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.