« Decision time | Main | Get "PRACTICE READY." Get set. Go! »

Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Clearinghouse for Questions, 2015-2016

In this comment thread to this post, you can ask questions about the law teaching market, and professors or others can weigh in.

Both questions and answers can be anonymous, but I will delete pure nastiness, irrelevance, and misinformation. If you see something that you know to be wrong, please feel free to let me know via email, slawsky*at*law*dot*uci*dot*edu.

We have a different thread in which candidates or professors can report 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.

You may want to take a look at the many questions and answers in the threads from 2013-2014 and 2014-2015

Here is a link to the last page of comments.

Originally posted August 27, 2015.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 27, 2015 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


I'd like to kick things off with a few questions about hiring and practice experience. Is it the case that hiring committees and, by extension, fellowships and VAPs, are now trending toward a preference for candidates with more than the previously-standard 1-2 years of practice experience? And if so, does that practice experience need to be directly related to the subjects a candidate hopes to write about and/or teach?

I'm somewhat new to the world of legal academia, and (based on my reading) historically an abundance of practice experience was frowned upon, but recent trends I've heard about have me concerned about having *too little.* (At the time I'd be looking to start a fellowship/VAP, I'd have maybe 1.5 years of law firm experience, plus 2 years of clerking - district and COA.) So please, enlighten me: What is the latest scoop on the age-old practice experience issue?

Posted by: secretidentity | Aug 27, 2015 12:02:47 PM

secretidentity, it depends a bit on what your area of interest is; it matters more for some areas than others. Especially given how bad the market is right now, if I were you I would spend at least one more year in practice than you are currently planning.

Posted by: anon | Aug 27, 2015 5:03:14 PM

We generally do not interview people at AALS who have no practice experience, regardless of the subject area. Clerkships do not count as practice experience.

Posted by: prof | Aug 27, 2015 10:56:02 PM

It depends. As a rule of thumb, the higher ranked the school, the less practice experience matters.

Posted by: anonprof | Aug 28, 2015 2:13:20 AM

Just wondering when applicants not participating in the AALS FRC typically hear back... is it after the conference or are we looking at the same-ish timeline as those going to the AALS recruitment conference? Thanks for any information/insight on this---

Posted by: a-nonny | Aug 28, 2015 12:09:58 PM

What can we expect from the first round interviews at the FRC? Specifically, are they about twenty minutes each? For those who have gone through it before or those familiar with this, what do you think we should know about scheduling interviews?

Posted by: anonjd | Aug 28, 2015 2:29:56 PM

The first-round interviews are scheduled for 30 minutes. Often they take the whole time. Sometimes they don't. The hotel is huge and the interview rooms can be far away from each other, which means it's preferable not to schedule back-to-back interviews if you can avoid it. If you can't avoid it, you probably want to let your interviewers know that you have back-to-back interviews so that they leave you a little leeway for travel time.

Posted by: Prof. Jr. | Aug 28, 2015 4:04:03 PM

As to when non-FAR folks can expect to hear, let me share what my school does. We have spent the last week focusing exclusively on the first distribution. We have now selected those we wish to interview and have contacted them (leaving some slots open for those in the second distribution and, if we don't find any there that we like, we may return and fill those slots with some of the other folks in the first distribution that we liked).

We will now turn our attention to those who have applied directly to the school (i.e., not in the FAR). We'll probably start giving phone interviews next week to those we like, and we'll continue that up until the hiring conference. Our goal will be to determine who we wish to invite for callbacks at the end of the hiring conference--thus, we'll need to get all phone interviews with laterals completed by then.

I offer this for what it's worth.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 28, 2015 5:40:44 PM

Lateral question: "I have a friend" who is a junior looking at the lateral market. V. strong publication record, but working primarily in an area without a lot of demand. "My friend" actually wants (genuinely, not just strategically for the market) to do some teaching in an area with a good bit more demand, but hasn't been able to pick up that course at current school. It would not be a primary research area, but "my friend" would love to teach it (and is capable of doing so).

Is there a good way to credibly signal a willingness and ability to switch/tinker with teaching fields on the lateral market?

(Publish in that area is one option, but considering timing that probably will only help with next year's market. What to do for this year?)

