The Status of Clinical Faculty in the Legal Academy:
Report of the Task Force on the Status of Clinicians and the Legal Academy
63 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2010 Last revised: 4 Oct 2012
Date Written: March 1, 2010
In the midst of ongoing debates within the legal academy and the American Bar Association on the need for "practice-ready" law school graduates through enhanced attention to law clinics and externships and on the status of faculty teaching in those courses, this report identifies and evaluates the most appropriate modes for clinical faculty appointments. Drawing on data collected through a survey of clinical program directors and faculty, the report analyzes the five most identifiable clinical faculty models: unitary tenure track; clinical tenure track; long-term contract; short-term contract; and clinical fellowships. It determines that, despite great strides in the growth of clinical legal education in the last 30 years, equality between clinical and non-clinical faculty remains elusive. Clinical faculty still lag behind non-clinical faculty in security of position and governance rights at most law schools.
The report then identifies four core principles that should guide decisions about clinical faculty appointments: 1) clinical education is a foundational and essential component of legal education; 2) the legal academy and profession benefit from full inclusion of clinical faculty on all matters affecting the mission, function, and direction of law schools; 3) there is no justification for creating hierarchies between clinical and non-clinical faculty; and 4) the standards for hiring, retention, and promotion of clinical faculty must recognize and value the responsibilities and methodologies of clinical teaching.
The report concludes that these core principles are best realized when full-time clinical faculty are appointed to a unitary tenure track. This conclusion does not ignore the imperfections of a tenure system. However, to the extent that tenure remains the strongest measure of the legal academy's investment in its faculty and is the surest guarantee of academic freedom, inclusion in faculty governance and job security, the report recommends that law schools predominantly place their clinical faculty on dedicated tenure lines. In addition, it recommends that schools implement standards for hiring, promotion, and retention that reflect the teaching responsibilities and methodologies, as well as practice and service obligations, unique to their clinical faculty. To facilitate the development of such standards, the report suggests good practices for the appointment of clinical faculty on a unitary tenure track.
Keywords: Law Schools, Legal Academy, Clinical Faculty, Law Clinics, Externships, Legal Education, Clinical Legal Education
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation