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Friday, July 20, 2012

What Would You Tell Aspiring Law Professors?

Dan was kind enough to note below that I'll be speaking at the upcoming Aspiring Law Professors conference at Arizona State; the details are here. I have heard from several past attendees that they found the conference very useful. I should note in fairness the obvious point that attending is no guarantee of a successful application; I assume the value of the trip will be greatest for those who have a viable shot but would like some serious advice and an opportunity for practice and refinement. 

While I have some thoughts on what I want to say, I would be very happy to solicit any advice about what you would tell aspiring law professors if given the chance. In doing so, I should note two related matters. First, I appreciate the juxtaposition between this post and my recent post about "failing law schools." While hoping to forestall unduly obvious "advice" along the lines of "don't apply at all," "burn down the schools," "withdraw until you have practiced at least 20 years," and so on, I do think the juxtaposition is relevant and, indeed, it's the main reason I was so glad to agree to come. I do intend to bring some of these issues into my talk. I do think people entering a teaching profession, in this or any other time, have an obligation to think about what that position requires of them, including, say, getting to know one's local legal market and becoming actively involved in faculty governance. Second, for better or worse, for purposes of this talk I am taking law schools' hiring preferences as a given. If I ever give a talk to aspiring hiring committee members, my text might differ on this point. In any event, I welcome advice on what advice to give! -- either about how to get a teaching job or about what duties that job entails. I posted the same request on Facebook and got some very useful advice (thank you, "friends"), so I thought I'd ask here as well.   

Posted by Paul Horwitz on July 20, 2012 at 08:37 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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One piece of information that may (or may not) be of interest to aspiring professors that they may not be already be aware of is the prevalence of tenure-track law teaching positions at business schools or other non-law school departments within a university. While the hiring process for these positions is much less centralized than the AALS, these positions may nevertheless be an attractive alternative for those who are unable to secure a position at a law school, or those who would actually prefer teaching non-law students (especially in the current, "law school crisis" environment).

Posted by: Anonity | Jul 20, 2012 9:17:17 AM

I have wondered about the law in business schools positions. What do schools tend to be looking for for those positions in terms of credentials and experience?

Posted by: curious | Jul 20, 2012 9:50:40 AM

I attended this conference in the past and found it to be very helpful, and the participants were very supportive. My advice would be to emphasize to participants about the tremendous amount of serendipity of the process - whether one gets a job in any particular year often has much to do with timing and other factors outside the applicant's control. I knew this going in, and even though I got a job my first time on the market, it was immensely helpful to hear from other current law professors that sometimes it might be necessary to go on the market more than once, and to receive suggestions for how to stay in the game in the interim (by visiting, etc.).

Posted by: anon | Jul 20, 2012 10:09:03 AM

My advice would be to recognise that the legal education market is dangerously unstable and that there is going to be a real contraction at some point in the medium term in the number of law schools - plus growing pressure to cut class sizes, raise faculty workloads and thus effectively prune the faculty. That being the case simple self preservation dictates certain courses of action:

1. Read the tenure agreement or system for any school where you are considering taking a position and ask - where would I be in 3-5 years if this school needs to cut faculty?

2. With respect to item 1, consider the age demographics of the faculty - is it possible or likely that a large proportion of the tenured faculty might be willing to retire? If the faculty is on balance older, their retirement is more likely - and trey may be more willing to accept early retirement buyouts, saving junior faculty.

3. If you currently have a position with a law firm consider asking that firm if you can retain some sort of "of counsel" status while taking up a faculty position. The growing emphasis on practice skills for professors means that keeping some actual practice connection may prove important in the long term.

4. Consider the attitudes of the law school you are proposing to attend towards "practice" orientated legal publications. At this time law faulty get essentially no credit for writing casebooks or treatises on legal topics, while fairly ludicrous monographs and law review articles on subjects very distant form legal practice are regarded as highly prestigious. For a new law professor though, the best long term contributor to employability is likely to be writing casebooks and treatises - which also means that one has to accept that the criticism of the legal academies pretentious to scholarship are well founded.

5. Take a hard look at the law school's finances and what that law school has being dining this year to attract 1Ls - desperate measures denote a desperate position.

6. Consider if the law school belongs on the "law school death list" i.e., is it a law school likely to close. Other than a small law-school specific endowment other factors likely to place the school on that list are:

(a) being private school (all things being equal public schools will probably last longer (but see Rutgers-Camden for a school that looks like it is in "meltdown");

(b) the treatment of the law school historically as a "cash cow" by its host institution (such an institution is likely to close a school that it sees being in long/medium term deficit);

(c) whether the school's facilities are capable of being easily repurposed by the host institution (i.e., the law school is contiguous to a larger campus);

(d) the presence of more highly regarded law schools in the same metropolitan area;

(e) state schools that are nearly as highly regarded nearby with lower tuition;

(f) a public school in a state college system that support more highly ranked schools;

(g) being a "for profit" private law school.