Posted by: Larry Lateral | Aug 29, 2015 12:03:09 AM

Larry, that's hard, because the ways of showing serious interest in another field are by their nature time-consuming: Short-term ways can be suspect because, being short-term, they might not be genuine. One idea: Your friend could guest-blog somewhere on new topic X, or write a short piece on topic X for an online journal that has a quicker publication schedule. But it's hard to say if any short-term effort will be taken particularly seriously.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Aug 29, 2015 12:29:14 AM

Larry, you can also start attending conferences in that subject area and perhaps even presenting there (or anywhere, but on topics related to the new field). I also wouldn't hesitate to reach out to hiring chairs at schools you're interested in and just have an honest discussion with them about desires. If I see that someone has been generally successful in their current field (i.e. publications, teaching evaluations, etc), I have no reason to doubt that they'd enjoy similar success in the newer area of interest.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 29, 2015 8:25:15 AM

Larry, you can also start attending conferences in that subject area and perhaps even presenting there (or anywhere, but on topics related to the new field). I also wouldn't hesitate to reach out to hiring chairs at schools you're interested in and just have an honest discussion with them about desires. If I see that someone has been generally successful in their current field (i.e. publications, teaching evaluations, etc), I have no reason to doubt that they'd enjoy similar success in the newer area of interest.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 29, 2015 8:25:19 AM

I have a question for those of you out there who were not in the first distribution but plan to be in the second distribution -- why? I can sometimes find myself guessing that someone is in the second distribution for less-than-impressive reasons like didn't get your materials in in time for the first go around, decided last minute to actually go on the market, etc. Actually, the only good reason I can think of you were waiting to get a placement on an article you sent out in the fall submission cycle. But perhaps I'm missing something -- so that I and and others in charge of hiring better understand, if there's any of you out there who fall into this category, can you share your reasons?

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 29, 2015 8:34:39 AM

Larry, I doubt that you can convince (m)any schools *this* hiring season that you're a credible hire in the high-in-demand area. If you've never taught the class, people will be concerned that your interest is a passing one. Also, your competition will have a track record of publications in the area that you lack. At least my top 20 school would strongly favor a candidate with solid publications in the relevant field over a candidate with stellar publications in another field. In fact, if we're looking to hire in a specific field, you wouldn't make it on the list of candidates to receive polite inquiries. If you are serious, start attending conferences and writing. Ask friends who work in the area to invite you to serve as discussant on a paper by others working in the field, so that people can see that you have interesting things to say.

In short, I would second AnonHiringChair's observation that to be a credible lateral hire in a specialty field, you need to commit to that field. It is nearly impossible to signal commitment without a significant investment of time and effort.

Posted by: Sally Lateral | Aug 29, 2015 9:30:47 AM

Here are two additional lateral questions. First, for those schools looking at lateral candidates -- is there an assumption that laterals would only move up in the rankings or do you try to hire away people who might be willing to take a rankings drop in favor of geography? Second, do you typically only go after people you've identified through your own review of people in the field, welcome inquiries from potential laterals, or both?

Posted by: Anon Lateral | Aug 30, 2015 5:11:03 PM

We contact folks who we think might be attracted to our school for a variety of reasons (better rank, better geography, better environment, etc.). We go after people we've identified and those people we respect have suggested. We welcome inquiries for all junior laterals who think they might be a good match.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 30, 2015 7:46:55 PM

Unusual question for this thread, but I see no better place to ask it: Who is the entry-level hiring chair at HAWAII?

Posted by: Tropical Anon | Aug 31, 2015 10:20:54 AM

While we're on the subject of laterals, please don't send CVs that are more than 10 pages. It's really not as impressive as you might think--in fact, it's a real turn-off. It comes across as, at worst, pretentious and, at best, desperate and trying way too hard. I have never made a decision to interview on the basis of how many times you've presented (just list representative presentations) or which many faculty committees you've been on at your current school (unless you've served as a chair to an important committee, I just assume you were appointed to those committees as part of your service obligation as all faculty are). I also don't need to see more than 3-4 references.

Overall, the more succinct you can make the CV, the more likely I am to 1) actually read the whole thing and 2) focus on your biggest selling points.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Aug 31, 2015 2:03:02 PM

Longest law prof CV ever?

Posted by: Sam | Aug 31, 2015 2:35:54 PM

Re Larry's question: might it make sense for the lateral to try to get a visitorship in the in-demand field? Or would that be just as difficult as getting a tenure track job in the field?

