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Monday, September 08, 2008

A Law School Hiring Wiki: Preliminary Thoughts

A person on the market writes:

I wonder whether your readers might have some insight into the curious phenomenon (or rather, non-phenomenon) of the law hiring wiki.  In many other academic disciplines, job hunters each year set up a wiki to report on how the process is progressing.  The typical wiki includes headings for each school that is interviewing or hiring, followed by dated (anonymous) remarks from candidates who have been contacted for an interview, asked for additional materials, given an offer, etc. See, for example, http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/FamilyStudies. While your blawg and others are very good about keeping up-to-date with hiring committee chairs at the start of the season and positions accepted at the end of the season, I wonder whether there’s any reason that the blawgging community hasn’t yet set up a wiki for the AALS hiring market. 


I a
gree that the commenter is correct to notice an absence of information. I recall being disappointed that this info wasn't circulated when I was on the market four years ago. And the absence of the info on the market largely helps only the schools and not the prawfs-to-be. As the aspiring prawf observes, the existence of these info-sharing sites exists in lots of other venues: students share info about firms and NALP shares info about salaries; there is a clerkship notification blog out there. It's time that we get our act together too. Before I create an informal wiki on Prawfs, however, I want to solicit some reactions by prawfs and wannabes to this.

I imagine there are two potential problems. First,  some hiring chairs/deans will be required to be more up front when they would prefer strategic non-disclosure or puffery of various sorts: e.g., You, precious candidate, are our first choice! This interest seems somewhat self-serving and probably can't be justified under a veil rule.

Second, if the info is not accurate, then it can serve a dis-information purpose, which would potentially benefit dishonest suppliers of such info whether they are candidates or schools. One solution to this it seems is to have signed comments; these would be especially welcomed. Another option is to permit info that is anonymous and readers will discount accordingly. A third option, maybe which is the best one, is for readers to send me info from their particular email addresses, and a couple times a week I will post the info without identifying information. This will provide info but make sure there's more incentive for people to avoid disinformation campaigns. The downside to that is: well, my time...and perhaps people won't want to email the private info.

What else should be on our minds? And if there are any readers who are savvy about getting this started (Grimmelmann!), please get in touch with me. If we go through with it, we'll launch imminently. Update (2d): Here's the link to our thread with this information. Please put your info here. We've decided to do a comment thread for now. We'll adjust later if there's a need to do so; having spoken with some tech people, it seems like if the numbers aren't huge, then a comment thread is pretty easy to maintain and search.

Update: after the jump, two early reactions.

One person, a prawf at a top 20 school writes:

For what it’s worth, I think a law hiring wiki would be invaluable.  When I was on the market last year, it would have been really nice to know, for example, how quickly after the meat market various schools were making calls to set up job talks. I’d suggest letting people post anonymously and immediately.  The problem with requiring signed posts is that no one will do it – most candidates are, I suspect, understandably very risk-averse, and if there’s any chance that posting, “School X is scheduling job talks” would annoy the hiring people at School X, then the candidate won’t want his/her name attached to it.  The problem with requiring signed emails to you which you then anonymize and post in batches (besides, of course, the extra work for you) is that some of this information (especially when schools are calling to set up job talks) has a very short window of usefulness.  (It’s also not clear to me why requiring them to email you would prevent the spread of misinformation, unless you plan to do a lot of verification work.) Besides, I suspect that at least some profs will read the wiki and might be willing to post signed comments correcting any disinformation about their schools.  I noticed that very little mis/disinformation was posted on the clerkship notification blog (at least during the two years I paid attention to it – the year when I was applying for clerkships and the year when I was clerking), and some false information was very quickly corrected by current clerks who read the blog. Anyway, that’s my two cents.  And thank you for doing the public service of (at least potentially) taking this on!

Another person, now a wannabe, writes somewhat in contrast:

I noticed your post on Prawfs just now about collecting and distributing information about the hiring process this year (which schools have called, requested scholarship, etc.). My own view is that this would be extremely helpful, and I also agree that the best option is the third, as this would both encourage honest reporting and not reveal to the world at large which on-the-market candidates were revealing information (which might be looked upon unfavorably by some law professors). I hope this goes through.  If it does, let me know, as I am most happy to share the information I've got so far.  Thanks for posting, and for volunteering yourself.

Posted by Dan Markel on September 8, 2008 at 10:31 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink

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» Wiki Needed: from The Volokh Conspiracy
Over at Prawfs, Dan Markel points out the need for a wiki on the AALS law-prof hiring process. Interesting idea, I think. If a reader wants to set one up, post the li... [Read More]

Tracked on Sep 8, 2008 2:16:42 PM

Comments

There was something like this on one of the bulletin boards when I was on the market. At this point, I forget which one it was. Most of the information was of the form "X school is calling to schedule interviews." It was marginally useful, but participation was pretty limited. Nobody was posting under their real name, I think in part because there was a fear of seeming cocky (I must be special because I'm the first person to report being called by Y school!) and in part because there was an undercurrent that schools might look askance at us if information they gave us showed up there and they noticed. Even without names attached, perhaps they'd figure out that it's me. I'm not sure how to tackle these problems, other than to note that neither of them is as significant if there really is broad participation. So the question is how to tip the norms.

I recommend Jottit.com for creating really low-overhead, easier-than-falling-off-a-log wikis, and PBWiki for slightly fancier wikis.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Sep 8, 2008 10:50:57 AM

If someone wants to set up a wiki on this, let me know and I'll post a link to it over at volokh.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 8, 2008 12:53:11 PM

Orin,
As you probably saw, we set up a thread to achieve the same thing as a wiki. I'd be grateful if you could link to it from Volokh.com
http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2008/09/a-law-school--2.html

Thanks,
Dan

Posted by: Dan Markel | Sep 8, 2008 1:18:03 PM

Dan,

I think it makes a lot more sense to set up a wiki; on the whole, it's hard to find information in a single blog comment thread, which is why I haven't done any posts like that at Volokh. Given that someone could set up a wiki in 20 minutes, I think it makes more sense to wait to see if someone will do that before picking a blog post as some sort of central site.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 8, 2008 1:34:58 PM

I understand your logic. FWIW, people can choose to just use Control-F to find a school in the meantime.

Posted by: Dan | Sep 8, 2008 1:43:47 PM

When I was on the market, Greedy Clerks had postings of which schools were calling and which were not. It was both helpful, uplifting, and depressing all at the same time.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Sep 8, 2008 1:59:57 PM

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