« A Taxonomy of Apology... | Main | Law School Hiring Thread, 2009-10, Thread Two »

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Thread for Aspiring Prawfs and Current Prawfs.

I've received a few requests by aspiring prawfs asking for a thread that's not related to the AALS meat market and the timing of callbacks, etc. This can be a thread in which candidates could ask questions about the conference, interviews, clothing protocol, questions to ask/not to ask, etc. and professors or previous attendees of the market could respond with feedback. In general, it'll just be a place where candidates could go to get their random questions answered.

Feel free to raise somewhat random questions or share information, anonymously or otherwise. Just bear in mind that, pursuant to our general policy, we ask you to be decent persons in your comments; stuff that crosses a line of what I consider inappropriate might get deleted. Enjoy.

Posted by Administrators on October 28, 2009 at 10:51 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Thread for Aspiring Prawfs and Current Prawfs.:


During the AALS interview, what exactly are you looking for? Are candidates that you called earlier (and presumably more impressed with) given preferential treatment? Or does the score start at 0-0?

Posted by: anon | Sep 25, 2009 7:05:10 PM

I'll just speak for myself and not try to generalize about what everyone is looking for. To me the short AALS interview has 2 purposes: (1) to gauge whether that person really has any interest in us; and (2)to see how lively the person is and whether (s)he can articulate her research interests in a concise and interesting way. On the question of "preferential treatment," I don't think you can help having some initial impressions about people before the interviews, particularly if you've done your homework and read at least some of the candidate's work. My impressions are only tentative going in though, and the interview can sometimes change them considerably. I would say it's more common for someone about whom I'm optimistic to under-perform my expectations than it is for someone to really surprise me in a positive way. But both have happened, and I'm sure will again this year.

My best advice is to be yourself. Fakeness comes across very quickly, and it's generally pretty hard to overcome that. Be energized about, and confident in, your work, but also be appropriately modest about it. Have a good sense of the important literature in your field, but don't name drop. Look into the schools with which you're interviewing before you get to the interview so you have intelligent questions to ask and can demonstrate genuine interest to those schools for which you have genuine interest. And remember that most schools come into this process with a variety of internal constraints - budget, curricular needs, internal politics, etc. - so don't take it personally if you aren't called back.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | Sep 25, 2009 7:39:36 PM

From my experience on the prof side of the Appointments process, I'd say that the interview score starts at 0-0. If you made that cut, you've got as good a chance as anyone.

What not to ask: "Tell me about the research support for junior faculty at your school." Well, ask it, but ask it more creatively than that. Because if you're the 20th interview, 19 other candidates have said, "Tell me about the research support for junior faculty at your school."

Posted by: Bridget Crawford | Sep 25, 2009 7:42:14 PM

I second Bridget's "what not to ask" suggestion. That's a canned question, and though it is important information, you have to figure out how to ask it more interestingly.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | Sep 25, 2009 7:48:57 PM

What happens to the 85% or so of candidates who are not hired?

How much less competitive is it for candidates in high demand areas (ie. corps, tax, etc)?

Posted by: redd | Sep 25, 2009 8:34:56 PM

What teaching questions should one expect?

Posted by: anon | Sep 25, 2009 8:40:43 PM

Re-posting this question here, now that I see this thread is available (thanks!):

Do schools ever invite AALS candidates to dinner or drinks or something similar on Fri or Sat night if they're particularly interested in the candidate and want a second chance to interact after the formal interview (much like law firms sometimes do after an on-campus interview goes well)? Are there strategic reasons why a school might schedule a candidate for Friday as opposed to Saturday (or the other way around), or should we not read anything into that?

Posted by: anon | Sep 25, 2009 10:55:19 PM

If one has a "two-body" problem, when is the appropriate time to raise that issue? I'm trying to avoid presumptuousness and dampening schools' interest in me by asking too soon with a desire to be fair to schools, to give them as much time as possible to explore possibilities for my spouse, if they're inclined to do so, and--picking up on Mark's comments about wanting to gauge candidates' level of interest--to be able to better determine my level of interest, since in my case it will be significantly dependent on academic opportunities for my spouse.

Posted by: anon | Sep 25, 2009 11:02:22 PM

Regarding what not to ask: having served on appointments for several years now (although not this year), it's my view that while canned questions are fine in and of themselves, and not the kiss of death, the inability to ask school-specific questions is. That is, as with any job interview, try to get the message across that you've actually researched the school and are genuinely interested in it. Maybe (hopefully) you have done such research--but you should make a concerted effort to convey that fact through the questions you ask. When you do that, any other canned questions come across as legitimate requests for information (i.e., what support do you have for junior faculty scholarship?); when you do not, they come across as filler.

