Home / General / The absurdity of the contemporary American law school, Part 743

The absurdity of the contemporary American law school, Part 743


Nova Southeastern has become the latest law school to announce publicly that it’s buying out a significant number of its tenured faculty. In Nova’s case, everybody whose age + years of service adds up to 60 is eligible. Assuming typical demographics this category probably includes a solid majority of the tenured faculty. The school says its capping the percentage of buyouts at 20% of the faculty (It’s unclear whether this means 20% of the faculty as a whole, 20% of tenured faculty, or 20% of the tenured faculty who are eligible.)

The terms of the buyout offer weren’t disclosed, although it does include three years of continued health insurance coverage. Not surprisingly, universities are discovering that this is a crucial consideration when trying to buy out faculty who are not yet eligible for Medicare within The Best Health Care System in the World ™. From what I’ve been able to gather, two years salary seems to be more or less the going rate for buy outs these days; in any case at least one Nova law professor was more than happy to take the deal:

“It’s a very fair offer,” [Bruce] Rogow said. “I accepted right away. This frees up the opportunity to hire new, fresh faculty. In the long run, it’s very good for me because I have something else that fills up my time, which is the practice of law. Teaching was just for the pleasure.”

Rogow, who served as acting dean of the law school in 1984, still may teach a class or two from time to time, but his career as a tenured law professor is over, he said. A prominent appellate lawyer, he plans to continue working full-time at his Fort Lauderdale-based solo practice.

Apparently referring to Rogow as a prominent appellate lawyer is something of an understatement. Per his CV:

In addition to teaching, Mr. Rogow has argued over 400 cases in federal and state courts,
including 11 cases in the Supreme Court of the United States. No one in Florida has argued more
Supreme Court cases than Mr. Rogow. He has been listed in Best Lawyers in America for 22 years.
In 2009 he was named in 4 categories: Appellate Practice, Commercial Litigation, First Amendment
Law, and Criminal Law. He is also listed in Chambers USA as a top commercial litigator. Mr.
Rogow is both a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Academy of
Appellate Lawyers, a dual recognition accorded to only a small number of lawyers in the United
States. For years he has been named by Florida Trend as one of Florida’s “Legal Elite.”
Mr. Rogow’s clients in 2007-2008 included Morgan Stanley (he reversed a $1.8 billion dollar
judgment against the company); Merrill Lynch; Richard Scrushy (Former HealthSouth CEO); the
Mayor of West Palm Beach, Florida; the cities of Doral, Miami Lakes, Hialeah and Pinecrest,
Florida; all the parimutuels in Broward and Dade Counties Florida; Donald Trump; Don King (the
boxing promoter); David Koch (Koch Industries); and in the Supreme Court of Florida he recently
represented appellate court Judge Michael Allen and Joe Anderson (Florida’s largest road
contractor). Mr. Rogow was appointed in 2007 by the Supreme Court of Florida to represent two
indigent prisoners, winning both cases. In 2007-2008 he argued 6 cases in the Supreme Court of
Florida. Former clients have included F. Lee Bailey, Wyeth Corporation, the Seminole Tribe of
Florida, Seminole Management Associates, and numerous lawyers and law firms, including Florida
tobacco lawyers in their tobacco litigation fees claims that ultimately resulted in fees of nearly two
billion dollars.

Rogow has been a “full-time” member of Nova’s law faculty since 1974, even though for much of that time he has also apparently been operating what may be Florida’s most profitable solo law practice. It’s unclear as to what “full-time” employment on the law faculty means for him; a check of Nova’s current web site and cached copies of it indicates that he taught two classes in the 2014 winter semester, and none in either the fall of 2013 or 2012. (I wasn’t able to find the winter 2013 schedule). And while one shouldn’t put much weight on sites like Rate My Professors, the evaluations of his teaching there suggest that their pedagogic value is perhaps questionable:

Brilliant attorney, terrible professor. I only went to his class four times and never opened my text book. He gives a review the last class before the final…and if you study that, you’ll do fine. One of my best grades in Law School. And he invites you to dinner at his place! Would take again!

I wish commenters would stop being coy and just come out with it. Rogow didn’t take attendance and didn’t know/care who anyone was or whether they came to class or not. The entire semester was basically story time featuring him. The last 2 classes were a review session where he told us EXACTLY what we needed to know to succeed on the final.


As for “scholarship,” it hardly comes as a surprise that a search of Google Scholar indicates Rogow has published almost nothing over the course of his 40+ years in legal academia, or at least anything anyone has ever cited.