Posted by: ML | Aug 31, 2015 4:12:43 PM

If you're Richard Posner the rules don't apply to you.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Aug 31, 2015 4:20:42 PM

Impossibly quiet this year.

Posted by: anon | Sep 1, 2015 2:50:09 PM

There are no questions. We are all knowing.

Posted by: anon | Sep 2, 2015 10:11:44 AM

Probably because, from the little that has been posted, we're all laterals!

Posted by: Lateral Thinking | Sep 2, 2015 10:19:33 AM

Question: For someone looking to break into academia, how much does placement matter? In my experience, it's tough to place articles if one is not already affiliated with a university or law school. How do potential employers view placements in the lower tier main law reviews or mid-tier specialty journals?

Posted by: Entry Question | Sep 2, 2015 10:39:39 AM

Entry - The short answer is: Poorly. In this market particularly. There are many, many excellent candidates who go on the market from a two-year fellowship at Harvard or Stanford, with top 30 placements, sometimes even much higher, who don't get jobs. You don't have to do a fellowship, but, with few exceptions, you need to place in at least the top 50 to be taken seriously.

Posted by: anon | Sep 2, 2015 12:43:46 PM

A top 50 placement really gets my attention, and I get super excited if you have more than one of those. An entry level candidate though who has a few placements in the top 100 also gets my attention (especially if they haven't had the benefit of a fellowship or VAP to guide them). Placements below that, including placements in obscure specialty journals actually weaken the candidate in my eyes -- more so than if the candidate had no pubs at all actually. Further, the more "bad" placements the candidate has, the less interested I am.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 2, 2015 1:25:47 PM

If a job talk paper is requested before FRC what to submit-- an unpolished work in progress or a recently published paper? Is it possible to do a job talk without submitting a draft?

Posted by: anonywho | Sep 2, 2015 1:53:16 PM

anonywho, if you haven't figured out yet what your job paper is (and yes, you do have to give them a draft) you need to figure that out pronto.

Posted by: anon | Sep 2, 2015 2:38:25 PM

AnonHiringChair, I hope you actually take the time to read the articles and do not just rely on placement. As you know, law students are deciding on these articles and are heavily influenced by letterhead, CV, topic, etc. I'd be willing to bet that the very same article would experience a 50+ ranking-spot swing if submitted from a VAP at Harvard v. a practicing attorney at a regional law firm.

Posted by: AnonProf | Sep 2, 2015 2:45:16 PM

AnonProf, I'm sure that's true to some extent, and I do read the articles (although, I have to say, I often find the placement to be fairly consistent with the quality--at least when we're talking about very high and very low placements). But even taking letterhead bias, pedigree bias, subject matter bias, into account, I think a good article will almost always place out of the 4th tier (and probably the 3rd).

Beyond that, as an appointments committee, our job is to bring in candidates that the faculty will be excited by. If we bring back a candidate with all 4th tier placements or placements in obscure specialty journals, our faculty just isn't going to go for that -- and no amount of "but if you read it, it's pretty good!" is likely to change their mind (especially in this market, where whatever subject matter you seek, you can find a Ph.D. with numerous top placements). Is that fair? Probably not. But I do think it's the reality -- and those in the market should have an understanding of how things are likely to be perceived. That's my only point.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 2, 2015 3:02:45 PM

At my first tier school, we would be most concerned with our perception of the article (particularly the perception of my colleagues in the field) as well as what external people in your area say about the article. We're looking to see signs that you are an extremely promising candidate with a well-thought out research agenda. "placement" wouldn't do much for us.

With that said, this mostly means we don't take "high" placements very seriously. "Low" placements can hurt you.

Posted by: Prof | Sep 2, 2015 3:31:55 PM

Prof, of course, a "high" placement merely gets our attention. The article still has to deliver (in the ways you've identified) to get the offer.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 2, 2015 3:43:14 PM

"I think a good article will almost always place out of the 4th tier (and probably the 3rd)."

I would agree with that, though, I do think it is definitely possible for a very solid article from a practicing attorney to have a tough time breaking into the top-100.

Also, I think hiring committees should really consult subject matter experts regarding specialty journals. Some elite sounding secondary journals are weak, and sometimes a not so impressive sounding secondary journal is actually very well respected.