As for the two-body (AKA two-fer) problem, I'd generally advise waiting until you have the leverage of an offer, or at least a strong indication of interest, before expressly raising it. Having said that, making a general comment during the interview process (i.e., my partner is a sociology professor, or teaches legal writing) might cue the school to be assertive, if they like you, in thinking about how to sweeten the pot. But I think such assertiveness varies widely from school to school: some schools have been very successful with this approach, while others are hesitant or reluctant.

Posted by: gregory bowman | Sep 26, 2009 1:28:47 AM

On the "two-body" problem - I wouldn't wait until you have an offer, because at that point it is probably too late for most schools to do anything about it. I agree with Gregory that, if you can work a reference to your significant other into the conversation at AALS without being awkward about it, that would be a good idea. Maybe just in the sense of comparing notes about the process, if someone's making small talk about it. From my perspective, one should genuinely raise the issue when invited for a call-back. I think you say something along the lines of "I'm really flattered by the interest, and I'm very interested in coming out, but I just want to flag an issue for you so that you don't waste one of your call-back spots if this isn't a possibility." I think most appointments committees would appreciate the information at that point.

On the previous question, I have never heard of a school inviting a candidate to dinner or drinks during the AALS conference. I think there are too many considerations in play for any one candidate (curricular need, views of colleagues, etc) to be that confident early on. And I don't think decisions to schedule Friday or Saturday are strategic - at least they haven't been in my experience. We just worked down our list alphabetically and started putting people in time slots as we were able to reach them.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | Sep 26, 2009 8:34:11 AM

Having never taught a law school class, I feel a bit disingenuous having a "teaching philosophy" - other than thinking back to my student years, I have really nothing to go on. Any comments on how to best handle questions on teaching? I obviously have some thoughts, but feel like it is very presumptuous of me to have a philosophy with no experience. Does everyone else feel like this too (excluding VAPs and people who have been teaching)? How to handle?

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 8:42:50 AM

On the two-fer problem, I would wait at least until the callback phase, if not until you have an offer. Especially if the other half is not in law, it can be hard to make the timing work out well. So at some point you might want to begin thinking in terms of potential multi-year strategies. Get hired, do outstanding work, you both get offers somewhere else, spouse gets hired. If the other half is also in law, you might want to raise it as you receive callbacks or even earlier, especially if you are both very strong candidates. Indeed, the stronger you both are as candidates, the earlier you can afford to raise it.

Posted by: anonprof | Sep 26, 2009 8:50:03 AM

A question about re-scheduling AALS interviews. Is it ever appropriate to ask a school to re-schedule assuming openings in their schedule. In my situation, I scheduled school A early in the process. School B then called with time slots that conflicted with other interviews. School B is geographically only more attractive because of spouse's employment opportunities, but it is impossible to know what opportunities would be available at School A's locale this early in the process. If I ask to re-schedule does it send a signal that I do not have interest in School A or at least that my interest in School A is less than that of School B and will that ultimately work against me? If so, is cancellation the only reasonable option?

Posted by: conflicted-anon | Sep 26, 2009 8:57:18 AM

1. Dinner/drink invitations are fairly common, though not routine. Consider the signal you are sending if you accept/decline. More common is a group reception by the school for (some of) the people it met with.
Both are opportunities to get to know one another better -- it's like law firm summer events, but more intensely so. Have fun, but don't assume that the more-casual atmosphere means that the evaluation process has ended (in either direction). Also try not to spill mustard on anyone.

2. Yes, of course scheduling is strategic. No one expects to be able to pay attention by the end of the day saturday. But try to avoid reading too much into the few tea-leaves you've got. The fact that you were called later than others can be happenstance, and if others are trying to send a signal of strong interest in the school, the only slots left may be late saturday. But that doesn't mean the school is disinterested.

For example, I got a callback from the very last school I met with at 3 pm Saturday -- I really liked them once I met them, and I guess vice-versa. So scheduling interviews that late is not pointless, but should if possible probably be reserved for schools for which you have low ex ante expectations.

3. There is no problem with rescheduling. Coordinating the schedules of two thousand people is complicated, and everyone knows that.

4. Unless you have taught law school before, no one expects you to know whether your "teaching philosophy" will work. What is nice to hear is someone who has thought about what their philosophy probably would be, has done some research and talked to people about other possibilities, has a realistic sense of what can be accomplished, etc.

5. Someone should probably emphasize that all of these questions, while perfectly valid, are minutia. Think instead about how cool it would be to be a professor, what you would do with that opportunity, and how to communicate your answers concisely to interested and intelligent strangers.

Posted by: BDG | Sep 26, 2009 10:30:59 AM

"What happens to the 85% or so of candidates who are not hired?"

Soylent Green, of course.

