ABA Wants to Open Door to More Adjuncts

By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 31, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Adjunct: a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.

It doesn't sound so glamorous when you say it like that, but if you are still interested, the American Bar Association wants to open the doors for more adjunct faculty in law schools. The ABA is considering whether to eliminate a rule that has required full-time faculty to teach at least half of a law school's upper-level courses.

If the rule is discarded, it could significantly change the balance between full-time and part-time law professors at law schools across the country. That's because adjunct professors cost less, and law schools are looking to cut costs in a challenging economy.

Low Cost for Law Schools

"Part-time teaching resources are a real opportunity to bring down the costs of legal education, while satisfying the demands of the practicing bar," said Kyle McEntee, executive director and co-founder of Law School Transparency.

Law School Transparency, a non-profit group, advocates reform in legal education. Among its other goals, the organization seeks to make the legal profession more affordable.

McEntee said faculty expenditures are the highest line items on a school's budget. He said the proposed change to the ABA rule could help reduce that cost.

High Cost to Students?

Surprise, many full-time professors don't like the idea of more part-timers.

"Students need to have access to faculty members outside of classroom time to be able to go over things that confuse them, to be counseled on how their education fits with their career aspiration and things like that," said Denise Roy, the director of externships at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers, the largest group of law faculty in the country.

Roy said adjunct faculty typically are not available on campus outside their teaching hours. She expects more opposition as the proposed rule change gets closer.

But Paul Horowitz, a law professor and blogger, said the change would allow schools more flexibility.

"If some law schools adopt a more practice-driven approach and rely more on practitioners to achieve it, while others are or can afford to emulate the model of a few elite schools, so much the better for institutional diversity and student choice," Horowitz wrote on the PrawfsBlawg.

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