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Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Hiring Conference

I will be attending the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference next week Thursday through Saturday in D.C.  It occurred to me that many of our readers (and perhaps even a few of my co-bloggers here at Prawfs and at Concurring Opinions) might be attending. 

I thought I'd provide an electronic venue, through the comments to this post, for folks to pipe up and ask whatever questions are on their mind at this late date.  Things I recall wondering about when I was about to attend the market included:

  • Will anyone hold me to my "research agenda" or is it mere puffery?
  • Should I wear a suit, or will business casual do?
  • Do I have to go to the thursday night reception?
  • If I see X (who I knew from law school) in the hallway, is it proper to ask who s/he is interviewing with?  Is it bad to lie when s/he asks me?
  • When the committee asks  "is there anything you were wondering about us," are there any satisfying responses?
  • Would it be bad to bring along a few boxes of documents to review at night?

Anonymous comments are welcome, so long as they are polite and don't identify anyone else by name.

Of course, if you happen to see me at the conference, please say hello.

Posted by Dave Hoffman on November 5, 2005 at 10:59 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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Comments

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I think it's safe to say that most questions that begin with "is it bad to lie. . . ." can be answered "yes." (Obvious exceptions involving being questioned by Nazis apply).

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Nov 6, 2005 9:19:07 AM

I have a question. Last night, I was arguing with some of my friends over the importance for getting a law prof job of grades, clerkships, and law review membership. I argued that, coming from Columbia, a person needs to have all three of these things (top grades, membership on the board of the law review, and a good clerkship) before hiring committees even look at their research. At that point, the person's research agenda/record then becomes the most important criteria. My friends were arguing that the research record was far more important than any of the other factors, and that people could get profs jobs without them. I fear that this is opening up a long-debated question, but what do you guys think?

Posted by: Jeff V. | Nov 6, 2005 9:44:25 AM

Not business casual. There's no way of knowing who you will see, and there's no reason to give a group an extraneous reason ("s/he doesn't view this as serious enough to wear a suit") to reject you. Other than that, relax and enjoy the conference.

Posted by: Peter Henning | Nov 6, 2005 9:47:22 AM

Re: asking people you know where they're interviewing, I would say DON'T. There's really no upside to it: either you will feel bad b/c they are interviewing at more or higher ranked schools that you, or they will feel bad b/c they are interviewing at fewer schools than they would like.

If the person asks you, I would say, "Let's not talk about it--this process is stressful enough! But good luck on everything." That's what I did, and it worked just fine.

I, personally, would avoid the Thurs. night cocktail party, but perhaps people are of stronger mettle than me. Do you really want to mingle with a bunch of wide-eyed, terrified fellow job-seekers, all worked up about the same thing? Really, better to relax away from the madding crowd.

Posted by: anon | Nov 6, 2005 10:44:31 AM

• Will anyone hold me to my "research agenda" or is it mere puffery?
In five years -- no. At the meat market (or campus interviews) – yes. Research agenda that are too long or too ambitious generate skepticism. An agenda promising to develop “a comprehensive general theory of field X” (or to solve a problem currently unsolved by top five scholars in the field) won’t be a hit.

• Should I wear a suit, or will business casual do?
Suit, of course

• Do I have to go to the thursday night reception?
No

• If I see X (who I knew from law school) in the hallway, is it proper to ask who s/he is interviewing with? Is it bad to lie when s/he asks me?
Depends on your relationship with X. If you talk for more than 10 minutes, at least some of the schools will come up anyway. Can you really talk about anything else?

• When the committee asks "is there anything you were wondering about us," are there any satisfying responses?
Yes. Ask about their support for research, teaching load, student body, subjects for which they seek teachers, tenure clock…

• Would it be bad to bring along a few boxes of documents to review at night?
I brought a bunch of briefs for the next sitting… didn’t read any of them.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Nov 6, 2005 11:08:22 AM

Re Grades, Clerkships, and Law Review; here is one perspective:

Candidates need to do two things to get a teaching job: get their foot in the door, and then walk through the door. Among the factors that help get feet in the door are: quality of law school attended, grades, clerkship, law review, other interesting extra-curricular experience, having an advanced degree (such as a PhD), proposing to teach in an area where a school has a need, post-graduate work experience, and number of publications. The most important factor is probably quality of law school attended, in the sense that students from better law schools do not need as many "plus factors" as students from less prestigious law schools. However, once the committee has decided that you are in the ballpark (i.e., your foot is in the door), then the focus shifts to quality of scholarship, and factors such as grades, clerkship, etc. become less important: they won't save a candidate who is perceived as a weak scholar and they won't substantially undermine a candidate who is perceived as a strong scholar.

As a general rule, grades, clerkships, and law review membership help get feet in the door, which then shifts the focus to past writing and future plans.

Posted by: AnonProf | Nov 6, 2005 12:25:26 PM

I should have made it more clear that the questions I was posting were in the way of a joke. I actually have no real memory of what I was thinking when I went to the conference, except for the vague and undifferentiated anxiety about getting a job. Obviously, this year I don't have that anxiety, since I'll be, well, on the other side of the table!

