Today

Thursday Thinkpiece: Wald on the Academic “Billable” Hour

On Thursdays we present a significant excerpt, usually from a recently published book or journal article. In every case the proper permissions have been obtained. If you are a publisher who would like to participate in this feature, please let us know via the site’s contact form.

A Thought Experiment About the Academic ‘Billable’ Hour or Law Professors’ Work Habits

Eli Wald is the Charles W. Delaney Jr. Professor of Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. A legal ethics expert, Wald has written on topics such as diversity and inclusiveness, lawyers and cybersecurity, lawyer mobility, and the challenges facing lawyers representing clients in the emerging marijuana industry. A co-author of a leading legal ethics casebook, Prof. Wald is a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee on the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Colorado State Bar Association’s Ethics Committee and the Colorado Judicial Ethics Advisory Board.

101 MARQUETTE L. REV. 991 (2018); U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-12

Excerpt: Parts I, II, IV and V
[Footnotes omitted. They can be found in the original via the link above]

I. INTRODUCTION

We know little about what law professors do and how they spend their time. While we know law professors’ teaching loads, we do not know how many hours they spend preparing for classes, interacting with students outside of the classroom, developing and grading assignments, updating their syllabi, or otherwise investing in their teaching skills, let alone how they spend their time pursuing all of these activities. Similarly, while we know quite a bit about how much law professors publish and about the quality and impact of their scholarship, we do not know how they identify topics for inquiry, research, write, and publish, or how much time they spend on these endeavors. Finally, while we know a fair amount about law professors’ service commitment, such as their committee assignments and public speaking engagements, we do not know how much time and how they spend their time on service activities. In short, we know very little about law professors’ work habits.

What we do not know matters. Law professors’ work habits can inform the development of best practices and benchmarks in legal academia, as well as reveal aggregate patterns regarding how law professors spend their time. In turn, these insights can be used for mentoring and training junior faculty; informing individual and institutional decision-making about resource allocation; improving teaching, scholarship, and service work habits; and informing normative discussions about what law professors and law schools should be doing in the face of mounting criticisms of legal education. Yet the diagnostic virtues of timekeeping may be inherently intertwined with destructive time management qualities inconsistent with the intellectual and contemplative core mission and objectives of legal academia.

This essay imagines a world in which law professors tracked their work hours, recording how much time they spent teaching, researching, and on service, as well as brief descriptions of their activities. What would such a world look like? Part II identifies some of the diagnostic attributes of the academic “billable” hour, explores the potential destructive dark side of timekeeping, and examines the nature of the relationship between the diagnostic and destructive qualities of recording academic time. While foreign to academic lawyers, the billable hour has been a feature of law practice for a while now; Part III introduces some of the insights and lessons law professors might learn from lawyers, chief among these the need to separate the diagnostic virtues of timekeeping from adverse punitive compensation consequences and the wisdom of putting in place an apparatus of ethical time recording before purporting to implement academic timekeeping. Part IV imagines some of the political implications of recording academic time, and Part V briefly explores some of the normative discussions timekeeping might help inform.

II. IMAGINING THE ACADEMIC “BILLABLE” HOUR: DIAGNOSTIC INSIGHTS AND DESTRUCTIVE QUALITIES

We know very little about law professors’ work habits. Academic timekeeping is likely to generate ample data and knowledge about what law professors do, yielding significant diagnostic insights informing individual, institutional, and systemic decision-making in legal academia. At the same time, however, timekeeping’s dark side may undermine the very mission and culture of the academic enterprise in law schools.

A. The Diagnostic Virtues of Academic Timekeeping

Imagining what legal academia would look like if law professors were to record their time, we might start with the world as we know it: one without timekeeping.

First, consider scholarship. We do have ample data about the quality of legal scholarship. At the hiring stage, law schools carefully scrutinize the quality of candidates’ scholarship based on the expertise available on their appointments committee and faculty, increasingly a meaningful examination because entry-level candidates commonly have more than one published paper available. Similarly, promotion to tenure decisions entail a close examination of the candidates’ work informed by the insights of outside reviewers who are experts in the relevant fields of study. In addition, high quality published work tends to be recognized, discussed, engaged with, and cited by courts, policy makers, and peers with relevant subject matter expertise. Next, in recent years, some preliminary limited evidence has emerged regarding the scholarly productivity of law professors. Admittedly, some of the productivity data is rather crude, for example, excluding books, yet we are beginning to know more about quantitative productivity. Finally, impact indexes have recently become more popular, ranging from law professors’ scholarly citation counts to Social Science Research Network (“SSRN”) downloads. Like their productivity counterparts, these measures are often quite inexact. Citation counts often do not exclude self-citations (a professor citing his own previous work will pick up citation counts), and do not distinguish between types of citations (ranging from a substantive engagement with the key arguments made in the paper, to brief substantive references, a citation to an esoteric point made in the paper or a string citation). SSRN downloads are similarly subject to some manipulation. Nonetheless, we know quite a bit about the quality, productivity, and impact of legal scholars and legal scholarship.

