Leaves and Course Reductions

Law School Policy on Course Reductions, Visits Away, Family Leaves, and Other Leaves

Course Reductions


A course reduction releases a research-intensive faculty member from teaching one general demand course in an academic year.


Untenured, tenure-track, full-time research-intensive faculty may receive one general demand course reduction during the first, third, and sixth or seventh year of their appointment at the Law School.

Tenured, full-time, research-intensive faculty members who maintain a high level of scholarly productivity and promise, as determined by the Dean, may receive one general demand course reduction once every four years.

Faculty members with a partial appointment in the Law School and a partial appointment in a non-teaching institution that provides course reductions, such as the American Bar Foundation or the Institute for Policy Research, are not eligible for Law School-provided course reductions.

As long as it is consistent with the needs of the curriculum, a research-intensive faculty member may organize his or her teaching obligations into one semester (or quarter) to provide an extended period of non-teaching.  This is NOT considered a course reduction under Law School policy. Faculty who so organize their teaching, however, will continue to be in residence at the Law School for both semesters and will continue to carry out their University and Law School committee and other assignments unless the Associate Dean of Faculty and Research agrees otherwise in writing.

Notwithstanding a faculty member's qualification for a Law School-provided course reduction or an externally-funded course reduction, each faculty member is required to teach at least one general demand course per academic year (unless he or she in on a formal leave of absence for the entire academic year). When this minimum teaching requirement prevents a faculty member from taking a Law School-provided course reduction for which he or she otherwise would qualify, or an externally-funded course reduction, the faculty member generally will be permitted to reduce his or her teaching load in a future year or years. Such future course reduction arrangements are decided upon by the Associate Dean of Faculty and Research and by the Associate Dean responsible for curricular assignments, in consultation with the faculty member.


A course reduction decreases a faculty member’s teaching load.  However, faculty are expected to maintain an active involvement in the Law School community, including attending meetings and workshops, participating in committees as assigned, and being available to students and colleagues as needed, unless other accommodations are specifically approved by the Dean.

If a faculty member resigns from the Law School and such resignation takes effect either within the fiscal year in which a Law School-provided research course reduction is taken, or the fiscal year immediately following, the faculty member will be expected to compensate the Law School for the salary he or she received with respect to such course reductions. The amount that must be paid to the Law School will be 1/3 of the faculty member's annual base salary and benefits during the year the reduction is taken for each Law School-provided course reduction.

Externally-Funded Course Reductions

The Law School also may provide a course reduction if a faculty member obtains adequate funding from a non-University entity to support a release from teaching obligations. Please contact Derek Gundersen for details.

Procedure to Request a Course Reduction

A course reduction request must be made by February 24th of the fiscal year preceding the year for which the course reduction is sought.  Northwestern's fiscal year is September 1 - August 31. The Office of the Dean will send annual email communication noting a specific deadline for course reduction requests.

Visiting at an External Institution


Faculty members may be asked to join other educational institutions as visiting faculty or scholars for all or part of the year.  During a formal visit away, the host institution will enter into an agreement with Northwestern University to reimburse for the faculty member’s services.


Formal visits away are typically requested of research-intensive faculty.

While visits away from time-to-time are valuable to the individual and to Northwestern for the exposure that they provide to our faculty and the Law School, in the interest of encouraging and maintaining a cohesive Law School community, the following frequency guidelines apply:

  • Untenured, tenure-track faculty members:  in order to allow for an informed tenure review, no more than two terms away at another educational institution will be approved during the probationary period.
  • All faculty members:  generally, after visiting away, faculty will be expected to be in residence with a full teaching load at the Law School for two consecutive teaching terms before another visit can be undertaken.


The faculty member will remain on the payroll at Northwestern University and will continue to receive benefits from Northwestern. The faculty member should receive no compensation from the host institution unless otherwise agreed to by the Northwestern, other than direct reimbursement by the host institution of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the faculty member.

Northwestern will invoice the host institution directly for the services of the faculty member during that period. Northwestern must either:

  • work with the host institution to produce an agreement, signed by both institutions, which states the terms of the visit and payment, or
  • receive full payment from the host institution at least one month prior to the start of the visit.

The Associate Dean of Academic Programs must approve the courses to be taught at the host institution in order to ensure that the faculty member's teaching load at the host institution would not significantly exceed what he or she would have, were he or she to remain in residence at the Law School during the periods in question. The invoice to the host institution will reflect the portion of the faculty member's teaching that occurs at the host institution.

Procedure to Request a Visit at an External Institution

Visit away requests must be submitted by February 24th of the previous academic year. Before accepting a visit at an external institution, the faculty member’s request must be approved by the Associate Dean of Academic Programs, the Dean, and the Office of the Provost.

Faculty should complete a Visit Away Request form. This form will be directed to the Associate Dean of Academic Programs and to the Dean for approval. Once approval has been granted by the Associate Dean and Dean, the Office of the Dean will submit your request to the Office of the Provost. 

Family and Medical Leaves

Effective October 1, 2014, the University initiated changes regarding the administration of medical leaves of absence for benefits-eligible instructional faculty. The University made these changes to comply with state and federal requirements, including the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The University has partnered with the Hartford to facilitate these leaves. This process is also intended to protect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals' medical information.

Definitions, eligibility, and requirements for childbearing, adoption, and childrearing leaves may be found at the Office of the Provost website.

Procedure to Request a Family and Medical Leave

Please initiate your leave request by contacting The Hartford (1-888-541-7283). Next, please notify Elizabeth Fritz in the Office of the Dean about your intention to take a leave to ensure that it is properly recorded in the University's systems and to address any other matters (e.g., tenure clock extension, etc.). Also, contact the Associate Dean of Academic Programs to manage your academic commitments during the period you are expected to be on leave.

Other Leaves

Subject to University policies, a faculty member may take an unpaid leave of absence with the approval of the Dean and Provost to serve in significant governmental or public interest positions, to facilitate his or her professional development, or for personal reasons. In such a case, the leave period cannot exceed one year. Please contact the Associate Dean of Faculty and Research for further details.