A survey of law faculty salaries, conducted by the Society of American Law Teachers, suggests that the overwhelming majority of law schools offer summer stipends to at least some faculty. The reported stipends range from a low of $5,000 to a high of $25,000. Notably, those reports do not include any of the schools with the most highly compensated faculty; you won’t find the summer salaries for schools like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, the University of Chicago, or Stanford on this list.
These summer stipends supplement salaries that already rank among the highest in the academy. They are also quite unusual in the academy; other university faculty do not receive summer research grants with the ease or regularity that law faculty do. Professors in other disciplines usually apply for outside grants if they want summer support. More often, they do without: they devote their summers to research even though they technically are unpaid during that time.
Why do law faculty need so much financial encouragement to produce research? Why aren’t we encouraging our faculty to seek outside grants if they want that summer support? Summer research grants are wonderful bonuses, but they shouldn’t be necessary to encourage research. People join the academy to research and teach, so that’s what we should do.
A first step in reducing the cost of legal education would be to eliminate summer research grants for full professors. We could continue to award grants to junior faculty, who are seeking tenure and may bear their own student debts. For full professors, summer research grants seem like a luxury we can give up to help both our students and our institutions.
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