Given that to be a candidate to join the tenured full time faculty of a law school you would need to have graduated from one of the top-six law schools, or have had some very impressive, probably public service practice credentials, there are alternatives to becoming a law professor. If you are in the latter category and say in your 50s, the issues are perhaps different. But for a law graduate in their late 20s to early 40s, perhaps carrying law school debt, you need to recognise that there probably is no easy way back to practice from being a law professor. Most practicing lawyers hold professors in bemused contempt, especially those with the 2-3 years of "practice" that many hold. That situation behooves careful consideration of when and how, or even if one should move to academia because it may be an irreversible decision. It also means that new law professors need to consider how that can balance the current predilection of faculty towards impracticality with the growing need and demand for a more practice orientated professoriate. Get this right and you may have a career.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 10:34:29 AM

One last comment - beware of some autocorrect features, unless you are very careful pretentions seems to always be changed to pretentious

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 10:37:53 AM

My advice would include an observation of the fact that hundreds of law profs start and end their (happy and intellectually rewarding) careers at the same law school. That's not the message one gets from the hypercompetitive types who offer tips about how everyone, including entry levels, should always be looking to move up the law school food chain. While advice about moving up is useful for some, all should hear that that's not the only model for satisafaction, success, and respect in this great and noble profession. Quite the contrary. New profs who are willing to invest deeply in the development of their institution and the success of each of their students, even if at the expense of some of their own scholarly reputation, can be very happy too. There are many happy types out here who strike the balance(s) differently. I would emphasize to these aspiring profs the full range.

Posted by: David Dudley Field | Jul 20, 2012 10:51:27 AM


In my experience it is hard to generalize exactly what b-schools are looking for when hiring legal scholars. In the case of the top ranked b-schools, the desired qualifications would likely be much the same as on the law school market (strong academic credentials, a promising publication history, etc.). Meanwhile, in some cases lower-ranked programs may place less emphasis on research history, and instead prioritize prior teaching experience and/or significant practice experience. Other institutions favor candidates with an MBA or other advanced business-related degree. It really depends on the school, and what they need the candidate to teach.

Posted by: Anonity | Jul 20, 2012 10:53:50 AM

Vaguely apropos of DDF's comment: Can hiring committees in "flyover states" please stop being so anxious and defensive about their geographic locations, i.e., stop scouring candidates cvs for evidence of having lived in the midwest or rural towns; stop choosing not to interview candidates they think they can't get; of the candidates they do interview, stop taking seriously only those who offer local bona fides? In this market, the answer to the question, Where would you like to live? is Wherever a law school exists that will employ me to do what I've been trained to do. If we prioritized geographic freedom, salary, and other things, we wouldn't be academics.

Posted by: anon | Jul 20, 2012 11:21:15 AM

As an aspiring law prof planning to go on the market this year and attend the Arizona State conference, I wanted to chime in: this thread is a great perspective and fodder for thought. It is hard for many in the stressful throes of the market to think about things such as long-term career implications specifically raised by MacK and DDF (and the others) - hard, but important nevertheless.

A thank you to all of you who pass along your advice and experiences, and how you came out on the other side of the process. Hope to read more from posters in the coming days.

Posted by: Rita Trivedi | Jul 20, 2012 11:46:30 AM

I second Rita's comments about the long-term issues raised above. If we're going on the market, we're going on the market, and we can't even think about these things until December at the earliest. Please give us some advice that is immediately relevant. We are looking to get our feet in the door, not negotiate our contracts or evaluate multiple offers based on the age bracket of the tenured faculty. (At least, not yet.) Most of us won't get multiple offers anyway.

A few more timely questions that would generate useful advice for this point in the process:

1. How can applicants who received JDs from non-T14 schools get noticed for purposes of obtaining a first round interview? (I obviously disagree with MacK's statement that you have to have graduated from a top-6 school and I think last year's hiring reports confirm my point; this is particularly true for those of us with LLMs from top-10 schools and/or fellowships/VAPs and/or appellate clerkships.)

2. When is best to send target packets?

3. Is it possible to have too many references? If so, how many is too many?

4. What makes a job talk stand out for you?

5. How do you redirect a first round interview toward your scholarship if the conversation gets off track?

6. How can applicants with relevant practice experience play up that experience in a way that appeals to committee members?

7. Is it useful to put SSRN top-10 lists on your CV?

8. If we place an article in the August submission cycle, but after the FAR distribution, how do committees prefer we convey that information, and should candidates wait until the expedite process is over to do so?

For those of us who can't afford to attend the conference (sorry Paul), I'm sure we'd love to get feedback and comments here. Thanks in advance for the advice!

Also, Paul, I'd like to hear some of your "advice for committees" even though that's not part of your upcoming talk, particularly if it pertains to one or more of my questions. Again, thanks.

Posted by: FARout | Jul 20, 2012 2:18:52 PM

If you can't make it to this conference, I suggest you do a mock job talk at another conference or with law professor friends/mentors/colleagues. I found the feedback I got on my mock job talk to be incredibly valuable, both for my paper and for the talk itself (I ultimately received two job offers).