In contrast, we virtually know nothing about law professors’ habits of scholarship. “How to” style guides purport to instruct new law professors about the scholarly craft, how to identify topics, research, write, and publish. However, there is almost no empirical analysis examining whether this sage advice is followed by law professors. Consequently, we do not know how law professors select topics for research, how they research, how much time they dedicate to their research, how and when they write, how they publish, and what constitutes “best scholarly practices” (and for that matter, “worst practices” either).

In a historical context, knowing so little about the habits of legal scholarship is not surprising. Until recently we knew relatively little about law practice in general, rendering our ignorance about academic law practice par for the course. Since we did not know about what lawyers do, how they practice, and the challenges they face, it was hardly a surprise that we did not know what academic lawyers, that is, law professors, do. Appropriately, the practice of law is now the subject of robust empirical study and academic law practice ought not to be exempt from the very scrutiny lawyers are subjected to.

Now imagine what we would learn if law professors were to record their scholarly time. To begin with, consider a productive law professor who produces high quality work. Timekeeping would reveal how much time she spends on her scholarship and how she spends it, and would help generate valuable best practices in terms of identifying topics of inquiry, habits, and strategies for conducting research, writing, and publishing. In addition, the data can help establish benchmarks for different types of scholarly projects ranging from short essays and book reviews to articles and book projects.

Next, consider a law professor who is not particularly productive but publishes high quality work. Timekeeping insights could equally contribute to generating valuable data and learning from the work habits of others. To the extent that one is unproductive because of investing insufficient time in her scholarship or pursuing ineffective scholarly habits, benchmarks generated by more productive colleagues who publish high quality work could inform the law professor’s habits and decisions regarding time allocation. As importantly, tracking the time of those who invest ample time to produce high quality work but publish infrequently may shed important light on work habits and help generate more nuanced best practices and benchmarks for an array of legal publications.

At the same time, we have a lot to learn from those who regularly publish mediocre work. Here too, timekeeping may reveal valuable information about work habits. It can help diagnose insufficient time commitments, assessed both given one’s recorded scholarly hours and against the benchmarks generated by colleagues producing high quality work, and thus inform individual and institutional decisions regarding allocation of research and writing resources. Moreover, those who produce relatively poor-quality work notwithstanding committing long hours to their scholarship may help reveal insights about ineffective or “worst” work habits and may in turn learn from the best practices of productive high-quality colleagues. Finally, were those who produce comparatively little scholarship of relative low quality to record their time, the data generated could help us understand, identify, and avoid poor and unproductive work habits. All of this knowledge could be used to train and mentor new scholars as well assist struggling law professors, improve scholarly habits, and inform individual and institutional decision making about scholarship.

Second, consider teaching. As is the case with scholarship, we already know quite a bit about how much law professors teach, the quality of the instruction, and its impact. Specifically, we know law professors’ course loads and how many students they teach, we know some about the quality of their teaching as assessed by colleagues during promotion processes and by student evaluations, and we have some information about the impact of law professors’ teaching, if only anecdotally from former students.

Yet there is so much we do not know and could find out if law professors were to record their teaching time. How much time and how do law professors prepare for their classes? Does the preparation time and manner of preparation vary across different types of classes (big required classes, small required classes, electives, seminars, etc.) and how so? Does it in turn impact quality of teaching and learning? How much time and how do law professors spend time with their students outside of the classroom explaining materials, advising, and mentoring? How much time and what strategies are deployed to develop and grade class exercises and exams? To keep current with class materials and to revise syllabi? Timekeeping would help answer all of these questions and more, generating best (and worst) practices, benchmarks, and knowledge about teaching. In turn, these insights can be used to improve law professors’ teaching and students’ learning.

