Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Are Legal Writing Professors Like Nurses?

by Lisa McElroy

In a recent blog post on the Wall Street Journal’s website, Jacob Gershman quoted from a poem and article penned by Georgetown legal writing professor Kristin Tiscione.  Those who are fortunate enough to know Kris know that she is a thoughtful, professional, highly competent professor who has taught an entire generation of Georgetown students.

Although the poem artfully expressed the frustrations of the 94% of legal writing professors who are not eligible even to apply for tenure, it was the comments that caught my eye.

The first two comments on the post compare podium professors to doctors and legal writing professors to nurses.

I’d like to start out by saying that the commenters who said things like “Why should a nurse be paid the same as a doctor?” were incredibly insulting to nurses.  Anyone who has ever had to stay overnight in a hospital – even for a happy reason like delivering a healthy baby – knows that nurses represent the front lines of health care.  Hospitals are nothing like they’re portrayed on Grey’s Anatomy.  In almost all of them, the nurses take care of patients’ psychological and physical needs.  The doctors visit patients for a few minutes at most, once or twice a day.

But when the Robert Wood Johnson foundation recently suggested in a draft report that nurses be paid the same wages for the same work – in other words, paid like doctors – that idea resulted in, shall we say, objections from doctors.  Or so the New York Times – the so-called paper of record – reports.  

Why might that be?  I ask especially because, as an abstract to an article published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine explains, “[Investigators] report that primary care physicians and nurse practitioners often work side by side but inhabit different universes, at least perceptually. Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist and Nobel laureate who helped found the emerging field of behavioral economics, would find this unsurprising. He contends that all humans are influenced by powerful unconscious mental filters that shape how they perceive the world around them. Given the heated debate over the roles of physicians and nurse practitioners in providing primary care in the United States, those filters are probably working overtime when these professionals reflect on their practice experiences and the literature on their respective performance.” (emphasis added)

The abstract goes on to say, “The differing views of physicians and nurse practitioners about their work can have troubling consequences.”

Substitute in “podium professors” for “physicians” and “legal writing professors” for “nurse practitioners,” and you’ve got the crux of the debate that goes on in almost every American law school. And it’s a heated one.

Now, I also think that the comparison of “legal writing professors” to “nurses” is an uninformed one, in many ways.  Even when nurses do the same work as doctors, they are educated differently.  Their training is much shorter.  Their responsibility level is much lower – nurses of many levels of licensing cannot prescribe medication, for example, nor do they have to deal with the responsibility of figuring out the right medicine to prescribe.

But legal writing professors graduated from law school.  In fact, according to a study published recently in the University of Louisville Law Review, 28% of legal writing professors responding to a recent survey had received a J.D. from a “top twenty” law school.   Thirty-six percent had post-undergraduate degrees from a top twenty law school. They incurred the same debt as professors who teach podium courses.  They sat beside them in the same classes.

The difference?  Well, the same study shows that most legal writing professors have far more practice experience than the average podium professor.

And yet, at most law schools, legal writing professors earn far less than podium professors. Sort of like nurses providing the same care as doctors make a lot less than their physician counterparts.  Huh. 

But, you might say, legal writing professors don’t do the same job as podium professors.  And, at many law schools, you might be right.

Most legal writing professors are not required to publish law review articles to keep their jobs.  Most podium professors are.

But most podium professors are not required to give detailed feedback on student writing.  To meet one-on-one with students on a regular basis.  To counsel and coach students through the process that is legal analysis.

To work on the front lines of student care.

That’s an awful lot of responsibility vis-a-vis students.  It’s pretty much ensuring that these students are qualified and competent to represent clients in the practice of law. 

I’m not necessarily arguing that all legal writing professors should automatically be eligible for tenure.  I’m not unrealistic enough to think that tenured faculties (including the one of which I am proud to be a part) will change their thinking about the “publish or perish” tradition.

