The Right Coast

May 03, 2005
Tenure and all that
By Tom Smith

Not to be a stinker, but contrary to the implication of this post by Instapersonage, I think the view among a lot of thoughtful law professors, anyway, is that getting tenure at law schools at least, is too easy, in some cases, way too easy. There are exceptions. The University of Virginia and that of Chicago have the reputation of eating their young, Yale has just stopped hiring entry level people, and their hiring of laterals has been a little uneven (this is my polite way of saying they have hired some people I would not want to hire even at our modest, but undeniably cute law school), and I don't really know enough about Harvard or Stanford to say. But, generally speaking, if you can get hired at a law school, you will almost certainly get tenure, if you can manage to write a couple of half way decent law review articles, which, if you managed to get hired in the first place, you can certainly manage to do.

Frankly, law schools should just get rid of tenure. It's a really dumb institution. Those of us who have it already should be grandfathered in, of course. Or better, our tenure should be bought out for some amount the reflects the diminishment of certainty of future income.

As you may have noticed, tenure seems to cause professors to bloviate, and so I shall continue.

While law school tenure seems to be too easy, the tenure process in humanities departments does seem awfully arbitrary. I suspect some of this stems from the nature of the disciplines themselves. How do you make a judgment of somebody's work if it is one of your principles that it is impossible to make valid judgments of anything? (I'm not counting philosophy as a humanity.) I like to think in the sciences, tenure decisions are made more rationally. Since I have nothing more to say, I will stop writing. This suggests that tenure has yet to have its full effect on me.