Posted by: anon | Jul 20, 2012 3:05:35 PM

The best piece of advice I received when I was on the market last year was to come to terms with the fact that the process is largely out of the candidate's control.

One can obviously spend the next few weeks worrying about whether to include SSRN downloads and alike on one's resume or whether to send targeted letters in late August or early September. (This is not to pick on FARout - these are perfectly reasonable questions, but at the end of the day there is no right or wrong answer to such questions). Similarly, one can completely immerse oneself on the burgeoning literature of what makes a wonderful job talk. However, all of these things might not materially advance the candidate's prospects given that faculties have different expectations and the radically shifting landscape for law schools.

One question that I think all candidates should be able to answer (and that hiring committees might wish to ask) is: "What can you [the candidate] impart to our students that many other equally qualified candidates cannot?" I think that this might be a good way to identify candidates who are truly interested in educating and helping students in these difficult times.

Posted by: Milan | Jul 20, 2012 3:40:31 PM

Having gone through the process last year, I'll offer some insight.

1) Talk to as many people as you can at all stages of the process. Everybody has a different perspective, and you want to gather as many as you can. I practiced for many years before going on the market and was out of touch with my past professors. A few phones calls, lunches, and referrals later, I had an amazing amount of support. Most people in the profession want to help you get here if they can.

2) Stop worrying. By the time you get interviews, the schools are already impressed with something about you. The vast majority will want to get to know you, your style, and determine whether you will fit in at the school. You can fake it, but you won't find a good long-term fit.

3) Do a moot job talk. There is very little good advice about how to do job talks. I put together a talk and gave it to a panel of professors at my alma mater (two of whom were new to the school since I graduated and were helping out of pure kindness). My talk stunk, and they gave me great advice. I ended up with rave reviews on the talk at my call backs. Practice is imperative.

4) Think hard about why you really want to be in this profession. What research drives you? What do you want to do in the classroom? How can your experiences advance your goals in those areas? The thought that you put into those questions will give you what you need for the meat market (other than your scholarship--which you already know well anyway).

Posted by: NewAnonProf | Jul 20, 2012 3:42:48 PM


I think in rejecting my comments you need to consider the nub of what I was saying. If you take a faculty position, become a law professor, that is very likely the end of any possible private practice career. Now for all I know you may be independently wealthy and able to live with no income. But if you are not, you need to seriously consider whether the institution you are joining is going to be around for the sort of career that David Dudley Field. There is a high likelihood that over the next 3-15 years a large number of law schools are either going to close, shrink faculty or freeze faculty pay. If that happens faculty mobility between law schools will be essentially non-existant. It is probably a safe bet that several law schools will close inside the next 9 months. Where will that leave you?

If you have the sort of credentials that can secure a faculty position, they can secure a non-faculty job in public or private practice. That job, with practice experience may, given the current environment, make you a better medium term candidate for faculty - it certainly will make you less vulnerable than a typical new faculty member with the often cited level of no more than 2.6 years of low level practice experience.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 3:59:54 PM

But if you are not, you need to seriously consider whether the institution you are joining is going to be around for the sort of career that David Dudley Field describes.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 4:00:38 PM

Paul -

Great post. I'm going to go to the conference, the question is this year or next, for reasons that I suspect apply to others as well.

For those of us who, like me, are now beginning two-year VAPs and fellowships, and intending to go on the market in fall 2013, do you think it would in general be more valuable to go to this conference this fall or next? Assume that we have received advice about the market and so on from prawfs at our alma maters and in our current programs, but have not done a job talk or an academic interview (apart from the interview to get our current job).

Thank you for all your advice.

Posted by: AnAnonVAP | Jul 20, 2012 4:02:33 PM

For those who didn't realize it immediately, I'll note that MacK appears to be a troll (i.e., s/he knows nothing, is trying to start fights). I'm not going to take the bait, but not much s/he says is true; most is a tired repetition of standard tropes we see occasionally from his/her crowd. Not to say that everything at law schools will be swell, but most of the conclusions s/he draws from the premise that the field will have some uncertainty are ridiculous.

Posted by: BDG | Jul 20, 2012 4:18:15 PM

Actually, BDG, I am a fairly successful international lawyer, with personal offices in several countries, a few law books and a good few articles under my belt, posting today from Europe after the end of a long week - and next week to be at home in the US.

I think you need to absorb one little item of information to ask whether the prediction of law school closings is ridiculous, 47,000 JDs a year, 20,000 odd law jobs. You may make snarky comments about "my crowd," but if I am right I may be reading your resumé before long. In my crowd by the way are commentators ranging from Brian Tamahama - whose book any aspiring law professor should read, and numerous others, who will put hard numbers in front of those here.

Only a fool would think that law schools are not going to face a very painful adjustment shortly - and, not looking for a rise, anyone who cannot recognise that hard reality has no business teaching law. And by that I do mean you.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 4:35:54 PM

Could folks please remember to insult me rather than each other....

