The Six Figure Law Review Article

What’s the economic value of that scholarly article many law professors will write this summer? For the many schools that award scholars summer research grants, it is at least the value of that allocated to the piece—usually $12,500 to $20,000 at most US law schools.

But an excellent article well-placed also often translates into annual salary increments above a school’s merit pay raise pool. That can bump a raise up anywhere from 1% to 3%, or more, depending on the article and how one’s home-school peers do.

For a mid-career scholar earning a base salary of $200,000, say, that means as much as $6,000 or more. For that person, adding $6,000 a year for life, the article’s economic value gets well into the six figures (even discounting to present value).

For others, true, the payoff is less—but still considerable. Take a more senior professor earning $250,000 with only 10 years of teaching left. The increment adds some $60,000 in present economic value.  Even an entry-level professor at the other end of the earnings spectrum, making $100,000, say, and getting even only a 2% bump, enjoys lifetime payoff about half that.

And that’s not all on the economic front. Add to that the value that may arise from influential articles that lead to lateral recruiting offers at higher pay or that induce one’s home school to outbid competing schools seeking to move them. Incremental annual differences in those settings can be tens of thousands of dollars, translating into many multiples of that, lifetime.

Even so, law professors, especially at mid-career, are commonly tempted to take up consulting or other work during the summer for lucrative but one-time compensation, eating into scholarly writing time.  It may be possible to do both.   But the opportunity cost of scholarship is high. The consulting work must be extremely lucrative to be preferred.

And all that is before considering the psychic and professional benefits from a self-selected scholarly assignment, a creative job well done, and making a contribution to knowledge.  It is difficult not to prefer writing the article to nearly any other professional pursuit.

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7 Responses

  1. anon says:

    What exactly is consulting? I’ve heard this so much, but I have no clue as to what it entails.

  2. Matt says:

    My understanding of consulting is best summed up here:

  3. anon says:

    Consulting most commonly involves working as an expert witness in litigation.

  4. kyle says:

    Lol, matt. Rent sharing means not having to find a roommate to share the rent. My friend, a doctor in geology, spends all summer camping out drinking beer banging on rocks, gets published several times a year with articles he writes while teaching, and is having the time of his life getting by while his teaching job pays the bills. As pointless as i find geology, at least it is tangible. More of a rule of 72 person myself, and 60k is chump change. Nobody ever got rich off a salary.

  5. Wow. I just write law review articles because it’s important for the country, and because it’s nice when the U.S. Supreme Court cites my work. I had no idea that you get any money for it.

  6. Claude Hopper says:

    What is a consultant?

    A young bull and an old bull came over the crest of a hill and looked down on a pasture of young heifers. The old bull said, “Let’s jump the fence, stroll down there and service a few of them heifers.” The young bull said, “Oh no, lets jump the fence run down there and service them all.” The young bull ran at the fence and cleared it easily. The old bull ran that the fence jumped and got over, but failed to get high enough. His testicles were left hanging on the top barbed wire. The old bull said, “What do I do now?” To which the young bull replied, “You can always be a consultant.”

  7. OlnLaw says:

    OLN Law firm services for the Employment and Labour law in Hong Kong and China, and is rapidly increasing and becoming more complex, especially with the implementation of further anti-discrimination legislation.