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Thursday, March 02, 2006

For S/He's A Jolly Good Fellow!

My erstwhile colleague Larry Solum has published the first iteration of his annual new faculty hiring report at Legal Theory; the link is here.  In the past, Larry's analysis has usually focused on the law schools from which the new hires graduated and the number of advanced degrees parceled out among them.  But I thought I'd get a jump on him and point to another interesting data point in the first set of new hires that he has so usefully disclosed: of the 47 names of new hires that Larry has provided, 24 of them are coming from fellowships, visiting assistant professorships, and other untenured means of entry into law school teaching (not counting one clinical fellowship; plus I admit it was a rough and dirty count, so feel free to correct me if I was off by a digit or two).

This strikes me based on anecdotal experience as a significantly high number, although it's not generally the sort of data I've seen collected before.  Of course, it's primarily interesting because many of our readers have asked about getting into law teaching -- understandably, as it's one of the best jobs in the world.  So, as you resume-build toward that goal or consider whether to go directly on the job market or do something else first, you will have to reckon very seriously with the possibility that a fellowship will help you achieve that job in law teaching.  Of course, the plums are still the Bigelow and (in my view) the Associate in Law position at Columbia, but Larry's data make clear that an increasing number of elite schools are offering one form of fellowship or another, and also that in some cases fellowships at non-top 10 schools can lead to teaching positions.

There are pros and cons to the fellowship experience.  (I should note that I had an offer of an associate in law position a while back before entering teaching and ultimately declined it for personal reasons; I don't know whether that hindered my later job prospects or not.  I can say that my visiting teaching jobs before entering the market did ultimately help.)  They generally pay poorly, and many of them require you to spend considerable time teaching legal research and writing, which is actually a very valuable course in educating the fledgling teacher, but can be time-consuming and certainly won't count as work in your chosen field.  There is also the danger that some teaching fellows may be viewed as second-class citizens by their institution. 

But they also provide a wonderful opportunity to make friends in the legal academy, to get some writing done, and -- perhaps most importantly -- to learn the lingo and cultural characteristics of the legal academy; to acculturate yourself within the academy, to learn how to "talk the talk", which will make you much more facile (in both senses of the word, probably) on the job market, at job talks, and so on.  In that sense, I would guess that the most valuable part of a fellowship is not the teaching experience you gain, but the time you spend attending faculty workshops -- where, so to speak, you can observe (and ultimately imitate) the beast in its natural habitat. 

I would also note that an increasing number of fellowships seem to be pure research fellowships, without an obligation to teach legal research or writing (or, sometimes, anything).  And I think that as this becomes a recognized route to teaching, and as more impressive people apply for these positions, the second-class citizen problem is likely to decrease or disappear; indeed, I suspect this is already happening.

Current or would-be teaching fellows, or professors on hiring committees with thoughts on the subject, are welcome to post comments, questions, pleas for information and so forth here.  One more thought below the jump, of perhaps less interest to job-seeking readers.    

My last thought is this.  A constant theme in the law school's identity crisis, as opposed to the general identity crisis of the academy (and as I noted in my previous post, I'm not sure the "crisis" is real), is to wonder how much like the rest of the university the law school should be, and how much it should retain the character of a professional training school.  Probably one of the areas in which we have differed the most, traditionally, has been in the hiring process (I think here of Martha Nussbaum's wonderful piece in the Green Bag a few years back).  I think the rise of the fellowship route to teaching suggests that we are a little closer to the rest of the academy than we may sometimes think, since it seems to me that these fellowships may, somewhat invisibly, have created a form of the doctoral/post-doc community in the law schools.  I don't want to overstate the similarities, since full-time faculty still do the vast majority of the teaching at the law schools (and still want to, for the most part).  But it does look as if the legal academy too is creating its own brand of the finishing process for would-be academics, and this might demand further study from those who are interested in the institutional and sociological aspects of the legal academy.

