The University of Alabama, Office for Academic Affairs

Procedures and Standards for Evaluating Legal Writing Faculty for Contract Renewal and Promotion Policy

Unit:  School of Law
Contact: Alan Durham
Title:  Vice Dean
Effective Date: 9/23/2021
Revision Date: 09/23/2021


 
 

Purpose

The current policy has been adopted to make the procedures for evaluating the Law School’s Legal Writing Faculty consistent with the University’s Faculty Handbook Faculty Handbook.

Policy

I. Introduction

The University of Alabama School of Law is committed to providing a rigorous legal writing experience to students and understands that skills in legal writing are critical elements of a strong curriculum. These procedures and standards are an application of, and supplement to, the procedures and standards pertaining to Renewable Contract Faculty in the University of Alabama Faculty Handbook.

II. Titles

Ordinarily, the initial appointment of Legal Writing faculty shall be on a nine-month basis for a three-year term with the internal title Assistant Professor of Legal Writing. Titles of Associate Professor of Legal Writing and Professor of Legal Writing previously conveyed for internal use shall be retained for internal use. Henceforth, the internal titles of Associate Professor of Legal Writing and Professor of Legal Writing shall be conveyed according to the procedures and standards set forth here and in the University of Alabama Faculty Handbook. These internal titles are equivalent to the official University faculty titles of Renewable Contract Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor.

III. Contract Renewal

Reappointment of Legal Writing faculty depends on annually documented meritorious teaching; satisfactory service to the School of Law; compliance with policies referenced in the University of Alabama Faculty Handbook and with general University policies applicable to all employees; continued need; and continued availability of funding, as determined by the Dean.

Contract renewal will be based primarily on teaching performance. The following guidelines will be used to evaluate whether the performance of Legal Writing faculty is consistent with the goals of the legal writing program, which include teaching students to analyze, research, and write about legal issues.

  • Legal Writing faculty should demonstrate the ability to write well.
  • Legal Writing faculty should demonstrate sound knowledge of legal analysis, legal writing techniques, and legal research sources and methodology.
  • Legal Writing faculty should provide organized, thoughtful, and clearly presented lectures and class discussions.
  • Legal Writing faculty should create a classroom atmosphere conducive to learning. Classroom presentations should be rigorous, analytical, substantive, and should elicit participation and challenge students. All students should be treated equally, fairly, and with respect.
  • Legal Writing faculty should develop a significant portion of their own teaching materials. Teaching materials must be well written and prepared in a timely manner, permitting advance review by the Director when requested. The materials may be prepared for use by other Legal Writing faculty. The materials may include student assignments, sample answers, exercises, lecture outlines, PowerPoint slides, and other teaching tools.
  • Legal Writing faculty should provide insightful and detailed written critiques of students' written work . These critiques should be returned to the students in a timely manner, complying with anticipated return dates given to the students and agreed upon by the Legal Writing faculty as a group. Comments on students’ papers should be diagnostic, rather than just corrective. Critiques of students' written work should be made in a professional manner. For graded assignments, a professor must ensure that student papers are collected and returned in ways that safeguard the anonymity of the student authors.
  • Legal Writing faculty should conduct helpful and productive individual conferences with students.
  • Legal Writing faculty must normally be available to their students in the Law School building during a significant portion of the business day during the normal business week and must hold regular office hours.
  • Legal Writing faculty should assist colleagues in planning and developing problems, class materials, and teaching methodologies.
  • Legal Writing faculty should judge appellate oral arguments in a professional manner, providing instructional feedback and encouragement, consistent with prevailing norms of appropriate judicial conduct. Professors may be required to judge oral arguments during evenings or weekends during a limited period of the semester.
  • Legal Writing faculty must effectively manage students who are assigned to them to assist in judging oral arguments.
  • Legal Writing faculty are expected to comply with any overall program syllabi or schedules developed by the Legal Writing faculty as a group.
  • Legal Writing faculty must attend meetings called by the Director of Legal Writing and must consult regularly with the Director regarding program-wide goals and issues as well as about possible or actual problems in class.
  • Legal Writing faculty should aspire to challenge and inspire students.

Legal Writing faculty are expected to contribute their services to the School of Law, the University, the Bar, and the community; however, this service should not impair their performance within the program. Examples of service may include committee work, coaching or judging moot court teams, advising law student organizations, attending lectures and colloquia, and involvement in other institutional activities.

Published writing and presentations are not expected of Legal Writing faculty. If Legal Writing faculty engage in these activities, however, they may be evaluated and considered in renewal decisions.

Legal Writing faculty may apply for any special support offered to them by the Dean of the Law School. The unavailability of additional support for development of teaching materials and assignments does not, however, relieve Legal Writing Faculty from responsibility for developing those materials or assignments for the upcoming academic year.

