Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
The Aging of the American Law Professoriate
  • David Barnhizer
A recent (rather tasteless) article argued: “Professors approaching 70 … have an ethical obligation to step back and think seriously about quitting. If they do remain on the job, they should at least openly acknowledge they’re doing it mostly for themselves.” In “The Forever Professors: Academics Who Don’t Retire Are Greedy, Selfish, and Bad For Students”, the insensitive author added: “the number of professors 65 and older more than doubled between 2000 and 2011.” The author’s most intellectually savage comments were that: “faculty who delay retirement harm students, who in most cases would benefit from being taught by someone younger than 70, even younger than 65.” All I can say is “OMG!” how can these doddering demented cretins be so irresponsible as to do that to these innocent and needy young people? Deans and law faculties are facing a situation where they can’t “reload”. The “aging” of the law school and general university tenure track professoriates has created a situation in which some have voiced concerns about what they see as a systemic blockage. The claim is that the refusal of senior faculty to retire is preventing academic institutions from hiring new and younger faculty, thus presumably inhibiting the fully oxygenated “intellectual blood flow” essential for the highest levels of performance by the collective “brain” of the academic institution. As I suggest in this brief analysis the claim that a main problem is the number of senior professors on university and law school faculties and that those older faculty members are somehow harming students is a disingenuous posturing masking other agendas. To understand the implications for law schools of what is occurring we need to gain a sense of what universities are experiencing overall. What is occurring in law schools relative to faculty demographics is due to four main factors. One is declining resources caused by severe enrollment slumps. Related to this is the need for fewer teachers to instruct increasingly smaller student bodies. A third consideration is that the “corporatization” of universities has created a situation in which university boards and the increasingly business-oriented administrations of universities are seeking to recreate the institution in ways that provide university managers with greater flexibility and control over faculty and core elements of the budget. This involves eliminating tenure track positions when possible, replacing those positions with less protected teaching classifications than tenure track, cancelling the expenditure in part or in toto, or shifting the resources to administrative staffing needs. A fourth factor is that law schools and universities generally are populated by increasingly older tenure track faculties because fewer tenured professors have elected to retire since the 1994 removal of mandatory retirement rules. This creates a more expensive faculty, one that tends to present an obstacle to change, and a barrier to the hiring of younger and usually more diverse “replacement” faculty.
  • tenure,
  • tenure track,
  • age discrimination,
  • law schools,
  • law teaching,
  • role models,
  • diversity,
  • aging professors,
  • decline in productivity,
  • shrinking law schools
Publication Date
Winter 2014
Citation Information
David Barnhizer. "The Aging of the American Law Professoriate" (2014)
Available at: