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After Tenure: Senior Status in the Legal Academy

Authors: Elizabeth Mertz, Katherine Barnes, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law; Wamucii Njogu, Northeastern Illinois University

This is the first national study examining the post-tenure experiences of law professors in the United States.  Tenured law professors shape many aspects of the institutional settings within law schools, which in turn shape the professional development of the nation’s lawyers.  Thus law schools play an important role, because they train many of the individuals who run our government.  This study provides information about the professional lives and values of the law professors who are leaders in United States legal education.  The study combines a national survey of tenured law professors (Phase 1) and in-depth follow-up interviews with 100 of those professors (Phase 2).  The combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches offers a more in-depth picture than would be possible with either method by itself.

Project results have been presented in multiple presentations given at, respectively, the Association of American Law Schools Meetings, the Law & Society Meetings, and Empirical Legal Studies Conferences, as well as at the University of Arizona, Princeton University, the ABF, the University of Copenhagen, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris,  and the University of California-Irvine Law School.

A paper published in the Journal of Legal Education presented initial data from this major empirical study of U.S. law professors.   It focused on tenured professors’ views regarding the tenure process itself.  Although 76% of all professors in the study felt that the tenure process was fair, our results suggested that the perceptions of female tenured faculty members and tenured faculty of color differ significantly from those of their white male counterparts. Both female professors and professors of color perceived the tenure process as less fair and more difficult than did male or white professors. Female professors of color had the most negative perceptions. The interviews conducted during Phase 2 give us insight into the differing perceptions revealed by the quantitative analysis. These interviews indicated several sources of dissatisfaction with the tenure process, including the effects of implicit bias and a number of cultural and structural factors in the workplace. Both qualitative and quantitative data also indicate that which cohort a professor is in also affects how gender and race influence professors’ perceptions of the tenure process.  The existence of a differentially minority and female group of professors who are disaffected regarding the tenure process echoes findings in an earlier study regarding satisfaction among law students.  It also may form part of a picture that is emerging from recent research regarding differential rates of exit from the legal academy before tenure of scholars of color.

Please click here to access the paper on SSRN.


 Please see the following links to access supplemental materials, including tables, graphs, and the methods section from "Is It Fair? Law Professors’ Perceptions of Tenure."

Please click here to access Appendix A: Methods

Please click here to access Appendix B:  Tables and Graphs

Please click here to access Appendix C:  Supplemental Tables and Graphs

Summaries and findings

Law School Climates: Job Satisfaction among Tenured U.S. Law Professors
Jan 31, 2018
Addendum to LSAC version of After Tenure Report
Jul 30, 2012
After Tenure: Phase I Report and Publication
Apr 2, 2011

All summaries and findings »

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