LWI's Professional Status Committee was formed in 2015 to gather information about status issues and challenges facing its members at their respective institutions, act as a resource for them, and assist the LWI Board in addressing these issues and their effect on its members.
Please read A Proposal for Eliminating Standard 405(d) and Conforming Standards Changes Affecting Legal Writing Faculty, a proposal jointly submitted by ALWD and LWI to ABA’s Council on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, the ABA group charged with setting and revising the ABA Standards governing law schools. About a year ago, the ALWD and LWI Boards jointly began working on a proposal to ask the Council to eliminate Standard 405(d), the standard which allows schools to offer short-term contracts to LRW faculty, and to change the Standards to increase the voting and governance rights of LRW faculty.
ALWD is an affiliate member of the Council, and the organization submitted the joint proposal to the Council over the summer. The Council has announced that it has agreed to study the proposal for possible adoption over the next year. In addition, SALT and CLEA have provided letters of support to the ABA, and that the Advice and Support Committee will be providing more information and programming to help educate members on the proposed changes and to facilitate implementation at schools that currently use 405(d) short-term contracts.
Please look for further communications this year on the status of the proposal, what the proposal means, and what individual schools can do now to make its potential implementation as seamless as possible, from Bob Brain, Chair of the ALWD ABA Task Force, from Mary Bowman, who is the Chair of the LWI's Professional Status Committee on Advice and Support, and from the ALWD and LWI Boards.
The 2023 joint ALWD/LWI proposal builds on a 2020 article written by members of the Professional Status Committee, along with Susie Salmon. This article argues that ABA Standard 405(d) does not provide meaningful protection to legal writing faculty and all legal research and writing faculty should be entitled to protection under 405(c). See J. Lyn Entrikin, Lucy Jewel, Craig T. Smith, Susan Salmon, Kristen K. Tiscione, and Mel Weresh, Treating Professionals Professionally: Requiring Security of Position for All Skills-Focused Faculty Under ABA Accreditation Standard 405(c) and Eliminating 405(d), 98 Or. L. Rev. 1 (2020). You may access the article here.
In 2015, LWI adopted the following statement:
No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method. All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.
Both the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) have also adopted this statement. To date, these organizations have collected over 570 individual signatories as well. You may sign the statement by scrolling down on this page.
More recently, the Professional Status Committee supported a project to articulate Best Practices for compliance with ABA Standard 405(c), which affects a significant number of legal writing faculty. The resulting article, authored by Mel Weresh, Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professor of Law, Drake University Law School, has been formally endorsed by LWI, ALWD, and SALT. It has also recently been published in the Journal of Legal Education, along with a number of short companion pieces. See 66 J. Leg. Educ. 538 (2017).
The Board voted in April 2019 to oppose proposed revisions to ABA Standard 316 (regarding bar passage rates) in part because of the likely adverse impact on the legal writing community. You can read more about it here.
The Professional Status Committee has put together “toolkits” that we expect will be helpful to our members in negotiating status issues. We currently have toolkits on Salary and Other Compensation (including eligibility for professional development funding and summer research grants) and Security of Position (e.g., moving from short-term to long-term contracts, converting positions to tenure-track, etc.). We are also working on toolkits on workload issues and voting rights, which we expect will be released later in 2020.
Each toolkit has a summary of publicly available information, a description of non-public information available from the committee upon request, a discussion of strategic considerations, and a list of committee members who are willing to provide further support on each issue. We have also created a more general bibliography of status-related books and articles that may be helpful in addressing status issues. We expect that these documents will be updated periodically. If you have suggestions or other feedback, please contact committee co-chair Mary Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following documents contain a list of schools where legal writing faculty are eligible for tenure and a list of schools with autonomous LRW programs (i.e., programs that do not have a director). They may be helpful in advocating for status changes.
In preparation for LWI's 2016 and 2018 biennial conferences, the PSC conducted an informal survey of its membership relating to status issues. The committee then presented the results of these surveys at the 2016 and 2018 biennial conferences. The PowerPoints from those presentations are here (2016) and here (2018).