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 4:37:59 PM


What crowd is that? The 45% of the class of 2011 who are working (or unemployed) in jobs not requiring bar passage?

Uncertainty? Talk about the understatement of the year. Law schools will start closing, and potential professors should take that into consideration. How much longer do you really think this can last? LSAT takers and enrolling classes are down.

This is no attempt to start a fight. Just an attempt to make you aware of the obvious.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 20, 2012 4:42:47 PM

Horwitz -- what is this frivolous trash? Get back to your First Amendment work!

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Jul 20, 2012 4:57:53 PM

Incidentally "Horowitz" it is hard to insult you after reading your draft paper "What Ails the law Schools" since you are quite evidently aware that of the serious issues confronting the legal academy. I do disagree with you analysis of the solutions, none of which address the massive overcapacity problem or the need to cut the cost of attendance in real terms (which means perforce cutting tuition and faculty payroll), but compared to say BDG you are very far up the curve on grasping the scale of the problem.

First Amendment writing may be interesting to law professors - but I think that your article on the current situation of the legal academy is a good start, if a little less willing to utter harsh truths than say Brian Tamahama, Deborah Jones Merritt or for that matter Paul Campos (at this point BDG is making evil eye gestures.) Law schools and their faculty need to start thinking very hard about what is happening - denial as the cliché puts it "is not a river in Egypt" or an approach that anyone approaching the practice of law should engage in or be an exemplar of.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 5:19:12 PM

Can folks please get back to giving advice to those of us who are doing this?

I, for one, have already considered the risks and made my move into academics. I'm a VAP. I'm going on the market. I'm not looking for people to tell me I made a bad choice. I am looking for advice about how to increase my chances for success. I assume other candidates are with me. There are plenty of other places to debate the validity of law schools, the future of the institution in general, and law teaching pedagogy.

MacK -- you don't know anything about my candidacy or qualifications. For all you know, I could've clerked for a Supreme Court justice and practiced in the area I want to teach/write for 5-10 years. Maybe try not to be so judgmental when you have such a dearth of information about the people you address.

Paul -- to the extent there are individuals attending the conference who have *not* given these issues thought, and assuming those individuals are still clerking or in the early years of practice, please go ahead and raise these issues. I am not suggesting they are not worthy of serious consideration. What I am suggesting, however, is that I suspect many of us have already thought these things through, followed the discourse, etc., and have nonetheless made the decision to go on the market. My understanding of this conference is that it is designed to *help* us, not make us question our decisions. So, my suggestion is to make the scary point, but please do not belabor it. Your slant on it, focusing on the real nature of "service" as it will apply to my generation of faculty, is appreciated and, in my opinion, much more valuable.

AnAnonVAP -- I'd wait until just before you go on the market to attend this conference. You'll likely be able to present/practice the job talk you'll give as a candidate, which perhaps isn't quite ready yet.

Posted by: FARout | Jul 20, 2012 5:52:44 PM


If you think I am judging you (as opposed to say BDG) you are a little too self-impressed, but that is OK, you want to be a law professor and this is part of the job description.

By your own statements you are not a graduate of a T6 or T14 school and that makes it pretty unlikely, though not impossible that you are a former supreme court clerk. Similarly part of your complaint was that the points I and others had made related to candidate professors that would have the opportunity to pick and choose between law schools, rather than being someone hoping for a faculty offer, any offer.... That make it pretty unlikely that you "practiced in the area I want to teach/write for 5-10 years" but anything is possible. Nonetheless, you posted above as if my original comment was just about you, and well....it wasn't. Indeed this thread is not about you.

At this stage if you are a VAP, you have already started down a path from which a retreat is going to be difficult unless you are on some sort of leave of absence from a very big firm or have absolutely stellar practice credentials. You will of course note that my reference to practice experience of law professors was of "typical" professors and not just about you - or maybe you did not catch that (though if you had "practiced for 5-10 years" you might have.)

In any event, for anyone who is not FARout - a very hard look at where the profession of law professor (which is pretty separate at this point from lawyer) is going is advisable, and the medium term prospects of any law school that makes them an offer. Even for a VAP there may still be alternatives to say Cooley or others that make more sense.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 6:26:22 PM


You have a point. You have made it. Thank you - genuinely.

Now, kindly stop dominating the thread so that others, who may have other types of advice to offer more along the lines of what Paul was soliciting (i.e., substantive advice on *how* to get a teaching job, not whether), may speak.


PS Thanks also to FARout.

Posted by: AnAnonVAP | Jul 20, 2012 6:40:57 PM

Re FARout's numbered questions, I would contribute the following thoughts...

(1) There are many profs out here who didn't go to elite schools, so don't despair. Publications will get you noticed. Contacts can get you an interview. A targeted letter followed up by an email to the hiring committee at school can make a difference; but don't be a pest--show your interest and let the process run its course.

