Monday, August 29, 2016

The Best Job in the World

This is partly about me and not just about my faculty since I have heard these stories from many people at other schools. In fact, I've never visited a school at which I was not eventually cornered and told who the good guys and bad guys were.

Law teaching is a pretty great job. You are paid more than most academics (although this is lost on most law professors who have never lived the life of a real academic) and you get to do pretty much whatever you like assuming you are intellectually curious. A few times a week you teach a group of students and the only real downside is about two weeks of grading twice a year.

Cool job, right? So why do I see so many people who seem to be so unhappy. Drama is pervasive, Demands are made about the most trivial things. There are always conspiracies afoot. Someone else is racist, sexist, or homophobic, that is, if you listen to the gossip. High blood pressure is far from rare. Emails are sent that demand attention yesterday. There is never enough for whichever "me" you happen to be.

Is it the job or is that people cannot accept having one of he best jobs in the world? What is this with the office to office gossip, the complaints about the wrong room, the wrong secretary, and imagined slights? Really, do people need to be unhappy about something?

[Time out for a sec.  I need to see if the dean answered my email yet. After all, I send it almost 20 minutes ago and she has not answered. Who the hell does she thing she is!??]

[Sorry, I am back now but first I had to figure out why Jane's office is being painted. No one asked me about painting my office. What is wrong with these people?]

Ok, so what made me do that? Why bitch about the dean and feel slighted. Why worry about Jane's office since the paint on my office is completely fine and it would be more inconvenient to have it painted than it is worth.

Why roam the halls, trying to convince that that guy who blogs should not be hanging out our dirty laundry. If you get 10 people to agree with the obvious (of course he is hanging out the dirty laundry that's the whole point and maybe if it is hung out and it looks bad you will make it less dirty) where does that get you? He obviously does not care because he is so uncollegial. I really hate that blogger guy because he might be talking about me.

[Sorry, I need sec here to tell the dean that I gave an important talk to people at the highest level at the Gainesville Car Wash Society. Also I need to put it on my resume. Actually one person was not that high.]

Ok, I am way too pissed off about my job to keep writing this and I feel a high blood pressure attack coming on. Really, I am never treated fairly. This job sucks.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Should Consulting Professors be Paid Less?

A recent article in the New York Times outlines how difficult it is to balance two jobs -- think tank scholar and representative of an industry or firms that have specific interests. Let's call the think tanks "think tank" and the other firms "moonlight." So is it possible to work for moonlight and not have its interests affect performance in the context of think tank? Put differently, can you serve moonlight and they switch and be a "perfect scholar" -- open minded, objective searching, etc. -- for think tank purposes. In theory it is possible but, even if it is,  the quality of the think tank product is lower in the eyes of the public.

This is relevant for law professors in that law school position is the think tank and all forms of expert witnessing and consulting are moonlight. This is hardly a new issue and was recently addressed in a "Open Letter" that suggests ethical standards for those employed by both think tank and moonlight. I think it is fair to say that proposal is two fold -- do your best not to be influenced and disclose to the reader anything that would be relevant. In fact, one particularly attractive proposal is that all sources of funding be revealed on the think tank web site. I note, however, that the ultimate way to avoid the conflict -- don't take the money -- is not proposed.

The effect of disclosure is to shift the risk to the think tank and its customers/readers to assess the extent to which the work of the moonlighter can be trusted as a scholar. This risk shifting is questionable since the party to whom the risk is shifted has no way to know just how much risk is there. But there is another problem that can be connected to products liability. Disclosure is effectively a warning label. Or perhaps it is comparable to an "as is" notice. In either case the buyer is on notice to beware.

When products are put in the market that carry warning labels their value is less than those in which the manufacturer has addresses the source of the problem. For example, if the market works, cars without air bags but containing a warning against high speed collisions (if available)  would presumably have lower prices than those equipped with airbags.  If the market works the same would be true of think tank employees who are also moonlighting. All other factors equal, those who do consult are selling a product  inferior to that of the non or infrequent consultants.

If accepting money from outside sources is not an option, disclosure makes sense but only if those with things to disclosed are paid less. It is odd that the only thing that keeps this from being the case are market imperfections.