Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What are standard law school teaching loads these days?

Professor Jeff Sovern (St. John's) writes:

I wonder whether schools that perform better on lists like the citation lists posted on this blog from time to time have lower requirements for the amount of teaching professors do and if so, how much. I am also curious to know what standard law school teaching expectations are these days, something others may also wonder about.  Could those of you who read this please post the teaching requirements at your law school in the comments? At my school, St. John’s, the default teaching load is twelve credit hours per year. Professors with chairs are expected to teach ten hours per year while early-career professors get a course reduction of about one course a year and in one semester in their first few years teach no courses. Professors may seek a research leave every seventh year consisting of a semester at full pay or a year at half-pay.  

Comments are open; submit your comment only once, they are moderated and may take awhile to appear.  Include a valid university email address, which will not appear.   It would be preferable for posters to name the school in question, which is why I need to know the email address, even if you choose not to post your full name.


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At Wisconsin, pre-tenure faculty have a standard load of 10 credits/year, with one guaranteed course release (pre-tenure "sabbatical"). In recent years we have also required only two courses in the first year of teaching. Post-tenure, the formal standard load is 12 credits/year. However, we established a "research track" for productive faculty, of 10 credits/year, for which faculty have to reapply every two years. In practice, almost everyone is on the "research track," making the 10-credit/year load the de facto standard.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Apr 26, 2022 5:08:32 AM

The Chicago teaching load is a bit hard to describe because it's a quarter system: 9 weeks of teaching in each of fall and winter, 8 weeks in spring. To make matters even odder, we teach 65-minute "hours" rather than 50-minute hours. In a "normal" year faculty teach 3 three-"hour" courses, and one two-hour seminar: so 3/1 on the quarter system, with the possibility of doing all the teaching in two quarters. Every other year, however, the load is just two 3-hour courses, and one 2-hour seminar: so 2/1 on the quarter system. Because of the quarter system, it is possible to be teaching just 17 or 18 weeks each year (rather than 28-30 weeks on most semester systems). Even in the "normal" year, there are fewer classroom hours here than at a school on a semester system with a 10-credit load, although it doesn't always feel that way on a quarter system.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Apr 26, 2022 5:26:03 AM

At Iowa, the law on the books is that tenured faculty who meet a certain standard of scholarly productivity (approximately one law review article per year or its equivalent) teach three courses per year, and that tenured faculty not meeting that standard teach four courses per year. My impression of the law in action is that most tenured faculty are treated as being in the three-course category. I am using the word "course" to include both courses and seminars, though the expectation would be two courses and one seminar, not two seminars and one course!

Posted by: Thomas Gallanis | Apr 26, 2022 9:20:02 AM

We're not a law school, but the legal studies department at Wharton recently moved to a two course load (as did everyone in the business school). The cost is that you must teach the required, high-enrollment courses - if you want to run a seminar, you would have to do it as a third course for modest extra compensation.

I guess the question is whether, once all the peer business schools move to a two course load, whether the associated law schools will be able to persuade their central administration that they should get the same deal.

Posted by: David Zaring | Apr 26, 2022 12:50:56 PM

I have taught at two schools, UT Austin and UCLA. At both, the official requirement is 10 credits, but the informal norm is that this basically means two regular courses and a seminar in a typical year.

Posted by: Joey Fishkin | Apr 26, 2022 1:05:49 PM

We are supposed to teach ten credits a year, but as a practical matter I think many people get away with less, because of leaves, outside research grants, etc. This is supposed to be lower than other comparable schools, but I have no verification on this point. Bare in mind that there is an increasing number of adjuncts who are typically paid by the course and for whom these numbers are irrelevant.

Posted by: Michael Livingston | Apr 26, 2022 4:54:17 PM

I've taught at the University of Wyoming and Notre Dame. At Wyoming, the teaching load was 2-2 (12 credits per year), with a one-course reduction available during one semester pre-tenure (typically but not always used to lighten the load in the first year of teaching). At Notre Dame, the teaching load is 2-1 (~9 credits per year, typically including two larger, 3-4 credit courses and one 2-credit seminar), with a one-course reduction in the first year of teaching (1-1) and one semester of pre-tenure research leave.

Posted by: Emily Bremer | Apr 28, 2022 2:32:03 AM

The requirement at Berkeley is 10 credits a year, although my understanding is that it’s common to receive a semester teaching leave after completing 7 semesters (other than the usual sabbatical leave after 7 years) which averages out to something more like 9 credits.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | May 2, 2022 5:43:09 PM

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