Law Schools Pay Judges A Pretty Penny To Teach

The National Law Journal recently reported that "[l]aw schools paid federal appeals judges anywhere from several thousand dollars for a lecture to nearly $278,000 for full-semester teaching in 2012 — at once buying prestige and giving students a direct line to some of the judiciary's top legal minds."

In total, law schools paid judges nearly $2M dollars to teach in 2012. "The NLJ reviewed 257 financial reports released in late 2013 and this year. Together, the judges earned nearly $2 million for teaching and lecturing as they navigated a thicket of ethics rules that restrict activity off the bench."

"Under federal law, active judges were barred from earning more than $26,955 off the bench during 2012, with exceptions for outside income such as retirement pay and publishing royalties. Senior judges, on the other hand, who usually carry lighter dockets, no longer face the earnings cap in most instances. Federal appellate judges earned $184,500 in salary in 2012. Senior judges earn the same amount as active judges if they maintain a certain workload. If they don't, at a minimum they get the same salary as the year they took senior status."

Why are law schools willing to pay this hefty sum? "Judges are 'cost-effective' hires, said Tracey George, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School. Skills that make a good judge often carry over to the classroom, she said, and law schools see returns if students build relationships that lead to clerkships and jobs. 'Judges are appealing because not only do they have the special expertise … they have status,' she said."

This is a good deal for the school and for the judges if the judges are actively teaching the students, as well.


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