Friday, September 10, 2010

Elite Relief

If there is way to open doors for elites while closing them to others, law schools will find a way. And in the process they make some really questionable decisions from a economic perspective.

Take a recent policy adopted by UF. We now have a program of hiring people with "outstanding academic credentials" and with little or no scholarly record or teaching experience." (Yes it sounds like every other entry level hire.) They then work here with a reduced teaching load and summer grants for 1-4 semesters and, after our careful mentoring, go out to be recruited by other schools.

I'll give you one guess as to what outstanding academic credentials means to people who do law school hiring. It means people who have records like their own -- expensive and elite schools. (We stick closely to the Justice Scalia rule that silk purses are more readily made from elite grads than from your crummy old top of the class at say Wisconsin or Florida.) In this case, the candidates for relief are ones who had every conceivable advantage already and did not get a tenure track position by going through the meat market process. So what this appears to be is a relief program for elites who otherwise could not find a job.

I cannot comment on the relative productivity of our most recent hires who came from elite schools and seem to be doing well because we have no one here hired in the last six years, at least as I recall, who did not go the elite route and fit the profile even if it meant dipping pretty low in the class. As a general matter, however, at least, there is no correlation between elite credentials of any kind and productivity. In fact, it the may be inversely related.

So now we are taking it on ourselves to train elites who did not quite make the grade in the meat market. And then, after the investment is made and they are "all prettied up" out they out for someone else to hire. In other words we recoup none of the investment.

Wouldn't it make more sense to see if we can prepare potential law professors who did not have every opportunity to make the grade and fell short. Say someone ranked high from a decent state law school. Our "good deeds," as usual, extend only to those who look and think like us, no matter how conventional that may be.

I've been told we are doing this as part of a moral obligation to avoid free riding on other law schools. In the scheme of moral obligations that is an odd one. We are a State institution and have a duty to our stakeholders. Subsidizing the already privileged would not be ranked high, if ranked at all, among our moral obligations. Perhaps if we hired our own graduates it would make more sense but, although we pay others to hire them, we are apparently above that.

Maybe we plan to pay the relief candidates a significantly lower wage and this is a move to lower our teaching costs. In this way they "repay" us for our investment. This would not change any of the above but it would shift the silliness balance a bit to the other side. This, however was not part of the pitch.

Cross posted at classbias


Blogger Mikethelawstudent said...

As a current attendee of a decent state school I appriciate the post.



9/13/2010 9:40 AM  

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