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Monday, April 08, 2013

Mismatch between expressed subject matter interest and actual appointments in law faculty hiring

Last week at the Faculty Lounge, Dan Filler tabulated the first and second subject matter preferences of the entry level hires reported on Sarah Lawsky's Entry Level Hiring Spreadsheet.  I've compared Prof. Filler's list of subject matter for new hires with Prof. Lawsky's earlier "hiring committees" spreadsheet, in which schools expressed interest in considering candidates in particular subject matter areas.

I calculated the difference between the number of schools that expressed interest in a particular subject area, and the number of new hires that Prof. Filler identifies as focusing on that subject area. 

If there were many more schools interested in a subject matter than hires in that area, this might indicate potential unfulfilled demand for teachers and help identify next year's "hot" areas.  The comparison might also reveal something interesting about how law schools consider subject matter in their actual hiring decisions.

Caveats are in order -- this comparison ignores lateral hires; the information here is self-reported by schools and candidates and may miss some hires; some schools expressed no subject matter preferences (even though they may have had one); some schools expressed many more subject matter interests than they had slots to fill; Prof. Filler's list only includes first and second teaching preferences, so candidates may have met subject matter preferences in their other identified listings.

The tabulation is available in spreadsheet form here and appears below.

Some observations. The biggest mismatch was in tax. Fourteen schools expressed an interest in hiring a tax teacher, but only three schools hired in that area (-11). This suggests there may be continued interest in tax next year.

The next two largest differences were for Commercial Law and Evidence. Eight schools expressed interest in hiring in each of those fields, but there were no hires in those areas on Prof. Filler's calculation. 

An explanation in both cases may be that candidates were hired to fill those teaching needs even though they had expressed other subject area preferences first/second.  Only five schools expressed an interest in hiring Civil Procedure teachers, but there were ten hires in that area (+5).  Perhaps those candidates are being reoriented towards an Evidence teaching load.  Similarly, only two schools expressed an interest in hiring contracts but there were five hires in the area (+3). Perhaps candidates interested in teaching Contracts are expected to cover related Commercial Law needs. 

In two areas -- T & E/Wills and Torts, there were a number of expressions of interest (six and five, respectively), and no hires (-6 and -5).  In Con Law, only two schools expressed interest, but there were six hires (+4).

The success of civil procedure and con law candidates even in the face of relatively lower expressed interested in those fields may be an indication of the relative strength of candidates in those subject matter areas (at least relative strength as perceived by hiring faculties).  My own school has hired in the con law or civil procedure areas in each of the last three years, and I can say that in each year there have been many more appealing candidates than we had on-campus interview slots to accommodate.

 

Posted by Geoffrey Rapp on April 8, 2013 at 09:39 AM in Entry Level Hiring Report, Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Teaching Law | Permalink

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I teach commercial law courses and had a good slate of screening interviews at the FRC. I didn't get a TT job from that process and most schools appear not to have hired. They are either filling with visitors or continuing to muddle through. I expect that commercial law courses are courses that schools believe they can adequately fill with adjuncts, etc. and so aren't anyone's highest priority.

Posted by: VAP | Apr 8, 2013 10:14:38 AM

VAP, I've seen the same happen in corporate & securities. Hiring committees turn up their noses at corporate candidates who place in T50-70 journals and swoon over civ pro candidates who place their papers of roughly equal quality as those of corporate candidates in T15-30 journal. With few business law professors on the faculty (and even fewer on the hiring committee), the business candidates can't jump the first hurdle. It's sad for the candidates and depressing for us working in the area.

Posted by: Assistant Prof | Apr 8, 2013 11:19:34 AM

how complete is the entry level hiring report right now? time for a bump soon (or maybe this post suffices).

Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2013 11:24:41 AM

Are the set of schools the same across both categories? (In other words, if State University A listed tax as a need, but there are no hires at State U A in the entry level hiring thread, is it still included in the "needs" count?)

Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2013 11:50:21 AM

11:50:21 anon, my count didn't exclude schools that haven't posted an entry level hire. Two schools to date reported "no entry level hiring" - Florida and Wisconsin. The former expressed no subject matter preferences in the "hiring chair" post and the latter did not post anything on that first "hiring chair" call-out.

