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Monday, February 24, 2014

AALS should fund scholarship?

Earlier this month, Prof. Matt Bodie penned a collection of very interesting posts on legal scholarship and its funding model.  I will have various things to say about his valuable, and controversial, ideas in the coming days.  Let me start out by responding to a narrow point he made (mentioning me and Judy Areen by name in this post!  We were blushing respectively from Chicago and Washington DC):

The AALS is funded principally by dues paid by member law schools and, secondarily, by receipts from meetings.  (The meetings are, despite a chorus of complaints about high costs, essentially break-even propositions, but that is another topic for another day).  The overall budget for the organization is, given the overall work, not a large one.  And the financial pressures upon law schools counsel caution with respect to either changing the structure of dues or increasing dues annually.  Indeed, the last three years has brought very modest increases of said dues, unlike the ABA.

Administering research grants through the AALS would, quite clearly, require a wealth transfer from law schools, many quite strapped, to the AALS.  It is hard to defend such a choice under current conditions.

Moreover, it would be hard to fathom that the AALS would be a better steward of law schools' money for scholarship than the law schools themselves.  The choices of how best to support and subsidize faculty's scholarly work are internal choices, driven the respective missions of the law schools.  To be sure, AALS has, as one of its core values, legal scholarship.  But the matter of how best to incentivize and promote such scholarship among member schools is properly a localized one.

This post, with due respect to Prof. Bodie, is an easy one, as the AALS grant idea is really a non-starter.  He raises some harder and more complex issues elsewhere in the series.  And I will join that debate in separate posts.

Posted by Dan Rodriguez on February 24, 2014 at 11:33 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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"Administering research grants through the AALS would, quite clearly, require a wealth transfer from law schools, many quite strapped, to the AALS."

Wouldn't that transfer run: students --> schools --> AALS --> scholars. It would be the same as we have today, except for the added costs at the AALS level and the added costs for scholars seeking grants.

Posted by: anon | Feb 24, 2014 4:57:15 PM

That's right (basically). Except there is a lot in your "except." Added costs for AALS (and, therefore, the pressure to raise dues on school) and added costs for scholars. Moreover, this would shift from law schools to AALS the choice about how best to determine worthiness for scholarly grants. A reason to believe that AALS is better at this then the law school itself?

Posted by: dan rodriguez | Feb 24, 2014 5:14:00 PM

sorry if i wasn't explicit enough in my comment, but i agree completely with your reply to my comment.

Posted by: anon | Feb 24, 2014 6:12:05 PM

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