(3) I don't think it's possible to have too many references. I always love long lists because it makes it more likely that they'll be someone on the list that I know/trust. The downside of a long list, of course, is that you'd prefer people to contact your strongest reference--and on a long list, some recommenders won't know you as well as others. But I don't think there's a downside to a long list from the hiring committee's perspective.

(4) For me personally, I want to see (i) that you are genuinely enthused about your topic; and (ii) that your enthusiasm leads you to question, dig, wrestle, read, and write. But many colleagues of mine look for something very different. I want many things more than (i) and (ii) in a colleague, but I think it's hard to tell those other things from the job talk; I'll read the paper, talk to your recommenders, and have a conversation with you for those other things.

(5) I would take such questions as a sign that maybe my scholarship isn't their concern. Maybe it's not their primary concern with any of the candidates. Or maybe it's just not their concern with me. I don't think that conversation is off track, though. I would let it go wherever it goes; they're getting to know you.

(6) Practice experience can give you scholarship ideas and it can give you teaching ideas. If, in fact, it has given you scholarship/teaching ideas, mention it. But don't force it if isn't genuine/sincere.

(7) I don't like such information on the CV, but I'm probably in the minority on that. I wouldn't hold it against you.

(8) I would definitely wait until the expedite process is over; and then I would send an email to the hiring chair with an updated CV attached. If I didn't get an email back from the chair within a few days, I would telephone them just to make sure that it was received.

The recommendation (above) to get advice from many sources is spot on. There are many different cultures/types/personalities out here, so eventually you'll hear something that matches what you want to hear. (And I mean that in a good way!)

--Many Times a Hiring Committee Chair

Posted by: David Dudley Field | Jul 20, 2012 7:18:32 PM

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogony.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 7:22:38 PM


Your smug and dismissive response to MacK is unfortunate. MacK's done his homework and, I think, has a pretty accurate pulse on where things are going in law school economics.

Established and respected schools are in dire financial straits right now. Rutgers-Camden may very well be on its death bed. Rutgers-Camden is a T100 school affiliated with New Jersey's flagship university. Despite this status, it has barely filled half of its seats for next month's entering class. In fact, less than a month from 1L orientation, Rutgers-Camden is sending letters to prospective students that have not even applied and is offering them full scholarships with top 40% retention stipulations. This is breathtaking and the rapid pace of Camden's decline should give everyone pause. Here's a link to prospective students talking about Camden's plight.


The word is out and I fear the damage to its reputation is irreversible at this point. Conventional wisdom on TLS and other sites has shifted greatly. For many prospective students, Georgetown or UVA at sticker are now seen as bad bets.

As noted above, all the industry needs is for one reputable school affiliated with a major university to close. Once this happens, I suspect a wave of closures will ensue. No one wants to be first, but once someone closes their law school, others will follow suit as they increasingly become financial millstones. Schools are expanding tuition cross-subsidization and discounting in a desperate rearguard action to preserve their USNews rankings.

Finally, I don't know how much longer the "independents" can hold out, especially as they engage in deep discounting to fill seats. It wouldn't surprise me if the 2013-14 or 2014-15 were the final academic years for places like New York Law School, Albany, or Brooklyn Law. They will be bleeding red ink this coming year to hold the line on incoming class LSAT/GPA.

Posted by: Voodoo94 | Jul 20, 2012 8:03:41 PM

David - thank you!

Posted by: FARout | Jul 20, 2012 8:05:34 PM

A quick note to thank you for all the valuable comments, both positive and negative, on this post and the failing law schools post. Further comments via email are also welcome! I would have liked to have had many immediate answers and comebacks, but 1) time pressures today (the Batman movie is, like, really really long. Seriously. It's like the Ring Cycle, if the Ring Cycle had more CGI and only about two notes in the score.) 2) When I ask for feedback like this, it's because I genuinely want to get input from the relevant stakeholders rather than thinking I know everything. All I can promise is that, both as to the talk and the paper, I will keep these comments (and any others) close, give them serious thought, and try to make changes where I think it appropriate and feasible. Neither will satisfy everyone, but I will have tried to seriously listen and respond. Again, thanks. (And thanks for calling me a jerk, Marc.)

Because so much was expended on this question and it would seem somehow not right to have others attacking each other without putting my cards on the table, I'll offer a couple short words on this subject. As I mention briefly in the review, I'm skeptical that there will be a large number of law school closures in the mid-term, and very skeptical that there will be several closures in the next nine months. I've been wrong before, of course! Divination was my lowest mark at Hogwarts. My view is, I think, just an educated guess, not unaware of the context and the economics (I've followed the discussion closely on other blogs) but also judging, based on experience and a certain perverse brand of fatalism about institutions talent at avoiding short-term remedies, including badly needed ones, to problems such as these. As I say, I could be wrong. I don't think my view on this depends on whether I think closures are a good or bad thing, just whether I feel confident saying a bunch are necessarily coming, let alone necessarily soon. I could, on the other hand, foresee (or, given current events, see) resources crunches at more law schools, more things like class reductions, and so on. Perhaps there will be closures too; I'm just more conservative in my risk assessment about that than some others. But I appreciate the discussion. I do think teaching candidates ought to think about the environment they're going to be teaching in and what resource constraints it may involve for them in the nearer and longer future. More important, they ought to think about the challenges, commitments, and duties and moral obligations to the students at those schools, both pedagogically, financially, etc.