Posted by: Sol Roth | Sep 26, 2009 11:32:15 AM

Interesting that, to the extent that there is strategy involved at all on schools' part, schools may tend to schedule the candidates that they're more interested in on Friday (or at least Saturday morning, I guess). Frankly, I schedule schools I'm more interested in on Saturday, with the idea that I'll have gotten a bit better at answering questions during the Friday interviews. I hope my preference for Saturday with my top choice schools hasn't signaled to them the opposite of my intent!

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 12:12:14 PM

FWIW, our scheduling is fairly random and in no way reflects our level of interest in the candidate. Scheduling is a product of the order in which we reach folks (who are usually calling us back after an initial contact), the available slots, the slots they pick, etc. It is pretty difficult to be strategic with so many moving parts. We do, however, tend to see a candidate requesting a late Saturday interview as a sign that we are not high on the candidate's list.

Posted by: anon hiring prof | Sep 26, 2009 12:39:41 PM

I have had some trouble researching law schools to get beyond the platitudes contained on their webpages. Does anyone have suggestions for good written sources of information on the internet or elsewhere about law schools and their philosophies that would generate intelligent questions and discussions for interviews? (I'm thinking about schools where I don't know anyone on the inside I can just ask).

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 12:40:46 PM

I am an aspiring law professor who has authored several publications and has just completed a draft article that I placed on SSRN. I believe this article is the best representation of my scholarly potential and is in the area of law I wish to focus on as an academic. My question for the established professors is whether and if so when I should make the schools I am interested in aware of this article. If so, now? When I have received a respectable offer? When I have accepted an offer? Thanks!

Posted by: anonanontillthebreakofdawn | Sep 26, 2009 1:44:30 PM

anon hiring prof--thanks for the insight. just as you acknowledge that it's difficult to be strategic with so many moving parts, such that candidates ought not read much (if anything) into schools' calling or slot scheduling, I hope that hiring committees likewise realize that candidates are also dealing with many moving parts that limit our ability to strategize, and also that to the extent that strategy *is* involved in our slot requests, it is at least as likely that a request for a Saturday slot (and even a late Saturday slot) indicates that that school is high on our list as that such a request indicates that the school is low on that list (e.g., perhaps they're using the Friday schools as warm ups), such that hiring committees, too, should read little (or nothing) into candidate slot preferences.

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 1:51:47 PM

anonanontillthebreakofdawn | Sep 26, 2009 1:44:30 PM: what are you waiting for? Send direct applications to the schools you are really interested in, including your article.

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 3:18:26 PM

3:18:26 PM -- I have sent targeted letters to law schools I am interested in, though this article is a new development (something that was not in my initial application). Accordingly, my question is when it would be appropriate to apprise those law schools -- now, when I receive a respectable offer, or when I accept an offer. Or, it could be advisable for me to inform them of the draft article AND send an additional note when I have accepted an offer. Not sure....

Posted by: anonanontillthebreakofdawn | Sep 26, 2009 3:28:11 PM

Is there a resource available re formulating good questions for schools, or can we get more advice on that from the contributing profs? I'm not sure I know enough about what I should be concerned about to forumlate good questions. It is also difficult to understand the institutional persepective (e.g., how my question sounds from the other side of the table).

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 3:30:53 PM

I'm not sure exactly what anonanonuntilthebreakofdawn is asking, but I think I have a similar question - I also have 3 publications and recently finished what will be my job talk and put it on SSRN. I sent packages to particular targeted schools but the job talk was still in process and I mentioned it only in a few sentences in the letter. Now that it is finished and on SSRN, should I let schools know? Or assume at this point that going from work in progress to finished draft on SSRN is not going to make a difference in whether or not I get an interview, especially since I have other publications already?

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 3:40:12 PM

It would be most impressive if it had a decent publication offer. So, you could send it out next week, and then update your apps with a new publication in a couple of weeks if you stike gold. And/or, prepare to use it as a job talk paper and begin discussing it in interviews (maybe sending it ahead of the interviews as well). Or, regardless of publication, send it to schools you have not yet heard from but want to meet with at AALS with a note updating your file and expressign your continued interest.

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 3:46:20 PM

Once upon a time I was in sales. There is no such thing as too much contact with a prospect. Tell them now it is up on SSRN. Email will do. Tell them again when it is placed.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 26, 2009 4:22:34 PM

How might a candidate who is perceived as "young" be able to shed any negativity that might attend to that perception during the interview?

Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 4:34:41 PM

I read with some amusement (and concern) the postings by folks trying to read the tea leaves of perceived signals from hiring committees. Our committee goes through the FAR in increments, inviting those we consider the top candidates in each week's batch for interviews at the AALS (or locally if they're in/near our city). If one got a call from our school this week, all it would mean was that you were in the group of FAR forms we first considered this week. You are every bit as favorable in our eyes as someone who was called and offered an interview four weekds ago.

