Political Diversity on Law School Faculties.--

In an earlier post, I mentioned John McGinnis's forthcoming Georgetown Law Journal study of political diversity on law faculties. Adam Liptak has a fair account of it in the New York Times:

The study, to be published this fall in The Georgetown Law Journal, analyzes 11 years of records reflecting federal campaign contributions by professors at the top 21 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Almost a third of these law professors contribute to campaigns, but of them, the study finds, 81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans.

The percentages of professors contributing to Democrats were even more lopsided at some of the most prestigious schools: 91 percent at Harvard, 92 at Yale, 94 at Stanford. At the University of Virginia, on the other hand, contributions were about evenly divided between the parties. The sample sizes at some schools may be too small to allow for comparisons, though it bears noting that by this measure the University of Chicago is slightly more liberal than Berkeley. . . .

Whatever may be said about particular schools and students, professors and deans of all political persuasions agreed that the study's general findings are undeniable.

"Academics tend to be more to the left side of the continuum," said David E. Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern's law school, where the contribution rate to Democrats was 71 percent. "It's a little worse in law school. In other disciplines, there are more objective standards for quality of work. Law schools are sort of organized in a club structure, where current members of the club pick future members of the club."

Although not mentioned in the NY Times report, McGinnis's article also examines those letters by groups of "experts," eg, the public letters favoring or opposing Clinton's impeachment or opposing Bush v. Gore. Despite hundreds of signatories to the various letters, McGinnis said only three professors (and I'm one of the three) has donated exclusively to candidates at odds with the implied political orientation of the signed letter.

UPDATE [further Updated]: The Times article raises the question whether it matters if there is political diversity on law faculties.

I have two answers--one substantive, one speculative. First, in my studies with the General Social Survey, political ideology is the strongest predictor of views across a range of hundreds of issues that I've looked at--stronger than race, gender, education, class, occupation, age, region, marital status, etc. Those who say that labels such as "conservative" and "liberal" are meaningless today are frankly uninformed. Most survey researchers know that these labels are quite salient.

Second, a professor at the Harvard Law School told me that in 1988 he asked every member of the Harvard Law School faculty with even a hint of conservative or Republican leanings whether they favored or had voted for Bush in 1988. Only one had (1 out of 60-80 faculty); all others favored Dukakis. He also said that in about 2 or 3 dozen entry-level faculty hires from the mid-1970s through about 3 or 4 years ago (when they hired an entry-level conservative), the Harvard Law School had not hired a single Republican.

Now consider this thought experiment: [Imagine that in 1988 all but one of the Harvard Law faculty had favored Bush1 over Dukakis. And] Imagine that over the same period of a quarter century [mid 1970s through early 2000s], the Harvard Law School had hired at the entry-level only those who leaned Republican. Imagine how different the Harvard Law School would be, how different legal education would be, how different the government (and public policy) would be, populated with lawyers trained by an overwhelmingly Republican Harvard faculty. Somehow I think it would be a different world.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Professor Bainbridge weighs in thoughtfully on the topic.

So does sociologist Chris Uggen.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Political Diversity on Law School Faculties.--
  2. KC Johnson on Intellectual Diversity in Universities.--
Goober (mail):
Despite hundreds of signatories to the various letters, McGinnis said only three professors (and I'm one of the three) has donated exclusively to candidates at odds with the implied political orientation of the signed letter.

First, good for you, Prof. Lindgren.

Second, I find it hard to believe that only professors who wanted Democrats to win elections were among those thought impeachment was unwise or Bush v. Gore shouldn't have been heard by the Court. (And, evidently, at least three cases exist to show they weren't alone.) But Prof. Lindgren's good example to the contrary doesn't excuse the (presumably non-trivial) number of Republican law profs who weren't able to put their views on the proper role of, say, the federal judiciary in state law mattes above their partisan preferences.
8.28.2005 3:18pm
Nobody Special:
That's a big assumption you're making there, Goober- that Republican law professors made their decisions for partisan, rather than legal, reasons.

Do you really believe that there is absolutely no legitimate arguments to be made for, say, impeachment as a political weapon? That it was, in fact, designed as one such weapon in the inter-branch political struggles? etc.
8.28.2005 3:38pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
I think that McGinnis' point is not that one side or the other in these letters is right or wrong, but rather that the claims usually made in these letters to represent a wide range of political views is highly suspect.