One parenthetical final note: I do think that the number of hires from fellowships that Larry reports is significant, but I don't want to be completely ahistorical about it.  Schools like Harvard and Yale have always had some fellowships floating around, and they have often been taken up by promising graduates who stayed for a year or two to work with a particular professor, then often entered law teaching.  Still, the sheer number of folks hired from fellowships so far this year, combined with the institutionalization of fellowships and the opening up of the application process, do make this generation of fellowships different from those few hand-picked fellowships that were available in the more distant past. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on March 2, 2006 at 11:33 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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For whatever it's worth, roughly 30 with graduate degrees beyond JD (Master's, LLM, JSD, PhD). A whopping 9 with LLM and possibly JSD. 11 with PhD (or D. Phil.) or soon to be PhD. This might mean that many types of pre/post JD training are taking hold, not just the fellowship (of course, the fellowships may be in addition to these additional degrees).

Posted by: md | Mar 2, 2006 1:28:42 PM

I would note that VAP positions can be very different than fellowship positions (although sometimes the two combine in one job). At some non-elite law schools, there is a good bit of hiring of "homeless" visitors--i.e., people who do not yet have a home institution--to teach the regular load of courses for a semester or a year. These VAP positions tend to pay close to full law prof salary, but of course have less time for research, due to the heavier teaching load. Nonetheless, they are a great way to get into the rhythm of law teaching & scholarship!

Posted by: anon | Mar 2, 2006 6:01:35 PM

A fellowship is training to go on the market -- garner teaching experience and have time to write. Though, if you have a pile of student debt, the stipends are hardly liveable - which might suggest the "homeless" visitorship is a way to go if you can get a foot in the door.

In this connection, for research purposes, I am attempting to compile stipend/salary information for the various fellowships/VAPS. If anyone would feel comfortable posting this information here in the comments, I'd appreciate it. Some of the schools are forthcoming with this information on their websites and others are not. In particular, I am looking for the range of compensation for the (1) Bigelow fellows, (2) Chicago-Kent LRW VAPs and (3) Tulane's Forrester Fellows. Thanks.

Posted by: anon2 | Mar 3, 2006 12:22:20 PM

I'd be curious to hear any tips from "homeless" VAPs about how to go about getting such a position. I've seen many compilations of information about various fellowship programs, but I had no idea it was so common to work out something more informal.

Posted by: Amy | Mar 3, 2006 1:09:20 PM

The Climenko Fellowship at Harvard, which is modeled on the Bigelow program at Chicago, pays $60K/year. Bigelows receive approximately $36K.

Both programs require fellows to teach legal writing to first year students. However, both programs are two year fellowships, giving fellows plenty of time to research and write.

Posted by: anon | Mar 7, 2006 12:10:02 PM

Anyone know if there is any hard data out there, by which I mean data subject to actual statistical analysis? Or at least basic sort of data like: How many people in the pool had fellowships/phds/whatever and how many didn't, and how many people were hired w/o?

Posted by: Intersubjective Zapatista | Mar 8, 2006 2:53:03 PM

I was a VAP at Chicago-Kent, and we seem to be between Harvard and U of C in terms of salary, at $49,000. The program requires VAPs to teach in the pretty intensive legal research and writing program (5 graded assignments 1st semester, 4 in the second, create problems, etc.) plus a doctrinal course. With the teaching load, writing is really difficult during the school year, but possible during the summer. The appointment can last up to 4 years, and it's a great opportunity to have ready opportunities to network, workshop, and write.

Posted by: Marcia McCormick | Mar 9, 2006 9:21:35 PM

Temple Law School also offers a two-year Abraham L. Freedman fellowship. Fellows teach in the very intensive LRW program and collaborate in teaching three doctrinal courses. Additionally, in the spring semester of the second year, the fellows each individually teach a doctrinal course. The program offers plenty of support for scholarship and conferences (including the AALS FRC). Likewise, the program has been around since 1975 and, therefore, has a wide network of former fellows in academia. Anyone considering a post-graduate fellowship as a route into teaching should consider Temple's program. Here's a link with a (somewhat) more complete description:


Posted by: Meredith R. Miller | Mar 13, 2006 8:39:48 PM

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