But Kris Tiscione’s poem, the WSJ blog post, and the comments on the blog should make us think about equal pay for equal – albeit somewhat different – work. 

I’ll tell you what.  Next time I need an IV inserted, or a dressing changed, or a kind word uttered, I sure hope there’s a nurse around, one who’s paid a living wage. 

And for my law students?  I hope that they’ll benefit from the incredible community of legal writing professors, people who struggle to get by but give their hearts and souls to their work. 

My last hope?  It's that, not too long from now, Kris Tiscione will have grounds to write a more optimistic poem.  And when that happens, I hope the Wall Street Journal will report on it.


Paul Scott said...

"I sure hope there’s a nurse around, one who’s paid a living wage."

Really? Do you not consider something around $90K (as a national average - it is considerably more here in Los Angeles) to be a "living wage?"

I think legal writing professors are probably in the same boat. They make less than tenured (or even tenure track) professors, but they make a lot compared to most Americans (they will be top 5%) and using rhetoric like "living wage" is way over the top. Most people actually not making a living wage are working a lot harder than any legal writing professor. That comparison is not fair, of course, but it is the kind you invite when you pretend that the circumstances are much worse than they are.

Michael C. Dorf said...

I think Paul is right about the term "living wage", although I also think that was just a rhetorical turn. I took Lisa's core complaint to be about comparative value, not survival.

Perhaps a real example of academics who struggle to get by in the same way that many other nominally employed Americans in the non-academic sector do would be adjuncts, especially in the humanities and social sciences. (Adjuncts in law schools have day jobs as lawyers.) Most humanities and social science adjuncts teach very heavy courseloads for much less money than their tenured and tenure-track colleagues, often stringing together adjuncting jobs at multiple institutions.

With some notable exceptions, we (privileged) tenured and tenure track faculty have tended not to complain about the shabby treatment of adjuncts because it cross-subsidizes us. But that may be a long-term mistake, if the result (as it appears to be) is the gradual reduction of tenured/tenure-track faculty.

I'd like to say that the issue is not zero-sum, and I certainly think it isn't zero-sum with respect to intangibles like respect. But once one considers the interests of students, things get more complicated. Paying adjuncts (or legal writing professors) less than other faculty is one way to restrain tuition inflation. Just because it hasn't been at all effective in restraining tuition inflation doesn't mean things couldn't be even worse from students' persepctive.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Paul, Thanks for your comment. Most legal writing professors make far less than that. In fact, in my first job, the dean let it slip that I made less than the faculty secretary.

In some places and in some specialties, I'm sure nurses make a lot. In others, not so much. Some legal writing professors (like me at this point in my career) are paid for their education, experience, and expertise. Many, many more make about 1/3 or 1/2 of what a first-year tenure lined prof makes. Indeed, I do think it's hard to support a family on that.

Bronxpoet said...

Lisa makes key points about the skewed system in the legal academy that relegates whole cadres of critical faculty to a financial and governance gulag. Legal writing faculty are integral to the teaching and study of law. Indeed, I would argue that they are essential. But the elitism reflected in the legal academy continues to margenalised key actors in the academy. I can remember when clinical professors were treated as " less than." It's time to rethink and restructure the tenure process and provide differing access points. I find it so curious that many of my colleagues talk a good game about fairness and justice- but when it comes to our community we remain silent or worse actively work to maintain a rather indefensible hierarchy. Thank you Lisa.

Elizabeth Hanes said...

As a nurse, I got a great belly laugh at Paul Scott's comment. $90,000 as a national average nurse salary? Your source for that? The Occupational Outlook handbook cites $65,000 as the median nurse salary (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm), which much more closely correlates with my personal experience. God bless that nurse making $90,000 a year -- wherever the rare creature may be. (And PS: No matter how much or little we're paid, we will always take great care of you because that's what nurses do.)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen R. Diamond said...