Third, we know some about the visible aspects of law professors’ service inside and outside of their law schools, from committee assignments and service to public speaking engagements to commenting on other colleagues’ work. If law professors were to keep their time, however, we would know so much more about their service work habits. How much time and how do law professors serve on committees in and outside of law schools? Consult or offer pro bono legal services? Contribute to law reform efforts? Speak about their work or otherwise? Author or contribute to amici briefs?

In sum, we know very little about what law professors do. We know practically nothing about law professors’ habits of scholarship. We do not know how and why law professors identify possible topics for research, when and how often they research and write, how and to what extent they interact with others’ work, how much time they dedicate to any particular scholarly project and to scholarship in general, what projects they are working on, and how they approach and decide where to publish. While teaching loads are easy to observe, we know little about how law professors prepare for classes and how much time and how they spend time with students outside of the classroom. We also know little about law professors’ service. While certain service components are easily observable, like committee assignments, we generally do not know how much time and how law professors serve within and outside of their institutions.

What we do not know matters. This is not a generic argument about the benefits of “informational regulation,” pursuant to which more data is always better than less data because additional information about work habits would allow law professors and other legal academia actors to be generally more informed and better positioned to make decisions regarding the allocation of time. Rather, if law professors were to learn from lawyers and record their time, keeping track of both how much time they spend on various tasks as well as of what they actually do when performing aspects of their job, we could, specifically, use the data to generate best scholarly, teaching, and service habits (and avoid worst habits) as well as establish benchmarks for various tasks.

Notably, the diagnostic insights of timekeeping reach far beyond generating best practices and benchmarks that may inform individual decision making by law professors regarding their work habits; they also reach into institutional and systemic decision making by law schools and legal academia.

Poor training and mentoring, an increasingly well-documented phenomenon in the practice of law, has been a familiar theme in legal academia in part because law schools have little in the way of accumulated knowledge to impart on newcomers to the practice of academic law. Indeed, while teaching, scholarship, and service have long defined the essence of what law professors do, we know so little about what academic lawyers do:

It’s as if by virtue of having gone to law school and having attended a few lectures over three years and having read a few excerpts in law review articles one is supposed to know when one becomes a law professor what to do, how to teach, how to write, what is scholarship, what is teaching [and what is service] . . . there’s a significant gap there.

Timekeeping resulting in robust insights about what law professors do and how they do it well would constitute the very body of knowledge law schools could use to train and mentor junior faculty members, providing guidance into the core practices of teaching, scholarship, and service. Best practices, the avoidance of bad practices, and benchmarks for effective teaching, scholarship, and service are exactly the kind of knowledge-based advice junior colleagues need in order to make informed decisions about how to allocate their time and resources for becoming great law professors.

Within and across law schools, aggregated findings regarding scholarship, teaching, and service hours may generate valuable institutional data. For example, do men and women faculty members shoulder equal burdens of service and teaching in terms of hours spent at work? Do they invest equally in their scholarship? Do junior and senior faculty members shoulder equal burdens? In a world in which law professors were to record their time, law schools would be able to answer these questions and use the information—along with existing data about quality, quantity, and impact of scholarship, teaching, and service—to make informed decisions about the allocation of resources in legal academia.

If it turns out, for example, that tenure-track junior faculty dedicate disproportionate time to teaching, law schools would be able to better assess how time is spent, direct resources to those who might need assistance, and consider granting pre-tenure leaves to allow junior colleagues to focus on their scholarship. If aggregated timekeeping data revealed that women faculty disproportionately shoulder administrative and service burdens at law schools compared with their male counterparts, law schools could take measures to ensure that all faculty members have more equal opportunities to invest in their teaching and writing, thus protecting some from over-service. Or, if recorded time established that women faculty disproportionately perform emotional labor at law schools, managing the displayed feelings and emotions of students, faculty, and staff inherent in the stressful environment of law schools, the institutions could either pay for this labor or spread it more equally among all law professors.

Imagining legal academia informed by the insights of law professors’ timekeeping, however, should not exaggerate its benefits. While the diagnostic virtues of timekeeping—learning about law professors’ work habits, generating best practices and benchmarks, establishing a body of knowledge for purposes of training and mentoring, and revealing patterns of work allocation among faculty members—would be significant, they ought not distract us or belittle the inherent importance of quality, productivity, impact, talent, and skill. Developing solid work habits is important and likely to improve law professors’ scholarship, teaching, and service, yet it is no substitute and no guarantee of quality, productivity, and impact. Put differently, adhering to effective work habits is a necessary but insufficient condition for being a good law professor. In addition to putting in effort measured in terms of hours worked, one has to be a quality, productive, and impactful law professor. What we do not know about law professors’ work habits ought to supplement but not replace what we do know about the quality, quantity, and impact of law professors’ teaching, scholarship, and service.