There also is no prejudice involved with receiving a local interview invite -- we have multiple slots to fill and desire to talk to more candidates than it is practicable to fit in during the conference.


Posted by: Anon Prof | Sep 26, 2009 9:23:31 PM

Can I get professors to say which casebook they use for the courses they teach and a brief statement as to why they use that particular casebook?


Posted by: anon | Sep 26, 2009 11:03:50 PM

Contrary to one of the above anonymous posts, I do think there can be too much contact with a prospective school. Remember the impression you want to give--that you are productive, collegial and pleasant, ambitious, and a possessor of sound judgment. Repeated contacts may not convey all of these points. I think hiring committee members are very busy and can (and sometimes do) get irritated by candidates who think they are being proactive.

So do be proactive, but be judicious, too. The appropriate frequency of contact may also vary from school to school, depending upon what you know about the school. Certainly, though, you do want to make a committee aware of a new article and its placement. If you don't have an interview, e-mail your committee contact about it. If you already do have an interview, however, perhaps it is sufficient to tell the committee your good news in the interview--why throw away that very valuable talking point in an e-mail, when it can be used to turn the interview conversation to your advantage?

Posted by: gregory bowman | Sep 27, 2009 1:17:59 AM

A few comments:

1. The timing of interview slots can matter. When I attended the meat market, I had to schedule interviews in the first slot on both Fri. and Sat. In the case of the Fri. interview, it was one of my worst. Aside from rudeness, edginess, and lack of preparation, I could tell that at least one person on the panel was not a morning person. As for the Sat. interview, the committee just wasn't ready: They were still trying to eat breakfast and assemble materials during my interview. Before the conference I'd read on Prawfs that it's not a good idea to schedule a school that you care about in the first slot. Maybe that's good advice.

2. The tone/style/dynamics of interview teams can vary widely. At one end of the spectrum are schools where there's a "click" as soon as you walk into the interview suite. They've read your materials carefully and really want to learn more about you. The tone is warm and friendly. While overconfidence is not a good thing, you can almost tell that a callback will come. In the middle are schools where at least one person on the committee dominates the conversation in a way that's distracting. For instance, while interviews should focus on the candidate, sometimes one person hijacks some or part of the interview (usu. to talk about their research). At the other end of the spectrum are schools that are defensive/rude from the moment you enter the suite. In my case, two interviewing teams were so rude that I wondered: Why did they call me in the first place?

3. Callbacks. Some schools will call you immediately (i.e., Sat. night). With others, you'll never hear from them again. Here are some reasons why. First, you were never under serious consideration in the first place. Second, you were on the "B" team and never made it to the "A" team (read Jeff Lipshaw's wonderful post about this). Of course schools are free to call back who they want, but sending an email or a letter politely saying that "We're not going to pursue your candidacy" takes only a minute and is just basic common courtesy.

Posted by: anon law prof | Sep 27, 2009 6:26:09 AM

How much can one read into "wooing" on the phone call? I've had a few calls that were friendly and rather short and I've had a few emails to set up interviews. I had one call, however, that was about 30 minutes long and involved the committee member talking quite a bit about how good of a fit I seem from my resume and offering for me to teach basically all my favorite courses and discussing moving and ways to facilitate, etc. I felt flattered on the phone call and have since been wondering if this is a sign or do some hiring committees give this sort of speech to everyone they call? FWIW, it was a lower-tiered school, not sure if this matters.

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2009 8:20:06 AM

Having never taught a law school class, I feel a bit disingenuous having a "teaching philosophy" - other than thinking back to my student years, I have really nothing to go on. Any comments on how to best handle questions on teaching? I obviously have some thoughts, but feel like it is very presumptuous of me to have a philosophy with no experience. Does everyone else feel like this too (excluding VAPs and people who have been teaching)? How to handle?

I think this is a problem even for VAPs and people who have taught: You probably don't have a teaching "philosophy" until you have taught for a while. But I think it's fair to pick two or three things that you really liked as a student, and to say that's what you expect to do. Or pick a favorite professor: You might say, "I had Professor X in law school and I thought he was an incredibly gifted teacher; To be honest, I think I'd like to copy him as a much as possible." But agreed, it's a really strange question to ask a new teacher: All you can really do is how you have thought about it.

Once upon a time I was in sales. There is no such thing as too much contact with a prospect. Tell them now it is up on SSRN. Email will do. Tell them again when it is placed.