Again, for what its worth, thanks. I'll try to listen and continue listening and incorporate advice. Anything I don't cover in the talk I'll try to put up here, and I may post the talk on SSRN for what little it's worth.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 11:42:41 PM

Correction: "My view is, I think, just an educated guess, not unaware of the context and the economics (I've followed the discussion closely on other blogs) but also based on experience and a certain perverse brand of fatalism about institutions' talent at avoiding short-term remedies, including badly needed ones, for problems such as these.'

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 11:46:31 PM

"How can applicants who received JDs from non-T14 schools get noticed for purposes of obtaining a first round interview? (I obviously disagree with MacK's statement that you have to have graduated from a top-6 school and I think last year's hiring reports confirm my point; this is particularly true for those of us with LLMs from top-10 schools and/or fellowships/VAPs and/or appellate clerkships.)"

I didn't graduate from a top14 school, but did get an LLM from HYS, did a fellowship and a VAP and had absolutely no luck on the market. I had great references, numerous publications, the whole 9 yards, but here is the damn awful truth:

If you didn't get your JD from a top school, it is very unlikely that you'll get a law professor job.

The schools are just too status obsessed. Hell, how many law professors are "doing scholarship" or blog entries on rankings of some sort: law review articles, ssrn downloads, blog traffic.

It's just so pathetic.

Posted by: justme | Jul 20, 2012 11:48:33 PM

It is good to have multiple references. But you want to make sure they are very strong references, people who really know you and your work. It is usually very easy to tell when that is not the case.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 20, 2012 11:53:11 PM


I think it just depends on what a person means by short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Next year? Probably not. Five-ten years? That could be it. Like others have suggested, it only takes one.

In any event, potential professors should be be aware, just like potential law students.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 20, 2012 11:57:54 PM

I think they are aware.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 12:14:19 AM

Say I write in fields A and B but propose to teach in A, B, C, D, E, F and G. I also have geographical constraints due to my spouse's job. If the schools I hope to target are hiring not in A or B but instead in F and G, how can I present myself as the best candidate, given I will be competing against people who write in F and G? Do I need to profess passion for those topics, claim I hope to write on them next, prepare an alternate jobtalk, or just try to prove myself a generally qualified candidate who badly wants to join that faculty and will cover those classes effectively while writing on A and B?

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer and for your other comments on the thread! I too have to miss the AZ conference as the meatmarket will exhaust my conference budget.

Posted by: anothervapper | Jul 21, 2012 12:36:58 AM

Any thoughts on how/whether to simply and briefly acknowledge to interviewers the "crisis" discussed above, so as to avoid seeming oblivious of it but also avoid annoying anyone? Or is appearing oblivious actually preferable to reminding the committee and depressing everyone?

Posted by: juniorminted | Jul 21, 2012 12:42:43 AM

I think the last option would be best. Any schools that would mark you down because you have not written in F and G are not likely to be mollified by your promise to write in F and G some day. I suppose an alternate talk in F and G, if that is what you mean, might be taken as an indication that you will write on the subject. That would have the advantage of letting them know how you might handle the subjects. But overall it would be best to lead with your strengths, and express your willingness to be flexible in your teaching.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 12:54:48 AM

Along the lines of FARout's questions, since I also will not be able to attend the conference but would love some advice from professors outside of my own law school, I would be greatly appreciative if someone(s) could attempt the following questions:

1. How do you feel about PhDs after a JD as means of enhancing one's chances on the faculty job market? Is it enough of a plus if from a to get someone over the stigma of having a JD from the lower end of the t-14 (say you would hypothetically end up as a JD from Northwestern, Dphil Politics from Oxford)? Or is it outweighed as a liability since, if you don't get a faculty job, no law firm/govt. agency/non-profit law org, will ever hire you once you have a PhD after a JD (and is this a correct assumption)?

2. What kind of publications record do you need to get to the interview stage, again assuming you're coming from a place like Northwestern not a place like Yale. I have heard everything from that you only need a note, and a post-JD journal article at another school, any other school, to the idea that the more publications the better even if they are in secondary journals of lower ranked schools, provided that all your publications are of high quality in content - to perhaps most discouragingly that you need at least one, probably more than one, article in a top-10 or top-5 journal to get a TT job. Anyone have an opinion on what the situation is with this?

3. Say you've been on the AALS market and you don't get a job. Your fellowship/phd/VAP is about to end. You have no non-academic legal work history because you always wanted to be a professor, and already spent several post-JD years preparing for it. What do you do *then*? I would think that, even with top grades from a good law school, spending 1-4 years doing something that was obviously intended as preparation for a law teaching position would not endear a candidate to traditional law firms (but would it utterly rule them out?) - but is there a fall back career path? Or do people who don't get jobs at the AALS market just have to work at McDonalds for the rest of their lives?