An exception (not studied in the McGinnis article) would be the public letter in favor of conservative Michael McConnell, which a large number of fair-minded liberal law professors signed. The competing letter opposing McConnell seemed to me to reflect only signatories on one side of the political spectrum.
8.28.2005 3:50pm
Nobody Special:
I've always considered legal education the logical starting point for faculty ideology balance, for several reasons:

1) There is no academic degree barrier to entry. If you want to be a professor or you want to make a ton of money, you're still earning the same law degree.

2) There exists a nontrivial conservative legal ideology and approach that cannot be reasonably ignored. Unlike the modern humanities, which are nearly entirely populated with various forms of postmodernism and deconstructionism, which do not mix as readily with conservative viewpoints, the legal world is not solely a scholarly world, but exists at the intersection of politics and the judiciary, where, regardless of the academy's preferences, conservatism exists in a vigorous form.

3) The other "typical" requirements for obtaining academic positions, such as clerkships, are not in the hands of one ideology, leaving the path open.

This last one also makes it more difficult to claim that politics don't matter- in a crude way (which, I admit, is not totally aligned), every aspiring law professor is required to wear their politics on their sleeve.

At the same time, the importance of balance on a legal faculty is far greater than it is on, say, a German language faculty- regardless of what Ralph Neas and company may want, future lawyers, judges and law professors will invariably face conservative legal thought in the rest of their careers. Thus, far more so than for the history of art department, it is important that law faculties provide people with adequate expertise to prepare their students for this.

Such expertise is often lacking in people who themselves disagree with the subject. If you think that's not the case, and leftist professors can adequately and thoroughly instruct in conservative legal thought, let me propose a thought experiment to you:

You're a biology professor at a school run by a religious sect that rejects evolution, and are required to teach creationism. Do you really believe that you, as someone who believes that evolution is correct, could do so in nearly as forceful and thorough a way as someone who believed in creationism?

The honest answer would have to be "no," because, more than simply a matter of opinion, creationism is incorrect. It is much the same with the law.

However, unlike many other disciplines, the law does not exist in a vacuum, and there are real detrimental consequences to producing half-informed students.
8.28.2005 4:36pm
I only take issue with one of Prof. Lindgren's statements:

Imagine how different the Harvard Law School would be, how different legal education would be, how different the government (and public policy) would be, populated with lawyers trained by an overwhelmingly Republican Harvard faculty. Somehow I think it would be a different world.

While I agree with many VC readers on this subject that (1) law schools appear to be overwhelmingly liberal; (2) there is at least some ideological bias in hiring; and (3) there is some self-selection factors that reduce conservative participation in the academy, I don't necessary agree with the ultimate, implied conclusion: that because a faculty is liberal, the education provided is necessarily different than that provided by a conservative faculty. I'm aware of all the horror stories and have suffered a few personally, but liberalism is not necessarily the problem. As an undergrad, I took ConLaw from Prof. Mark Graber (who occassionally posts on Jack Balkin's blog). The very first day he introduced himself by way of announcing his liberal political beliefs, but also declared that the smart people who disagree with him will do well in his class; and that lazy students won't get by just by being fellow lefties. It was a good class that provided a good foundation for law school. In fact, it was what made me start thinking about law school.

So the point isn't necessarily 'Is the school's faculty too uniformly liberal?' The question is, 'Does a liberal faculty create an environment where professors are more likely to present a biased education.' After all, wouldn't we all be just as concerned with an all Republican faculty that presented an exclusively conservative view of any subject? That shouted down dissenting liberal students? That insulted Democratic Presidents, policies, and voters in class?

It seems like the problem is less about politics, but about whether particular professors have the demeanor and maturity to be professors. A professor of any political persuasion is certainly capable of providing a balanced education. Why do so many choose not to?
8.28.2005 4:43pm
devil's advocate (mail):
here are some other attempted explanations, other than the liberal "heathers" clique theory, where a couple hundred snooty nerds control the intellectual fate of the nation.

1. Only 1/3 of professors are political donors in the data presented here. Perhaps Democrats (who ceteris paribus are traditionally relatively underfunded) are more likley to give. so while the balance may tilt liberal (see below factors), the actual numbers could be closer than the 90% figures, which seem extreme. The Harvard anecdote, which goes against point #1, was in a home state election year--harvard is in MA, and Dukakis was the gov. It was likely almost every member of the faculty had opportunities to meet dukakis, who would have had influence in judgeships in the region, and other local factors.

2. Republican intellectuals are likely to be market-capitalists, and thus employed in the system of market capitalism, with its much greater financial rewards. What about the business school faculties? People who value weath creation have a higher opportunity cost, perhaps? So more political devotion than normal is required to be an R law prof.?

