has depleted its 18-B attorney funds. Adequate representation to the indigent, welfare for lawyers, call it what you will but it provides a needed service in the county. Perhaps, my alma mater the only law school in Suffolk will see this as the impetus to awake from its complacency, and channel its own funds into creating a post-graduate grant program for those wanting to assist the poor. I'm thinking one Prof's trip to Brisbane can pay a year's salary.
This makes me thing of all the upside down priorities in which law schools are involved. Conferences and foreign travel are good examples. I can read much faster than I can listen. And, people can read what I write (if they care to) much faster than I can say it. Mostly at conferences you see people preaching to the choir, showing off, goofing off, or hanging with pals. A huge portion are trolling around looking to relocate. I'd make an exception for the recruiting conference which does seem like a good way to see many candidates. On the other hand, why send more than 3 or 4 people?

I'll pass on some of the ways my own school has chosen to spend money but there are some doozies. So many seem to exist because no one has the balls to actually say "Why are we doing this." They don't ask this because we know the answer: We do it because someone on the faculty wants to and will have a tantrum if anyone questions the program. As far as I know, like most schools, no program has ever been discontinued. Is it really possible that we got it right every time? I am not sure I have met a law professor who fully understands and has the courage to act on the notion of opportunity costs.

We used to have ridiculously expensive retreats. We'd go to the beach at the School's expense, eat, drink and talk about nothing. I once asked to have the cost of my attendance contributed the county we are in because it could not afford school books. I was looked at like I truly had lost my mind. Turning down a free trip to the beach? Thank goodness we now have a dean who has retreats at school with sandwiches for lunch.

To bad every law school can not start over -- add courses when absolutely necessary, reevaluate all tenured faculty, and only add programs when disinterested people say so.

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