The problem is that when you're applying for a law professor job, part of what you are selling is your personality: You might come to the school and teach there for 40 years, so they want to make sure they like you. If you contact them so often that you come off as annoying, that will hurt you.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2009 12:10:58 PM

What not to ask: "Tell me about the research support for junior faculty at your school." Well, ask it, but ask it more creatively than that. Because if you're the 20th interview, 19 other candidates have said, "Tell me about the research support for junior faculty at your school."

Actually, I would reverse it: Members of hiring committees should not ask, "do you have any questions for us?," because the only response they are likely to get is the fake question about research support for junior faculty. In my view, it makes no sense to ask that question in an AALS interview: The professors are interviewing the candidate at that particular stage, not the other way around, so it really doesn't matter if the candidate has a question. Professors know that, and general ask the question only out of routine. In any event, I hope that members of hiring committees do not hold it against candidates if the committee's trite and useless invitation leads to the expected the trite and useless question (followed, as always, by the pro forma answer).

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2009 12:20:34 PM

I am now an Orin Kerr fangirl!

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2009 1:54:22 PM

Is a quesiton about service requirements a good interview quesiton? For example, how are committee assignments made for junior faculty?

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2009 2:05:24 PM

Hey, Anon Law Prof at 6:29:09 AM, thanks! Let me buy you a drink some day. One of the problems with being manic expressive is that you don't remember where and when you said things (also a good reason to stick to the truth as much as possible). As a service to the community, here's the substance of the post from "AALS Agonistes" on Legal Profession Blog (where, by the way, this morning I posted my annual Yom Kippur message).

* * *
Brian Leiter has provided a link to his post from a year ago about when candidates should expect to hear from schools with whom they interviewed this past weekend in Washington. I looked at the post and realized that I had commented twice, and they were worthy of being brought into the full light of bloggicity.

First, I speculated that callbacks were a front-end loaded curve. Brian's observation that you COULD get a call late is accurate, but the likelihood is low. Here's a guess on call distribution: 20% before the weekend is over; 70% by the end of the first week after the conference; 90% in two weeks.

Second, here is my "Person/Unperson" theory having never sat on an Appointments Committee, but having done interviews and hiring in other contexts for over 25 years. From the standpoint of the Appointments Committee, there is likely the A team, the B team, and the C team. The A team hears within two weeks about in the time sequence described above. The C team ought to get a brief "it was nice but no thanks" within a couple days, and more often than not it doesn't. The B team gets radio silence because it is the B team, which means it isn't the C team, and apparently somebody thinks it has a chance of moving up to the A team.

From the candidate's standpoint, the rationalization/self-deception progression goes as follows: (1) "I'm still on somebody's A team, but their committee is not going to do call backs until January;" (2) "I am still on somebody's B team," (3) "I am lower than dirt, and please call me in April when I have uncurled from the fetal position."

The A team fantasy will disappear on its own sometime between the conclusion of the Rose Bowl and the kickoff of the BCS Championship Game. The real issue is the "still on the B team fantasy." I'd bet dimes to dollars that if we looked at it in the macro, there actually is no pure B team person. Rather there are "Persons" and "Unpersons." (I can't remember: do I give credit to George Orwell for that?) That is to say, a real B teamer would be on SOMEBODY'S A team, and hence a Person. If you are on everybody's B team (and hence without callbacks), you are really an Unperson. I believe that was my experience in 2005.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Sep 27, 2009 2:15:20 PM

Despite everyone sincerely trying to be helpful, this really is a depressing thread. Think twice before you pass on relevant updates about your research, because they might decide you are an annoying git and lock you out of the clubhouse. Whatever else you've done and whatever else you may do later in life, odds on in two months it will become clear that you are, in fact, an "unperson" so far as the academy is concerned.

I have a healthy ego, am well loved, am getting some limited positive response, and don't desperately need anything to happen this year, and, all the same, this process is beating me down. I feel like a starving waif with my face pressed against the windowpane, watching the arrogantly clueless aristocrats dancing inside. I hate to think where I would be right now if hadn't come to the process from a good place.

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2009 3:04:57 PM

To law professors: What questions do you wish you'd asked, but didn't? What questions should we ask in order to get at whether the school is a good "fit"?

Posted by: Candidate | Sep 27, 2009 3:37:49 PM

Anon at 3:04:

Look on the bright side. You're applying for a job that amounts to guaranteed lifetime employment; that requires you to teach about 125 hours a year and gives you the rest of the time off; that pays well and gives you lots of prestige; and that also gives you sabbaticals (to take a break from all that teaching!) and the ability to do very lucrative consulting in your time off. If you feel oppressed by the application process for this goose that lays the golden egg, it could be a lot worse.

