Teaching Loads

I am on my law school’s long-term strategic planning committee, which should be working pretty intensely in the spring thinking about lots of different aspects of our law school. One issue that I have been thinking about lately is teaching loads. It seems to me that many schools are moving toward a 3 course teaching load, and I would be grateful if our law professor readers could help me collect some data. What is the teaching load at your school? If you have recently gone from four courses to three, has that made a meaningful difference in your academic life or in the number of course offerings at your school? (I also want to apologize in advance to any readers who may teach undergraduate students, who are no doubt appalled at the notion that law professors only have to teach three or four courses a year!)

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21 Responses

  1. tim zinnecker says:

    The typical load at South Texas College of Law is six credits (two courses) per semester, with eligibility for a sabbatical every tenth academic semester.

  2. Ethan Leib says:

    Hastings has a 2-2, which amounts to 10-12 credit hours. Brooklyn, where I was just visiting, is closer to a 2-1 as a standard. But Hastings has a pre-tenure leave, which Brooklyn does not — and Hastings has a very generous maternity/paternity leave policy. Although a few fully paid leaves seem like small matters compared to much more long-term matters like standard loads, when one is pre-tenure, leaves can be extraordinarily important.

  3. Dave Hoffman says:

    At Temple, new hires are 1:1 for the first year, and then 1:2. Pre-tenure leave as well. I don’t think it has mattered much to our course offerings (although I’m not the best placed to know) as we’ve also expanded the faculty.

    I’ve only lived under the new regime, but I’ve heard that for those that made the switch, it made a noticeable difference in making academic-year scholarship possible.

  4. Anon says:

    I’m on the market this year, and teaching load is certainly something that every school is either touting or hiding.

  5. JrL says:

    Sorry – I’m not a regular law prof. What do 2-2, 2-1, 1:1:, and 1:2 mean? The “six credits … per semester” I understand — as I understand my own 2-credit adjunct load.

    Maybe someone can ask what school pay their adjuncts. Little enough to make the very, very cost-effective, I suspect, even for law school with higher teaching loads.

  6. Heidi Kitrosser says:

    Minnesota is 10 credits per year. There’s also pre-tenure leave and a credit-banking system. (The latter means that you can teach more than the required units in a given year and then “cash in” the extras to reduce your load at some later point). Being at the tail-end of my one semester pre-tenure leave, I agree that having one makes a huge difference. And while I haven’t yet taken advantage of the banking system, I suspect that that makes a big difference as well.

  7. on the market says:

    Any thoughts on how big a deal courseload issues should be for those currently on the market? I have offers from both 2:2 and 1:2 schools, and I am not quite sure how much weight to give this issue.

  8. Keith Rowley says:

    In response to “on the market,” the answer is (drumroll please) “It depends.” Will you be a noticeably more productive scholar, a noticeably better teacher, a noticeably healthier and happier person, if you teach 3 hours in the fall and 5-6 in the spring versus 5-6 hours in the fall and 5-6 hours in the spring? Only you can answer that (and, untill you do both, your answer will be a guess). Will you be teaching more students if you teach fewer classes? Will you get to teach multiple sections of the same course (assuming that you want to do so), thus reducing your prep time? Does the school support teaching assistants who can help carry some of the course prep, student conference, and non-exam grading load? Is one of your courses a low-enrollment seminar that could be a boon to your scholarly agenda? What drives the school’s workload policy: Is it a statement about the value of faculty time and talent or is it a matter of economic or political necessity?

    JrL’s point about “1:2” vs. “2:2” is well taken. UNLV is moving toward a “1:2” load for faculty that are also productive scholars. However, that “1:2” load can result in as few as 9 semester hours or as many as 11 or 12. Are three 3-credit courses over an academic year the same as a 3-credit course, a 4-credit course, and a 5-credit course over the the same year? Absolutely not. Will a school that has a 1:2 course and a 9-11 hour policy consider someone teaching a one semester 4-credit elective and a one semester 5-credit 1L course to have a full load, or will she have to tack on another 2-3 credit course to meet the “1:2” part of the courseload policy (while maxing out or exceeding the “9-11 credit hour” part)?

    Right now, UNLV is focusing more on the 9 to 11 hours than the number of courses. We’re also giving some credit to faculty who supervise a journal, moot court, or an unusual number of directed reading or directed research students. Pre-tenure faculty are entitled to a one-semester “research assignment” (for political reasons, we can’t call it a “leave”). All tenured and tenure-track faculty are eligible for a “research assignment” after teaching three full academic years following the year in which they last had a research assignment. This is my 6th year teaching at UNLV (9th overall) and I am wrapping up my second semester-long research assignment. We also have credit banking, which allowed me to take a light load the fall semester after my father died in late July and make it up by teaching a course the following summer.

