The Disparate Treatment of Clinical Law Faculty
5 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2021
Date Written: January 4, 2021
Data from the Center for the Study of Applied Legal Education’s (CSALE) 2019-20 Survey of Applied Legal Education show widespread disparate treatment of clinical instructors (i.e., law clinic and externship instructors) and a lack of progress in providing parity between those who teach in law clinics and externships and those teaching doctrinal courses.
The percentage of clinical faculty in tenure/tenure track positions, even when including lesser status clinical/programmatic tenure positions, has declined from 46% in 1998 to just 29% in 2019. Though there have been notable exceptions at a few schools, law clinic and externship hiring has disproportionately been for contract positions since the 2010 downturn in law school applications and accompanying financial challenges. Forty-six percent of clinical faculty teaching more than 12 years are in traditional or clinical/programmatic tenure or tenure-track positions. In contrast, only 23% of those hired within the last four-six years and just 16% of those hired in the last three years are in tenure/tenure-track positions.
Non-tenure status has consequences for clinical faculty, beyond the limited participation in faculty governance and lower prestige that generally come with appointments other than traditional tenure. Law clinic and externship faculty not tenured/tenure track are paid, on average, $30,000 per year less than their doctrinal colleagues at similar points in their careers. Even when salaries of clinical faculty with traditional or clinical tenure/tenure track are included in the calculations, clinical faculty on average make over $20,000 less than their doctrinal colleagues. Some law school clinical education programs even treat types of clinical instructors differently, providing less security of position and salary to those who teach in externships.
The latest CSALE survey shows that the legal academy remains highly caste-like in its disparate treatment of clinical faculty. Indeed, if anything, progress toward parity appears to be slipping as an increasing percentage of new teaching positions in law clinics and externships are without the security of position and salary of doctrinal faculty.
Keywords: legal education, law school, law school faculty, clinical law faculty, law clinic, externship, tenure, tenure track
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation