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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

VAPs and Fellowships: Open Thread, 2014-2015

On this thread, comments can be shared regarding news of appointments to VAPs or similar fellowships (for example, the Climenko and Bigelow).  Here is last year's thread.

(If someone wants to aggregate this information, email me, slawsky *at* law *dot* uci *dot* edu, and I will set you up with an embedded spreadsheet.)

Originally published 11/12/14.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on November 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


Anyone hear anything about the thomas grey fellowship?

Posted by: anon | Nov 13, 2014 4:19:26 AM

Chicago Bigelow did some screening interviews in early/mid October. Have heard they have done some callbacks. Haven't heard anything about Thomas Grey - they sent a confirmation email when I applied but have been silent since.

Posted by: anon | Nov 13, 2014 8:20:23 AM

Does it even make sense to do a VAP nowadays?

Posted by: Anon | Nov 13, 2014 11:26:03 PM

Well, the risk is higher than it used to be, but very few people get tenure track jobs without a vap these days (the percentage is actually going down each year), so it's basically become the coin of the realm...

Posted by: Anon | Nov 14, 2014 9:01:33 AM

Does a VAP make sense? Sadly, the answer, like so much in the law, is "it depends".

Before taking a VAP, you want to make sure you do your due diligence about the program. In particular, you want to ask what former VAPs (within the last few years, not from years ago) have gone on to do. You should also ask about the faculty support that will be provided. Is this a "podium filling" spot, where you are basically on your own in the classroom and in your office, or is there some chance to gain some mentorship and guidance on your teaching / scholarship / etc.? It may be worth it to take the spot without this support, but you should know going in how much you will have to do on your own. Consider whether there is a policy or rule about not hiring VAPs on for full time positions, or if that does happen ("look see" VAPs). Of course, you should ask about teaching load and any service requirements that will be expected of you or that you may want to take part in. In general, the more that will be required of you in the classroom and outside of it, the less time you will have to work on your scholarship. You should also consider the match between what you wish to teach and the requirements of the position. If you are trying to get a doctrinal teaching job, but are in a clinical VAP (or vice versa) that may impact your ability to get a job on the market. Also figure out if the teaching matches the scholarship you want to do. While it doesn't have to match exactly, it is better to present a coherent story on the market than to try to explain why you are teaching, say, business associations, when you are trying to get a job researching and teaching in, say, criminal procedure.

Then, of course, there are the personal and financial considerations that are unique to every individual. Can you afford to take what is often a relatively lower paying job, in an unfamiliar geographic region, for what it likely to be only 9 to 24 months? Will this have an impact on your finances, your family, your children (if any)? Do you have a backup plan if the market doesn't work out the first time (or the second, or the third)? Are you ok moving somewhere for a short time to interact with colleagues that, while well meaning, do not have much incentive to socialize with you (since you are likely to leave shortly)?

Because a VAP has an opportunity cost in terms of a career in the law (especially leaving a big firm), it really isn't a chance to see if you like teaching and scholarship, and then go back if you don't. You should really make sure you have thought through the choice before you decide if it "makes sense" for you.

Posted by: anonandoff | Nov 14, 2014 3:08:17 PM

Does the existence of Yale's new Law PhD program change the role of VAPs? Would it if more schools announced PhD programs? Query, why aren't Canada's PhDs more present on the American law prof market? VAP or Law PhD, that is the question?

Posted by: Anon | Nov 18, 2014 4:21:03 AM

I wouldn't do a VAP these days unless it was at a top program (if even then). You do need one to get a tenure-track job now, but the chances of getting a tenure-track job are so low.

Posted by: anon | Nov 18, 2014 10:20:47 AM

Anon 4:21- Canadian law job market is nowhere near as bad as US. Besides, it's not always easy to move countries, even if its just south of the border.

