Friday, May 16, 2014

Is Rob Illig Worth A Million Dollars?

A few weeks ago, several emails from University of Oregon professor Rob Illig, characterized by at least one source as "wild rants", went public. In one of his emails, Illig made the following claim:
"I feel that having given up the chance at a seven-figure annual income is charity enough for the students..."
There are two issues that cast doubt on Illig's claims. First, he assumes that he would have been an equity partner. Second, the timing of his exit from Biglaw is curious. Let's see if the numbers support Illig's claim.

Mr. Illig graduated from Vanderbilt Law School (which he attended for free!) in 1996. He immediately went to work for Nixon Peabody in New York City and remained there until 2003. Per Paul Campos, the going rate for a first year associate in 1997 at a New York City Biglaw firm was $116,000. So let's assume that was Illig's starting salary. I reviewed a 2012 study by recruiting firm Major, Lindsey and Africa. It states that equity partners in New York City firms received an average of $896,000, while non-equity partners made $338,000 on average. Corporate partners made an average of $847,000. Since Illig is a securities law professor, I am assuming that he fits here.

The timing of Illig's departure from Nixon Peabody indicates that he was not going to become an equity partner. Equity partnership is increasingly reserved for the very few. Instead, non equity partners are added to maintain long tenured employees' sense of career progression. It comes with a bump in pay, but not to the levels Illig claims he would have reached. According to the earlier referenced study, non equity partners made an average of $335,000 in 2012. This is still a significant amount of money, but nowhere near what an equity partner makes. I have no way to know if Illig had the book of business and/or the "superstar" status to warrant being made an equity partner. Biglaw makes it clear to associates starting in their sixth or seventh year at the firm whether they will make partner. At that point, the individual is either expected to leave the firm or continue on an explicit non-partnership track. Given the obsession with status and prestige in law, amplified in Biglaw, many choose to leave. The fact that Illig left after seven years at Nixon to take a position at the University of Missouri does not speak well of his prospects to become an equity partner at Nixon.

Illig is the textbook law professor. He does not seem like the kind of person who would be able to sit by and watch others who came to Nixon at the same time or after he did make a lot more money and enjoy much higher status than him. At Oregon, he is a big fish in a small pond. He has a salary that enables him to live comfortably, and works less than ten percent as much as he would have at Nixon. There are legions of sychophantic students hanging on his every word. It's a good life, and not one he would enjoy as a lawyer. Never mind that he makes his money off the backs of students who will flounder for the rest of their lives. Illig can get a chosen few jobs at Nike. But by sending this email, Illig reveals how a great number of law professors view students: annoyances who must be tolerated so that the professor can live comfortaby and enjoy many creature comforts their students will never experience.

44 comments:

  1. I wouldn't give you two cents for Illig (and the slithy toves that gyre and gimble in the wabe). But, no, he certainly is not worth a million dollars a year. (I don't think that anyone is.) He's not even worth the six figures that he gets from the Unifarcity of Oregon. That position, complete with tenure, was dispensed on an uncompetitive basis. Many people would do four times the work for half the pay, with a damn sight more aplomb than that pompous, self-preserving wart. But they'll never get the chance, as Illig and similar scoundrels hoard those sinecures and dispense them almost exclusively to vile people like themselves.

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    1. If he's not worth a million dollars, we can rebuild him, we have the technology and make him worth six times as much.

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  2. We learn all kinds of interesting things when the mask slips!

    Just two minor quibbles: (1) Being made non-equity partner does not always come with a bump in pay. At some places, the perks are all you get. (2) "Biglaw makes it clear to associates starting in their sixth or seventh year at the firm whether they will make partner" -- if you're at a firm with something resembling a conscience. Otherwise, you'll be strung along until your 10-13th year, billing like mad, when the door is slammed in your face.

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  3. In analyzing whether one particular person would have made equity partner at a firm, but knowing nothing about them, you are really just guessing. The odds of making equity partner are slim. The odds of getting a law professor job are slim too, but he got one of those.

    As for your contention that he works 10% as much as he would have at Nixon, well, how would you know how much he works?

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    1. You are very correct in saying that I know nothing of his time at Nixon Peabody. If someone knows, please correct any assertions or assumptions I have made.

      As for the amount of time he works, I'm assuming a 70 hour work week for law firm partners and a 6 hour work week for law professors.

