Thursday, November 16, 2006

Counter-Preferential Choice, Shirking, and Moneylaw: Parts 2&3: Law Professors as Agents

In previous posts I suggested that a number of factors account for the ability, of law professors to shirk from their obligations to law school stakeholders. This begs the qustions of who the stakeholders are and what law professors owe them, if anything. The stakeholders are tuition payers, contributors, and citizens. When tuition payers are subsidized by tax payers, as they are in varying degrees in state schools, a balance must be struck. The obligation shifts more toward citizens. This could change if subsidized students were required to practice some form of public interest law for a period of time after graduation but, as far as I know, they are not. Faculty are stakeholders only to the extent they are coincidentially members of the other groups. This means the check out person at the nearest convenience store -- you know the one, taking the bus to work because he has to and without health insurance -- is owed more by a law school than any faculty member. I do not mean the Kevin Smith "Clerks."

The obligations of the law school are:
1. Tuition payers are given the type of instruction that prepares them for the bar exam and, as much as possible, prepares them to provide competent legal services. In addition, they should be able to assist in bringing about legal reform.
2. Contributors are difficult to catagorize except in one very important respect. I have never heard of a contributor whose interest lay in helping a faculty member improve his or her quality of life unless that improvement increased the faculty member's ability to serve tuition payers and citizens.
3. Citizens deserve to expect a law school to produce competent attorneys who will be accessable and play a role in improving the overall welfare of the community. How else can we justify requiring them to subsidize faculty salaries?

I am sure this is obvious to most, if not all. Here is where it gets tougher. The decision to be made reminds me of something I tell my contracts students about exam-taking. I say, "Imagine I am walking through the classroom while you are answering the questions. Periodically I stop and point to a paragraph you are writing and ask 'Exactly what is the connection between this paragraph and the answer to what I have asked?'"

So, now someone wanders through your law school today and says, while identifying a program, a course, a building project, a desk, a trip, a photocopy, policy, coffee pot, library book, etc. ,"Could you tell me how that serves the tuition payers, contributors, or citizens?

Here are some things that could not pass the test at my school. (I assume you will keep them to yourself.) I'd like to hear about the ones at your school that fail the test, if you dare.

1. Operating an L.L.M progam in tax that is subsidized by citizens. Precisely what is the public good rationale here? Do you think there is any chance that many if any of these students are likely to be anxious to do public service work? Why not full-cost tuition for a program so obviously aimed at people who will internalize of the benefit of the State's investment in them?
2. Using the money from the check out person at the nearest convenience store to send a group of faculty to Poland to teach Polish students.
3. Building a $20 million classroom building that is vacant 1/3 of the time and always will be.
4. Flying in speakers for 30 minute lunch-time talks that barely scratch the surface, because if they were flown in for afternoon presentations that ran longer and included the expectation that the presenters' papers would be read ahead of time, attendance would be minimal.
5. Allowing a faculty member to teach on as few days as possible so he can have the maximum days free regardless of the impact on tuition payers and availability.

Okay, as you attempt to connect these practices to the stakeholders, assume you are dealing with a hard grader. Please no rational relationship explanation. Better yet, explain to the convenience store worker or tuition payer why you are taking their money and what the return is to what truly is their investment.


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