Candidate at 3:37:

The AALS interview isn't a good time to ask real questions, as asking real questions risks sounding arrogant. Just ask the usual fake questions, and then try to figure out questions like fit when you have a callback or an offer.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2009 3:52:15 PM

If all I knew was what was in this thread, I would really be getting depressed. Not only does the process suck, but the people who are controlling the process paint the principal value in the job as being able to take decent money out while putting almost nothing in.

Being in a position to make the system of justice better? Apparently not a factor. Touching the lives of young people in a positive way? Apparently not even a consideration.

The only thing that consoles me is that I don't believe you. I don't think that what you really value about the job is contained in your comment.

Posted by: anon at 3:04: | Sep 27, 2009 4:45:41 PM

good lord. the clueless aristocrats or the hapless jobless standing out in the rain - not sure which group I'd rather belong to at the moment.

Posted by: anon | Sep 27, 2009 7:10:51 PM

I have to say that I'm a little surprised at everyone's surprise and angst about the hiring process. Didn't most of us go through this when we applied for clerkships?

Posted by: Candidate | Sep 27, 2009 7:20:14 PM

Anon at 3:04: If your comment was directed at me, please note that I did say-- and I would not ever say-- that this is the principle reason to want the job. (If someone says that they want to buy a Ferrari, but that the nearest dealer is too far away, and I respond that the dealer will come out to you to service your car, that doesn't in any way suggest that the only reason to buy a Ferrari is that the dealers will come out to service your car.)

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2009 10:18:06 PM

Anon 3:04--So you are a poor waif outside, but you have some supportive loved ones with you at least, and a few arrogantly clueless aristocrats dancing inside have waived hello at you noncommitally through the window (they're doing the Chevron two-step, no doubt). This is a visual image of the process that will stay with me for a long time--I love it!

Whatever you do, keep your sense of humor, and your perspective too. Sounds like you have both. Law school and the hiring process can be brutal to the ego--as this thread illustrates pretty well.

Posted by: gregory bowman | Sep 27, 2009 10:18:26 PM

Er, make that "I did *not* say" rather than "I *did* say". Kind of an important "not."

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 27, 2009 10:19:36 PM

Professor Kerr:

Thank you for the Ferrari analogy. I will change my thinking from that of nose pressed against windowpane to that of the bus rider watching the gents hand the keys to their Ferraris to the valet parking staff. (As I think about it, I really do like this analogy; maybe the guys in the little red satin valet parking jackets are the VAPs, allowed to drive the Ferrari for just a little bit, so long as they don't get caught winding it out.)

I'm sure what you meant when you talked about the golden goose and all was that it is indeed an imperfect process, but that if we were to get a job it would give us an opportunity to do meaningful work. I understand you didn't mean to belittle our reasons for participating in this process. After all, it was a quick quip in the comments section of a blog, not something you labored over.


Posted by: anon at 3:04 | Sep 27, 2009 10:54:29 PM

Err, wasn't this supposed to be the thread for topics "not related to the AALS meat market"? Well, I guess it is what everybody wants to talk about.

I will register one point of disagreement with Anon Law Prof. No matter how much you "click" with a committee at the interview, you cannot tell whether a callback will come, and any expectations are just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Posted by: TJ | Sep 27, 2009 11:25:03 PM

One more try...

Reading the AALS website, it looks like in any given year, about 10-15% of the registrants for the AALS conference become tenure-track faculty the following year. What happens to the remaining 85 to 90 percent?

Posted by: redd | Sep 28, 2009 7:44:24 AM

I am getting calls for positions in my 3-4 listed area. I have 4 publications and only 1 of them (the oldest one) is in that particular area (thought there is some conceptual overlap). My job talk and research agenda are not really in that area either. I am quite willing to teach in that area, as it is relevant to the other areas, but how bad is it if it is not my primary area? Should I try to adjust my research agenda to include that area, or is it too late and will such an attempt be transparent?

Posted by: anon | Sep 28, 2009 9:49:29 AM

In how much detail should we be expected, at AALS, to discuss teaching? E.g., should we have browsed several casebooks in each of our potential teaching areas and be prepared to defend a provisional choice among them? Or broad methodology--e.g., say you were teaching contracts--should you be able to discuss the extent to which you intend to emphasize law and econ approaches or contract as promise approaches? (Contracts isn't my area--I'm reaching back to 1L year--so this may be a bad example.)

Posted by: anon | Sep 28, 2009 9:59:57 AM

Of the 85 percent, many come back and try the next year, and some get hired. Some get hired the year after that, or the year after that. Of those that take another go at it, some get hired as VAPs after the regular hiring season has closed and reapply from that somewhat better position (make sure the assistant and associate deans have your CV to be in that pool); others just work hard at doing more good research while staying in the job they currently hold. Some go get doctorates or LL.M.s to enhance their marketability. (See other threads here and elsewhere to see how much, if any, that really would help.) Not aware of any data, but let's guess that over a several year period the placement rate is not 85% but something closer to 65 or 70%.

