The Hidden Life of Law School Adjuncts: Teaching Temps, Indispensable Instructors, Underappreciated Cash Cows, or Something Else?

31 Pages Posted: 12 May 2023 Last revised: 6 Nov 2023

See all articles by T. Markus Funk, PhD

T. Markus Funk, PhD

University of Colorado School of Law; University of Oxford

Eugene Volokh

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Andrew S. Boutros

Dechert LLP

Date Written: November 4, 2023

Abstract

Adjunct professors are fixtures in law schools around the country. Yet they are among the least examined, least understood stakeholders in today’s legal education industry. For example, few know that most law schools turn to adjuncts to teach more than 40% of their elective courses yet give them little to no institutional voice; that adjuncts effectively pay for the privilege of teaching; that most law schools enjoy an approximately 21X return on investment for each dollar paid to an adjunct for teaching; and that a typical full-time professor makes roughly seven times more than an adjunct for teaching the very same course (while also costing the institution considerably more in overhead).

This thought piece, written by two long-term adjuncts and a tenured professor, conducts the first deeper dive examination of the adjuncts’ role in today’s law schools. The article examines why adjuncts take on the responsibility of returning to school to teach; how law schools, professors, and students benefit from adjunct instructors; the professional and reputational risks facing today’s adjuncts; and why—despite these challenges—adjunct teaching positions continue to be highly
sought after.

We wrap up this excursion into the largely unseen economic, professional, and interpersonal realities facing today’s law school adjuncts by suggesting seventeen practical steps these immensely important institutions of higher learning can take to improve the relationship for the adjuncts, institutions, and students alike

Keywords: adjunct, law professor, teaching, adjuncting, lecturer, law school, senior lecturers, adjunct faculty, part-time faculty, legal education, legal administration, law school administration, law school economics

Suggested Citation

Funk, PhD, T. Markus and Volokh, Eugene and Boutros, Andrew S., The Hidden Life of Law School Adjuncts: Teaching Temps, Indispensable Instructors, Underappreciated Cash Cows, or Something Else? (November 4, 2023). Texas Law Review, 2023, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4434169

T. Markus Funk, PhD (Contact Author)

University of Colorado School of Law ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Eugene Volokh

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States
310-206-3926 (Phone)
310-206-6489 (Fax)

Andrew S. Boutros

Dechert LLP ( email )

200 Clarendon Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
United States

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