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Monday, July 23, 2012

A Clearinghouse for Questions, 2012-2013

The 2012-2013 law school hiring market is soon beginning. 

In this post, you can ask questions about the law teaching market (anonymously if you wish, assuming the questions are not especially offensive or otherwise improper), and prawfs or others can weigh in, also anonymously if they choose, but within the bounds of decency. I will keep an eye on things and delete misinformation and ban the IP addresses of those acting out of bounds. If you're a reader and you see something suspicious, please feel free to let me know via email.

We will have a distinct but related post in which candidates or prawfs can report on callbacks, offers, and acceptances. That thread should be used only for information relevant to hiring, not for questions or comments on the process. This is the thread for questions.

So...questions? But before you ask your questions, take a look at the 500 questions and comments that came up on last year's thread.

Update: Here is a link to the last page of comments.

Posted by Dan Markel on July 23, 2012 at 08:44 AM in Blogging, Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink

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Comments

Law professors are such an awkward bunch. I wouldn't consider turning down an offer via email. Then again, I wouldn't consider ignoring update requests, not updating applicants on their status, and other common practices...

Posted by: on the market (again) | Jan 9, 2013 11:28:43 PM

I like to hear that some people are turning down offers. Wasn't sure there would be much of that this year.

Posted by: Just Waiting | Jan 10, 2013 8:03:47 AM

Email is absolutely an unacceptable means for rejecting an offer. I would seriously put off by any candidate who did so.

Posted by: AnonProf | Jan 10, 2013 9:00:01 AM

Thanks all. How about places where you had a callback and the offer is out to someone else, i.e. faculty voted yes but didn't rank 1st? From the above, sounds like people would call those deans too?

Posted by: malibu barbie | Jan 10, 2013 10:22:56 AM

Malibu barbie, for those schools where I'd had a callback but no decision yet (and the first offer apparently went to someone else), I sent nice emails to the hiring chairs (who were also my primary contacts), and that seemed fine.

Definitely a phone call to turn down an actual offer, though--totally agree with the others.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 10, 2013 11:32:54 AM

For those of us contemplating our next steps after an unsuccessful effort this year, could folks comment on what they expect regarding next year's market? Basically the same? Worse?

Posted by: onanon | Jan 15, 2013 3:05:50 PM

No one I know thinks it'll be better. Practically no one says the same. Discussions center on worse and much worse.

Posted by: on the market (again) | Jan 15, 2013 3:12:16 PM

Everyone I've talked to seems to think that next year's market will be even worse. I'm inclined to agree. The numbers of first-time LSAT takers and law school applicants are way down again this year, which will almost certainly mean that enrollments for the fall will be way down, too. Schools are going to continue to be very conservative in hiring until there is some news--any news!--suggesting that we've hit the bottom of this trough. I can't imagine any such news will come before the fall.

Not only will there probably be fewer positions open next year, there will also probably be a glut of candidates. All of us who failed this year will be joining first-time candidates on the market next year. Joy.

On the (sort of, maybe) upside, there may be more VAP positions opening this spring as schools seek to fill 2013-14 curricular needs without committing to entry-level hires. For candidates currently in the last year of a VAP or fellowship, that could be good. But as long as the market stays so shaky, a VAP seems like a particularly risky bet for those currently employed in positions with no definite end date. Sure, it'd be helpful to have the experience, but there would seem to be a much higher than usual chance of taking a VAP and ending up in a string of short-term positions. In other words, those filling new VAPs may be taking on the down-side risk that schools may be seeking to avoid by hiring more VAPs. And who knows how long this situation could last.

If you know your path in life is to be legal academic, and you can afford to hang in there (either in one or more VAPs or in some other long-term job), I think you should probably resign yourself to at least one and probably two or more years on the market. If other careers interest you, you view legal academia as a short-term gig, or you can't afford to wait the market out, it might be best to cut your losses and find another path.

Posted by: not usually a pessimist, but . . . | Jan 15, 2013 3:45:58 PM

MULTIPLE people have advised me not to go on the market again in the near future because it's going to be so bad. They paint a really depressing picture of a ton of holdover failed candidates from this year competing for 50-75% of the number of openings. And keep in mind that this year already was a 25% drop from last year. Plus the VAPs and fellows already in the pipeline are going to come on the market in the next cycle or two, so it's going to be at least that long for the market to adjust to the new reality of law school hiring.

