July 15, 2005
Lander on Adjunct Law Teaching
Despite all of the hoopla about full-time law teaching positions, there is significantly less attention paid to the process of being an adjunct professor. Fortunately, the Business Law Today ran a good basic article on adjunct law teaching by David Lander. For lawyers interested in exploring adjunct teaching, this article is a fine place to start.
Let me add just a couple of comments borne from my 7 years of experiences as an adjunct professor at 3 different law schools:
* It will take more time than you think. I typically spent 200 hours a year on my 2 unit course. Further, this time comes on a fixed schedule; unlike some client deadlines, classtime really isn't negotiable. It usually meant a lot of weekends in the office during the semester prepping for class.
* Don't do it for the money. I got paid about $1,400-$1,500 per unit. For a 2 unit class, this meant about $3,000. Don't get me wrong, I'll take the money, but this isn't going to change my life. For many practicing lawyers, this money is just a rounding error compared to their salaries; and at some firms, the money just goes back to the law firm anyway.
* Don't do it because it will increase your professional stature. Being an adjunct probably will have that effect, but it's a time-consuming way to do so, and in the end your responsibilities to your students are a far more important consideration.
* Do it because you love to teach. There's something magical about guiding students to greater understanding; to capitalizing on your practical experience and helping students see the world through your unique view; to helping students accomplish their professional and personal objectives. Every year, my wife would beg me to drop being an adjunct because of the time commitment; every year, the lure of teaching won out (until I became a full-time professor and ended the competition for time!).
If you're considering becoming an adjunct, or you're already one, I encourage you to consider Madeleine Schachter, The Law Professor's Handbook: A Practical Guide to Teaching Law Students (Carolina Academic Press 2003), which does a very competent job demystifying the process. It will answer most of the questions you're bound to have. I also have put together a bibliography of articles to consider at the bottom of this page.
Being an adjunct was one of the most professionally-satisfying activities I ever did. It was also one of the hardest. I commend the experience to all of you who are interested.