In this morning's Chicago Tribune, Jerold Solovy, the chairman emeritus of Jenner & Block, argues for an increase in federal judicial salaries. He offers the common comparison of current judicial salaries to judicial salaries in 1969. He also includes the following comparison: "Law school professors and deans make about twice as much as federal judges." District court judges make $169,300. This would put salaries for law school professors at about $338,600. Setting aside the deans, I assume some law school professors make this much, but why would he think law school professors in general make this much?
According to the 2007-2008 SALT survey of law school salaries (response rate=48%), the lowest median salary for full professors at a law school is $88,626 (District of Columbia Law School) and the highest is $206,000 (University of Michigan Law School). For assistant and associate professors, the median salaries are of course lower. So where is Solovy getting his estimate?
I would guess this salary estimate comes from Chief Justice Roberts' 2006 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, which Solovy quotes at one point, but some important qualifications got lost in the paraphrasing of the salary comparison. The Year-End Report said, "Today, federal district judges are paid substantially less than--about half--what the deans and senior law professors at top schools are paid." (p. 2)
That's "senior law professors at top schools," not law school professors generally.
UPDATE: An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Paul Volcker prompted a similar question about the $330,000 law professors last year. Volcker said, "Today, at $165,200, district judge salaries fall more than 50% below what many law school deans or their top professors make." Paul Caron responded here. It's like a game of telephone, taking us from "deans and senior law professors at top schools" (Roberts) to "many law school deans or their top professors" (Volcker) to "[l]aw school professors and deans" (Solovy).