(My spouse is a non-legal academic, and his/her field went through something like this in about 2007. When s/he was on the market shortly before that, there were like 200 people applying for maybe 40 jobs. Then it went to 250 applying for 30 jobs. Then 300 for 20 jobs. Then 325 for 15 jobs. Ultimately the the number of jobs leveled out and the number of applicants dropped -- some because the PhD programs ratcheted down the number of students admitted, and some because the failed candidates finally gave up and moved on with their lives. But the dynamic caused a lot of misery before then, and it's still hugely difficult to get a TT job.)

As for me, I'm 95% sure that I'm going to follow their advice and hide out for at least a year or two in (another) clerkship or term-limited government gig. If I can get one. I'm also considering moving back to private practice (which fortunately for me is a bit more feasible than others).

Posted by: Apocalyptic | Jan 15, 2013 3:54:39 PM

From inside, I can confirm that those within the legal academy think next year will be much worse. Some schools may close, which would add to the number searching. (Even the worst schools have a few very impressive professors). There is talk, especially at lower-ranked schools, about salary cuts and perhaps layoffs. Professors at high-risk schools are looking to lateral, and some law schools would rather take a proven professor than a rookie.

Posted by: AnonProf | Jan 15, 2013 5:16:55 PM

AnonProf (or anyone)

How many years are people thinking it will take for the market to stabilize?

Posted by: anon | Jan 15, 2013 6:03:46 PM

I don't know how long it's going to take, but my guess is 3-5 years. That's of course no help to people who are now thinking about 1-2 year VAPs or clerkships or other temporary positions.

Personally, I'm expecting to cut my losses and go back into practice or government/policy work. As with Apocalyptic, that's probably easier for me to do than many others. Frankly, I don't really think of it as cutting my losses. I think of it more as choosing something different. Life has a variety of goals, people. This particular job isn't the end-all-be-all (at least, not for me).

Posted by: FARout | Jan 15, 2013 6:31:37 PM

Re: How long for the market to stabilize.

I think this depends on whether and how many schools close. If it's more than a couple (and I think that is unlikely but possible), then all bets are off. That's putting a ton of very qualified lateral candidates out there all at once. My guess is that you'll see most of the younger ones hired as visitors and then permanently -- thus taking a ton of entry-level openings away.

If law schools can avoid that carnage, I think it will be in the order of five years or so. Enough to work off the current glut and for many of the lesser-regarded VAP programs to wither away, and for applications to bump back up. But the end result won't be anything like the hiring markets of five or ten years ago. My guess is that the only people getting jobs even after this all settles down are the superstars and the people who teach really esoteric and in-demand subjects (tax, T&E, etc.). The days of a "second tier" nonspecialized candidate being competitive are over (much to my personal chagrin).

Posted by: Apocalyptic | Jan 15, 2013 6:44:42 PM

"My guess is that the only people getting jobs even after this all settles down are the superstars and the people who teach really esoteric and in-demand subjects (tax, T&E, etc.). The days of a "second tier" nonspecialized candidate being competitive are over (much to my personal chagrin)."

What does second tier vs superstar mean in actual qualifications?

Posted by: anon | Jan 15, 2013 7:08:08 PM

If one is a accepting an offer and saying no to other offers, what order makes sense? Is it OK to first accept the offer, and then say no to the other offers? I just do not want a situation where I accept an offer and then someone at that school talks to someone at another school where I have not yet been able to get ahold of the Dean. Any advice? On the other hand, the risk-adverse side of me thinks I should wait to say no to other schools until everything is signed and sealed at the school I am accepting. Thanks! (And I know these are good problems to have, and hopefully will open up some positions for others).

Posted by: Anon | Jan 15, 2013 7:54:57 PM

@anon, here's how i did it: ask for an offer letter; verbally accept the offer, sign the offer letter, scan and email back; specify to the dean to please hold off on announcing your hiring until you've had a couple of days to tell personally everyone whom you need to tell; call everyone else. you can expect the dean and hiring committee to be discreet, especially when you've explicitly asked them to wait a bit. you can also expect other deans and hiring chairs to return your calls promptly, especially when you're holding an offer from them!

