Law school faculties 40% larger than 10 years ago

The average law school increased its faculty size by 40 percent over the past 10 years, according to a study by The National Jurist to be released in late March.

This increase in staffing accounts for 48 percent of the tuition increase from 1998 to 2008, the study shows. Tuition increased by 74 percent at private schools and a 102 percent at public institutions from 1998 to 2008.

The increase in staffing does not take into account the increase in support staff, which most law school administrators acknowledge has also increased. But no reliable data is available for that.

Law school observers say the dramatic increases are related to two things — an increased need for specialization and the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools.

“Law schools tend to believe that their faculty reputation is driven by scholarship and they are very interested in U.S. News,” said William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law. “Lowering your faculty-to-student ratio improves your [U.S. News] ranking and increases time for scholarship.”

Henderson said the typical teaching load has dropped from five courses a few generations ago to three courses today.

“Professors are spending less time in the classroom,” he said. “Now whether that is a smart use of a social resource is another question. It is very expensive to pay for faculty research.”

From 1998 until 2008, the number of law faculty at 195 ABA-accredited law schools grew from 12,200 to 17,080 — a 40 percent increase. A subset of that total, the number of deans, librarians and other full-time administrators who teach more than tripled — from 528 to 1,659.

While part of this increase was in part-time faculty, that category grew at a lower pace— 33 percent — than full-time faculty.

All of this has lowered the average student-to-faculty ratio from 18.5-to-1 in 1998 to 14.9-to-1 in 2008. It was an estimated 25.5-to-1 in 1988 and 29-to-1 in 1978. In other words, there are twice as many law professors per student today as there were 30 years ago

The National Jurist compiled these numbers from the ABA’s Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. We also compiled salary data that the Society of American Law Teachers has collected over the past 10 years, and compared these figures with tuition increases. We derived estimates for the total amount spent on faculty salaries in 1998 compared to 2008, and then compared the increase in expenditures to the increase in tuition.

The full story will be released with the March 2010 issue of The National Jurist, expected to be at law school newsstands in late March. The National Jurist also publishes a digital version of its magazine, available at in mid-March.

— Jack Crittenden, editor-in-chief of The National Jurist




Is this Bad?

Perhaps you might have overlooked a major reason for the increase in faculty, which is the interest among law schools in offering more clinical experiences, more classes in legal writing and legal skills, and more supervised experiences such as internships, externships, and public service.

Further, there is more emphasis on student benefit than appears in the reference to specialization; to the degree the increase is among faculty who lecture, the increase in faculty numbers would allow a greater diversity of courses to be offered, even if the number of courses remained the same. This is not all about scholarship, although there are benefits to increased scholarship beyond reputation. Much of the competition is in providing better experiences for students.

Steve Sheppard
Enfield Professor of Law
University of Arkansas

Getting Your Data From the Right Place? I am not planning to spend the time to review the ABA Guide and your article, but the numbers you report look a bit askew to me. First, I am sure you are correct that the overall number of faculty has increased, and the ratios have fallen. On the other hand, during the last 30 years, the number of JDs awarded has risen by ... 45%, and that number does not factor in the significant increase in graduate law degrees, which require more specialized classes. Second, why not use the data reported on ABANet for faculty ratio, or at least use it more carefully? It is, by the way, much more sophisticated, and it does not risk the skew of the "average" school. Look at Student Faculty Ratio, a chart going back thirty years, but covering your period, at It looks like your numbers are skewed by the largest schools, which simply grew. Change in faculty ratios from 1998-2008, according to ABANet data: large schools (2000+) 46% mid size schools (700-2000) 17% mid size schools (500-700) 19% small schools (300-499) 12% small schools (1-299) 10% Third, I'm not at all sure that the definition of a faculty member has not changed in 30 years. Are you really comparing apples to apples? Good luck. Steve

And yet they still don't teach squat about practicing law. All the quasi-intellectual garbage that is passed off as some earth shattering legal research. You want to do important research? Go find a cure for cancer. Law school is lame, our tuition money goes to subsidize over-paid law professors so they can write about some arcane area of the law that has little relevance to most lawyers.

Whether the rise is correct at 40% or not, I'm interested in the change over the same time period in the gender, racial and ethnic make up of the top administration and faculty. With any large increase in numbers one would hope for a proportionate increase in diversity. This does not appear to be the case. In 2006-07 Deans remained 86.3% White and tenured faculty 86%. By way of example, Hispanic and MexAm Deans were 1.3% tenured faculty, 2.3% While I know of a few changes since then, not likely enough to be a meaningful change toward diversity in visibility and leadership despite an overall increase.
Sarah Redfield


Legal writing classes are most often taught by adjunct practicing attorneys and not professors. Judicial externships are led by judges and present little burden to professors. Sure, Clinicals might provide students with valuable experience, but no more so than unpaid legal internships.

Do your reasons really justify the concomitant increase in tuition. Especially in light of the fact that 40,000 students graduate each year with a J.D. for only 25,000 legal jobs. Keep in mind that many graduates now leave law school with 120,000 in debt with an interest rate of 8.6%. This is a heavy burden when you consider that starting salaries are bimodal, with many graduates making less than 60K.

Besides, if you argument were correct, current graduates would have superior skills to those pre 10 years ago. Is this a tenable position. Do employers now rave over the practical skills of graduating students now??

Finally to address your last line head on. Is this "better experience" you speak of worth the extra 100% tuition. Perhaps from your perspective, it is. But then again, you are not the one graduating with over a 100k debt, scrapping to find a job that pays only 45k.