The rest spend happy, productive lives doing something else besides teaching law school. I'm going to guess that of those who want to teach, more than just teach law school, some end up teaching law in an undergraduate school that's not part of the AALS, and some end up teaching history or civics in some high school somewhere. Some double down on practice, and spend the rest of their lives griping about how out of touch and pointless legal academia can be.

The point is, many are called, few are chosen, but in your personal case your options are limited only by your imagination. If this turns out not to be your destiny, there are lots of wonderful ways to spend a happy and fulfilling life.

Me, if I don't get the nod in a year or two, I'm buying a used cruising sailboat and heading to the islands. I hear a month or two a year doing mechanical work on nautical diesel engines will produce enough cash to fund the margaritas at sundown lifestyle. I figure I can spend the time I don't spend cite checking footnotes writing the great Caribbean novel.

Posted by: anon knowitall candidate | Sep 28, 2009 11:15:10 AM

Tongue in cheek comments above not withstanding, being a law professor entails a lot of work - successful profs work probably 60 hour weeks. Actual time teaching may be only 100 - 150 hours per year, but class preparation requires (particularly for new courses) many more hours. But scholarship is the biggest time commitmentt, plus there's service to the school, travel, media inquiries, etc., etc.

It's a GREAT job - there is nothing else I'd rather do! But what makes it great is (1) the opportunity to teach interesting subjects the way you want -- if you're not really passionate about teaching you really ought to withdraw from the process now; (2) the freedom to engage in in-depth scholarship on questions and issues that interest you, (3) the freedom to generally set your own specific work hours, and often even the location where you work them. And outside the classroom, almost no one cares what you wear to work, either. This has a number of ramifications for threads above:

(1) The hiring percentages (which I think I are almost certainly a bit low anyway) are skewed by the number of candidates in the pool who are simply unqualified or clearly looking to "retire to teach." No reputable law school is going to hire someone whose candidacy is based on the idea that they're simply going to enthrall law students with stories of their days in practice. If you're keen to teach, engaging in productive scholarship, and convey a sense of energy and commitment your odds are MUCH better than the numbers above suggest. And you can always try again next year - school's needs change from year to year.

(2) Law profs are busy. We've invested a lot of our time reviewing your FAR, your CV, and at least one member of our committee will have read and commented on your scholarship. If you're bombarding us with additional info, I think you run a real risk of standing out in a way you don't want to. Hiring chairs are innundatd with more crap than you can believe. So if it was me, I'd save new developments to raise excitement in the interview and held you stand out where it counts.

(3) Questions - if we can invest this much time in you (and we're interviewing 30+ of you), you ought to invest at least as much time in us. I think you should have read any materials we might have sent and review our website and have a couple of questions prepared that reflect some knowledge about our school/setting. Ideally they're questions that you're really interested in learning the answers to - particularly below the first tier, I think the interview is something like 85% assessing the candidate, and 15% selling the school. So to my thinking the ideal question gets you some additional information that would be helpful to you in making a decision should you be fortunate enough to end up with multiple offers but indirectly advances your candidacy by marking you as having made some effort to learn something about the school. The hiring committee takes a risk with every candidate they invite back for a callback -- none of us want our peers to think we've wasted their time with a candidate. We KNOW that in the course of your day on our campus, a number of our colleagues will ask you what you want to know about our school. If you can't show us in DC that you can handle this question, I think it at least indirectly hurts your chances of getting the callback. So I'd ask something about the opportunities to teach in our Barcelona summer program, or the interaction between our school of International Relations and our law school, or if it's obvious that you have no previous connection with our location, something about the advantages of the local climate/geograply, etc. I would NOT have a canned generic question about support for new faculty.

NB - there are substantive differences in interview content from school to school. Some schools (and it seems to be more common the higher the school's ranking) may spend the entire interview pressing you about your scholarship in a great deal of depth. You might walk out of such an interview feeling pretty beaten up and have absolutely no idea whether the committee will perceive you as having done well or not. Other schools have a more balanced approach, spending a few minutes talking about scholarship, some time on teaching, maybe talking about the school, etc. It's these schools who will care about your question.

I also think too much strategizing is going in to interview timing. You simply can't predict what the dynamics will be. The first interview of the day might find the hiring committee unprepared and half asleep. But you might also have a great interview and the committee might spend the rest of the day noting that no other interviewee has hit the high standard you set. The last interview of the day might find the hiring committee suffering burn-out and you might not get their full attention. But on the other hand, you may impress them and have the huge advantage of being freshest in their minds when they sit down to review who they liked and didn't. All you can control is how you present yourself -- so don't worry about when the interview is, just focus on making the most of it!