3. Academic study, with its emphasis on comparative analysis, and multiple perspectives, naturally leads to more relativist-type thinking, which is associated with liberal political leanings. Liberal arts and legal academic study leads one to find "problems" that need active policy solutions, conservatives, by their instinctual posture are trying to hold on to the status quo. The are traditionally prone to participating in the everyday economy and resisting intellectual and political progressivism from outside academia, rather than turning to the intellectual fields to reverse it. It has fallen to the new generation of neo-conservative ex-liberals to advocate for a pro/re-gressive change back to prior conservative status quos, not current liberal status quo. The momentum must surely be moving back towards conservativism, although maybe only slightly at the moment.

4. Studies of risk have shown it to be a good predictor of political ideology. The pursuits of tenure in academia is a low-risk strategy for very smart people. Low risk preferences are associated with more redistributive and egalitarian, i.e. liberal, politics than the wealth maximizing economic libertarianism of the conservative. A psychological underpinning for reason #2.

5. The twin ivory towers theory: conservatives, spurned by the liberalness of academia decades ago, have long focused efforts instead on creating an alternative (see Ann Coulter theory on media) mini-but growing-universe of think tanks that act in the public space--media, books, politics, etc. See Heritage, AEI, Cato, CEI, Grover Norquist mini-universe, Olin Foundation, Manhattan Institute, and many more. These employ the conservative intellectuals where they can get paid by conservative, and often corporate, funding. Liberal academia is funded by the ultra-rich individual donors (as opposed to corporatations and their mere-very rich management), who still are predominantly liberal.

Counter argument: the liberals have as much of this twin tower or more. Counter-counter argument: but the conservatives are focused here and have more evened the playing field here. Out of smart targeting or the unbeatable clique-iness of liberals, the conservative movement is less focused on capturing academia, finding other ways to reach the public/voters and acheive political power, although not perhaps the "future" of academia, and...

6. Law profs party affiliation doesnt matter anymore. There are places for other ideas (see #5) to enter the law and the public debate, and the liberal law profs club ("members only!") havn't stopped a 3 branch take-over of the governemnt by conservatives. There is no shortage of market-sympathetic corporate and conservative lawyers like john roberts emanting from liberal law classrooms. I speculate that political ideology is more often decided before one is 22 and in law school. Tort reform has been on the march for many years, racking up great success.

Law profs are less influential because they are less and less on the side of the people at the levers of power. Given tenure, judicial tenure, and the hyper-nerd connection between academia and the bench, it is natural that is the last stronghold of liberalism at the moment. It may be somewhat accurate to point to liberal academia as the cause of that. But liberal strength in the judicial branch will pass too if conservatives really have generational dominance, which is a possibility, but not a certainty in the closely divided country. But in the conservative struggle, I see more pressing targets than the liberal law profs. Now for conservative law profs writing on this blog, I can see how it is a more personally pressing target.
8.28.2005 4:51pm
Larry (mail):
Since when did McGinnis become an empirical scholar of anything ?
8.28.2005 4:55pm
Goober (mail):

Impeachment's tougher, but only slightly. And it was pretty bad. I'll just point out that I find your correlation of "legitimate arguments" and "impeachment as a political weapon" suggest a certain ... shall I say, unprincipled character to your argument. One normally thinks of "legitimate arguments" as aspiring to some disinterested vantage---we say we support Social Security or tax cuts because keeping the elderly out of poverty or letting the people keep their own money are abstract goods, not because increasing the size of the welfare state works to the partisan advantage of the party that enacted a spending program.

So, no, I do not in fact believe there were no such arguments. I just believe there weren't any good ones.

And please note that I didn't imply that all Republican professors were of Professor Lindgren's bent; I merely assumed that a non-trivial number of them were. And if my assumption holds up, we should expect more than merely three such professors to be willing to say out loud, "Hold on---this may be against my partisan interests, but Bush v. Gore and impeachment were simply misguided."

Prof. Lindgren---

I initially worried that my point wasn't worth making and might have been too stern; I'm still not sure whether I oughtn't have restrained myself.

Let me concede right away that the liberal signatories in support of Judge McConnell were on the right side of that, and those who signed off against him were... similarly lamentable as my hypothetical Republicans whose jurisprudential philosophies would counsel against Bush v. Gore, but refused to criticize it because they happened to hope one of those litigants would win.