Legal-writing teachers should be paid more and get more rights to attract greater talent: they should be capable writers. See "Why teachers write badly" — http://tinyurl.com/4h4zadz

Unknown said...

With some notable exceptions, we (privileged) tenured and tenure track faculty have tended not to complain about the shabby treatment of adjuncts because it cross-subsidizes us. But that may be a long-term mistake, if the result (as it appears to be) is the gradual reduction of tenured/tenure-track faculty.Fifa 14 Coins
League of Legends boost

JimStk said...

Just the lucky ones who pay this educational blog will get their writing papers there done in accordance to absolutely correct educational standards and theories. I would like to say that without proper activities each and every student will not be able to uncover a wide variety of sources on a given topic for his or her college.

JimStk said...

Just the lucky ones who pay this educational blog will get their writing papers there done in accordance to absolutely correct educational standards and theories. I would like to say that without proper activities each and every student will not be able to uncover a wide variety of sources on a given topic for his or her college.

Unknown said...


高合金鋼 said...


高合金鋼 said...


高合金鋼 said...

靜靜守候外約,默默等待,品茗待秋日援交妹。一場繁華煙雨,一夜情打濕了幹涸已久的援留言板枯澀的心靈按摩。飽受炎熱的心兒終於有了一刻寧靜而舒適的傳播小姐棲息。靜候細雨蒙蒙,感兩三點心聲援交 。在飄舞的朦朧細雨裏,與之相擁,深處自然魚訊,仿佛生命裏有了傳播小姐無限綠意盎然的色彩,有了生機援交。深處這繁華鬧市,靜靜的觀賞這春去秋來的洪爺 人間之景,待他年春暖花開之時傳播妹,再演繹外送茶一場極富盛美的花季流年。

高合金鋼 said...


高合金鋼 said...


Most Dance said...

I do love the words Elizabeth Hanes said (And PS: No matter how much or little we're paid, we will always take great care of you because that's what nurses do.) I hope that there are still many specialists like she who don`t think about the salary before taking care of someone or helping to get knowledge. As a rule students, writing their papers (or getting them here helponessay.com ) don`t think about such fundamental things but when they start their career and realize that they influence person`s life greatly, they make an important conclusion that salary is not everything and if it happens they are awarded greatly.

Unknown said...

深秋濃韻,晚霞黃昏時濤聲依舊,海浪繼續熱情地拍打著岸援交  台中援交  台北援交  援交妹上的礁石。潔白的浪花飛濺的老遠,夕陽下水天相連接的外送茶  外送茶莊  外送茶坊地方波光嶙峋金光潺潺。壹輪紅日像燒的紅透了的鐵餅,慢慢向水天相接的地方滑落,亮光漸漸援交  援交妹  援-交line變淡、變暗,最後留下壹抹深灰,紅透了的鐵餅終被海水打濕澆滅,淡淡的失去了光澤,天空將按摩半套  按摩全套  按摩個人工作室被黑暗吞噬的那壹刻,所有的街燈都被點亮,橘黃色柔和的燈光,遠遠望去,就像壹大一夜情交友  一夜情論壇  一夜情網站串金鏈子被鑲在了天邊。

環海道上車水馬龍川流不息,五彩斑斕的彌紅燈光漾在往全套  半套  茶訊來車子的玻璃窗上,流光溢彩,清冷美侖。在路上我們繼續重復著昨天的故事,追尋著生活的腳按摩店  舒壓按摩  外出按摩步。秋帶走了夏叫囂的烈熱,丟下壹絲清冷,降壹場霜,撒壹層霧,草木漸黃幹枯,那種蕭約砲  約砲網  約砲社團條,那種淡漠,將迎接著冬漫天飄雪的孤寂雕零。

Unknown said...

