Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Elusive Excess Capacity on Law Faculties

Alternative Title: "I would do anything for law but I won't do that."

Yesterday I blogged that I have never heard a law professor say "great job, I am only working at 60% capacity." It was in the context of hard working law profs who seem to have unlimited time to do more but only if it means a little extra dough. If there is no extra money, they are currently  fully employed. The problem has a Catch 22 element to it. If they have extra time to pick up some extra coin then they actually do have excess capacity.  If there is no money involved, they have no excess capacity. So which is it? And, if they have excess capacity but only if there some extra money involved, how about a refund for all those years they were not working full time.

When I though about it, I realized I was wrong that they never say I am only working at 60% (which is another way of saying I am overpaid.)  I can think of three examples.

1. At my School we have the usually array of foreign programs. I think they are required to break even or make money but I am not sure that happens. But how about this argument for how to make them profitable -- staff them with people who are already on 12 month contracts. That way you do not have to incur the marginal costs usually associated with staffing those programs. But . . . .but . . . . but. Weren't those administrators already fully employed to earn their base salary plus 33%  more. Well, were they or not?  I mean if they can go away six weeks this year, could we please get a refund for all the times they did not go away because obviously they were not fully employed.

2. We run a massive externship program. It's the program where students pay the school and firms employ the students but do not pay them them. Yes, it's a pay to get to work program. To boost law school revenues someone got the bright idea to pay professors several thousand dollars to line these things up and to chat with the students from time to time. But wait, some of these folks also teach or do research in the summer. But suddenly they had excess capacity when there was a chance to pick up some more money. I am pretty sure at my school you can teach, do research, and do the externship things and get paid for all three. Plus, if another money making opportunity comes along there will be plenty of excess capacity for that.

3. From time to time law schools hire staff people for various institutes to write grant proposals and do research. That's all fine. They are full time employees. Then they propose to teach a course and it is approved and life goes on. If I teach a three hour course I devote as little as 5 hours a week to it a week and as much (I hate to admit) as many as 12. I assume these staff/teachers are the same (unless they are into asynchronous taping.) So what were they paid for before?  Weren't the fully employed. If not, will there be a refund?

Law schools seem to have unlimited excess capacity but it never appears until someone wants a side deal.


Anonymous said...

Pretty poor economic analysis there, Jeffrey.

Anonymous said...

Law professors are lazy, worthless bastards living off federal loan cash. That is all.