Posted by: Geoffrey Rapp | Apr 8, 2013 12:50:16 PM

Very interesting--thanks, and thanks to Sarah Lawsky for compiling the hiring data.

WRT the completeness of the entry level hiring report, there were definitely a number of additional new TT hires made this year. I hope someone bumps the call for info and posts notices on other law prof blogs.

And thanks again for this analysis!

Posted by: Anon | Apr 8, 2013 12:57:19 PM

My understanding is that the FAR advertisements may be due well before a committee meets to discuss its hiring priorities. That might explain the mismatch in some cases.

Posted by: andy | Apr 8, 2013 2:56:53 PM

My understanding is that the FAR advertisements may be due well before a committee meets to discuss its hiring priorities. That might explain the mismatch in some cases.

Posted by: andy | Apr 8, 2013 2:56:57 PM

My understanding is that the FAR advertisements may be due well before a committee meets to discuss its hiring priorities. That might explain the mismatch in some cases.

Posted by: andy | Apr 8, 2013 2:57:03 PM

Sorry for the triple post. $!#^@$%! google chrome.

Posted by: andy | Apr 8, 2013 3:11:57 PM

I would be cautious about generalizing from such small & very incomplete numbers. I don't think Filler's spreadsheet is comprehensive (of course it isn't meant to me -- just observing). Also, not clear why he excluded third preferences, since the norm is that first three preferences are all that matters, but that their order does not.

Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2013 4:00:34 PM

I would be cautious about generalizing from such small & very incomplete numbers. I don't think Filler's spreadsheet is comprehensive (of course it isn't meant to me -- just observing). Also, not clear why he excluded third preferences, since the norm is that first three preferences are all that matters, but that their order does not.

Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2013 4:00:38 PM

I would be cautious about generalizing from such small & very incomplete numbers. I don't think Filler's spreadsheet is comprehensive (of course it isn't meant to me -- just observing). Also, not clear why he excluded third preferences, since the norm is that first three preferences are all that matters, but that their order does not.

Posted by: anon | Apr 8, 2013 4:00:48 PM

VAP writes: "I teach commercial law courses and had a good slate of screening interviews at the FRC. I didn't get a TT job from that process and most schools appear not to have hired. They are either filling with visitors or continuing to muddle through. I expect that commercial law courses are courses that schools believe they can adequately fill with adjuncts, etc. and so aren't anyone's highest priority"

In my perhaps anecdotal experience, faculties have a hard time hiring commercial law profs because most existing profs aren't sure how to assess how good the applicants are. The appointments committee can go through the AALS book and pick the best commercial law candidates on paper for a 1st round interview. That's the easy part. But then it's relatively hard to figure out quality given that most profs have no expertise to figure that out, so things often stall at the call back /offer stage when existing profs are waiting to be "wowed" by a candidate.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 9, 2013 1:07:07 AM

A more cynical version of Orin's point might be that much commercial-law scholarship requires a level of detail and precision that is off-putting to other faculty when they actually have to read the applicant's paper.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Apr 9, 2013 8:11:56 AM

Hi Orin, your explanation sounds accurate (i.e., describes what's going on) but doesn't seem right. Surely a serious hiring committee could recruit the resident commercial law person to serve on the committee or at least take a look at the candidates in that field. Or, barring that, get outside help, as we do at the tenure stage. Schools that don't do that perhaps just aren't serious about hiring in "specialty" fields.

Posted by: Assistant Prof | Apr 9, 2013 8:27:21 AM

Orin--Is there anything special about commercial law that makes it unusually difficult to evaluate applicants? There are a lot of fields that require some specialized knowledge to evaluate work (eg, tax), and yet every year tax scholars are hired. Or is it just that there are some fields where we think we will know good work when we see it, and others where we don't?

Posted by: chw | Apr 9, 2013 8:42:40 AM

VAP is right. Schools are filling Consumer Bankruptcy and Consumer Law classes with adjuncts, too. I know because that appears to be my fate at the present time, although I want much more. I also wonder about the -6 on the clinical listings because I have applied to several and I know of at least one where they haven't made a decision.

Posted by: Adjunct | Apr 10, 2013 4:28:59 PM

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