But I have to object to your conclusion from McGinnis's citation. Why should we assume that only liberals can succumb to partisanship? At least with impeachment, a sizeable majority of the American public was against it (to infer from Clinton's job approval at the time and the rather anomolous Democratic mid-term gain in 1998), yet no more than three Republican found themselves willing to sign such a letter?

For himself, McGinnis may have been pointing to the narrowness of such open calls; I wouldn't find anything objectionable or even particularly surprising about such a claim. But we can make our own determinations about it, and it seems to me pretty clear evidence that Republican faculty can be as baldly partisan as (at least some) Democratic ones. For myself, I take away from all of this that there's a sensible middle-ground of Professors (I'm thinking Cass Sunstein etc.) who are willing to denounce impeachment and support McConnell, and then there are wings of conservatives who can't bear to do the former and liberals who can't bear to do the latter.

And I have to quibble with an unspoken assumption of the gripe against Democratic faculties---that even a large disparity of partisan registration is evidence of something about the faculties, rather than something about the parties. (Don't get angry yet! hear me out.) With respect to the entire population, and all their myriad interests in schools, taxes, crime, welfare, etc., we'd expect the two parties to be roughly competitive; if there were a big disparity our conclusion would be that one party was doing a much better job with its policies and strategies. But with respect to one narrow segment of the population---say, government employees' unions, or oil executives---it seems there's something about the interests of that particular segment that might have something to do with it, and we just assume that the party losing that bloc might have some competing interest that keeps, say, the Democrats from proposing relaxation on petroleum regulations.

So what are law profs interested in? And might it not be the case that one party has taken a far greater interest, on the subjects of legal interest, in a segment of the population other than that represented by law professors? I'll just throw out a few: criminal procedure, drug-offense sentencing, abortion, and states' rights. On each, it seems the GOP takes positions that court constituencies that don't have a lot of common ground with the interest taken by legal professionals, especially law profs.

I suspect that if a Republican like Judge McConnell were ever elected, you'd find a lot of law professors donating to his campaign. But I also expect that the Republican platform on such issues would look far different from what it looks like now.

PS: Partisan ideology may be predictive of the wisdom of social services or the war in Iraq, but is it really that correlative with, say, Incorporation Doctrine, or efficient breach of contracts? I think there's some more work to be done on that supposition.
8.28.2005 4:57pm
Nobody Special:
I'm taking a more academic tack than you give me credit for, or you seem to have picked up.

Say that I'm Lawprofessor X (I'm not, I'm government attorney Y). Say that, furthermore, I academically believe that, as a structural principle, impeachment is a useful tool in the arsenal of the legislature as against the executive and judicial branches. As such, regardless of the party doing the impeaching, or the party being impeached, the use of impeachment is proper, in their mind. This isn't an insane idea, either, and it even has support from roughly the time that the constitution was written- consider the attempted impeachment of Chase (failure to remove doesn't necessarily blunt the weapon). Clear?

Now, say that Lawprof X happens to be conservative, and it just so happens that conservatives are impeaching Bill Clinton. Putting aside whether they were legally correct that he had committed obstruction of justice, and given that structural framework, is it partisan advantage, or is it "this is how I really think the law works?"
8.28.2005 5:21pm
Goober (mail):
Clear as mud. Pity the poor Republican Congress of 1998, hm? So beseiged by the imperial Clinton presidency they had no reasonable alternative short of impeachment to stop such over-reaching as... well, he signed the Line Item Veto Act, so I suppose that's one thing. Of course, it was enacted by the Congress, so the better remedy to such encroachments was probably not to propose them in the GOP's 1994 electoral manifesto and not to pass them, but perhaps I'm missing something.

Short of that, I have to say this "Impeachment for Impeachment's Sake" is total hogwash. And I say this as someone who briefly considered the propriety of impeaching all but one of the Court after Boerne. I'm a big fan of impeachment as a method of keeping the other branches in line. I simply have the radical perspective that there be a reason for the impeachment before one goes ahead with it.

And one Professor X is understandable and consistent with an absence of widespread partisan bias. All but three professors is not.
8.28.2005 7:15pm
Goober (mail):
On review, I think that was unduly confrontational, and I apologize. But I still don't understand the point you're trying to make, or at least not on some level that I think would justify your conclusion.
8.28.2005 7:27pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Whatever the reasons, it is at least as important for the good of the legal fabric of the country that some effort be made to even out the odds in legal academia.

No one orthodoxy should be taught in any nationally recognized school. Diversity of legal thought and legal philosophy is at least as important as diversity of race, religion, national origin and other social markers, it seems to me.