Posted by: anon | Nov 18, 2014 11:40:40 AM

I wouldn't put a ton of stock into current numbers showing almost all new hires had VAPs. Keep in mind that the market cratered in the 2012-13 hiring season, pretty much after people would have been applying for VAPs would have done so that year. That means that last big wave of first-time VAPs was on the market this year (2014-15). There will be fewer next year, and fewer still the year after that.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do a VAP. You should, especially if you don't think you can publish enough while holding a full time job in practice. But if you think you can produce 2-3 articles while practicing, and especially if you can pick up some adjuncting experience while doing so, I don't think you'll necessarily be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis VAPs.

Posted by: My $0.02 | Nov 18, 2014 3:19:43 PM

If the choice is to choose between a VAP or a PhD in Law abroad, say in Canada or England, which is the better choice? Which would build the better career foundations?

Posted by: Anon | Nov 18, 2014 7:46:46 PM

I would guess that depends on what you want to be researching. I don't see te value in a phd in law overseas if you want to research U.S. federal civil procedure. But if you want to make comparative law your focus that makes sense.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 19, 2014 7:40:27 AM

As far as I can tell, an American phd in econ/poli sci/history/sociology (perhaps in that order) is still the safest way to go.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 19, 2014 9:22:58 AM

An additional explanation for why there aren't a lot of Canadian law PhDs in the US, is that there are not a lot of people with PhDs in law from Canadian programs. There are only ~18 law schools in Canada, and a dozen of those that offer PhDs. I was looking at a program that only accepted two students each year.

I imagine that another consideration in any decision is that one has to pay tuition to do a PhD, while VAPS get paid.

Posted by: anon | Nov 19, 2014 1:09:57 PM

The vast majority of PhDs at good schools actually get full tuition and fee waivers, a living stipend (usually around 30000 a year), and health insurance. It's a pretty sweet deal if you can get it.

Posted by: anon | Nov 19, 2014 7:32:35 PM

To $0.02 at 3:19pm-- Curious about your statement that practicing, adjuncting, and publishing might be as good as a VAP. I've been adjuncting like crazy (three schools, multiple subjects, great reviews) and publishing (several articles, only *just* realize the Expresso game and have my most recent article placed in a top 50 journal-- prior journals were not that good mainly because I didn't really understand the process and was submitting to discipline-specific journals one at a time). I also think my 10+ years of practice would be positively considered (high level government litigation, clerkship, etc.).

I went on the market last year and got moderate interest but only in areas/subject-matters that didn't interest me. I am a female commercial law person and the feedback I've been given is that this should be "marketable." I'm thinking about what I can do in the next few years to improve my prospects. Obviously keep publishing and improve the quality and placement of the scholarship. I was thinking I *needed* a VAP or LLM but was leaning towards a LLM. Financially, both these options would be difficult. The VAP obviously has the greater opportunity cost because I'd have to leave my (wonderful, and second only to teaching full time) job to take a VAP. Do you (and the group) really think a practitioner that can evidence an ability to teach/publish stands a chance without an additional degree and/or VAP?

Posted by: To $0.02 at 3:19pm | Nov 21, 2014 11:23:37 AM

Were the prior journals academic or trade? If they were mostly the latter, that probably explains your lack of success. My guess is you'd have a lot better luck going on the market now with a "legitimate" top 50 piece. If you can place something else in the spring, even better.

I definitely wouldn't do the LLM, unless maybe you went to a worse-regarded school, but even then, the boost you get from "cleansing" your alma mater is modest at best. If you want to get another degree, you might consider a non-law one. Econ or public policy or somesuch. The boost you get from an MA or MPP is probably modest compared to a PhD, but then you'll already be on the road towards a PhD.

In any event, especially given your field and current CV, I really think your best bet is to keep on doing what you're doing. The only alternatives that would significantly boost your chances (vs. just publishing a few more well-placed articles) -- a VAP or a PhD -- would be incredibly risky, and probably not worth it. (Yes, they might increase your chances on the market from 20% to 30% -- but making up some numbers, is it worth a 70% chance of throwing away your current job to get a 10% boost?)

Posted by: My $0.02 | Nov 21, 2014 2:57:37 PM

Thanks for the reply!

Prior pieces were academic, although they were not in "Top 50" law journals. Each piece was industry-specific and I chose (not knowing the difference) a law school with a journal specific to that area of the law. I frankly didn't understand the process of submitting to multiple journals and picked journals that I thought were a "fit" without trying to complete and trade up etc. I've had 4 articles published in scholarly journals plus the one that just got accepted to a top 50. I've also published plenty of non-scholarly pieces but I don't count them.

My JD is from a non-Harvard/Yale law school but just a few rungs down on the list. Top 15.

The only real argument for the LLM (as I see it) is that I should have some traction in a particular area of teaching and there happens to be a LLM program in my geographic area that dovetails with that. And aside from the outlay of $$$ for the LLM, there's no real risk (the way there is with a VAP or PhD). I could do the LLM and continue to work/adjunct teach/publish. I would have to quit my job to VAP or PhD. The LLM program would not upgrade my JD school... my JD school is tiers better than the school offering the LLM.

So this seems to solidify what I was already thinking-- which is that really the only thing I can do now to better my chances are to continue to publish and increase the objective and subjective quality of those pieces.

Your feedback is helpful, I appreciate it.

Posted by: To $0.02 at 3:19pm | Nov 21, 2014 4:18:40 PM

"I wouldn't do a VAP these days unless it was at a top program (if even then). You do need one to get a tenure-track job now, but the chances of getting a tenure-track job are so low."

I would look hard at the performance of prior VAPs. We spend a lot of time mentoring our VAPs. We have had prior VAPs at our "non-top" program get good jobs (and multiple offers) over the last 3 or 4 years, and we have a fellow now with multiple callbacks.

I'm not saying that every program (including ours) will place folks, but I am saying that there is more to the choice than ranking.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Nov 21, 2014 8:20:18 PM

To 11:23 commercial law woman: know what explains your lack of success on the market? The market. It is. Terrible. Under the circumstances it seems unwise to begin a fellowship or VAP or LLM program. Consider yourself fortunate that you enjoy your current job, and recognize that there are forces at work here far more powerful and arbitrary than anyone can control. I'm not sure that Cass Sunstein could be sure to get hired in this market.

Posted by: anon | Nov 22, 2014 1:39:48 AM

I know I am incredibly lucky to have a job I adore. I also am not taking this too personally (i.e. a large part of this is the market and not me). But I have a real calling to teach full time and given that I have to wait out a lousy market, I want to maximize my time over the next few years doing what will most improve my candidacy. All this feedback is helpful. Especially since I actually enjoy working on scholarship so it's no skin off my nose to keep plugging away at that.

Posted by: Commerciallawwoman | Nov 22, 2014 9:11:01 AM

@Commerciallawwoman - One of the few bright spots in the job market for aspiring legal academics is in the "entrepreneurship clinic" space. If you are open to clinical positions, your current publication record should be sufficient to land one of these jobs, which have been popping up all over the place.

Posted by: DontForget | Nov 22, 2014 10:53:15 AM

I have a Canadian PhD from the University of Ottawa. Because the law schools (outside of the top 10) aren't particularly familiar with the idea of a law PhD it hasn't really worked in my favor on the American job market. The idea of the LL.M from a recognizable school, a VAP in a good program, and/or a well-placed publication are still going to take you further than the PhD from Canada. Now that there is one in the U.S. that may change over time, but currently it's not much help, and because it's still a foreign degree it's looked upon with at least some hesitation without a corresponding publication or LL.M at an American school.

Posted by: Anette Sikka | Nov 23, 2014 1:11:41 PM

To Anon | Nov 18, 2014 4:21:03 AM, Anon | Nov 18, 2014 7:46:46 PM, and others:

For US JDs, unless you are sure that the mentorship, instruction, training, focus, and writing in non-US PhD in law programs is the same as what is expected on the US legal market, I would be wary of those degrees as a means to improve success at getting a tenure-track position. I would advise the same caution for US JDS thinking about getting US llm or jsd degrees.

Posted by: anon | Nov 24, 2014 12:19:30 PM

I have some very simple questions because I am only now beginning now to seriously consider the law professor market: Is there a website or blog that I can review regularly that lists all or most available VAPs? When is the VAP application season? Thanks.

Posted by: Ben Siegel | Nov 27, 2014 7:09:51 PM

Ben, you'll find most of what you're looking for by googling and staying current with this thread over time. There are a few (mostly somewhat outdated) lists of VAPs and academic fellowships. Last year's prawfsblawg thread and spreadsheet might be most up to date re which new programs there are and which shut down- http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2013/11/vaps-and-fellowships-open-thread-2013-2014.html. There's also http://web.law.columbia.edu/law-teaching/services-current-candidates/fellowships-vaps, http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2012/09/fellowships-for-aspiring.html, and some would probably suggest checking out http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2013/02/are-we-sustaining-a-vap-trap.html and http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2014/05/for-prospective-fellows-and-vaps.html.

Apolication due dates range from aug/September through maybe feb/March- it varies widely by program and some operate on a rolling basis.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 28, 2014 9:20:03 AM

So has it been complete silence everywhere except the Bigelow (mentioned in the second post)? In past years, many programs would have at least started phone interviews before December.

Posted by: Vapplicant | Dec 7, 2014 9:50:11 AM

Second Vapplicant's question, and in particular, does anyone have info on whether Climenko has been interviewing yet?

Posted by: anon456 | Dec 7, 2014 3:13:25 PM

I haven't heard of any other programs (besides Bigelow) doing interviews yet, which is surprising. Did any of the programs interview people at AALS this year? Stanford Grey, NYU Lawyering and others have done that in the past, but it doesn't look like there were any reports on the hiring thread about that.

With respect to Climenko, the only information I have to add is that they gave some indication of timing in the email they sent with the voluntary identification form (which I assume everyone got?): "We are in the process of reviewing applications and will be conducting interviews throughout the fall. We hope to have the process completed by early 2015."

On another note, does anyone know if Northwestern will be accepting VAP applications? The website says to check in the fall for updates... but nothing yet.

Posted by: anon | Dec 7, 2014 4:37:48 PM

Still silent here. Has anyone else heard anything?

Posted by: anon | Dec 12, 2014 9:44:29 AM

Couple questions:

1. Is it possible that silence from VAPs (including the top VAPs) is due to places delaying their normal search in light of what appears to be another all-time bad Tenure Track hiring season?

2. Relatedly, do VAPs consider good Tenure Track candidates who happened to fall through the cracks and not receive a TT offer as more attractive prospects than VAP-only applicants who did not go to AALS?

Posted by: anon456 | Dec 15, 2014 12:53:28 PM

Still silent here.

@anon on Dec 7. Called Northwestern - they're not hiring for 2015, still deciding for 2016.

@anon456: On your first question, I've heard this confirmed from a current fellow at one of the places we all applied, as well as a former fellow from a different one. The process may be delayed and the number of open spots shrunk. Blech.

Posted by: anon | Dec 22, 2014 9:36:45 AM

Grey is done--only one this year.

Posted by: anon | Dec 23, 2014 11:44:33 AM

anon456 | Dec 15, 2014 12:53:28 PM,

VAP committees often consider, and hire, persons who went to the hiring conference but did not receive an tenure track offers. There are many excellent people in that group. But don't take for granted that any VAP committee will use the FAR form to search for a viable candidate; instead, contact them directly.

Posted by: AnonProf | Dec 23, 2014 5:15:22 PM

Any updates on the status of Columbia or NYU? The comment about Stanford-Grey hiring only 1 this year, if true, is pretty bleak.

Posted by: anon | Jan 8, 2015 5:57:05 PM

Bigelow rejection (via email).

Posted by: Vapplicant | Jan 9, 2015 9:52:25 PM

^I also received one from Bigelow. And by my reading, the email implied that they only made 2 hires this year.

Posted by: anon | Jan 10, 2015 9:27:25 PM

Wow, it is quite depressing in here.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 10, 2015 4:31:30 AM

Rejection from GTown earlier this week.

Posted by: anon | Feb 19, 2015 10:39:41 AM

I don't know why anyone would leave practice for a fellowship or VAP right now. Open your eyes to the realities of the market.