Posted by: juniorminted | Jan 15, 2013 8:24:59 PM

"What does second tier vs superstar mean in actual qualifications?"

My loose definition:

Superstar=top 5 law school, top 10% or so grades (except Yale), law review, COA clerkship, VAP/fellow or PhD, two or more well-placed publications (top 50 or better), "just right" work experience (more than two and less than six years, prestigious firm or government). A superstar can be missing one or MAYBE two of those (but not the publications), but that's it.

"Second tier"=either roughly half of those OR comes close on most of them with good publications.

Posted by: Apocalyptic | Jan 15, 2013 8:33:27 PM

Thanks juniorminted. Did you call both hiring chairs and deans from the schools you said no to?

Posted by: Anon | Jan 15, 2013 10:49:48 PM

no, i called the dean at the school where i had an offer and the hiring chairs or my faculty host at the places where i was still under consideration.

Posted by: juniorminted | Jan 16, 2013 12:00:50 AM

juniorminted, will you share your teaching/research areas?

Posted by: Anon2 | Jan 17, 2013 7:33:50 AM

In all seriousness, has a top 5 jd become a defacto requirement for getting a law prof job or the vap positions needed for one? If not, what does it take to rehabilitate a non-t5 jd?

Posted by: anonxiety | Jan 17, 2013 1:53:53 PM

@anonxiety, the hires outside the top 5 of whom I am aware had most or all of the following characteristics: (1) graduated in the very top of their law school (which would still be ranked in the top 30 or so); (2) impressive COA clerkship; (3) very strong publication record; and (4) credibility and willingness to teach "in-demand" courses such as the hard-core corporate curriculum, tax, international business transactions plus corporate classes.

The last factor matters a lot, I think. If you truly fill an urgent need at many law schools that few candidates are qualified to fill, you will be looked at. I've seen people get really amazing placements this way (and this is not to knock them-- I think the world of them as scholars and teachers).

Posted by: armchair candidate | Jan 17, 2013 2:08:12 PM

Is there really a meaningful difference between T5 and T6 (the latter being a more common designation in the law *firm* hiring context)? If so, which school doesn't make the T5 cut?

Posted by: anon | Jan 17, 2013 2:22:42 PM

Following up on anonxiety's comment, is it still worthwhile for a T2 JD (US News #50 or so) who otherwise has strong credentials (top of class, COA clerkship, a few publications, 3-4 years at an elite firm) to pursue an LLM degree from, say Harvard or Columbia? Obviously the time to write would help, but would the degree itself give a leg up on the VAP or entry-level market?

Posted by: EC2 | Jan 17, 2013 2:44:45 PM

anon @ 2:22 --

I don't think so. My impression is that Chicago, NYU and Columbia have all fared about the same over the past several cycles, at least in the aggregate (i.e., ignoring year-by-year variance). I think it used to be the case that Chicago was the clear #4 and might even be closer to Harvard and Stanford than NYU and Columbia, but from what I understand, that isn't really true any more. I also seem to recall that Virginia has placed pretty well in recent years, though I might be misremembering.

Posted by: another anon | Jan 17, 2013 2:49:25 PM

EC2 - If I'm going to be blatantly honest here, yes the LLM from Harvard, Columbia, Yale, or Berkeley would give you a leg up on getting a VAP, BUT the market is in such horrible shape right now that unless you're a tax or other high-demand area, it isn't worth your while (or money). Given the state of legal education, applications, etc., it's virtually guaranteed that you're not going to place on the entry level market any time in the next 5 years or so.

So, to answer anonxiety's direct question, yes, in my opinion a T5 JD degree has become a requirement in the entry-level TT market, at least for now. There are of course exceptions to the rule, and I'm sure we'll see some from this cycle. But before you go down this path, give some very serious thought to the fact that the people who land entry TT positions without a T5 JD (not LLM) degree are truly the exception, and it's more likely than not that if you can land a VAP, you'll have to land several of them and move around every year or two for a while until the TT hiring market rebounds.