Caveats: Note that the responses to the 2016 survey seemed to come from a slightly different group than the responses to the 2018 survey, as explained in the beginning of the 2018 PowerPoint. Note also that the data have not been analyzed in any statistical sense and can be relied on only as anecdotal information. If you would like more information about the underlying data, please contact committee co-chair Mary Bowman at Mary.N.Bowman@asu.edu.
In response to a request from a member in Fall 2016, the PSC compiled this information about the standards and processes used at 21 schools in implementing the “presumptively renewable” contract language for 405(c) contracts. Schools provide a variety of approaches, and this summary may be useful in advocating for minimizing the process required for renewal of 405(c) contracts.
In June 2022, the Professional Status Committee surveyed LWI membership about LRW faculty eligibility for sabbaticals. We received responses from 87 schools. Of those 87 schools, 45 reported at least some LRW faculty are eligible for sabbaticals:
On the other hand, 38 schools indicated that no LRW faculty are eligible for sabbatical. Of those respondents, several mentioned the possibility of unpaid leaves, and two of those schools indicated that tenured/tenure-track faculty there do not receive sabbaticals either.
Additionally, the responses indicated that sabbatical eligibility is often, although not always, associated with tenure eligibility. Some long-term contract faculty are eligible for sabbaticals, and some respondents specifically indicated eligibility for instructors/lecturers or other similar titles.
Finally, even at schools where LRW faculty are not formally eligible for sabbaticals, some schools indicated potential workarounds, such as dean’s discretion to provide paid leave for research or other projects. LRW faculty at schools without formal sabbatical eligibility could consider advocating for discretionary paid leave rather than formal sabbatical eligibility.
The complete results of the Sabbatical Eligibility Survey are available upon request by contacting committee co-chair Mary Bowman at email@example.com. The survey response document also contains some additional analysis and strategic advocacy suggestions.
ALWD and LWI both engage in a variety of activities that relate to status issues facing legal writing faculty within the legal academy. ALWD and LWI work collaboratively on these issues, including jointly administering the ALWD/LWI Survey, but each organization has a different focus:
ALWD has an external focus, with an emphasis on accreditation issues before the ABA and Council on Legal Education.
LWI has a more internal, member-facing focus, with an emphasis on helping LWI members advocate to their schools for status improvements.
For a chart that provides a more specific summary of ALWD's and LWI's status efforts, click here. For more information about ALWD's ABA Task Force, click here and then on "ABA Engagement" in the top navigation bar.
A designee from the LWI Board of Directors also acts as an affiliate Board member of SALT. Our current affiliate member is Mary Bowman.
If you are concerned about any status issues with respect to your employment or that of a colleague, please do not hesitate to contact us. Your information will be treated with the utmost confidentiality.
Mary Bowman, ASU Co-chair,
Mel Weresh, Drake, Co-chair,
Olympia Duhart, NOVA
Lucy Jewel, Tennessee
Craig Smith, UNC
Kristen K. Tiscione, Georgetown
(scroll down to sign Citizenship Statement and access "Other Resources")
The Legal Writing Institute, the Association of Legal Writing Directors, and The Society of American Law Teachers recently adopted the following policy statement relating to law faculty and citizenship rights at their respective law schools:
We are committed to a policy of full citizenship for all law faculty. No justification exists for subordinating one group of law faculty to another based on the nature of the course, the subject matter, or the teaching method. All full-time law faculty should have the opportunity to achieve full citizenship at their institutions, including academic freedom, security of position, and governance rights. Those rights are necessary to ensure that law students and the legal profession benefit from the myriad perspectives and expertise that all faculty bring to the mission of legal education.
By adding your name and contact information to this document, you indicate your endorsement of this statement. We plan to report back and present the results of the project to interested organizations, including the American Association of Law Schools, the American Bar Association, and the American Law Deans’ Association. No individual names will be released without permission, nor will individual faculty or other signers be associated with specific institutions.