Posted by: AnonProf | Sep 2, 2015 3:54:18 PM

In the absence of any top-50 law review placements, would good social science journal placements (on law related research, in journals with 1.x or 2.x impact factor) do any good for an applicant with a PhD, or would this publishing outside the law review system actually harm the applicant's chances? How are these sorts of publications viewed by hiring committees?

Posted by: AnonPhD | Sep 2, 2015 6:39:56 PM


A candidate with your profile is really only going to be competitive at very top schools, who would know and care. But they'd also wonder why you weren't looking for a job in the PhD department.

My strong advice to you would be to get practice experience.

Posted by: Prof | Sep 2, 2015 8:52:06 PM

AnonPhD, I roughly agree with Prof (with the exception of "only competitive at very top schools" ---there are strong interdisciplinary people at schools all across the spectrum these days). In terms of other-discipline work, it's a mixed bag. In my experience, most people consider such work a plus, however, there are some who wonder if you're really committed to the law, or who may not have the background to recognize area-specific strengths in work in the allied discipline.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 2, 2015 9:56:34 PM

First world problem: if offered a choice between interviewing Friday and Saturday, is there any reason to prefer one over the other? I have read the advice about not scheduling back to backs, but nothing about ordering or assumptions about different days. Would scheduling on Saturday be perceived badly for any reason?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 3, 2015 6:33:01 PM

6:33 anon - i was on the market recently and the advice i was given was that friday is preferable to saturday, because people get tired. that said, i don't think it sends a bad signal; it might just be better strategically to pick Friday. Also fwiw, back to back isn't as bad as it used to be - my understanding is that once upon a time, you could get into fights about elevator space between interviews. Nowadays, though, the numbers are so diminished that it really isn't an issue - and at least when I did it, everyone was pretty considerate about ending interviews with enough time for me to travel.

Going to the bathroom between back to backs, though, takes a special kind of strategizing.

Posted by: veryjrprof | Sep 3, 2015 6:43:00 PM

Also, Anon, don't underestimate the fact that the process takes some getting used-to. I wouldn't recommend scheduling your first-choice school early on Friday, because you want to get some practice in.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 3, 2015 7:18:31 PM

How many initial interviews will a school customarily schedule for each spot it is planning to fill?

Posted by: anon | Sep 3, 2015 8:58:10 PM

I don't think there's any set number of interview slots per position. My school has between 25 and 30 slots total, and we've already scheduled about a dozen of those. More specifically, we're looking to fill two slots, and we currently have scheduled roughly 6 per subject area need. We'll add more once the second distribution comes out, but we're fine filling less than all our slots if we don't have enough people who have match what we're looking for. Also, we may end up with more interviewees in one of our subject area needs than the other, and that's fine.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 3, 2015 9:05:15 PM

I published a bunch of articles weak venues when a JD student (a lower t14 secondary, sub-top-100 flagship, and a couple of low ranked school's secondary journals) - five years ago when I didn't know better.

I now have an article coming out in what I took to be a decent secondary at a top-5 school.

If the standard is - publishing in the top 30, or at least top 50 flagships, would I be best off leaving my old articles off my CV? I now have a good university affiliation and have some flexibility about my timeline for going on the market, should I now only publish future articles in top 30 flagship journals and resubmit the next year if unsuccessful?

Posted by: I published in some awful journals | Sep 4, 2015 4:17:41 AM

I published in some...,

If you've published well after your student years, then you should be in fine shape for the market. Law faculty looks for excellence in quality, and most (I wish I could say all) of us know that placement is a proxy, and not always an accurate indicator. Moreover, publishing anywhere as a student is a plus, especially in other law schools' journals, because it shows an inner drive for scholarship.

On placement, try for the best you can, but really the main thrust of your effort should be quality. How people will respond is unknowable. In the past five or so years, people have gotten spots in top thirty law schools with placement in the top 5 flagship law reviews, but others during that time accepted offers with second tier publications, and in one case I'm thinking of, a secondary journal in a peer review journal.

The process is quirky, you have little control over what any one member of the faculty will respond to, much less to what an entire faculty (or at least a majority of its members) will react to. So do the best with what you have almost 100% control over, and that's scholarship.

Posted by: AnonProf | Sep 4, 2015 11:47:32 AM

I published in some...