Posted by: FARout | Jan 17, 2013 3:26:37 PM

Don't know who FARout is, or the source of his/her information. But as a hiring committee member, I'm skeptical. Yes, it's tough right now. What I'm dubious about is the supposed need for T5/top grades/"CoA clerkship." What top candidates at schools that emphasize scholarship need is an outstanding publication record. Pretty much full stop, assuming that the candidate is at least a credible classroom presence. Ph.D. from a good program in the candidate's field is helpful, but some more than others. Schools that de-emphasize scholarship (which correlates, but not perfectly, with usnwr "tier 4") do have other priorities.

Posted by: BDG | Jan 17, 2013 4:19:20 PM

EC2-- you might apply for something like NYU lawyering, which highly values practice experience and is a great stepping stone to a tt job.

Posted by: your favorite VAP | Jan 17, 2013 4:56:11 PM

Thanks for the responses, much appreciated.

Posted by: EC2 | Jan 17, 2013 8:30:47 PM

EC2, I can't see how my anecdotal experience would be very helpful, but if you're just looking for data points, I went to a law school that is not the top 50 and got two offers on the market this year. One was from a school ranked the same as my alma mater and one (which I accepted) from a top 30ish school. I had a non-COA clerkship, four years of public interest practice, two top-50 law review articles, and am currently doing a VAP.

Posted by: pigeonholed | Jan 17, 2013 10:18:15 PM

pigeonholed, what are your subject areas? The hiring this year appears to be driven heavily by curricular needs.

Posted by: anon | Jan 17, 2013 10:53:33 PM

I also want to reassure those who are not in the top 5 that it can happen. I am a "general subject" candidate (civ pro), went to a law school below 40, and got two offers from great schools this year. It is hard, but so much of this process seems to be proving your commitment (through writing, a VAP or other program, a well-developed research agenda, etc.). These schools are taking a big risk (I've heard so many times that the tenure decision is made at hiring...), and they want to see evidence that you are a low risk proposition. Going to a top 5 school does provide strong evidence of your academic potential, but it's not the only evidence out there.

Posted by: Candidate | Jan 18, 2013 12:44:01 AM

The market is undeniably awful, which has created more of a buyers' market for law schools. That said, the trend, which has been documented on prawfsblawg and other sites, has been that law schools are hiring candidates with a more diverse set of credentials now than they used to. Re armchair candidate's list, I don't think all of that is necessarily essential. My datapoint - I am a T14 grad, not top of my class, no clerkship, but strong work experience and publications, and was hired by a solid T2 school.

Posted by: anon | Jan 18, 2013 9:49:21 AM

I agree with BDG, pigeonholed and Candidate. With a strong publication record you can get a job without having attended at T5 or even a T30 school. Candidates in this category typically need a stronger publication record than those who attended T5 schools.

Posted by: AnonProf | Jan 18, 2013 11:12:16 AM

I'm curious on people's thoughts on the relative strengths of the Yale PhD in Law vs. a Bigelow/Climenko vs. a non-legal-writing fellowship. I know the PhD has gotten some critiques in the blogosphere, but it does seem to allow for a lot more time for writing and networking than the other options.

Posted by: Nona | Jan 18, 2013 11:16:05 AM

My concern is that the Yale Ph.D. program might make candidates look more like students than colleagues of interviewers. VAPs will have actually *taught* and been members of a law school's faculty (albeit not full-fledged members) by the time they attend the Meat Market. Thoughts?

Posted by: anon | Jan 18, 2013 11:20:23 AM

Like I said, there are exceptions to every rule. Congrats to everyone who landed something!

My credentials are this: T2 JD, T14 LLM, T2 VAP, no clerkship, 2 academic publications, a few non-academic (practice) publications, a work in progress and another with research underway, very strong teaching evaluations, and 6 years of relevant and serious practice experience. And I came up empty handed. And most people I know with credentials like mine also came up empty handed.

That's not to say it doesn't happen. It does. Obviously. But it's the exception rather than the rule. So if you're willing to try to beat the odds, go for it. I've obviously done that and realized that I'm not going to beat them. At least, not with the market like this. (I've been told by several unrelated sources, but all sources that I trust, that in better market years, I would've landed a job.) I think most people with JDs from non-T14 schools are or will be in the same boat. And this is something people should know before deciding to move their families and leave a stable job doing something else.

Posted by: FARout | Jan 18, 2013 12:09:32 PM

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