B. The Destructive Qualities of Academic Timekeeping

Timekeeping’s dark side is its managerial quality, part and parcel of the “new public management” attitude, an organizational style sweeping through public agencies calling for “doing more with less” by adopting private industries’ techniques of “doing business.” For universities and law schools the move is from trusting “professional standards and expertise,” namely a shift from quality as determined by objective standards of scholarship, teaching, and service to “more explicit and measurable (or at least checkable) standards of performance,” for example, measurable “billable” academic hours.

The potentially destructive quality of timekeeping is its slippery slope, unleashing a monster within legal academia which begins with informing teaching, scholarship, and service, but may end up replacing substantive assessment of work with increased documentation requirements (such as detailed breakdown of academic hours) and an intensified organizational hierarchy and unintended bureaucracy. As Chad Oldfather explains, means of informational regulation can directly affect the regulated actor’s conduct, that is, “the very process of complying with a disclosure requirement can . . . lead to changes in the underlying activity . . . .” Here, mandating timekeeping can affect the very work law professors do and abstain from doing, known as the “‘you manage what you measure’” effect. Imagine a world in which law professors, instead of engaging in contemplative intellectual work, are reduced to the role of near-clerks who are supervised by a technocratic manager or efficiency expert, otherwise known as an Associate Dean for Work Habits.

Timekeeping may impact the very nature and culture of the academic enterprise, legal academia included. When law professors teach, research, and serve, the argument goes, they ought to be thinking about teaching, scholarship, and service, and not be concerned with, or even mindful of, the passage of time. For example, when a law professor is mentoring a student or serving on a committee, her entire mental capacity ought to be devoted to the undertaking, whereas being mindful of the time might constitute a distraction negatively affecting the very underlying activity. Quality-thoughtful research takes time, and timekeeping, with its implied message of push for efficiency and “doing more with less time,” is inherently inconsistent with its contemplative time-consuming nature.

The argument—sometimes referred to as the Slow Professor movement—is that what law professors need to do (especially in the current day and age of calls for greater productivity and impact) is slow down and take the time to do their jobs well. Quality teaching, researching, and service are inherently and constitutively contemplative, and timekeeping is inherently inconsistent with acting slowly, deliberatively, and thoughtfully. The very exercise of timekeeping quantifies and commodifies the academic undertaking, making law professors more likely to impose artificial timelines and time restraints on tasks that ought not be so constrained.

Moreover, arguably the diagnostic virtues of academic timekeeping are inherently connected to, and cannot be separated from, the dark side of recording time and its potentially destructive qualities. Consider Annelise Riles’ law professor amateur. Professor Riles begins her account by observing that the American legal academy is amateuristic, home to law professors who “d[o] not read . . . d[o] not take an interest in the details, [who] seem[] more engaged by acts of self-promotion than by the furthering of knowledge about the law.” Yet, rather than critique the law professor amateur, Riles celebrates her: “[T]he law professor’s ability to pontificate on just about anything without knowing much about the subject—a trait admired by students and vilified by academics in other fields—corresponds to a practical legal skill of lawyering.” Moreover, “what law professors do, when they behave amateuristically, is actually at the core of practical legal expertise.” Riles concludes that “[l]egal amateurism as practiced by legal academics is not a second-class version of philosophy or political science or economics in this view, but a virtuoso performance of professionalism,” a pedagogical game of aesthetic performance designed to help law students, judges, and policy makers master the skill of moving quickly from problem to problem and advising clients based on relative little knowledge of the particulars.

Is professor Riles right that law professors “d[o] not read” and “d[o] not take an interest in the details”? Are U.S. law professors professional amateurs? We do not know because we do not know what law professors actually do. Yet, if law professors were to record their time, we might find out. But, cautions Riles, the very act of keeping time might undercut and ruin law professors’ amateurism. “What legal amateurism achieves,” she writes, “is something at once miraculous and entirely mundane—it is simply a pause, a space to think.” Furthermore, “what lawyers or legal scholars really are doing is creating ‘open moments’ for their client, or students, or interlocutors to think.” This is the essence, according to Riles, of legal academia.