Following up on AnonProf's comments, one of the schools where I got the most traction (I ultimately withdrew when I got an offer elsewhere) spent the whole meat market interview discussing an article I wrote in law school and published in a fourth tier specialty journal a year later (and 7 years before I went on the market). I recall the comment that one interviewer liked the article and she usually hated law & economics work. I joked how pleased I was that they had read it, bringing the sum total to 10 or so.

In other words, you never know. If you wrote it and you think it's good, then stand by it and don't apologize for it and don't worry about it. You never know who will read it and like it. That's not to say that you don't want to publish as well as you can now, of course, but you play the hand you're dealt.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Sep 4, 2015 11:55:49 AM

Strong second to AnonProf's "inner drive for scholarship" comment. If you have several publications while a student or still in practice, the take-away for many if not most committees will be, "this person is a good bet to continue being productive once they actually have time to write." When that is the take-away, placements probably matter much less.

Posted by: guest | Sep 4, 2015 1:17:56 PM

I read that the hot subjects from a few years ago were commercial law, tax and IP. For those hiring or on the market, what are the hot subjects this year?

Posted by: Anony | Sep 5, 2015 7:30:52 AM

Tax, corporate, and clinical seem hot this year. Also, the sub-specialties of energy law and health law seem relatively hot.

Posted by: AnonProf | Sep 5, 2015 12:37:35 PM

Wow. This thread is so incredibly quiet, as is the interview thread. Are schools just moving even more slowly this year? The number of positions have increased a bit, but the process seems slower.

Posted by: Quiet | Sep 7, 2015 1:24:37 PM

I'm not so sure that it's slower this year - I know several people (who are not business or tax) with interviews and have not posted. Although these next two weeks are usually when things pick up.

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2015 2:12:41 PM

What time should we aim to get in on the Thursday of the conference? I can't find any kind of schedule online.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 7, 2015 5:54:59 PM

AALS will send out a conference schedule closer to the event. Last year the Registrants' Workshop was Thursday from 3:30-5:15pm. A podcast of the 2013 workshop is available here: http://www.aals.org/home/resource-materials/. It doesn't change much from year to year. There was also a Religiously Affiliated Law Schools Reception last year on Thursday from 7:30-9:00pm. It is useful to spend time on Thursday locating your interview rooms and getting a feel for the hotel layout, but there is not much in the way of must-do scheduled events. I'd suggest doing the conference registration on Thursday if you can (last year registration was open until 8:00pm), but it is open on Friday and Saturday as well. I highly recommend eating the cookies near the registration area. Another pro tip: throughout the conference there is free coffee in the Registrants' Lounge; don't pay for it at the hotel coffeeshop.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 7, 2015 10:58:32 PM

Maybe people are just not using these PrawfBlawg threads as much this year. Are people scared to share?

Posted by: Anon2 | Sep 9, 2015 8:37:31 AM

I think part of it is that there a lot of repeat players for whom this is not their first time on the market, so they don't have questions.

Posted by: anon | Sep 9, 2015 8:51:30 AM

Thanks anon @8:51. That explains the relative silence on this thread, though I am not sure it explains the relative silence on the interview reporting thread. Just trying to determine whether not having any interviews scheduled yet means I am doomed.

Posted by: Anon2 | Sep 9, 2015 9:14:10 AM

@Anon2: I've been told not to worry that I only have one screener lined up thus far because I'm not in the niche areas that appear to be filling up and many of the top schools are moving slowly. I've also been told not to post my interviews in the other thread, so I'm contributing to the silence.

Posted by: anon | Sep 9, 2015 10:22:03 AM


Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 9, 2015 10:53:54 AM

Anon2: Seconding the advice not to worry at this stage. Last year, a handful of schools moved early, but things didn't really start to heat up until mid-September. I see no reason why the timing would be dramatically different this year; if anything, the timing of Labor Day might push it slightly later.

Posted by: Ellie Entry-Level | Sep 9, 2015 11:41:23 AM

Anonywho wrote above: "Is it possible to do a job talk without submitting a draft?"

I did this, on the advice of one of the few professors I knew, and it was pretty much a disaster. I haven't seen anyone do it since.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 9, 2015 12:34:32 PM

Brian Leiter posts on the request for "teaching statements":


It may be useful to keep an eye on the comments to that post.

Posted by: Sarah Lawsky | Sep 9, 2015 1:57:33 PM

Post a comment