  9. Rutgers-Camden requires 10 credits per year, or what amounts to a 2:1 load. They also grant semester leaves after every six semesters, which applies to junior faculty as well, so that one gets the fall of one’s fourth year off. In addition, Rutgers has what’s called a “competitive leave” policy, permitting one to take off a year at full pay on top one’s normal leave schedule if one gets a nationally-regarded fellowship that pays at least a nominal amount.

  10. John Oberdiek says:

    Rutgers-Camden requires 10 credits per year, or what amounts to a 2:1 load. For the first two years, however, one teaches a 1:1 load. They also grant semester leaves after every six semesters, which applies to junior faculty as well, so that one gets the fall of one’s fourth year off. In addition, Rutgers has what’s called a “competitive leave” policy, permitting one to take off a year at full pay on top one’s normal leave schedule if one gets a nationally-regarded fellowship that pays at least a nominal amount.

  11. Keith Rowley says:

    P.S.: Jennifer, don’t feel the need to be too apologetic to our colleagues in the arts and sciences. I serve on our university-wide sabbatical committee and our law faculty have onerous teaching loads compared to many of the non-law folks whose dossiers I review each year. Also, having taught three years’ worth of 12 credits per semester of undergraduate economics courses before I went to law school, I can assure you that my 9-12 credits per year of law school courses is much more taxing than was my 24 credits per year of undergraduate economics.

  12. Howard Wasserman says:

    FIU is 1:2 (9-10 credits) first year, then 2:2 (roughly 10-13 hours) after that. There is talk of instituting a reduced load the year prior to tenure.

  13. Ethan Leib says:

    PS Both Hastings and Brooklyn have reduced loads in the first year; most schools give new teachers a course off to get acclimated.

  14. John Armstrong says:

    Keith, UNLV must be remarkably lax on its faculty. I’m on the market now and it’s 3-and-3’s and worse as far as the eye can see in mathematics.

    As for your 24-credit year, what courses were they? What levels? Multiple sections of the same course (as noted above, reducing prep time)? Any graduate teaching in there as well (often requiring making up the course as you go along with no book to fall back on)? How do the average salaries compare?

    Prof. Collins: I appreciated your nod to the salt mines of undergraduate education, especially the earlier years of a career. I’m not saying that law school teaching is a cakewalk, but three-course years which pay enough to live on just don’t exist on our side of the table other than some named postdoctoral positions.

  15. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    A good resource to obtain these data are the Annual Reports of the ABA, which state the average number of credit hours taught by full-time faculty of every ABA-approved law school. Every ABA-approved Law School Dean receives these.

    For 2005-06, the ABA Reports showed that 10.2 credit hours is the average credit load for approved Law Schools with student bodies in the range of 700 to 1000.

    At Boston College Law School, we are moving from 4 enterprises per year to 3 enterprises per year. From last year to this year, this move reduced our average credit load from 11.2 to 10.2 credits.

    We did this without impairing the curriculum by offering smaller-enrollment courses in alternate years (I call these Odd/Even Fall Courses and Odd/Even Spring Courses) plus we are doing some additional hiring this year and in coming years. Ideally, our average annual load should approach 9 credits.

  16. Scott Moss says:

    Marquette is (1) 1:2 for your first two years, then (2) 2:2 thereafter. One other variable is class size: virtually all our classes are 20-50 students, with 1L classes being either 40, 64, or 80 — and nothing above 80. One class with 120 students can mean several weeks of finals grading….

  17. Calvin Massey says:

    Hastings is less monolithic than Ethan’s postings suggest. The nominal requirement is 12 semester credits annually, but that means, in practice, that people teaching two four unit courses and a three unit course end up with three courses annually (or 11 units). Also, for some time Hastings’s unstated practice has been to permit productive scholars to teach three courses annually, even if that means 10 units total. Unfortunately, that policy seems to be no longer observed. Because I like teaching I don’t mind 2:2, but I do think it is an impediment to scholarly productivity.

  18. Ethan Leib says:

    Thanks for the info, Calvin. But, as I said, 10 to 12 units seems to be standard. Although that usually works out to a 2-2, obviously there are ways to get to a 2-1 and have 10-12 units of credit still. As we expand the faculty dramatically, I’d expect Hastings to embrace the more common load of “top” schools.

  19. The load at Valparaiso is 10 credits a year, and the basic idea is that we teach 1:2 or 2:1. I teach two four-credit courses, so my load comes out to 11 a year. Some of my colleagues routinely teach “overloads” that get them up around 14 credits a year, with course loads that look more like 3:2.

  20. Melanie Milow says:

    Okay, so I’m nowhere near being a law professor, however I just became a dance professor at an institution that has no standards for class prep time per teaching credit, and I’m attempting to find out if there is any formula or standard that I can borrow. I’m not even sure if that is what this post is about, just taking a chance that someone may have some information for me in that respect.


  21. Michael W. Mullane says:

    Is there some rule that limits law professors to teaching no more than 4 courses or 12 credits a year?