Timekeeping, however, is part of the “crisis around the nature and management of time,” the problem of not being able to secure the time to think. The dark side of timekeeping is that it threatens thinking and ushers in a managerial culture that looks suspiciously at “open moments,” creating incentives to spend time in more productive ways. In sum, and at the risk of overdoing the Star Wars metaphor, the very diagnostic virtues and force of timekeeping—allowing us to find out whether law professors are professional amateurs—carries with it a dark side of time management that undercuts thinking and time pauses—the very essence of legal amateurism. Trying to document and study what law professors do may end up destroying the best of what law professors do.

Is academic timekeeping a paradox? Will trying to reap its diagnostic virtues likely unleash destructive forces that will ruin legal academia as we know it? Perhaps not, given the different time horizons of the diagnostic and destructive qualities of timekeeping. Generating diagnostic insights does not require making time recording a permanent feature of legal academia. While developing best practices and benchmarks, building a knowledgebase for training and mentoring, and documenting work habit patterns across legal academia does entail a comprehensive exercise of timekeeping, the diagnostic insights can be generated by a time-limited grand experiment, say over a year’s time. In contrast, the destructive forces of timekeeping, undermining the intellectual and contemplative culture of legal academia and undercutting spaces to think, are likely to take time, years, to play out. One can imagine successfully navigating the diagnostic and destructive sides of academic timekeeping by simply casting it as a one-time, year-long experiment.

On the other hand, the thought experiment about the academic “billable” hour is far from a straightforward proposition because both its diagnostic and destructive attributes depend on complex assumptions about legal academia and law professors. The destructive dark side of timekeeping assumes that legal academia is an intellectual contemplative paradise of sorts, inhibited by law professors who spend their time thinking big thoughts about teaching, scholarship, and service. What we know, however, about the quality, productivity, and impact of teaching, scholarship, and service suggests it is not so. At the same time, the diagnostic virtues of timekeeping depend on assumptions about law professors, for example, that they will not cheat when recording their time.

How does timekeeping affect professional enterprises? Are law professors likely to cheat? For clues and answers we might turn next to law practice and learn from the experience of lawyers with the billable hour.

[In Part III, the author examines practicing lawyers’ experience with the billable hour and its lessons for law professors.]

IV. THE POLITICS OF ACADEMIC TIMEKEEPING

Not too much imagination is needed to recognize that academic timekeeping might be used by enemies of the academy, such as hostile legislators, to criticize professors and advance political agendas. For example, in December of 2017, a proposal pending before the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents called for the adoption of a policy monitoring the number of hours faculty spend teaching and rewarding professors who teach more than a standard academic load, arguably motivated in part by opponents of (“liberal”) scholarship seeking to curtail it.

The proposal appears to suffer from several significant flaws. To begin with, it does not purport to measure teaching work habits but scrutinizes only one aspect of teaching in isolation, namely in-class instruction. Yet, as this essay explains, we already know professors’ teaching loads. What we do not know and ought to find out more about is exactly what the proposal excludes: how much time and how professors prepare for class, how much time and how they spend time with students outside of the classroom, and how much time and how they spend time preparing, grading, and providing feedback to students. As one faculty member noted colorfully in response to the proposal, “The Packers don’t just work three hours on Sunday.”

Next, the proposal focuses on one component of teaching to the exclusion of assessing time committed to scholarship and service. As such, it risks generating partial and misleading information about what professors at the University of Wisconsin do.

Finally, and perhaps most alarmingly, by purporting to reward professors who teach more than a standard academic load, the proposal introduces the very tie between recorded time and compensation that the essay cautions against: the evil of the billable hour. Worse, the proposal introduces the tie in a manner that is likely to undermine quality teaching and undercut scholarship and service. One rewarded solely based on course loads faces an incentive to spend more time teaching and less time preparing classes and interacting with students, let alone researching and serving.

The shortcomings of the proposal notwithstanding, one can easily imagine that legislators supporting it or other measures like it might seize on the essay and its thought experiment and mischaracterize it as supportive of their agenda of imposing in-class teaching targets at the expense of research, service, and other valuable aspects of teaching.

The likely political consequences of academic timekeeping, its possible manipulation and abuse included, certainly constitute a legitimate part of our thought experiment about the academic “billable” hour. If one thought, for example, that the costs associated with keeping time, namely increased political scrutiny that may result in pressure on research and service and the undermining of quality teaching, were likely to outweigh the benefits of enhanced knowledge about law professors’ work habits and improved scholarship, teaching, and service, one might reasonably conclude that the world we live in now would be superior to an imaginary world in which timekeeping was the norm.