IV. Annual Assessment

Legal Writing faculty have the responsibilities detailed in this document. The Director of Legal Writing, in consultation with the Dean, is charged with assessing how well each Legal Writing faculty member performs these responsibilities. The Director will assess performance on an on-going, informal basis throughout the year, and will prepare a formal written assessment following the Spring semester of each year of a Legal Writing faculty member’s first three-year contract. This assessment will be submitted to the Dean, and the faculty member may respond to it in writing. Legal Writing faculty should also comply with the Law School’s requirements for documenting their activities electronically each Spring.

The Director will visit or review a Legal Writing faculty member’s class at least once during each semester of the first three-year contract. Should a Legal Writing faculty member’s contract be renewed for a second term, the Director will visit or review a class at least annually. Should a contract be renewed for a third or subsequent term, the Director will visit at least once per contract. The Director has authority to arrange additional visits.

V. Procedures for Contract Renewal

When Legal Writing faculty are being considered for reappointment after an initial contract term, or for any subsequent reappointment to a term at the same rank, the Development Committee (or another committee assigned that responsibility by the Dean) shall evaluate the candidate’s record and communicate a written recommendation to the Dean. The Committee shall take into account the reports and recommendations of the Director of Legal Writing when evaluating the record of other Legal Writing faculty. The Committee will attempt to submit its recommendation to the Dean by mid-October. The Dean will review the recommendation expeditiously and will make the final decision regarding whether to renew the contract. Although the Dean’s decision will be communicated no later than by the deadline specified in the University’s Faculty Handbook, the Dean will make every reasonable effort to render an earlier decision when it would be helpful to a Legal Writing faculty member seeking alternative employment.

Evaluations of Legal Writing faculty, by the Director of Legal Writing or by the Committee, may include the following:

  • classroom visits or reviewing recordings of classes;
  • review of writing problems, written critiques of student work, written teaching materials, handouts, samples, readings, slides, and any other teaching tools;
  • student evaluations;
  • meetings with the Legal Writing faculty member;
  • any written materials, publications, or conference presentations by the Legal Writing faculty member; and
  • the Legal Writing faculty member’s service to the Law School, the Bar, and the community.

VI. Procedures for Promotion

Legal Writing faculty are eligible to apply for promotion, from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor, or from Associate Professor to Professor, during the sixth year in rank. On rare occasions, exceptional candidates may warrant early promotion consideration. When Legal Writing faculty are being considered for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor or Professor, the Development Committee (or another committee assigned that responsibility by the Dean) shall evaluate the candidate’s record and communicate a written recommendation to the Dean. The Committee shall take into account the reports and recommendations of the Director of Legal Writing when evaluating the record of other Legal Writing faculty.

Applications for promotion to Associate Professor or Professor require submission of a dossier. The dossier will include a current curriculum vitae; evidence of effective teaching; evidence of service; a statement of professional activities; and documentation of other relevant activities. The evaluation may include the sources of information listed in Part V, above.

The Committee must comply with the University’s Faculty Handbook with respect to abstentions, recusals, and the reporting of votes.

A Legal Writing faculty member who wishes to be considered for promotion shall submit an application, along with a supporting dossier, by June 1 in the academic year preceding the academic year of decision. The Committee will attempt to submit its recommendation to the Dean by mid-October. The Dean will review and make a recommendation on promotion to the Provost expeditiously, but no later than February 1. The candidate for promotion may terminate the review process at any stage by withdrawing the application prior to a decanal decision.

The Dean’s own recommendation, along with the full dossier and the recommendation of the Committee, will be reviewed by the Provost, who will make the ultimate decision on promotion.

Candidates for promotion who are unsuccessful will meet with the Dean to discuss whether employment will be continued at the existing rank. Candidates whose promotion applications are not successful may, if re-appointed, apply again for promotion in future years. These candidates should be provided clear guidance regarding the professional development steps needed to reach promotion in the future.

VII. Criteria for Promotion

Promotion to the rank of Associate Professor will be based on evidence of effective teaching and service. Candidates applying for promotion to Associate Professor shall include strong evidence of professional development in teaching, as well as documentation of service. Effectiveness in teaching Legal Writing shall be the primary consideration and shall be judged with reference to the guidelines in Part III, above. The absence of a continuing record of service/academic citizenship on the candidate’s part may detract from what otherwise may be a strong set of qualifications for promotion. Similarly, a pattern of continual lack of collegiality may be a factor in promotion decisions.

Promotion to the rank of Professor requires compelling evidence of significant contributions to the School of Law and to the Legal Writing program. Excellence in the teaching of Legal Writing is a primary consideration and shall be judged with reference to the guidelines in Part III, above. Documentation of high-quality service is expected as well. The absence of a continuing record of service/academic citizenship on the candidate’s part may detract from what otherwise may be a strong set of qualifications for promotion. Similarly, a pattern of continual lack of collegiality will be a factor in promotion decisions.

Scope

This policy applies to the School of Law’s Legal Writing Faculty.

 
 

Office of the Provost

Approved by Dr. Lesley Reid, Associate Provost, 09/23/2021