Date Posted: May 2008
In the teaching component of the forthcoming Deadwood Report (see 11 Green Bag 2d 139), we plan to give substantial extra weight to required courses. That is, a professor will receive more credit for teaching a required course than she will for teaching a non-required (aka “elective”) course. The basic reason is that required courses are the most important ones. Why else would a law school force all of its students to take them? And if a course is important enough to be compulsory, then presumably it is important enough for a school to assign one or more of its better teachers to teach it. To do otherwise would be inefficient, unkind, and maybe even a breach of warranty – assuming that the school (a) promises applicants who enroll a good education and (b) treats production of well-educated graduates as one of its core functions. Where does this leave elective courses? In our efforts to measure roughly just how much law professors are contributing to their schools’ core functions, should we treat all elective courses the same way? Or are there some that merit intermediate weighting (less than required courses but more than run-of the-mill elective courses)? Are some electives of greater importance than most to the broad educational and narrower pre-professional and social missions of the law school? Do some impose heavier burdens on instructors? For example, should Evidence or Individual Tax be given the same weight as The Law of the Horse or Directed Readings in Legal History? More weight? Less? There is, it seems to us, one simple answer to all of these questions: Each law school should have some opportunity to take its own stand. And so we are going to invite them to do so, via a survey (reproduced below) we plan to send to the deans at the 25 “Best Law Schools” according to U.S. News & World Report – Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Boalt, Chicago, Penn, Northwestern, Michigan, UVA, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, UCLA, Texas, USC, Wash U (St. Louis), George Washington, Boston U, Emory, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Washington & Lee. Why those 25? Because the Green Bag’s puny resources preclude studying more than a few schools in our first year (we will get to the rest eventually), and starting with the cream of the crop will let the rest of the schools know where the high and mighty stand. Besides, schools with big reputations and big budgets will recover relatively easily from whatever (probably inconsequential) harms might result if the Deadwood Report turns out to be bad medicine. Please tell us what you think of our survey. Send your critiques and suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.