I doubt, though that such diversity will be achieved within the period Justice O'Connor opined that racial affirmative action would be necessary.
8.28.2005 8:10pm
Might this also be a function of the Republican Party's tacking to the right on social issues ever since 1968? When Frist and Bush both come out for Creationism, it's pretty much discounting the academic vote. Further, schools have an establihished instiutional interest in Affirmative Action and gay-rights policies, and Bush's re-election was all about the Pink Peril. Factor in geography and the social class of professors, finding liberalism is not a surprise, to say nothing of the inevitable cascading of preferences.

Judge Posner's comments in the article are dead on, too. What does it really matter? Also, a better baseline would be to compare political giving by law faculties not against other profs but against practicing lawyers -- where D's probably outnumber R's.

I suppose the right wants quasi-affirmative action programs for faculty -- at least David Horowitz does -- or something like the "monitoring" bill being considered in PA. But aside from vocal minorities on both sides, J-Poz is right that not many students really care what the ideologies of their teachers are. I, for one, liked having conservatives to argue with, however.
8.28.2005 8:13pm
Stephen M (Ethesis) (mail) (www):
Studies of risk have shown it to be a good predictor of political ideology. The pursuits of tenure in academia is a low-risk strategy for very smart people. Low risk preferences are associated with more redistributive and egalitarian, i.e. liberal, politics than the wealth maximizing economic libertarianism of the conservative. A psychological underpinning for reason #2.

Actually, the fascinating thing about education is that it is high risk for most areas (except for PhDs in business). Generally, if you attempt to go into academia you are doomed to failure more often than not.

I think that if we are going to get a realistic analysis of why some people go into academia and others do not, it is a good thing to start with the fact that for the most part, it is far easier to become a practicing attorney with an a.v. rating than to become a law professor with a c.v.

Anyway, looks like a start here, rather than a finish.
8.28.2005 8:46pm
Larry (mail):
There are fascinating constructions in these comments, all based on a limited survey taken just about the time this year's incoming freshman class was born. I don't care to get into the mechanics of the survey at hand, I'd just like to suggest it be updated. How about an informal survey of current law prof bloggers? You don't need a think tank to conduct it, this is the new media - it can be done online and/or by email. All that's needed is one VC contributor to take the bull by the horns. Any takers?
8.28.2005 10:54pm
I think it's a bit of a leap of faith to think that lawprof bloggers are a representative sample of academia as a whole. It would be better to pick one or two law schools and put their entire faculty through opensecrets. I doubt that even "conservative" schools like Chicago and Northwestern top 50% in R donors.
8.28.2005 11:42pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):
There are a number of interesting points made here.

To answer some questions or issues raised:

I don't assume that law schools would be better if they were 80% Republican than 80% Democratic (given the pool, they might well be worse); I am claiming that they would be very different.

Nor do I assume here that Democrats or liberals are more closed minded than Republicans or conservatives. Indeed, the ONLY example I gave of substantial numbers of law professors signing a public letter contrary to their natural "side" was that of Democrats signing the letter for Judge McConnell.

As for the possibility of different donation patterns, the donation patterns that McGinnis found match almost perfectly what I found in a survey of 710 law profs at the top 100 law schools (I had a high 66% response rate). I found 80% Democrats and leaning Democratic, and 13% Republican and leaning Republican.
8.28.2005 11:57pm
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Of course, not too long ago, both political parties had conservative and liberal wings. Sadly, that is no longer the case. That most commenting on this blog cannot remember such a situation is, I think, quite revealing.
8.28.2005 11:59pm
Bob (mail):
>A professor of any political persuasion is certainly capable
>of providing a balanced education. Why do so many choose not to?

1) Because they don't have to. To the extent that the academy is a liberal echo chamber, nobody is going to call them on (IMO inappropriate) politicizing their classroom.
2) Because liberals are more likely, IMO, to see their classroom as an appropriate extension of whatever struggle their politics demands they engage in.
8.29.2005 12:03am
Jim Lindgren (mail):
Jim Rhoads:

There are actually a lot of conservative Democrats in the general public, though very few liberal Republicans. Conservative Democrats are really a substantial group without much of a public voice.
8.29.2005 12:08am
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
We could carry the diversity analysis further. How many law school professors *in legal fields where ideology is important* are conservatives?

I doubt that much hangs on whether a professor teaching tax, securities, or commercial law is liberal or conservative. Where ideology counts is in constitutional law, and perhaps in criminal law and procedure and administrative law. If we exclude the private law fields (contracts, torts, property), how many conservatives are there?

