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Continuing Professional Development in Law Schools

25 Pages Posted: 5 May 2010  

Thomas F. Guernsey

Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Albany Law School


Tenure provides stability for academic institutions and for professors. Stability allows faculty flexibility in its research and the school saves money by not subjecting the faculty to review processes. Schools, nevertheless, engage in post tenure review to foster professional development by assessing the faculty member’s strength and weaknesses and, in some cases, hold the faculty member accountable. This is partially due to the pressures placed on schools to become national schools not matter where they are located.

Holding faculty responsible for their lack of production does not necessarily change the habits of tenured faculty members. Deans are all but helpless in this regard. The article argues that accountability must shift to the faculty members themselves to hold each other accountable. While this may come at a cost, and some will argue that it may not work, the school must be accountable to the student and must let them know that it takes their concerns over the quality of education seriously. This article also provides the elements of an effective policy for reviewing tenured professors and gives an example for how faculty are evaluated and the inherent issues involved in such evaluation.

The purpose of this article is to show that we are caught in an unproductive debate about post-tenure review, when what we should be focused on is a more productive discussion about how to encourage professional development beyond tenure. Perhaps as importantly in a system of life tenure, faculty and institutions both have an obligation to have a system of professional development that ensures that faculty evolve as the institution evolves. Having said that, however, it is instructive to at least know the justification for and the criticisms of tenure since it underlies the entire debate.

Continuing professional development is as critical in legal education as any other profession. The law school administration and the faculty have a joint interest in providing a fair and effective mechanism to make this happen. This proposal merely attempts to present a pragmatic, workable method to accomplish the goal.

Suggested Citation

Guernsey, Thomas F., Continuing Professional Development in Law Schools. University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 291, 2010; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 10-01. Available at SSRN:

Thomas F. Guernsey (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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