Posted by: anon | Feb 19, 2015 1:32:34 PM

The realities of the market is that there will likely be an uptick in hiring in 2-3 years. Law school enrollment is picking up, law graduate hiring is up, but there is lag in seeing that reflected in law faculty hiring. If you are truly passionate about being a legal academic, I don't think it's completely foolish to do one of the more respected VAP programs.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 23, 2015 12:46:38 PM

No, enrollment is not picking up. And definitely not at the top-30 law school where I teach. From the insider stats that I've seen, overall enrollments nationwide are continuing to decline.

Posted by: anon | Feb 23, 2015 2:22:56 PM

Even if enrollments stabilize, the reality is that law schools have shifted over the past few years away from podium faculty towards clinical faculty and an increase in teaching loads at the vast majority of schools. Thus, "demand" for podium faculty is structurally and permanently reduced, because schools will need fewer of them to cover the same number of courses and students will earn more credit hours on the experiential side of the curriculum.

My understanding is that the major fellowship schools experienced dismal placement rates of fellows this year.

Posted by: Prof | Feb 23, 2015 5:01:36 PM

enrollment is not picking up. LSAT-takers, law school applications, and enrollment/class-size are still declining. law firm bonuses increased, but that has not yet (if it ever will) trickled down.

Posted by: anon | Mar 4, 2015 12:39:11 PM

I agree the situation is not very good right now, but the number of LSATs taken in February was up 4.4% (and more for 1st-time takers). I would post a link but dont want to get caught in the spam filter.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 4, 2015 1:48:11 PM

Yes, but they were down 9.1% in June and 8.1% in Sept/Oct. So, including the February uptick and a much smaller (0.8%) uptick in December, the total number of LSAT takers for 2014-2015 is still down 3.6%. The only good news is that the rate of reduction is lower than in previous years. But it seems we haven't hit bottom yet.

Figures linked below.

Posted by: LSAC Data | Mar 4, 2015 2:06:35 PM

Email rejection from Yale Law PhD.

Posted by: anon | Mar 4, 2015 2:31:25 PM

Cornell VAP rejection by email.

Posted by: anon | Mar 11, 2015 11:50:52 AM

The idea that law school enrollment will pick up in a few years, so therefore tenure-track doctrinal hiring will pick up soon after that, depends on a host of tenuous assumptions.

Law schools binge-hired for a decade prior to the downturn. Many have more faculty than they would need at 2010 enrollments, let alone now, when enrollment is down nationally by one-third. As Prof noted a few weeks ago, programs at Harvard, NYU, Columbia, and other elite schools barely placed any fellows this year, even in the clinical programs that are supposedly the bright spot of the new law school model.

Those pushing the "if you truly love this, do it" argument are Pollyannas with no apparent understanding of tradeoffs and risk. Prepare for damage to career and pocketbook if you pursue a fellowship today.

Posted by: anon | Mar 11, 2015 6:15:24 PM

Anyone know about any offers?

Posted by: Anon | Mar 16, 2015 12:16:58 PM

Ding from NYU.

Posted by: anon | Mar 19, 2015 11:52:12 AM

Had a very trying, unpleasant experience with fellowship applications - it's a very very slow process getting applications in, waiting for interviews, doing the interview, and then waiting. Felt strung along at times, the fellows seemed unhappy, and faculty were distant and aloof. A friend also applying for fellowships told me that for the Grey fellowship, Stanford has a straight-up policy of not taking any phds, so don't bother applying if you're in that pool, even if you have some practical experience under your belt.

Posted by: anon | Mar 22, 2015 3:12:40 PM

Is VAP\fellowship hiring over? I haven't heard from several places, including the Climenko, but I assume that they've made decisions by now.

Posted by: anon | Apr 12, 2015 9:59:18 AM

Some top programs (including the Climenko) have renewed current fellows. I assume that means they are taking fewer, if any, fellows this cycle.

Posted by: anon | Apr 13, 2015 5:47:06 PM

Finally got a Climenko ding.

Posted by: anon | May 5, 2015 11:50:13 AM

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