This is important, too, to judging the efforts of law schools to advance or stop diversity. The market for professors of tax and commercial law is a lot tighter than for constitutional law, and law faculties don't care as much about who they hire in those positions, so long as they can get someone intelligent to teach the courses. Ideology is less important. It is in the optional fields -- adding yet another prof who wants to teach con law, or a prof in some peripheral field such as international law or jurisprudence or Roman law that one will find a law school most free to indulge in ideologically motivated hiring.
8.29.2005 12:29am
EricRasmusen (mail) (www):
Yet another thing to look at would be new hires (the 1988 numbers in the original post) versus lateral hires. My prediction is that many more lateral hires would be conservatives. The reason is that more is know about their quality, from their publication record. If a law school is trying to hire (a) good scholars, and (b) liberals or lefties, then with rookies they face a lot of candidates with roughly equal promise, many of whom will not fulfill that promise, and so variable (b) will be relatively favored. Facing a lateral hire possibility, however, variable (a) is much better measured, and so the law school is more likely to trade off poor performance on variable (b). What a law school definitely doesn't want is someone who is both conservative and a poor scholar; someone who is liberal and a poor scholar, while not ideal, at least has something going for him.
8.29.2005 12:35am
Jack Jackson (mail):

I doubt that much hangs on whether a professor teaching tax, securities, or commercial law is liberal or conservative.

This is stunning in its casual ignorance. Those classes are rife with policy issues like inequality and income redistribution. It certainly does matter whether your income tax professor is a radical Marxist or a doctrinaire Hayekian. As for securities regulation, one need only know the history of the 33 and 34 acts to recognize that any state's rights fanatic would have a field day with that class. Not to mention shareholder democracy! And, yes, what is your conception of the proper social role of the corporation does play into how you teach commercial law because commcercial law is chockablock with various policy issues. Just because it seems dry doesn't mean it is dry.
8.29.2005 12:59am
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
The problem with a radical professor or a progressive professor is that they do not fairly explain the opposing side. In a class like contracts they can point to an activist judge or a progressive legislature enacting something and then say that an alternative argument against that is that America is a capitalist country so the contractee is tough out of luck if this is unfair. They just should have done better. Or in a securities class they can say, on the Enron side, some economist say that one argument is that this is a free market and therefore social Darwinism should prevail. The professors are not exactly wrong, but they have not stated those arguments, as the proponents would state them. I have missed conservatives or libertarian economists saying "social Darwinism, social Darwinism, social Darwinism" as a parrot. Most students do not care. Whatever the teacher says fine. Others think they are learning, and wonder how people could have arguments that are so uncaring. It makes class seem ridiculous to me, and I wonder how much the professor knows. One professor who did this became ridiculous and a joke -- at least to some of us for the incorrect explanations of the free market, and to most of us for her inability to teach.

A leftist professor in almost every case was certainly not the end of the world, and in regards to the real leftist professor students refused to take his class because his reputation became that of an unfair nut. So regardless of whether I or anyone else likes the free market the information got around. Anyhow, if there is a huge legal liberal community better that students adjust to it in law school then in front of a judge or while writing a brief for a partner.
8.29.2005 1:21am
William Spieler (mail) (www):
I know I don't get enough anarcho-capitalist perspective in any of my classes, heh.
8.29.2005 1:45am
Following Jake's suggestion...

Putting UVA's 74 resident faculty through OpenSecrets reveals the following:

28 faculty contributed to a campaign in the 2004 cycle.
24 contributed to a Democrat candidate, PAC, etc.
4 contributed to a Republican candidate, PAC, etc.

