Monday, November 29, 2010

Should Bud Selig be Fired? *(by Marquette Law School)*

At the Adjunct Professor Blog, Mitchell Rubenstein (St. John's) rebukes the Marquette School of Law for retaining MLB Commissioner Selig as an Adjunct Professor. The Marquette press release is here. Prof. Rubenstein writes:
I think this is a total disgrace to law professors and am disappointed in Marquette Law School. No doubt Mr. Selig is an accomplished professional and no doubt that he can be an asset to any school by an occasional lecture about some of his experiences. But it is quite another thing to teach a class to students learning to be lawyers and to evaluate students, i.e., grade them. Law school is not business school and I am sorry to say that this appears to be a publicity stunt by Marquette Law School.
The position of an adjunct professor is certainly the most precarious at most law schools (other than that of the dean), so some angst at this hire is understandable. Adjunct professors -- practicing lawyers, typically, who join the faculty to teach one class (or two) -- serve at the pleasure of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, without the security of tenure or a long-term contract. They are relatively poorly compensated (rarely, I would guess, earning their hourly billing rate for time spent), yet engage in heavy-lifting activities like writing exams and grading student papers. Yet because they also have full time jobs in practice, they miss out on many of the speakers, workshops, and other activities that add to the joy of law teaching. To the extent that Prof. Rubenstein's blog speaks for adjuncts, his chagrin at any reduction in the qualifications for such teachers is possible to understand.

Yet the degree of criticism here seems extreme. First, to the extent that the critique is based on Selig's lack of qualification to grade students, it seems that he will be co-teaching a class with full-time Professor Matt Mitten. My guess is that Prof. Mitten, certainly qualified to do so, will be doing most (if not all) of the actual grading in the course.

Prof. Rubenstein also objects to a non-lawyer teaching legal classes. My personal view on this is that diversity in instruction is beneficial to all kinds of students, including law students. While bar exam courses should probably be taught only by faculty with legal experience and education, upper level electives like Sports Law may give students a better educational experience if those with real industry experience are involved. Selig has supervised labor negotiations, imposed discipline under a CBA, and no doubt hired hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of legal services. Would there be any objection to an accountant teaching a class on accounting to JD students? Or an M.D. teaching a class on medicine for lawyers? In my view students can learn a lot from someone who has hired lawyers.