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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Law Schools and Universities

Back in August, Rick Garnett offered a brief but intriguing post about the relationship between law schools and the universities to which most law schools belong. The topic is exceptionally complicated, even if junior and senior-junior prawfs (like those of us here) don’t really think through it much. Law schools tend to be semi-autonomous, certainly more so than undergraduate departments, and are relatively exceptional as academic units in many ways (I mentioned some of them in my comments on Rick’s original post). At the same time, given the much-vaunted, increasing interdisciplinarity of law schools and the infusion of PhDs into the legal academy, the law school as an intellectual enterprise has become more plugged into the rest of the university.

Virtually all of the top law schools are affiliated with universities (in the US News rankings, it’s not until Brooklyn Law School, at #58, that a freestanding school pop up). But the intellectual relationship between law school and university can vary widely, based on the relative quality of law school to university and the physical proximity of the campuses. Interestingly, there’s no necessary correlation between that relationship and the interdisciplinary scholarship of the faculty – Cardozo, for example, is located a distance from Yeshiva and has an intellectual diverse faculty, as does Brooklyn, which has no other university departments.

Yet, it’s impossible to imagine a law school actually seceding from a university, if only for the sake of branding – can you imagine a law school giving up the “Harvard” or “Yale” or “Michigan” moniker, even if between its endowment and tuition, the law school could in fact operate as a completely distinct entity? In a sense, law schools enjoy and attempt to protect a position in the best of both worlds: exceptional in all the most attractive ways (pay, teaching load, promotion and tenure, self-governance), but connected in good ways as well (as nominal parts of larger institutions). How long can such relationships last? To the extent that it works for both parties, one would imagine indefinitely, but one could also imagine instances (e.g., political or financial crises) in which friction between law school and university could endanger a relationship....

Posted by Mark Fenster on September 21, 2006 at 04:09 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Do any one have idea on Medical Schools in China....I just heard about one China Medical University...The fees is low...But wat about its course structure? any idea?

Posted by: China Medical university | Oct 5, 2006 10:51:36 AM

I didn't mean to misconstrue your point, Matt. The economist in me wonders what the market would look like if Princeton did start a law school. Clearly it would start out ranking at the top, but from what other top ten school would it take away students? My guess is that given the traditional rivalry with Penn (at least the tradition when I was applying to colleges back in 1980), Princeton may be drawing from that pool. I could see rivalry with Stanford as well.

Of course this would all rest on what stellar faculty Princeton Law would put together.

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Sep 23, 2006 2:34:19 PM

I wouldn't want to say it's a rational view! (Or that it's a view that's officially held). Simply, people from both Princeton (and also Brown) have told me that that's why they don't want professional schools- they are not accademic enough. I'd rather suspect that inertia is main reason.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 23, 2006 1:19:50 PM

I may be wrong, but I think the Stevens book has a discussion of Princeton University's flirtation with a law school. Princeton has a great engineering school. What's more vo-tech than that? In any case, if law schools are vo-tech, what does that say about the other ivies that have law schools?

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Sep 23, 2006 1:03:48 PM

I'd been told by former Princeton students that what they say there is that they don't want a law school because they only care about accademic things and don't want any glorified vo-tech programs like a law school or a medical school. How serious that is I can't say. (They have something of a shadow law school, sort of run by Kim Scheppelle, where several legal scholars work together, though.) I don't believe that Hastings has any more connection to UCSF than it does to any other UC school. (UCSF is just a medical school, I believe.) Several other top law schools have situations somewhat like Cardoza, where the school is physically distinct from the main university- Georgetown, Fordham, Other too I'm sure.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 21, 2006 9:02:46 PM

At one time there was a law school associated with Princeton. Here's what wikipedia has on the subject:

I don't have any great insight, except to say that Princeton puts a strong emphasis on undergraduate education and, with some exceptions (e.g., architecture), doesn't offer much by way of professional schooling. Given Hopkins' presence in medical education,I don't think the same explanation would apply.

Posted by: Adam Kolber | Sep 21, 2006 6:38:08 PM

Shubha's comment is interesting--I too have always wondered why P-ton and Hopkins wouldn't start up their own schools. Indeed, I hear that some folks at GMU law school would love to be taken over by Hopkins, and perhaps the same is true of other places. Princeton, meanwhile, has philosophy, history, and economics departments (not to mention Woody Woo) that are among the strongest in the nation. It's a real loss that synergies between law and those disciplines are left to be exploited by the relatively small law and public policy fellows program. My sense is that law schools tend to wield outsized influence at many universities and those schools that have resisted the allure of a law school until now probably have entrenched power-hoarding reasons to keep them at bay, notwithstanding that law schools can bring in more alumni/more dollars and in some cases, more prestige. Some of the princeton alumni assuredly have better insight into this than I do: Bodie? Kolber? Orin? What's the deal?

Posted by: Dan Markel | Sep 21, 2006 5:37:44 PM

Hastings is actually an even more complicated hyrbid model -- "free-standing," yes, but part of the UC system, and thus less independent than a private, free-standing law school like Brooklyn. I don't know enough about Hastings's relationship to the UC system's governing bodies, or with UC San Francisco (which also boasts a fine medical school), but it's certainly answerable at some level to the state legislature.

Posted by: Mark Fenster | Sep 21, 2006 5:13:36 PM

This is a query based on a vague memory, didn't Duke Law School have an early incarnation as part of a different university or a stand alone law school? I think the AALS directory indicates a different name from 1909 to 1911 or so.

My sense is that absent some really extreme disaster, universities and law schools are in a cozy relationship. Law schools are a great source of revenue and offer prestige for universities in attracting students, just like a strong medical school and a strong business school. For law schools, the connection to a large research library and a pure research faculty can strengthen ties for collaborative work.

I am intrigued by schools like Princeton or Hopkins that choose not to have a law school when clearly they would be strongly competitive for the best.

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Sep 21, 2006 5:11:32 PM

I think the highest-ranked nonaffiliated law school is UC Hastings at #43.

Posted by: anon | Sep 21, 2006 4:36:20 PM

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