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

The absurdity of the contemporary American law school, Part 743

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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.

Etc.

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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