86% of those contributing gave to Democrats, but considerably less than half of the faculty contributed in the first place, so I would think sample size is a concern.
8.29.2005 2:07am
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Hillsdale is an example of an undergrad school that positions itself in the education market as friendly to conservatives, gop, and catholics. Maybe there's a market niche for Republicans to buy or found a law school. Is there already one like that? Also note the studies aren't showing a lot of donors to the green, libertarian, communist, conservative, right-to-life, or working families parties, or to larouche, or the unabomber fan club. The data tend to show liberalism, but a narrow brand of superficial liberalism, with a resulting poverty of policy discussions, so that a big chunk of the graduates can go on to be government employees, or work for the big rent-seeking firms, without seeing the ethical problems of the work they do.
8.29.2005 3:36am
Why isn't anyone concerned with the fact that libertarians are overrepresented in law schools?
8.29.2005 6:21am
Phil (mail):
I will take the bait. First, it is unclear, at least to me, that libertarians are overrepresented. The law school I attended had none and the law school I taught at had none.
If they are overrepresented and if no one is concerned, then I think there are at least two explanations. First, the chances of libertarian political theory ever dominating in the US are so thin that vitually no one on the political spectrum feels threatened. Second, conservatives and liberals frequently draw on libertarian or quasi-libertarian analyses. Therefore, a libertarian teaching First Amendment, Commerce Clause, etc. may be helping ther conservative or liberal focus of a faculty. In fact, it seems to me that one way of avoiding some of the more corrosive polarization would be to bias a law schoool's hiring in favor of ideological viewpoints that do not track the US political spectrum, libertarians and (religious) communitarian socialists being two good examples. A libertarian anlyses of abortions rights or a communitarian opposition to such rights, even when grounded in constitutional interpretation, might be different enough that while political, they are clearly not working on the next election or judicial appointment. If you throw in a memeber of Libertarians for Life or a communitarian who favors (early) infanticide, law students might actually learn something.
8.29.2005 7:03am
Nobody Special:

I think that there are a couple, however, given the clique-ish nature of legal practice and the overwhelming (irrational?) emphasis on prestige, its difficult to say that they exist as viable options (for the most part), since most occupy the vast bottom of the legal education market.

Some examples-

1) Formerly Chicago. The university as a whole used to be known as the one truly prestigious school where conservatives got a fair hearing, in all their programs. However, in recent years, it has assimiliated much more into the dominant, leftward leaning academic mindset.

2) George Mason. Already discussed by others.

3) Ave Maria School of Law. This is a more traditionalist, Catholic school out in Michigan that recently got started up, and is known for being pretty conservative.

4) Liberty University - doesn't this place have a law school too? If fundamentalist christianity is your thing, then you'd like it here.

5) Pepperdine - this school has long had a religious mission as well, but, from what I've seen, much more muted than the other places I've mentioned. Ken Starr is the dean, and, it is apparent, he really, really wants to change the perception of the school as being the "worst" in the Los Angeles area. Could be useful for networking, given that Starr knows a lot of people.

I'm sure that there are others. However, like I said, the really important thing about legal education, at least for the really high-end results, is status, and that's something these places don't have all that much of (with the exception, somewhat, of GMU).
8.29.2005 10:02am
JoeSlater (mail):
One point, one question, and one point/rhetorical question.

First, I strongly second the notion that one should not assume that professors who are of a particular political stripe only teach ideas they favor or reward/punish students for agreeing/disagreeing with them. My experience with liberal and conservative professors as a student and colleagues now as a prof. has been exactly the opposite.

Second, what do people who are concerned about this issue and are sane (that means "not David Horowitz") want law faculties to do, specifically? I'm the Chair of an Appointments Committee. What -- dare I use the word "afirmative"? -- actions should I take? I'll tell you right now that nobody on our hiring committee says "great credentials, but could be a Republican ... yuck ..."

Third, re the following concept from the original post:
"Imagine how different the Harvard Law School would be, how different legal education would be, how different the government (and public policy) would be, populated with lawyers trained by an overwhelmingly Republican Harvard faculty. Somehow I think it would be a different world."

This assumes that liberal profs. are engaged in ideological indoctrination and that conservative profs. would be too, an assumption I reject. But even assuming that would happen to some extent, isn't this exaggerating the effect of elite legal education on the world at large to the point of near parody? How, exactly, would we have "different world"? Is the Bush admin. lacking conservatives to staff legal positions in the federal government?
8.29.2005 11:14am
alkali (mail):
I agree with Joe Slater's points and would add the following: there are suggestions in the comments above that law professors with liberal views are not as familiar with conservative legal thinking. I don't think there's any reason to believe that's the case; in my experience, that has certainly not been true.

Also, with respect to the following point:

[A] professor at the Harvard Law School told me that in 1988 he asked every member of the Harvard Law School faculty with even a hint of conservative or Republican leanings whether they favored or had voted for Bush in 1988. Only one had (1 out of 60-80 faculty); all others favored Dukakis.