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    2. No. It takes a long time to prepare properly for each class. Those of us who have taught at law school can vouch for that. To do it properly, at least two hours for each hour of teaching.

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    3. A typical schedule is 3 or 4½ hours per week of teaching. Adding two hours for each hour of teaching (assuming generously that each professor actually does prepare for class) makes only 9 or 13½ hours per week of work. Bear in mind too that that's for only 30 weeks of the year. Cushy sinecure with a truly monstrous salary and benefits (not least of which is tenure).

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    4. To 6:50

      Most law professors I know teach 2/1, that is two classes one semester then one class the other semester. If I go by your 2 hour prep for each hour of teaching, then the time required for teaching and prep is 12 to 18 hours per week for one semester (depending on whether the classes are 2 or 3 hours) and 6 to 9 hours the other semester. This really isn't a whole lot of time spent on what should be the main event.

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    5. On the "2 hours of prep for 1 hour of classroom time"...

      This is perhaps true only for a first-year or second-year law professor learning the ropes and figuring out what works and what doesn't. Learning his or her lines, as it were. There is some effort required up front.

      But for a professor who has taught the same classes for five years? There is very little preparation needed, if any. The law hasn't changed (and in fact, will *never* change as far as law professors are concerned, seeing as huge chunks of many courses revolve around some very old and settled law), and last year's notes - indeed, notes from ten or twenty years ago - will still adequately guide most professors. I would be surprised if pre-teaching preparation for the average tenured civil procedure professor includes much more than a visit to the bathroom and a minute in the office to pick up the well-worn casebook he's been teaching from for years.

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    6. A few Kingsfield-style professors prepare before class, even in courses that they've taught for many years. Most, however, do not. And it shows.

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    7. I had a professor that was clearly intoxicated at almost every class meeting, so I guess he prepared in his own way.

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  4. No way Illig would have left Nixon Peabody if he had a shot at making partner (equity or non-equity). Also, sorry to go off topic so early, but people need to check out Scalia's address at the graduation ceremony for William and Mary Law. http://law.wm.edu/news/stories/2014/documents-2014/2014WMCommencementSpeech.pdf

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    1. For more on this see:

      http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2014/05/something-go-forever-will-stop

      Big props to Paul Campos.

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    2. "whether … you have essentially wasted one of your three years here"

      Only one? Try all three.

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    3. "It seems to me that the law-school-in-two-years proposal rests on the premise that law school is—or ought to be—a trade school. It is not that. It is a school preparing men and women not for a trade but for a profession—-the profession of law."

      It should be, but it isn't. It really has become a trade school. And there is no longer a "profession of law" either.

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    4. If law schools were a trade school then they would have to abandon the socratic method and probably redesign their curriculums to teach subjects useful to what their graduates would be probably doing - small/solo practice for most schools. It would probably be something between paralegal training and business school.

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    5. Which is why it makes sense to go this route. Intellectual enrichment is nice, but it should be a byproduct of an education. The main reason most people go to school is in order to gain knowledge that will help them succeed in a job.

      The Socratic Method has been perverted from a tool of actual enlightenment and inquiry to a way for lazy professors to have students provide the majority of a class's content. It is not working. The fact that law grads have to pay several thousand dollars more for a bar review course is proof of the fact that law school doesn't even succeed in fully preparing students for the bar exam.

      Perhaps we can have a bifurcated system. Let those who want to immerse themselves in Art Law and the Socratic Method get a Ph.D in Law. Let those who actually want to practice get a Master's and have that curriculum consist of classes in negotiation, document drafting, and business management. Then we can reduce the cost of the Master's to the point that a person could survive going solo if that's what she wants to do.

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  5. The current law school model does not work. Paying law professors six figures to teach the same material for 3-6 hours a week is too much of a cost for law grads. The current model was more feasible when law school was not as expensive. I think more and more people are starting to examine the issue and realize the current model fails students and the legal profession as a whole. It is incredibly inefficient and does not produce optimal results. Law schools and professors should exist for the benefit of law grads and the profession, currently they do not. Tenure is a very expensive cost that should be eliminated.