So how much are Nova students paying for having a big name lawyer who is apparently a glorified adjunct on their faculty? To its credit, Nova responded last year to SALT’s annual survey of law faculty salaries, which revealed that the median salary for a tenured Nova law professor was just under $155,000 (Plus a $12,000 summer research stipend. Do appellate briefs count I wonder?). Given Rogow’s fame and seniority, he could easily be pulling down well north of $200,000 for what sounds like about five hours a week of work, amortized over a 47-week work year (let’s assume French vacation schedules just for the heck of it).

Of course all this is ridiculous from any perspective that sees law schools as something other than extraordinarily successful rent-seeking operations. Surely Nova can (and does) pay successful practitioners a few thousand dollars per class to share war stories and advocacy tips with their students. Or if for some reason Nova wanted to transform itself to a genuine graduate department in legal studies, it could pay actual academics what it pays its faculty in its humanities and social science departments (around $80,000 per year, per this less than scientific survey).

Instead it charges students more than $35,000 per year — and last year 71.3% of its students paid full boat sticker price — for this nonsensical arrangement.

Admittedly, having Rogow teach Civil Procedure isn’t as absurd as handing that job over to somebody with a doctorate in philosophy, who has only seen the inside of a court room on TV, (this is not, needless to say, a hypothetical situation in the context of the contemporary American law school), but still . . .

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  • Nobdy

    The arrangement also seems odd from his end. If his practice is so lucrative why would he bother with a salary of a couple hundred thousand a year? Certainly to a partner at a major law firm that’s a relative pittance, and successful plaintiff side lawyers can make a multiple of even the millions that a Cravath partner pulls in.

    • Paul Campos

      My guess is that he gets psychic income and possibly some professional benefit from being a “law professor,” which, combined with the approximately $900 an hour of very non-psychic income the school pays him for his services, makes for a pretty good deal.

    • TTTs

      Phoning it in for generous medical/dental/retirement…

      • Gwen

        That’s not a bad point. If he were a solo practitioner, he might be buying his own health insurance (I think the State Bar of Texas has a group pool, but I never had enough income when I was practicing to buy health insurance, what with being a pre-Obamacare young invincible).

        But as a law prof, he very definitely is part of a group plan, and might be getting 100% coverage (and even if he isn’t, it’s definitely a generous employer/employee split).

        Not to mention pensions and 401k…

        • Brian Schmidt

          401k or equivalent could be a clue – he might be/have been better able to protect from taxes vast amounts of investment “for retirement” through the school than he could on his own.

          Now he’s older and those schemes either don’t work or tie up too much money for too long.

          • Just Dropping By

            401k deposits are capped (only $17,500 in 2014, although he’s also presumably eligible for post-age 50 “top-up” contributions of up to an additional $5,500) and are taxed as regular income when withdrawn, so it’s not a particularly great way to protect “vast amounts of investments” if you otherwise earn enough to engage a professional financial planner.

  • TTTs

    These professors are the human equivalent of a $700 toilet seat (TTT pun intended).

  • Jojo

    Law school is a scam, but a status-focused scam.

    TTTs is right. Guys like this appear in the glossy brochures as tuition bait. I’ve also noticed that the “show horse” trial lawyers and legal insiders almost always have some affiliation with law schools. Law schools get to sell status, and the lawyers like the attention and institutional goodwill that comes from being affiliated with a law school. Win win for everyone but the students.

  • MM

    Hey, but he has practice experience, which we all know law students all think is the bees knees. I’ve long suspected that “practice experience” for law students basically translates into story-telling.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying (and neither is Prof. Campos apparently) that the PhD in sociology is better. But rather drawing the line between PhDs and practitioners, maybe the focus ought to be simply on teaching ability.

    But can you imagine that? Law schools actually crediting professors seriously for teaching ability rather than scholarship? You know what that would mean? Rather than judging a professor based on where he or she got the JD or whether he or she obtained some fancy clerkship, the Academy would have to value something that is actually valuable to students. And to boot, YLS wouldn’t have a corner on the market.

    Pipe dreams, I know.

    • T.E. Shaw

      I had a number of great teachers in law school. They were highly valued within the law school, too. But while I had some great experiences in Fed Courts and Legislation, nobody taught me anything about motions practice, taking a deposition, or corresponding with regulators. Teaching ability is of limited value to students if the curriculum remains overwhelmingly skewed towards theory.

      • Tybalt

        Ah, but if you let the hot air out of the curriculum, you’d show law school for what it really is: a one-year master’s degree spread thinly over three years of endless yakking. The other stuff can be (and should be) just as easily taught at community college.

      • CDT

        That’s exactly right. When I first started, I knew all sorts of arcane case law on what was then pendent jurisdiction, but not enough about depositions to wait for the court reporter to swear the witness the first time I took one. I knew how to think I guess. I just didn’t know how to practice. I think there is at least one state where you can apprentice rather than go to law school. Perhaps that’s an idea that should spread.