Perhaps the result would have been the same in any other election in recent memory, but Harvard Law had an atypical relationship to Dukakis that may explain the faculty's support for Dukakis in that campaign. Dukakis is an HLS graduate who maintained informal ties to the school throughout his service as governor. I suspect that almost anyone on the Harvard law faculty who had any inclination to do so had met Dukakis personally during his service as governor and/or during his presidential campaign.
8.29.2005 11:35am
Nancy French (mail) (www):
Interesting post. Are you familiar with the free-speech organization called The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE for short? They deal with issues of ideological diversity on campuses, and do good work trying to help "minority students" (AKA conservatives, ore religious people) maintain their freedom of speech rights. Their web site is
8.29.2005 11:37am
Goober (mail):
Heh heh heh. Just read Bainbridge's post---er, wholesale excerpt of a post he'd written years ago, apparently. If that's what qualifies for "thoughtful[]" on the right, it's no wonder you people can't get academic jobs! [/cheapshot]

Seriously, I kid. I kid, but I love.
8.29.2005 12:00pm
Michael L (mail):
I think having an overwhelmingly liberal faculty does a disservice to liberal and left-leaning law students. Law schools ought to emphasize the ability to understand and anticipate arguments from the opposing side, in constitutional law and other "political" legal fields as well as in traditionally less politically-tinged subjects.

When a law school faculty is overwhelmingly partisan to one end of the political spectrum, then students on that same end of the spectrum are basically spoon-fed views with which they already agree. Sure, they must wrestle with the rationale of a given opinion and must learn the underlying theory of the case. But frequently, they are not forced to think about the opposing viewpoint in anything other than dumbed-down, oversimplified terms.

On the other hand, as a recent law school grad who leans to the right, I believe that I benefitted from the rather liberal law professors with whom I studied for the inverse of the reasons I explained above.

And of course, I benefitted greatly from several left-wing, liberal law professors who very successfully kept their personal politics in check while at the lectern and who abley and honestly taught both sides of any given issue.
8.29.2005 3:08pm
Goober (mail):
It never ceases to amaze me how many conservative gripers about liberal predominance in academia necessarily means that liberal orthodoxy is taught in every classroom. Even among those such as Michael L, who himself had liberal professors "who very successfully kept their personal politics in check while at the lectern." I should think that with examples like that, the fear that students being "spoon-fed views with which they already agree" would be a rather minor concern. Evidently, I am mistaken.
8.29.2005 3:34pm
Jim Lindgren (mail):

Saying that politics matters is not the same as saying that someone is claiming that "liberal orthodoxy is taught in every classroom." That is mostly a straw man. Personally, I disagree with the position of some Critical Legal Studies scholars that everything is political. But neither do I believe that nothing is political.

It's a bit like TV News. Most of the straight news that you hear on CNN and FOXNews (excluding the opinion-people like Hannity &O'Reilly) could appear on either network and not raise an eyebrow. Most of the time the press is being fair, and much of the coverage is not particularly political (like that of the current Hurricane).

But with some regularity the political orientation of the producers is going to make a small difference here or there, which will lead FOX or CNN to cover a story differently or to ignore one side of a story. I was under the impression that many Democrats, especially highly educated ones, were uncomfortable watching FOXNews because the political orienmtation of the producers seeps into even the straight news portions of the broadcasting, just as I think that many conservatives are uncomfortable watching straight news on CNN.
8.29.2005 4:25pm
Michael L (mail):

(1) I had "several" liberal professors who were able to keep their personal politics in check. I had "many" who were not.

(2) It's the many professors who couldn't (or wouldn't) do so who lead to conservative griping.
8.29.2005 4:38pm
David Lindquist (mail):
As a recent law school graduate (University of Michigan), I find much of this discussion to be odd. Unless the law school cirriculum is taught differently at U of M than it is everywhere else, professors rarely spoon feed the students ANYTHING. That's not their role; they are supposed to poke, prod, and antagonize the students into finding the answers themselves. I had two lecture-style classes in my three years at U of M, and both of those were politically neutral classes. My perception was that many of the professors teaching the socratic-style courses were pro-market economic libertarians (although most supported Kerry for President, mainly out of dislike for the religious right), but that could just be my perception. I didn't hear much from the CLS school, and the "law and humanities" advocates were vastly outnumbered by the "law and economics" advocates.

Regardless, what exactly are the conservative views that are underrepresented in law school? The subject matter is not inherently political; the goal of a lawyer is to make a constructive interpretation of a social practice applicable to a given set of facts. That's an apolitical pursuit. Explaining a case by saying "the judge was liberal" isn't a law school answer (or at least not a top-ten law school answer). The goal is to make the precedent tell a story, and to fit the current fact pattern into that story. The story may be one in which politics plays a major role, but the telling of that story is history, not politics. However, I'm interested; what legitimate legal viewpoints are being ignored in the law school classroom due to the political persuasions of the professors?
8.30.2005 1:24pm