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Monday, April 05, 2010

Another Side of Lateraling

If you don't follow law job market gossip blogs, you may not know that I'm moving to Villanova Law School next year. Indeed, you probably don't know it even if you do. Many have written really helpful blog posts and articles on the subject, and I've read them all. However, these articles don't share some important downsides of a lateral move -- downsides that I'm now experiencing and thought I would share. I would make the same decision again, but I think it is helpful for hopeful candidates to know what they are in for.

Moving is stressful - especially if you own a home


Unless you are fortunate enough to land a position in the same city or region, you have to find a new home. Some folks don't mind renting and then buying later. We, however, only want to move once. The advice pundits often say to ask for moving expenses, but the unspoken reality is that the school will only pay for one move. All that stuff you've accumulated has to be repacked and moved if you rent first.

This gets much harder if you own your own home somewhere outside of California (and maybe in California these days). When I moved to WVU from the Bay Area, our home sold in 14 days well over the asking price. Not so now. If you don't include the open house, we've had one showing in six weeks on the market. And our home (we think) is the best available in our area. It's not pretty.

Even if you'll get a raise when you move, that doesn't guarantee that you can qualify for two mortgages at once, and banks are strict about how they count rental income (usually need 30% equity in the home). To top it off, your raise may not count anyway, because all you have is an offer letter until you start in August, and many (most) banks won't loan you money on that.

We bought a house on Friday (yay!). We are making it happen by the skin of our teeth, and biting our nails even today as we apply for a mortgage. In a year we'll look back and not even remember this time, but it's hair-raising right now, and I am no stranger to taking risks in home buying.

Moving is a distraction

A senior colleague advised me not to spend too much time worrying about the lateral market, as it takes up a lot of time that could be used for writing. He said the same is true for visiting (see above - hating to move). I believed him then, but took the jump anyway, and it's going to be tough to get stuff done. There is so much to do between now and mid-June - find a house, set up the house, get ready to move, etc. Oh yeah - teach, grade, etc. Moving will be incredibly distracting and if I get any serious writing done I'll be pleased. We hope to move in late May or early June to allow for a more focused summer.

You might miss your old school more than you think

You might just miss your old school. You probably will. And I don't mean that you risk moving to an awful place. Even if your new school is professorial heaven on earth, you'll miss the old one, even before you leave.

I can already feel myself getting a bit more disconnected from things, getting asked to do less, and not having as much input. I'm already starting to miss my great friends here.

I am also finding all of the things I undervalued. I have complained about my house from the day I moved in - the floors needed refinishing, the paint was bad, etc. After a couple of years of work, we could only hope we found a house as nice as ours.  All of the things we hated about our home's floorplan were the things we gravitated to in the new house.

Even though Philadelphia has much more to do than Morgantown, we found ourselves looking for the things we do now, and lamenting when they weren't there. My son only knows about one fast food place - Burger King - there are a ton around here and we didn't see one open in our two trips. I suppose that's really a good thing, but it was a bit melancholic to hear my 4 year old see a BK sign on the freeway home and say, "Hey, there's 'fries house' - we must be close to home."

So - I wouldn't recommend against a lateral move - but be aware that it's not all roses. I hope this gets added to the lateral lore out there for job seekers.

Posted by Michael Risch on April 5, 2010 at 04:07 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink

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ahh, the twin post for my post below :) good luck michael!

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Apr 5, 2010 4:12:09 PM

I went through this same issue. Had to strategically default on my first home to afford the move to a new city.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 5, 2010 5:54:26 PM

I completely agree that a lateral move can be tough. I went through this, and maintaining my former home (which cannot sell right now because of the bad market) is hurting me financially. The move itself was also very distracting.

Posted by: anon | Apr 6, 2010 1:09:28 AM

I have often said that the deadweight loss of moving is unbelievable. The two summers that I moved (first to Marquette, then to Illinois) were the least productive summers (on the writing front) that I have ever had. Especially when you have to move kids -- finding schools, childcare, etc. so you can hit the ground running once you arrive in June, etc. takes up an inordinate amount of time. We were very lucky and had a contract on our Wisconsin home in March 2006, which our realtor told us later was two weeks before everything stopped selling. I think the housing market will make employment choices pretty sticky for awhile. (And yes, we spent the last few months in Milwaukee saying things like "This is the last time we'll walk to Lake Michigan/the library/the ice cream store, etc."

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Apr 6, 2010 10:54:19 AM

Having moved almost 2 years ago and still not having sold the old house in St Louis, I can personally attest to the downside of moving.

Posted by: Mark McKenna | Apr 6, 2010 11:28:24 AM

But Mark, the upsides of your move have, of course, been huge. =-) I mean, the neighbors . . .

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Sep 13, 2010 10:45:22 AM

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