Friday, June 05, 2015

The Blue Book Value for Law Professors

I have argued on this blog that about 95% of law professors are fungible. I do not mean they are the same but that they are replaceable. Of course 100% them are literally replaceable but, at least at the schools where I have taught, there have been only 3 professors whose loss would have mattered much. Only 2 of those left.  By "mattered" I mean in terms of teaching, research, and elevating the faculty generally. In fact, one of the things I noticed right away when I got into this job is that no matter how much talk there was about the downside of losing someone before they left, once they left their names were rarely mentioned, their courses were taught, the students noticed no difference, and they were increasingly referred to as "what's his name."

There are three  qualifications here, First, very few people have actually left schools where I have taught, When they did leave it was viewed, in many cases, as a blessing as opposed to a loss. And, frankly, many of us were left scratching our heads when the dean struggled to keep some people,

 Nevertheless, where I teach, I have heard there is a policy to match offers from better schools, whatever that means, In fact, except in one case, it appears we match all offers, I doubt we are any different from other schools so,  what is this obsession Deans have with matching offers from other schools. I think the answer lies in behavioral economics but I am not sure. 

Any automatic offer matching policy is just another example of mismanagement, First, you may want the person to go, so why on earth match the offer? Second, if the offer is for  marginally more than the professor is making, he or she is not going to go for the money,  I would call the bluff of everyone who comes in with an offer than is not at least 10k more than they are already making. On the other hand, if it is a better location or a better environment, they are likely to go anyway. I remember once getting an offer to go to a much nicer place but for slightly less than I was making, I wanted to go and asked a friend what he thought, He said, "I would not live where you live for $4000 more a year." He was actually giving me a lesson on psychic income. and I believe that plays a role in most moves that actually occur. Anyone who would leave for a marginal increase in salary only should be permitted to go because he or she is not that smart. Things change and funding may dry up at the new place and get better at the old place, 

There are so many inconsistencies with the offer matching practice. If it reflects a policy that we will only pay you what the market says you are worth, then everyone who does not get a matching offer each year should, I suppose, be taking a pay cut. I  agree that is crazy but why does the market matter in some cases and not in others, Plus, suppose someone is making 120K at one school and gets an offer for 130K from another and the Dean matches it. Shouldn't the faculty member  be entitled to substantial back pay since the Dean has just admitted that the faculty member was previously being paid less than he or she was worth?  I guess that sounds crazy too but it all leads back to simply paying people what they are worth in the first place so they do not need to  peddle their wares elsewhere to determine a market value.

What we really need is a Blue Book for law professors. First you identify the model -- years of experience, courses taught, students taught -- and then account for mileage which would be amount of relevant writing and any accessories,  Of course, the roles are switched from the car example, Faculty are sellers -- some with the morals of a used car dealer -- and Deans are the buyers.

I'll never understand the fear Dean's have of losing people, even the least impressive people, When confronted with a faculty member with an offer from another school there is only one thing a Dean needs to decide -- what will it cost me to get someone to do what you do. In my years of teaching, I have seen only a few people who deserved to have an offer matched. The rest could have been replaced for less. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard of a school automatically matching, but I suspect that part of the reason schools often offer raises when a professor has a competing offer is that it gives them a reason *not* to give people raises when they have no competing offers.