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  6. Lemmings, law school professors mostly regard you as nuisances. I have a brother-in-law who is a tenured prof at a T14 school out east and he despises his students. He hates that they wear baseball caps in class. He hates that they instant message while they're supposed to be listening to him, the Great One, lecture about Con Law. He thinks they're all lazy entitled brats. They are nothing more than loan conduits for his $275,000 salary.
    And there were the professors at my Chicago Toilet. I was a non-traditional, having had a decade of experience in corporate America. In 1L, I foolishly went out of my way to try and get feedback, criticism and advice from my professors. You see, in the corporate world that's how it works. Generally, you approach people with the thought that you are both there to build relationships and help each other out. This is how things work in companies. And although I never got the chance to practice law, I imagine it is how lawyering is supposed to work.
    No such luck with my professors. The legal writing professor (Strubbe) was openly disdainful of everyone except her star student. She would tell us that sometimes it takes a little longer for the slow ones to get the light bulb to turn on. All this said with a slight smirk to her face. It was her "tell" that she was contemptuous of us. It's that little flash Dick Cheney usually employs when speaking. If you watch people closely, you can always tell what someone really thinks of you. That little contemptuous smirk is impossible to hide.
    And there was the Contracts professor who sprawled back in his chair like a dog that's just stolen and eaten a bucket of KFC. He wasn't quite as contemptuous; he just said not to worry about the question I had because it wasn't going to be on the final. I had clearly disturbed him from a nap even though it was his office hour, and he was a bit cranky. He phoned It in the entire semester, cancelling as many classes as the ABA would allow.
    You see Lemmings, these people by and large have never really had to work for a living in the real world and get along with others. Some may have had a year or two in Biglaw, but they've mostly sailed by and gotten to where they are through a bit of luck. Most of them were also genetically blessed with big brains and connected families. But they have rarely been in a position where they have to get along with other people to advance a common purpose.
    I want to mail every faculty member of my former Toilet a copy of "How to behave and Why." But deep in my heart I know about half of them will write a law review article about it and that's just too depressing to consider.

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    1. As a non-traditional student who wore business attire to class every day, I happen to share your relative's disdain for the wearing of baseball caps in class. Baseball caps are not properly worn indoors at all.

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    2. Baseball caps should be worn at the poker table.

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    3. I'm just curious: am I really supposed to feel sorry for you for choosing to go to some toilet law school in Chicago when you apparently had an established career in "corporate America"?

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  7. I think you give Law Professors far more credit than they deserve in the prestige hierarchy. I have worked in law forever. From my perspective, those lawyers with "prestige" are those who have set themselves apart with an unusual talent or ability. It may be that they are great trial lawyers, or incredibly intelligent, or highly successful but also considered great people. Law Professors in the end are a dime a dozen and in reality few of them accomplish anything in their lives that would be given a "wow" factor from most in the profession. They are pretty much invisible to all but their students, and even there probably quickly forgotten. And by the way, I don't see a few hundred K as particularly a lot of money for a person who is supposed to be one of the best in the business. The best in our business make far more than that. But they do it on their own initiative and with their own creativity and abilities. Law Professors by definition are simply employees . . . good credentials of course . . . but hardly ever legal stars.

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    1. Your narrative applies mainly to toilet law schools. I went to a respected school and many of my professors had mind-boggling success in their careers before reaching our lecture halls. Many had argued often before the Supreme Court, others had fascinating stints doing one thing or another for the Department of Justice, or opposing the Department of Justice, or fighting death sentences, or staring down the guns of some wackjob sheriff over a civil rights-era injunction battle, etc. I can't relate to your complaints. And that's because they only apply to low-ranked toilets.

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    2. Many of the professors at these low-ranked toilets attended the high-ranked law schools. In fact, the vast majority of newly hired law professors today graduated from the top law schools. So, whatever phenomenal success your professors may have had, it didn't inspire these former students of theirs to achieve any on their own.

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    3. I went to a top law school. High Tier 1. I do not know what you are talking about. Most of my full-time professors had very little experience practicing law, short stints at best. Many had been in academia for so long, they had no concept about legal practice.

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    4. "I went to a respected school and many of my professors had mind-boggling success in their careers before reaching our lecture halls."

      I went to HLS, and I can't think of a single prof who had mind-boggling success before becoming a prof, unless you count being a SCOTUS clerk as mind-boggling success. My profs were successful *as academics* and, in a small handful of cases, as high-profile consultants (Nesson, Dershowtiz) or appellate advocates (Tribe) after they had become law profs. And a few had managed to leverage their Harvard credential into some plum government positions (Edley, Warren). None of them had actually practiced for more than a couple of years as biglaw associates before becoming profs.