        • cpinva

          you can still “read law” in VA, and qualify to sit for the state bar exam. the difficulty is finding a firm that will accept you, and being able to support yourself while doing so.

          • Richard Hershberger

            The irony is that I, an experienced paralegal, can run a case within my area of experience (personal injury, mostly plaintiff’s side) nearly from start to finish. I haven’t taken a deposition, but I have sat in on a few and read many transcripts. I would need some pointers on depo prep, since otherwise I would likely miss something I would regret later. Similarly with trials: I suit up and sit in from time to time (particularly with a client who would benefit from some hand-holding) but generally anything requiring suiting up and talking to a judge, I know the theory more than the practice. I have found myself talking to a judge only twice, both times by accident when I was trying to get something through the clerk’s office that required the attention of the chambers judge. Motions practice? I write motions all the time: what I call routine and semi-routine motions. The more fact-based motions, my boss will give to me. The more law-based motions, he will usually do himself, though I help with the research. I could do the law-based motion in a pinch, but it would take me longer and the end product wouldn’t be as good (though it would be at least as good as some I have seen from elsewhere). Otherwise, pretty much anything that doesn’t require suiting up and talking to a judge, I have done.

            My jurisdiction does not allow reading law. This is probably just as well, as I might be tempted against my better judgment. I figured out law school was a terrible idea when I looked into it some ten years ago (well before the crash). But the idea that reading law is an undesirable background for a new hire is absurd. That would be the most practice-ready new lawyer you could ever hope to see.

            • Autonomous Coward

              I assume the difficulty comes in getting hired as an apprentice so as to get the contact hours (or similar) required to sit for the bar.

              You’re right that an apprenticed lawyer would probably be an excellent practitioner. This might be why the keepers of the keys to the kingdom have made it so rare.

              I’m not a lawyer but my father is (was). Based on what he’s told me I would think one year postbac and a year or two of apprenticeship would be a better route to go. More of a Medical School route?

              • Richard Hershberger

                Ah, I see that you are right. I don’t understand this problem either. You work there as a paralegal, perhaps being paid on the lower end of the normal range to balance any extra time spent on educational stuff. I would expect that the serious studying for the bar would be done on your own time. This would work particularly for a firm considering an associate hire down the road: at the end of the process both the firm and the candidate will have an unusually precise and informed opinion about the desirability of the candidate moving into an attorney’s position at the firm. I have known several paralegals who moved into attorney positions at the same firm after getting their JD and passing the bar. I imagine reading law is like that, but skipping the JD. Or this could merely be a fantasy running in my head.

              • Richard Gadsden

                That sounds strikingly similar to the English system.

                Bachelor’s degree.

                One year GDL, which is academic law – can skip if your bachelor’s is an LLB, which is an undergraduate degree specialised in law.

                One year vocational law school, either LPC (for solicitors) or BTPC (barristers). Very practical but in a classroom/lecture environment.

                Two years as Trainee Solicitor or Pupil Barrister; paid (full-time minimum wage is the minimum, most trainees make about £20K / $30K, top firms pay up to twice that) with both examinations and the agreement of the lawyer you were apprenticed to required to qualify.

                Three years postbac is the minimum to qualify.

                There isn’t a giant hurdle at the end that many fail to pass, but a steady winnowing through the process.

      • heckblazer

        I have a paralegal certificate, and in my program they did teach stuff like how to format and file pleadings, process of service, as well as basics about the law. For the most part the teachers were practitioners too, e.g. civil procedure was taught by a sitting Superior Court judge.

  • Gaius

    I don’t see much of a problem with this guy being associated with the school. He’s someone a motivated student could look up to, rather than your typical bookworm professor. I mean that.

  • MacK

    Have you read Irwin Chemerinski’s op-ed in today’s New York Times (written with an assist by Carrie Menkel-Meadow.) The money quote:

    According to the Association for Legal Career Professionals, as recently as 2007, close to 92 percent of law-school graduates reported being employed in a paid, full-time position nine months after graduation. True, the employment figures had dropped by 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, but only to 84.7 percent.

    The number of graduates who are employed is higher if the measure is over a longer interval than just the nine months after graduation. And with the economy improving and law-school enrollments shrinking, there will be more jobs available for new law graduates.

    No mention is made of the American Bar Association data for 2013 – or 2012 for that matter, or of the controversies surrounding the NALP numbers, the evidence of widespread fraud. There seems to have been no editing of this column, no fact checking and interestingly it is closed to comments.