The one scheduling point I haven't seen mentioned this year is that unless you're one of the fortunate few whose full dance card won't permit it, you ought to allow 30 minutes between interviews. The Wardman Park is a big hotel with multiple towers and it typically takes several minutes (or more) to get from one interview room to the next. Most committees give themselves only a minute or so between interviews, and while it is understood that some candidates will have to be running from interview to interview, you're better able to make a favorable impression if you can be there when the interview is supposed to start, cool and collected, focused on the task ahead -- not sweaty, out of breath from running, with your mind still focused on how the previous interview went.

Posted by: Anon Prof | Sep 28, 2009 11:30:52 AM

redd -- You aren't going to get a more specific answer unless you ask a more specific question. One answer to your question is that nothing happens to the 85 to 90 percent who are not successful in that year's process. Another answer is that the remaining 85 to 90 percent go on with their lives. Yet another answer is that they try again the next year. Or not.

Having been in that 85 to 90 percent more than once, I can testify that each and every one of the above responses to your question is an accurate response.

Posted by: David Case | Sep 28, 2009 12:47:50 PM

If you're on the hiring committee, and a professor from a top3 law school emails you and recommends a candidate, what does that mean to you? Does it help? Would you just ignore it? Does it must make sure that you don't fall through the cracks, but doesn't give you a boost beyond that?

Posted by: anon | Sep 28, 2009 1:11:53 PM

I have the same question as a previous commenter: I'm 28 and will be 29 by September 2010. I went straight through to law school and then straight through to private practice. I have a reasonable number of FRC interviews, so it seems I've made the initial cut at least for a few law schools. But I wonder what, if anything, committee members will think of my age-- especially after they meet me face-to-face in DC and get a sense of how young I am (compared to other, more "seasoned" candidates). Good? Bad? Irrelevant?

Any insights would be appreciated.

Posted by: Paul | Sep 28, 2009 3:56:26 PM

Paul - hiring committees become pretty good at figuring out a life from the FAR form. If you've gotten "a reasonable number of FRC interviews," then you can conclude that a reasonable number of schools are not particularly concerned about your age. What you lack in years you presumably make up in energy, enthusiasm, and ability to relate to 21st century law students -- all things many older candidates lack.

The key for all candidates is not to worry about what you might lack, but rather take stock of what you bring to the table and let those strengths come through in the interview in a confident but non-arrogant way -- you are being judged as a potential colleague, after all.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 28, 2009 5:10:59 PM

Reading the AALS website, it looks like in any given year, about 10-15% of the registrants for the AALS conference become tenure-track faculty the following year. What happens to the remaining 85 to 90 percent?

Most of them stay with whatever they were doing when they applied. Some try again the next year. FWIW, in my experience, about 75% of the people who apply are not really serious appointments candidates: They are mostly lawyers who thought it might be cool to teach, so they submitted an application more or less out of the blue.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 28, 2009 11:58:13 PM

redd: I don't know anyone who tracks that sort of thing. Much like those applying for top clerkships, however, those who don't get any of the open entry-level slots are usually in pretty good shape for something else. And many will simply improve their profiles and try again later.

Posted by: S. Todd Brown | Sep 29, 2009 9:00:32 PM

As someone who had 40+ interviews over two years as a candidate, and has been on his appointment committee many times, I can tell you that there is no set strategy for an interview at AALS. Be yourself, be sure to answer the questions asked of you and look your questioners in the eye, and try to have good answers ready for obvious questions (e.g., "there's a gap on your c.v. from 1994-96, what were you doing then?" Or, you've been practicing corporate law, have a B.S. in computer science, and you've written three articles on labor law, but your top choice for teaching is philosophy of law. Huh?")

One mistake some candidates make is to think that all schools want you to show off what a great scholar you will be. That's true at the top school,s and the more "academic" and ambitious of the rest. But at some lower-ranked schools, it's at least as important to come across as a nice guy/gal as to show how smart you are. This is especially true at schools in rural areas, where the faculty socialize with each other, for lack of other alternatives. No one wants to spend the next 40 years with a smart ***hole. For that matter, at some places seeming "too productive" will kill you; there's a union mentality, no one on a sleepy faculty really wants someone writing four articles a year showing them up and threatening to raise standards for everyone. Plus if there aren't a lot of adjuncts around, the faculty needs to help out more with moot court and the like.

On the other hand, some of the more ambitious schools will overlook even obvious personality flaws if the interviewee seems brilliant and productive, in the hope that a fabulous scholar will be overlooked by the top schools because he/she doesn't interview well.

Posted by: anonlawprof | Sep 29, 2009 10:32:28 PM

Post a comment