More generally, should a legal scholar abstain from even suggesting a thought experiment that might be used to undercut legal scholarship? “[O]ur thoughts are ours; their ends none of our own,” Stanley Fish reminds us. “[A]s we work things out we are responsible for the product of that activity. What then happens, when and if the fruits of our labors are put out into the world, is not something that we can control . . . .” Fish adds that “when I’m doing scholarship, . . . I’m trying to get it right. I don’t know what ‘it’ is and it varies in complexities of it certainly, but I’m trying to get it right.” Yet, while the impact of scholarship and thought experiments is in this sense always contingent and outside the control of the scholar, “there are, of course, many ways in which you [as a scholar] try desperately to control [the uses of your scholarship].”

In thinking about what law professors do, how little we know about their work habits, and how important and valuable it would be to learn more about how legal academia is practiced, getting “it” right includes imagining the possibility of academic timekeeping, exploring both its likely benefits and costs. The quite real possibility that such a thought experiment might be used by enemies of legal academia to ridicule and denounce academic work, and in particular, to curtail and challenge the value and quality of academic research, does not mean it ought not be pursued. It does mean, however, that one might attempt to prevent the manipulation or abuse of the thought experiment, for example, by pointing out how particular timekeeping proposals are inconsistent with it.

Another way of responding to likely political consequences is to limit the thought exercise to law professors as opposed to academics working in other disciplines. Law schools and their professors tend to be relatively insulated from pressures affecting other parts of the university. For example, whereas many professors outside of law schools experience increased pressures to teach, at some law schools professors have recently been teaching less, with typical teaching loads decreasing from a standard annual load of twelve to eleven, ten, or even nine credits. This is not to suggest, of course, that law school are immune to political pressures, such as attacks on legal clinics and the types of clients and cases they represent, but rather to point out that law schools and their faculties may be better positioned to withstand political pressures compared to their university counterparts.

V. THE NORMATIVE INSIGHTS OF TIMEKEEPING

What should law professors be doing? Should law professors spend most of their time researching and publishing? Or teaching and interacting with students as mentors? Or serving the public interest? Should law teaching be a one-size-fits-all, in which all law professors are held to the same expectations in terms of teaching, scholarship, and service, or should different standards apply to different categories of professors? Should law professors stay involved in law practice, or at least engage in consulting or pursue expert work, pro bono or for profit, to stay current? Should law professors focus on training students to become lawyers? Or leaders? Or assume “JD-advantage” roles alongside or instead of those of traditional lawyers? Should all law professors work similar hours? Should law schools offer part-time arrangements to their full-time faculty? Should all law professors dedicate time to scholarship? Should different role contributions weigh equally at law schools?

Legal education is at a crossroads, and disagreement abounds regarding many of these questions. These and similar decisions, however, would be better made if they were based on actual timekeeping data, documenting law professors’ teaching, service, and scholarly habits and time commitments. Diagnostic descriptive insights of timekeeping, to be sure, ought to inform and empower the discourse rather than decide normative choices, both individually and institutionally. Yet finding out what law professors actually do and how they do it should certainly inform these important ongoing normative discussions. The challenges law schools face are complex enough and there is little reason to compound them by having decisions made under conditions of empirical uncertainty as to what law professors are actually doing. Additional data, especially if gathered by means of a timekeeping national experiment as opposed to a permanent arrangement, may inform and improve the quality of the normative decisions law schools are facing.

As the preceding discussion suggests, it is critical to the effectiveness of any timekeeping scheme that it be grounded in thoughtful informational design, including universal categories of recorded time and training meant to minimize instances of cheating. The normative uncertainty clouding the future of legal academia introduces a chicken and an egg design problem: a lack of consensus concerning the normative objectives of law schools can thus thwart the development of a scheme of informational regulation by preventing agreement on what time categories law professors should record or by inducing compromises that may result in either incomplete or inapposite timekeeping. Yet normative uncertainty notwithstanding, and even in the face of divergent models of legal education emerging, we have a core conceptual understanding of what it is that law professors do. We just do not know whether and how law professors go about doing their job and timekeeping will reveal invaluable diagnostic data that in turn may inform normative choices.

Comments are closed.