    Will many law professors comment on this – well we can expect it to be touted as a wonderful piece of obvious fact by admissions directors coast to coast – hailed by law school deans – linked to with praise by Brian Leiter and such egregiously dishonest sites as the Faculty Lounge and Prawfsblawg. None will in fact point out its dishonesty – the false impression given by citing the NALP numbers and not the [probably over-optimistic] ABA data that is a few weeks old. Intellectual honesty is trumped by self interest among that ugly crew.

  • “Don’t Skimp on Legal Training because Law School is (Totally) Worth the Money”

    I just read Chemerinsky’s contribution to the Law Deans’ Apologetics series in the OP-ED pages of the Times. In my imagination I have chosen to merge it with Mitchell’s 2012 OP-ED to create one awesome article: “Don’t Skimp on Legal Training because Law School is (Totally) Worth the Money.”

    And why wouldn’t I merge them? Compare:

    Mitchell (2012):

    [T]he career for which we educate students, done through the medium of the law, is a career in leadership and creative problem solving. Many graduates will find that their legal educations give them the skills to find rich and rewarding lives in business, politics, government, finance, the nonprofit sector, the arts, education and more.


    Chemerinsky and Menkel-Meadow (2014):

    Legal education must continue to educate those who seek to serve as legal ‘problem solvers,’ not only in the board room or courtroom, but in all areas of civil society — our legislatures, administrative agencies, schools, workplaces and beyond.

    Same shit, different OP-ED, basically.

    As noted, Chemerinsky for the most part beats the same old drum as Mitchell. However, to his credit he does drop the tired “the imminent wave of boomer retirements = more jobs” argument, but then adds, instead, “the economy improving and law-school enrollments shrinking = more jobs” argument. Of course, the merits of the latter argument already have been hashed out in the comments on FT and LGM of late (actually, “hashed out” is too gentle of a description for what occurred: Brian Tamanaha utterly destroyed this argument the other day).

    On the surface, it all seems like a fairly ho-hum “the law dean doth protest too much” situation. Calling it not a “crisis,” but merely a “contraction.” But the kettle is beginning to boil, methinks. I mean, Chemerinsky’s kind of big fish to be engaging in this stuff. So what does that portend?

    Back in late 2012, Mitchell wrote the following:

    For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks. We entice bright young students into our academic clutches. Succubus-like, when we’ve taken what we want from them, we return them to the mean and barren streets to fend for themselves.

    No, you turned yourselvesinto the new investment bankers. And, unfortunately for you, this go-round there will be no Hank Paulson on his knees pleading your cause.

    • “Don’t Skimp on Legal Training because Law School is (Totally) Worth the Money”

      A typo correction: “FT” actually should read “FL” for The Faculty Lounge.

  • Jojo

    Chemerinsky is a dipshit. The sooner the Cal regents kill that vanity project the stronger Berkeley and UCLA will be. It take real chutzpah to whine about and to point to decreased public support for law schools when you almost single handedly get America’s largest public higher Ed system to make you a new law school out of whole cloth despite no need and no unique mission. If that element is missing from your calculus (or, to use the parlance of our times ‘is complete and utter self serving bull shit’), what else is left? Oh, yes, faculty salaries!

    • Imminent Closures

      At least Chemerinsky broaches the possibility of some law schools closing:

      Even if some law schools do not survive the current contraction — though none have yet gone out of business — that would not necessarily be a bad thing. After all, in so many other fields, we rely on market mechanisms to weed out the weakest competitors.

      I’m fairly certain that he’d shed no tears if all the toilets in SoCal went bust, for that might result in a larger pool of tuition-paying students applying to UCI. UCI is far from free anymore and these days quality matters much less than does asses in seats.

  • Jojo

    Also, it must be noted that if charlatans are going to say 92 percent of law graduates were employed in 2007 and 85 percent in 2012, it is perfectly fair to contend that the unemployment rate of law school graduates in any gainful capacity is more than double that of the population as a whole.

    This must be the talking point. Law school defenders use overall employment data but a reader is duped into thinking that the data reflect employment in law. Turn it around on the dishonest bastards. You’re more than twice as likely to be unemployed in any field if you are a recent law school graduate than the average American and only slightly more than one in two grads get a full time job in law.

  • RPL

    This kind of hiring seems to confirm Brian Tamanaha’s thesis that law schools raised their tuition because they could get away with it and then went looking for something to spend the extra lucre on, rather than raising tuition to make specific improvements in their product.

  • LOL

    “Admittedly, having Rogow teach Civil Procedure isn’t as absurd as handing that job over to somebody with a doctorate in philosophy, who has only seen the inside of a court room on TV”

    I always enjoy a thinly veiled shot at Brian Leiter.

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