Wednesday, September 13, 2006


A few years ago I was struck by the fact that people on my faculty who wrote last minute articles to meet tenure requirements seemed rarely to write again. I conducted a small in-house study that confirmed that “late writers” wrote, on average, .1 articles (yes, that is a decimal point) a year after receiving tenure and “on time” writers averaged 2.1 articles a year. More recently, I attempted to expand the study to law teachers more generally, see 17 J.L. & Pub. Poly. 139, without much luck. By only using public sources, I was unable to accurately distinguish late from on time writers. If the trend I found at my school holds for others, however, the best predictor of post tenure scholarship may be not the amount of scholarship but the timing of it.

In that expanded empirical effort, I studied post tenure scholarship by taking a sample of 100 law professors. I used a regression model with post tenure scholarship as the dependent variable and rank of law school where teaching, rank of law school granting degree, pre tenure output, and several other factors as dependent variables. Some variables had the expected impact but only number of pre tenure pages was statistically significant as a predictor of post tenure scholarship.

The most interesting result to me was the overall negative impact tenure itself seemed to have on scholarship. On average, the professors studied published 15 fewer pages per year after tenure than before. This held true at all levels of law schools. This may not seem like much in the context of 100 page articles but in making the comparison, post tenure scholarship was overstated, meaning that the drop off was in reality much greater. What I found in post tenure scholarship were the following: a much higher incidence of casebooks and treatises, books of edited readings, books that were composed of previously published articles, and articles that are best described as “spin offs” of prior articles. I attempted to adjust for some of these but could not adjust for all. This means that post tenure number was inflated as a measure of real scholarship and the 15 page fall off is greatly understated.

Given these results, a robust post tenure review process would seem to be in order. In a professional environment in which courageous administrators are rare and schools are operated for the benefit of faculty with powerful senses of entitlement and log rolling mentalites, no such process is likely to emerge.


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