Law professors often hide behind the fiction called "academic freedom" when arguing that they deserve tenure. During the ABA meeting, all of the usual
In the university setting, tenure is what differentiates winners from losers. Higher education's dirty little secret is that the majority of university faculty are now adjuncts and non-tenure track professors. These people are seen as being less than tenured faculty. Tenured faculty look at adjuncts as being inferior due to their inability to get on the tenure gravy train and law professors know this. As an example, most of the regular faculty at law schools look down their noses at the clinical professors (Note: Bad poetry warning). If law professors' precious tenure is taken away, they will lose their hallowed status within the university power structure. Like the legal profession at large, law professors are obsessed with status and credentials. Just witness the professors who hop from university to university in an effort to reach a Top 20 school. Not to mention that adjuncts and non-tenured faculty have little protection when it comes to salaries and benefits. There aren't too many adjuncts who are able to afford a nice house, multiple luxury cars and vacations abroad on a regular basis. Status chasing is a problem in most areas of life, but has an outsized impact in the academic arena.
As this post on PrawfsBlawg says, law professors are hired to do three things: scholarship, teaching, and service. Right now, the law professors have it great on all fronts. With scholarship, not only do tenured law professors usually have no requirement to publish a certain amount, they are paid extra stipends in the form of summer research grants. It's like if a law firm paid its senior partners bonuses for writing and submitting briefs to the court and didn't care if they decided not to do their job anymore. It is well established that law professors at many institutions have a laughably low teaching load. At the top schools, many professors can get away with teaching six hours a year. Contrast that with adjuncts, who often teach two or three sections per semester for little above minimum wage. Service is so broad that almost anything can go under this umbrella. This could ostensibly include the summer teaching stints in the vacation tours masquerading as study abroad programs. The professor might even be able to write up his thought on his own vacation if so inclined. The best part of all this is that professors are free to choose how much or how little of each they feel like doing, in most cases. In an even harder to believe development, many schools leave it up to the professors to decide which of their three primary duties they want to focus on. That is a pretty sweet gig by any measure. Imagine if an attorney told his bosses that he no longer wants to work on paying cases, instead choosing to concentrate on pro bono work and bar association activities. She would be out on her ass in a hot minute. I don't blame law professors for fighting as hard as they are. They have a great racket going.
The system is broken. We have a desperate group of overpaid, pompous and self-important professors fighting tooth and nail to continue to keep riding the gravy train they've been on for the past century. It's time for students to tell professors that their free ride is over in the only way that will make an actual impact: with their wallets. The drop in law school enrollments is encouraging, but our work will not be complete until law schools are forced to start shutting their doors. Kick these useless professors out into the real labor market. Then the free market can show us if their claims that they are forgoing salary to be law professors are actually true. I look forward to it.