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July 12, 2012

"Yale launches Ph.D. in Law to train aspiring professors"

The title of this post is the headline of this new article in The National Law Journal reporting on the (innovative?) new approach to be tried by Yale Law School to train the next generation of law professors. Here are the basic details:

Interested in becoming a law professor? Yale Law School has a program for you.

The school plans what administrators said will be the first Ph.D. in Law.  The program is designed for students holding a J.D. from a U.S. law school who want to teach law. Students will spend three years learning how to produce scholarly research and writing; will take teaching classes; and will teach courses themselves.

Yale already produces a disproportionately high percentage of law professors in the United States, given its relatively small size — about 10 percent claim a J.D. from the New Haven, Conn., institution.

But legal academia has become a tougher nut to crack in recent years, said Yale Law Dean Robert Post, particularly because law schools want professors with a deeper portfolio of academic writing and research.  A few years of practice experience is no longer enough to get a foot in the door at many schools, and job candidates with Ph.D.s are in demand, he said....

Law graduates with an interest in teaching often pursue Ph.D.s in areas such as philosophy, political science, history or economics, but "it's a little hard to get them back into legal scholarship," Post said.  Some law schools offer postgraduation fellowships that provide time to research and write, but they don't offer much instruction in producing academic research.

Yale's program will offer training in research and writing without losing students to other academic disciplines, Post said.  The law school is still ironing out the details, but students will have to write a dissertation, sit for qualifying exams, take classes on teaching and teach two courses.

Yale received funding for the program from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and alumna Meridee Moore, who founded Watershed Asset Management LLC. Students won't have to pay tuition and will receive a cost-of living stipend, Post said.  The program will start accepting applications this fall and will open during fall 2013.  Post said he expects to accept about five students per year, eventually working up to a total enrollment of 15.

"I think this offers a very exciting combination of law school and graduate school," Post said.  "We very much hope it will fill a need."

I share Dean Post's view that this new Yale Ph.D. program wll be an "exciting combination of law school and graduate school," and I think the program will fill a gap in existing law school programming.  That said, I do not think it is quite right to suggest this program will fill a "need" as suggested by Dean Post:  in my view, the law school universe right now does not really need more or even more thoroughly trained Ph.D. law professors. 

Though I am disinclined to assert that there are already too many law professors, I am eager to assert that there are already too many law professors who have spent relatively too much time in school and relatively too little time in legal practice.

July 12, 2012 in Deans and innovations, Teaching -- pedagogy, The mission of law schools | Permalink


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Amen. The notion that there is an urgent need in law for professors who have spent even more time in school strains credulity. I understand that Yale produces law professors and that this program is consistent with such an operation. But at some point, those law professors will be teaching at other schools further down the food chain. They will be teaching at schools that produce lawyers, not law professors. I question the value of breeding more professors who are hyper-academic and completely detached from (and even openly hostile to) the actual practice of law.

Posted by: Jonathan Pollard | Jul 17, 2012 1:23:12 AM

As someone who went to Yale Law, practiced for nine years, then came to the academy, I see what the advantage of this Ph.D. is to the wanna-be prof-- she's more marketable-- but not to the system as a whole or to the students that person will teach. This reflects, of course, a general dysfunction in the legal academy as a whole.

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Posted by: maillot chicago bulls | Aug 17, 2012 3:46:36 AM

This is good start up of Yale University for Law professorship. I also belief that the euqlity of education. But thing another thing coming in my mind.. the academic education and professional experience.

An academic teacher might have good knowledge of law but not enough experience - how to handle cases in real coart.

I belief both of this part should be integrated.

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Though I am disinclined to assert that there are already too many law professors, I am eager to assert that there are already too many law professors who have spent relatively too much time in school and relatively too little time in legal practice.

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