Posted by: AnonRecentGrad | Jul 21, 2012 1:13:39 AM

A follow up:

4. If you have primary research interests where supply vastly outstrips demand (legal theory and constitutional law) should you try to develop a publication record in another active research interest that might have a better supply to demand ratio - or is this pointless as long as you can present yourself as someone who is competent to teach the more in demand areas?

5. What *are* the in demand research areas that a hiring committee would most like to see entry level profs write in? Obviously people should write what they are interested in and can make a meaningful contribution to, but sometimes you can go in certain directions that are more marketable than others, if you know which ones are most marketable.

Posted by: AnonRecentGrad | Jul 21, 2012 1:18:55 AM

Having went on the market last year and received 4 interviews and 3 offers, I would tell people to be confident in yourself and stop worrying about statistics. If you want to work in this profession and you have passion for it and are open to live anywhere, you will find an opportunity. I graduated from a 4th tier law school and was not a top 10% student. So what I lacked from an educational perspective I had to overcome with subject-matter expertise, a willingness to be open to all possible job opportunities, exceptional references from people who know that you can't always measure talent by looking at the stat sheet (err I mean FAR), insightful scholarship, and the determination to prove that I have star potential in academia.

Also, every industry at some point will hit a downturn, it is inevitable. Law schools are not immune. It's our turn. If you walk into a career worried about being downsized, you are doomed before you start. You cannot predict the future. But you should go into it eyes-open and make smart choices based on the opportunities before you. If you are lucky enough to have to choose between offers, look closely at the economics surrounding the school. If you are not so lucky, jump into the mix anyway. What's the worst that could happen, you get downsized? Lesser people than you have survived worse! It happens, you will be ok. I wish you aspiring profs much success on this endeavor!

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 21, 2012 5:58:15 AM


Regarding your third question, if I were in that position I'd broadly apply for one-year visiting gigs in the spring. Alternatively, I'd consider some of the type of programs Anonity mentioned above.

Posted by: Anonymoose | Jul 21, 2012 9:47:05 AM

Thanks, CHS!

Posted by: anothervapper | Jul 21, 2012 11:59:12 AM


Were your other two offers from accredited schools? Appalachian near the very top of my "schools that will likely close soon" list.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 21, 2012 2:56:30 PM

On the top of your list? Well, that settles everything!

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 3:21:02 PM

Can I download said list on SSRN?

Posted by: meatmarketeer | Jul 21, 2012 3:25:22 PM

meatmarketeer-- perfect.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 3:40:37 PM

Thanks Barb. Sorry my English was not pristine at 6am. And yes, my offers were from accredited schools, but I was drawn to the people at ASL. Knock Appalachian all you want, but it is filled with great people, high integrity and has developed a niche in an underserved area. This niche will ensure it will not "close soon".

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 21, 2012 4:40:45 PM

That is right, Professor Isaac. Appreciation of colleagues, atmosphere, and mission can matter a great deal. Nothing in life is certain. So, we do the best we can.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 4:50:11 PM

Kendall, what do you say about these employment stats: http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=appalachian

I don't know how that "serves" anyone. 180K+ in cost and 28.6% full-time legal employment. You make a depressed area more depressed. AND your school doesn't provide its students salary data. US News has your school as the only accredited school, in the entire country with employment at 9 months under 50%.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 21, 2012 7:21:29 PM

"anothervapper" - I think that one issue that you might face, but did not raise, is how do you successfully convince a committee that you are qualified to teach F and G? I presume that most people write in fields A and B because those are the fields in which they are most qualified and/or the most interested in.

I don't know how you can present yourself as the best candidate against budding academics who both teach and write in F and G. Unless the market in those areas is thin, you have some sort of special advantage that you--for whatever reason--do not choose to exploit by writing about that area of law, etc.

FWIW, I found that during almost every interview I was asked to name my ideal course package. Sometimes I was also asked to defend those choices. So, even if you say that your ideal course package includes F and G, that seems less credible to me than someone who writes in those areas and who would not just be "covering" those classes.

Posted by: on the market (again) | Jul 22, 2012 7:31:00 AM

I think the point is that you have to go with what you have. You are either in the process or you are not. If you haven't written in F and G, you just have written in F and G. There are people who have written in F and G, and it may not be very impressive. They may not have received good marks for their teaching in the fields. Your passion for your subject, and the quality of the work you have done, along with the intangibles that are the inevitable part of any interview process, will be very important. It is not like they are dealing with established scholars. One or two articles in a subject area does not even assure that the person is going to stay interested in that area for long. And most law professors have had the experience of covering classes in subjects that are not their primary interest. It is part if the job. You can look at many careers where people started out teaching and writing in one area, and then dropped it for something else. So, you have no choice but to lead with what you have, and not paralyze yourself by thinking that what you do not have will certainly doom your chances.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 8:34:14 AM

