Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Soccer Plan for Law Professors

The best soccer book I have read is Joe McGinniss' The Miracle of Castel di Sangro. Tim Parks' A Season with Verona is also good as is Hornsby's Fever Pitch. As soccer fans know, in the leagues within countries there are multiple levels. When a team finishes low in their level they are "relegated" to a lower level and teams who did well at the lower level are raised to play in a higher level. This all depends on rankings (Fellow readers of Castel di Sangro will have an appreciation of some unsavory aspects of this.)

Law schools do not have head to head, score keeping competition so there is no way to actually relegate a top 20 law school to the next 20 in the rankings if it is at the bottom of the 20. In way, USN&WR does some of this - a school can fall into a lower tier as mine did a couple of years ago and then fight its way back. But relying on USN&WR as a guide for this is a bit like asking Chauncy the Gardener to take care of a nuclear reactor.

But suppose there were some why of ranking faculty productivity alone -- pages published, teaching evaluation by those 5 year out of law school. You can see where I am going. Most law professors are tenured but does this rule out relegation, at least in this imaginary world. They get hired largely on the bases of credentials and tenured unless they monumentally screw up. So there really is nothing to do with the ones who are disappointing, except send them down a notch. The problem is that is hard to determine what it means to be relegated to a lesser school when lesser is not defined. On way around this is to relegate to a school where the productivity per faculty member is less than that at the underachiever's school. You could get promoted to you old school or higher by then outperforming the people at the new school.

I know there are many problems here. But you cannot get rid of tenured people and most law school deans do not have the money or courage to administer financial punishment. Surely there are antitrust issues but are they really as bad as the ones the NCAA has overcome by its lame "amateurism" rationale?

Best of all, in a Darwinian sense, schools can get rid of their mistake and professors will end up with their true Peers. Some will be relegated to Community Colleges, High school and out of the profession completely.

Ok, I guess I am kidding but not 100%.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord would trades be nice. We'd offload a bunch of senior faculty for draft picks.....

8/24/2010 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Ani said...

The use of sports analogies around this place is always tantalizing but often disappointing. Here it's due simply to shift in focus -- why do you migrate without explanation between relegating schools to relegating individual faculty?

I don't think you should be kidding about this. In other disciplines, there is relegation, pre-tenure; good but not great folks get booted down from the Ivies into lesser institutions. In law such relegation is much rarer.

Post-tenure, of course, things get trickier. But those who don't make productive use of the time for scholarship should be relegated to greater burdens in committee work, advising, and teaching.

8/24/2010 10:29 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Ani: I migrated because, as I said, we have no way of assessing law school performance but we can get little closer with faculty. Even those who worship USN&WR know is it garbage. We even hired 28 of our own grads and other schools do the same or worse in order to fudge.

I agree with your idea for relegation to more teaching and committee work. I just do not think many law school administrators have even close to the courage to do it. At my school you get a 9 hour teaching load if you will promise to write and 12 if you don't. You get a summer research grant only if you produced when you had the last one. There may be exceptions but I doubt that more than a very small handful of people have been relegated. And believe me, some of our folks are definitely "relegation eligible."

8/25/2010 12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The end of your post seems to assume those who work in community colleges and high schools are, on the whole, less competent than those teaching at law schools. Certainly they are paid less, but I suspect most of them work harder and are, in fact, better teachers (obviously perhaps not scholars) than most law professors. I might also note that I think the work of community college profs & high school teachers is more important to society than that of law professors; I say this as a law prof whose sister teaches 5th grade. That being said, I don't necessarily disagree with your general point.

9/03/2010 11:04 AM  

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