An Adjunct Law Professor: To Be or Not to Be

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Adjunct Law Professor
For young attorneys, being an adjunct law professor has been a traditional option though neglected due to poor pay. However, as more and more law schools increase their priority on exposing law students to skills of actual lawyering, the demand and pay for adjunct law professors may rise. While the pay does matter to most, to many, the job of an adjunct law professor also holds out the prospect of interacting with students, and for students it has immense benefits to find a teacher actually practicing in the field. The option of being an adjunct law professor has traditionally been confined to a large part to solo practitioners, because the pressures of private law firms rarely provide such time and opportunity. But in recent times there are more reports of law firm attorneys moonlighting as adjunct professors than ever before.

More solos are trying for the job of adjunct professors

On Aug.1 the ABA Journal published an article titled “To Teach or Not to Teach: Adjunct Work Can Come with a Hefty Price.” The article claimed “more solos appear to be considering adjunct teaching jobs as a means to supplement their income and test an alternative career path.” According to Michael Kaufman, the associate dean for academic affairs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, more people are viewing adjunct teaching as an entry point to “teaching generally.” Considering that the average pay for adjunct professors was about $1000 per credit hour or about $3000 for a single course during a semester, the pay is insufficient for most lawyers attending firms. Kaufman however stresses that adjunct work does not usually lead to a full-time job as a teacher.

The pay may not be great but the work is definitely satisfying

According to Jonathan W. Michael who taught an Estate Planning course at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, “It is great to work with students who are interested in our area of law … It is also an honor to be appointed to the faculty at the John Marshall Law School.” So, the satisfaction of teaching interested and eager minds and the prestige earned from associating with academia is sufficient for some to accept the low pay.

The benefits to law students of having a practicing lawyer as an adjunct professor

Some topics which have become quite popular and discussed among readers on the internet include the costs of law school, the quality of education imparted, and the lack of practical professional skills acquired by law students. A popular article on the issue was published by the New York Times titled, “What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering” became an instant hit with those who had been debating on the poor quality of education. The article observed, “the nature of legal work itself is evolving, and the days when corporations buy billable hours, instead of results, are numbered.” Obviously, under such a situation, the benefits of being taught by teachers who are actually practicing law in the field are immense to law students.

Adjunct professors are more motivated by the love of teaching than put off by the low pay

In 2009, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article, “Love of Teaching Draws Adjuncts to the Classroom Despite Low Pay.” Contrary to other efforts at explaining the phenomenon, the Chronicle rested its article on the results of a survey it undertook to understand the motivations and concerns of adjunct professors. As The Chronicle put it succinctly, “They don't make much money, they don't have health benefits, and they don't have job security. So why do adjuncts keep showing up to teach in college classrooms semester after semester, year after year?” And the answer according to them was summed up by a part-time teacher “It’s not the money … It’s about giving back to the community and seeing the students excel.”

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The John Marshall Law School


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