Edit the third sentence -- " you just have not written"

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 8:57:24 AM

At some point, we need to change the expectation fot a JD. Yes, some will go on to become lawyers (even if only 28.6%), but is a legal career the only measurement of success for the degree? It is not. I know plenty of people with law degrees that went on to earn as much if not more money than their lawyer brethren working in fields like human resources, contract analysis & marketing, ethics & compliance, amongst others. If we would widen our perspective on the value of the degree, we would be able to appreciate how the degree can help graduates improve their career and standard of living. I see part of my role as helping my students see this bigger picture so that they don't become disheartened by the rhetoric coming from certain naysayers and doomsday speakers out there. Anon's "truth" does not have to determine the destiny of students at ASL or any other school.

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 22, 2012 11:16:56 AM

I'm no psychic, but if I can predict that this conversation is about to dive back into sharp disagreement, may I remind folks to be civil. I'm loath to cut off the conversation, even though it is moving farther afield from the OP (I assume I won't give a three-hour speech about all these issues!), but I do prefer discussion to be relatively impersonal even when it's sharp.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 22, 2012 11:23:16 AM

Let me be clear on the point I am trying to make.

There are groups of aspiring law professors:

1. Someone coming out of a role which means that they are a "hot property," i.e., attorney general, etc.

2. Someone who, even out of law school, was considering being a law professor;

3. Someone who has already taken steps down the road to being a tenured professor, e.g., a VAP

4. A law professor looking at a lateral transfer.

My comments assume that for the putative professor, they fall into any of these categories. In that case they need to put some serious thought into their alternatives and indeed keeping their future options open. Only the truly delusional see being a law professor as beings a secure alternative in the way my peers (who are now professors as it happens, I checked) 20 years ago saw it (and sorry Paul, I just called BDG delusional (which was better than the more appropriate adjectives.) Given this context, anyone looking at being a law professor needs to consider the alternatives and the consequences of joining the "professoriate" for any alternatives. Moreover, they need to look at the law school they are thinking of joining in the context of a market with 197 law schools than can probably support between 90 and 110.

I am not here going to get into my assessment of certain law schools including Appalachian 's likely future, but I do strongly urge anyone that before they take a further step down the professor track to recognise the harsh reality that there is at least a 50% over capacity in the law-school industry and that the product is dramatically overpriced and that an adjustment seems to already be in progress. It is better to consider that issue now, than to regret in leisure later.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 22, 2012 1:32:17 PM

Law schools are in the process of deciding how to proceed at this time. Between their deliberations, the vast amount of information out there about this topic-- people in the academy are discussing this-- and the thoughtfulness of the people on the market, we can assume that most people who are entering this endeavor are thinking things through. The people I know who have been through this kept their options open.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 1:46:33 PM


With the exception of practicing law, anything you can do with a law degree, you can do without one. HR? The total cost of attendance for a 1L at Appalachian state is more than 31,000. That doesn't even include cost of living. And that's in state. General in state graduate tuition is about four grand for a year. That's a pretty big difference.

There's considerations beyond cost. An MBA takes less time. It's more geared towards business. A person with one has a better shot than a person with a law degree at getting a business job.

A few successful non-attorney lawyers doesn't change the fact that the JD is not a versatile degree. If that's true, then why are 33% of the class of 2011 underemployed and unemployed?

So, forgive me if it sounds like you're telling people they should spend too much to get a degree they don't need for a job they probably can't get.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 22, 2012 1:50:01 PM

I'm not sure we want to elevate business schools into bastions of good debt-free opportunity.

According to US News:

"On average, the 135 business schools that reported graduates' employment data to U.S. News and had at least 20 graduates seeking jobs had 57.7 percent of their graduates employed at graduation. The number of newest alumni who were employed leapt to 78.7 percent, on average, three months after graduation."

As for the level of indebtedness:

These 10 business schools graduated students with the heaviest average debt loads in 2011, based on school-reported data to U.S. News:

Business school (name) (state) Average indebtedness U.S. News b-school rank
Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) $96, 805 12
Dartmouth College (Tuck) (NH) $96,346 9
Yale University (CT) $93,723 10
University Of Michigan—Ann Arbor (Ross) $93,602 13
University of Virginia (Darden) $90,949 13
Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) $90,200 4
Cornell University (Johnson) (NY) $90,194 16
New York University (Stern) $89,040 11
Vanderbilt University (Owen) (TN) $87,587 25
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) $86,688 4

Posted by: FWIW | Jul 22, 2012 3:50:02 PM

To tie this back to the post, I would tell aspiring law professors to avoid schools that they would not attend themselves.

Kendall, it looks like you missed this article about the "flexible" law degree: http://www.americanlawyer.com/PubArticleALD.jsp?id=1202563363671&Do_Not_Trust_Deans_Bearing_Versatile_Juris_Doctors&slreturn=20120622155338

Posted by: Anon | Jul 22, 2012 3:54:42 PM

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