直立茶訊行走,龐大的驚人,身高比肩山嶽,渾身沒有毛發,通體一夜情密布著金色的鱗片,熠熠生輝。面部很平,只有壹只豎眼一夜情留言板,開合間像是壹道金色的閃電劃過,犀利懾人。整體血氣如海,宛如台北援交壹尊神魔!它路過此地,看了壹眼老柳木,稍作停留後,似乎急於趕路,台中一夜情最終快速遠去,許多山峰被其腳步震的轟鳴,山地劇烈顫抖。黎明,壹條十米長台北魚訊、水桶粗、銀光燦燦的蜈蚣在山中蜿蜒指油壓而行,像是白銀澆鑄而成,每壹節都鋥亮而猙獰, 劃過山石時鏗鏘援-交line作響,火星飛濺。但最終它卻避過了石村,沒有侵入,援援所過之處黑霧翻騰,萬獸避退。壹根散發著瑩瑩綠霞的柔弱柳條在風中援交妹輕輕搖曳……

Unknown said...

直立茶訊行走,龐大的驚人,身高比肩山嶽,渾身沒有毛發,通體一夜情密布著金色的鱗片,熠熠生輝。面部很平,只有壹只豎眼一夜情留言板,開合間像是壹道金色的閃電劃過,犀利懾人。整體血氣如海,宛如台北援交壹尊神魔!它路過此地,看了壹眼老柳木,稍作停留後,似乎急於趕路,台中一夜情最終快速遠去,許多山峰被其腳步震的轟鳴,山地劇烈顫抖。黎明,壹條十米長台北魚訊、水桶粗、銀光燦燦的蜈蚣在山中蜿蜒指油壓而行,像是白銀澆鑄而成,每壹節都鋥亮而猙獰, 劃過山石時鏗鏘援-交line作響,火星飛濺。但最終它卻避過了石村,沒有侵入,援援所過之處黑霧翻騰,萬獸避退。壹根散發著瑩瑩綠霞的柔弱柳條在風中援交妹輕輕搖曳……

monika said...

http://myessaywriteronline.com/ Essay writing summary: the modes of discourse, have been criticized by some composition scholars, the purdue owl recognizes the wide spread use of these approaches and students need to understand and produce them.

Unknown said...

Very awesome post , i am really impressed with it a lot

فوائد الزنجبيل
فوائد الرمان فوائد الحلبة فوائد البصل فوائد الزعتر فوائد زيت السمسم علاج البواسير فوائد اليانسون فوائد الكركم قصص جحا صور يوم الجمعه علامات الحمل تعريف الحب حياة البرزخ فوائد الزبيب

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post
www.powertech-haiti.com |

seoamine said...

thanks so much for that great blog and thanks also for accepting my links thanks
طريقة عمل الدونات طريقة عمل البان كيك طريقة عمل الكنافة طريقة عمل البسبوسة طريقة عمل الكيك طريقة عمل عجينة البيتزا فوائد القرفه

Unknown said...

thanks so much i like very so much your post
حلى الاوريو الفطر الهندي صور تورته حلى قهوه طريقة عمل السينابون طريقة عمل بلح الشام بيتزا هت كيكة الزبادي حلا سهل صور كيك عجينة العشر دقائق

Unknown said...

I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks!
auto-dalmacija.com |

Unknown said...

coach outlet store online
michael kors outlet
jordan 4
prada shoes
louis vuitton handbags
timberland shoes
hollister pas cher
tod's sale
nhl jerseys wholesale
kate spade handbags
beats by dre
prada outlet
kate spade uk
prada handbags
ray ban
louis vuitton outlet
new balance shoes
burberry outlet
coach outlet
tods outlet
adidas wings
coach outlet online
toms shoes
foamposite gold
lacoste outlet
adidas shoes
christian louboutin
kate spade outlet
tiffany and co jewelry
michael kors canada
toms shoes outlet online
giuseppe zanotti outlet
kobe 9 elite
michael kors handbags
converse outlet
michael kors outlet
foamposite shoes
michael kors outlet