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    5. This guy at 3:52 and 3:47 above is probably a shill. Are his comments even related to the primary discussion above? No just ignore the troll.

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  8. From the University of Oregon Law School website, here is how you may get in contact with Prof. Rob Illig:

    Phone: (541) 346-1723
    E-mail: http://law.uoregon.edu/faculty/fulltime/#I

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  9. Prof. Illig's attitude is not uncommon in academia (unfortunately). My grandfather grew up in Appalachia, dropped out of school at the age of 13 to work, fought in World War II, attended barber school, and owned a successful small business (barber shop) for over 40 years. Whenever he didn't have customers, he sat in his barber chair and literally read anything he could get his hands on. He is the most brilliant person I have ever met, and he received very little formal education. Attitude is everything, and academia could use a dose of humility (not to mention reality). Success gained at the expense of others (your own students!) is not success.

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    1. These professors were born on third base but think that they hit a triple. Most of them are not intellectuals, let alone scholars.

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  10. As someone that is the victim of the rapidly popping pharmacy bubble, I think I can weigh in on where the ego of these professor clowns comes from:

    With the severe program inflation of the past years, there are literally constant offers with low-ball credential qualification for these clowns. A pharmacy 'educator' with a mere entry level degree once retorted, "I'm glad of the college openings." After getting free tuition for his son, and screwing me royally during experiential assignments, he is back at another pharmacy college to better work on his music career. Another ass, after ruining my pistine academic record for a technicality was hired as dean with...an B.S. pharmacy degree. Unbelievable.

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    1. What would it actually take to hire a decent professor of law (or pharmacy)? Does anyone really believe that people at least as capable as Illig and Leong and gang could not be hired by the truckload for $50k per year, with tenure, to teach three or four times the number of courses?

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    2. I know several attorneys in private practice who are now happily teaching as adjunct profs or have done so in the past, and they get paid a pittance -- a couple thousand per course (not per class, per course).

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    3. Many adjuncts teach not for the negligible amount of money (which may amount to $10 or $15 per hour even before taking the significant time and cost of travel into account) but for the supposed prestige of being asked to teach at the same institution as an Illig or a Leong.

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  11. Regardless whether Illig was on the high-six-figure track or not, that ship sailed long ago. Nixon Peabody wouldn't pay 15 cents for him today.

    With the law school model rapidly collapsing, Illig ought to be thinking about what he's really worth NOW to his students, university, and/or another industry. All law profs should. Whatever they think they might have been able to earn in 1999, it's not 1999 anymore, and there are about twice as many law profs as are actually needed, as well as about twice as many lawyers as legal jobs.

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    1. 1. I do not mean to defend the pig Illig, but I do think what he was saying is that he got off the ship and cannot get back on, which his true. Whether he'd have made seven figures had he stayed aboard, of course, is open to serious debate.

      2. One thing Illig has going for him is that he is at a state school. Outside the T25 they have the best chance of survival thanks to in-state tuition and taxpayer subsidies.

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    2. Like most other law professors, Illig has had many things going for him—ever since conception—yet puts his status down to merit rather than to an accident of birth.

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  12. TTT 2: Rise of the Lemmings

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  13. Many law skules will give prospective students money towards the cost of visiting. Which ones give the sweetest deals? I'm interested in setting up a series of short vacations funded in whole or in part by law skules, and I may even be willing to attend their dumb presentations if it means picking up a bit of $$$.

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    1. They have reached the level of time share promoters.

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    2. This is a very good idea and I hope that you follow up with a genuine answer.

      Which schools are offering the sweetest deals?

      Because I personally would have zero ethical problem in fleecing these schools for reduced airfare, hotel, etc in order to visit a city. Zero.

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    3. In 1985 I saw a sign on the side of a West German autobahn just before it reached the inner German border. It said "Bitte nicht vergessen das Sie noch durch Deutschland gefahren werden.." (Please do not forget that you will still be driving through Germany.)

      @10:47, I appreciate the sentiment but do try to remember that every dollar given to you by a TTT that you are spending painting the town red was borrowed by some lemming who signed his or her life away.

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  14. Illig = Douche Bigalo

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