The Hierarchy of Law School Faculty Meetings: Who Votes?

Susan Liemer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale


For anyone who has been teaching at an American law school for a few years, the agenda for any given faculty meeting may elicit a sense of deja vu. From time to time the grading system or the honor system will be revisited, committees focusing on topics from admissions to graduation will give reports, and the dreaded curriculum reform or self-study will resurface. A less familiar topic, however, has appeared with increasing frequency on faculty meeting agendas in recent years: who should vote at these meetings, anyway? The general practice in law schools in the United States is for professors who have traditional tenure or are on the traditional tenure track to vote on all matters at faculty meetings. Non-tenure-track visitors and adjuncts generally do not attend faculty meetings and do not vote. Fellows who teach some classes while working on graduate law degrees and students who serve as teaching assistants also usually do not attend faculty meetings and do not vote. It is much more difficult, however, to generalize about full-time faculty who teach in the law school clinics, legal writing programs, and libraries. This article is intended to be a useful resource if the topic of faculty voting rights appears on the faculty meeting agenda at your law school. Even if most law schools do not visit this issue every year, or even every decade, there is one question you definitely can anticipate. Whether the discussion is calm or heated, someone is bound to ask, "Well, what do other schools do?" This article aims to answer that question. Part II explains why and how I gathered information about each American Bar Association ("ABA") accredited law school's faculty meeting voting practices for professors not on the traditional tenure track. Part III describes the results of this information gathering and explains the current state of faculty voting at American law schools. In Part IV, I suggest why this information about faculty voting rights is important to legal education in the United States. In Part V, I summarize my recommendations for the future. Finally, the Appendix in Part VI shows, for every ABA-approved law school for which information was available, whether the clinic, legal writing, and library faculty may vote at faculty meetings and, if so, on what matters they may vote.