Jeff, I think it is a hard question - the Moneyball v. credentials question - and it will depend committee by committee. Of the three credentials you mention, being on law review seems the least necessary.

Posted by: Dave Hoffman | Nov 6, 2005 12:29:56 PM

Law review is really the least necessary? That's interesting, and heartening, because students on Columbia's law review are supposedly worked to death. I wonder whether it might be better to take the hours (supposedly around 25 per week) that I would spend on law review and devote it to research and getting to know some profs.

Posted by: Jeff V. | Nov 6, 2005 2:49:31 PM

Dave (and all), I'll be at the AALS, too, and will look for you. Thanks for raising these questions. As for your questions, I have to confess . . . I *really* wish there were a way for all of us to agree to wear "business casual."

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Nov 6, 2005 2:58:37 PM

Good luck everyone.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Nov 6, 2005 3:04:47 PM

Rick,

What's stopping you from wearing business casual? You already have the job!

And more generally, Kate L. seems entirely right on all counts.

Posted by: Sam Bagenstos | Nov 6, 2005 4:16:51 PM

Sam, You're not supposed to be blog-surfing just now! ;-) Unless, of course, you've already done all that there is to do -- which is basically true, in this case -- and you're simply trying to wile away the next 88 hours . . . . Best of luck.

Posted by: Marty Lederman | Nov 6, 2005 6:10:15 PM

In answer to Jeff V's question, it seems to me that an appointments committee (including ours at Cornell) is likely to treat good grades, clerkships, and law review not as critical in and of themselves, but as indirect, imperfect evidence of what the committee really wants to know -- whether the candidate will be a good, productive scholar. In that respect, I think an excellent publication or two is generally far more valuable than any of these other factors.

I'm not saying that a candidate with a solid record of well-placed publications doesn't need any of the other bells and whistles. But it's pointless to try to sort that one out, because it almost never happens that someone has such a record while also having none of those other things.

All that said, I do think it's fair to say that, of the three things Jeff V identifies, law review service is by far the least significant, especially if you have good grades. I didn't do law review when I was at Columbia, and I don't think it made any difference when I was on the market.

Posted by: Trevor Morrison | Nov 6, 2005 6:11:48 PM

Dave, I'll be at the market as well, and will look for you.

Posted by: Joe Liu | Nov 6, 2005 7:54:21 PM

I, too, will be there next weekend. Meanwhile, I've posted some followup, last-minute thoughts on interviews at my place, though for some reason the trackback to PB hasn't worked.

Posted by: Mike Madison | Nov 6, 2005 8:56:00 PM

Does anyone actually get any interviews at the AALS? I've heard of this happening, but I somehow doubt it. Dont get me wrong, I have interviews set up, but I was wondering if I might be able to get any more while I'm there. If so, how does one do this? Put your vita in the school's box at the desk? Talk with people at the Thurs/Fri social?

Posted by: anon | Nov 7, 2005 9:47:51 AM

I actually got one while there in a flukey situation, but it's pretty hard to do by way of design. Most schools are pretty booked up by the time they get there.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Nov 7, 2005 9:59:51 AM

Re importance of law review: it is ABSOLUTELY better to use the time you'd have spent doing source cites to write your own articles and get to know professors. If you can manage both at once, great, and if you love sourcesites,great. but otherwise, you're wasting time. I got a top-ten law school job (recent vintage) and never clerked, never did law review, had good but not perfect grades. But, several publications and strong backers got me in the game.

Posted by: lawprof | Nov 7, 2005 10:13:13 AM

I would add a few words of advice, especially for female candidates (but it may apply to men as well): Try not to get freaked out or offended when you are asked probing questions about your marital status and whether or not you have children. You know they shouldn't be asking these questions, and *they* know they shouldn't be asking these questions, but ask them they will, and they will expect forthright, specific answers. On occasion interviwers will preface such inqueries with qualifiers such as, "I know I shouldn't be asking this, but..." and you might want to retort, "then WHY ARE YOU????" but it's all part of the hazing process that is the FRC. I suggest figuring out ahead of time how you might want to handle these inquiries.

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Nov 8, 2005 9:53:49 AM

I've been an interviewer several times at the AALS. Bad things for candidates:
Arriving at the interview slurping away on the super-duper giant size soft drink (though I don't think it would have mattered had the drink been of a somewhat less preposterous size)
Not being able to describe in an interesting, coherent, and succinct fashion what they are currently working on or what they plan to be working on
Inability to defend adeptly their published arguments or, even worse, evident unfamiliarity with their own work

Posted by: calvin massey | Nov 10, 2005 2:36:25 PM

A question--when do schools usually contact people for callbacks?

Posted by: Candidate | Nov 15, 2005 10:15:36 AM

I just wanted to say WOW!!! goose bumps and e-motions, the design of your web page really got me!!! Check my sites ;)

Posted by: Mike | Jun 1, 2007 1:03:05 PM

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