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Friday, September 01, 2017

A Clearinghouse for Questions, 2017-2018

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, sarah*dot*lawsky*at*law*dot*northwestern*dot*edu.

After the AALS hiring conference, there will be 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 2014-20152015-2016, and 2016-2017.

Originally posted September 1, 2017. 

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on September 1, 2017 at 12:31 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


Silly question, but when a school asks for a writing sample, do they mean the job talk? Or previous publications?

Posted by: newb | Sep 1, 2017 1:54:39 PM

Not a stupid question - I had the same one. Do they want the job talk paper (ostensibly still a work in progress) or something published and polished and put to bed? Excited to get this party started!

Posted by: littleprof | Sep 1, 2017 2:55:11 PM

When should we expect to start hearing from recruiting committees?

Posted by: hopeful | Sep 1, 2017 3:08:53 PM

@hopeful - I imagine not before early the week after next. The first distribution is the 7th and even if some particularly enterprising committees meet the *day* after, it would probably take them a few days to start making calls. I'd guess it's more likely first meetings will happen the week of the 11th.

Posted by: anon 1:44 | Sep 1, 2017 3:30:12 PM

newb, I haven't been on an appointments committee in a while, but I'm not sure there is a universal answer. It may make the most sense to ask the person who asked for the writing sample to find out what they want.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 1, 2017 6:07:32 PM

Last year I got an email at 9am on September 2 asking for my job talk paper (iirc the distribution went out on Sept 1). My first interview request came on September 8. I was not a an impressive candidate (relative to the pool) so I imagine others heard even earlier.

Posted by: Secondtimearound | Sep 1, 2017 6:14:47 PM

I know the purpose of the thread is to ask questions, but let me instead make a request to members of appointments committees who may be reading: Please do your best to communicate with candidates about where they stand, whether the news is good or bad. In particular, if you interview someone and their candidacy isn't going anywhere, please tell them that. Sure, it's no fun to give bad news. But it's much worse to be so rude that you won't bother to tell candidates it didn't work out. Candidates can't plan their futures if they don't know where they stand, so please try to keep them in the loop.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 1, 2017 6:21:31 PM

Do job talk papers need to be works in progress? Or can they be recently published or accepted for publication?

Posted by: anon | Sep 1, 2017 7:37:05 PM

I graduated from Harvard a while back and have two questions that I'd like to have some closure on.

1) To what extent does law review matter/not matter if one has two quality (~top 50) journal placements?

2) Looking at what the magna cum laude cut off was my year, I was likely in the 11th or 12th percentile. To what extent does missing that paper marker make a difference?

I understand these aspects can no longer be changed, but am still interested in the perspective of appointments committees.

Posted by: HLS 12 | Sep 1, 2017 11:08:55 PM


1. I don't think being on law review at HLS matters much at this point. Some people at some schools might care a little bit, especially if you held a significant position, but for the most part it doesn't matter (or at least matter much).

2. I think magna is a slight help, as it's an easy signal for "I did really well in law school." But I don't think it's a big deal, especially if you have something else on your resume like a circuit clerkship that might echo that point. And I think appointments committees differ in terms of how much they care about grades for HLS grads. At GW, for example, often times the appointments committee will not ask for a transcript if none is sent on.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 1, 2017 11:47:20 PM

I agree with everything Orin has said so far. (As someone who wasn't on HLR & missed Magna, I will also add, good luck!!!)

Posted by: Dave Hoffman | Sep 2, 2017 9:10:31 AM

Will the appointments committees continue to only hire people with VAP's or doctorates? Is it even possible for a biglaw associate with strong main LR publications (including a T20 flagship), CoA clerkship, and strong references?

Posted by: anon | Sep 2, 2017 9:35:39 AM

HLS 12: You're getting advice from someone at a very top school, so I will reply from a lower-ranked (still t100) school. We don't care. You get points for going to HLS and then we pay attention to your scholarship, practice experience, recommendations, and curricular fit with our needs. And personality/teaching experience and any other indications that you'll be a great teacher.

Posted by: jr committee member | Sep 2, 2017 10:42:43 AM

I have a paper under submission with a pending offer set to expire September 14. I'm hopeful I can secure a better placement during that window, at which point I plan to inform hiring committees individually with an updated CV. But what is the latest I can inform them before it is too late? Is mid-September already too late for committees to factor in a new placement? Late September?

Posted by: AnonAspiringProf | Sep 2, 2017 11:42:25 AM

Hi all,

I am a UK law academic. For the US market, I have an unconventional CV: PhD from a European law school, LLM from the UK, Permanent Assistant Professorship at a UK Russell Group Law School, multiple publications in UK/EU law journals, areas of research: IP, Commercial, Contract, International Business Transactions, teaching awards.

I want to leave the UK because of scarring personal experiences following the Brexit vote and because I think that the USA would offer me new avenues for academic growth.

I have submitted an application to the FAR and I will also contact a few law schools directly.

I have a couple of questions:
1) How soon should I start contacting schools directly? Before the first distribution (7th September) or after?

2) In my direct applications, as I have 6 years of experience in the UK, would it be worth mentioning that I would also be open to a year-long visiting position as a form of prequel to a complete lateral move? Or is this an outlandish proposition in the US market?

Thanks for your help.

Posted by: UKAcademic | Sep 2, 2017 8:17:41 PM

Another basic question here. I see people talk about "top" specialty journals and also the suggestion that one add 50 to a school's usnwr ranking to approximate the perceived prestige of a specialty journal. Are these two suggestions about the same thing? That is, is saying something is a top speciality merely saying that it is a specialty journal at a highly ranked school? Or are there specialty journals at mid range schools people view as very good? Conversely, are there specialty journals at top schools that are viewed as irrelevant?

Posted by: newb | Sep 3, 2017 2:16:06 PM

Re questions above: most of the top schools tell you to get out the direct applications right around the FAR so sometimes this week or early next week.

Top schools aren't going to care much about practice experience let alone in the UK. Lower ranked schools might care though. I would not make the request for visitors a centerpiece of your email - these committees are for the entry level appointments - visitors committees are often entirely separate committees and done much later in the process. Probably can't hurt but I highly doubt it would help you, and indeed I guess it could hurt you because they could think you are not serious about an entry level job or lack confidence. I don't see why you would do it now especially since as a matter of practicalities these committees are not focused on visitor hiring.

Most visitors positions at US law schools are "look see" visits by laterals, or in the rare case they take someone else, it is often through personal connections or else they met you at FAR and liked you. Very very rarely to they give visitors to just people applying.

Posted by: anon | Sep 4, 2017 12:20:54 PM

For above re: law review, these committees won't meet in earnest until next week and top schools likely won't meet until end of september. better to wait for a better offer than to rush it to meet an arbitrary deadline. In fact it may be better to surprise them with a good placement later in the process because it will force them to look at your application again.

Posted by: anon | Sep 4, 2017 12:23:02 PM

Some schools are meeting this week to go over the FARs for initial invites.

Posted by: anon | Sep 4, 2017 2:34:07 PM

newb: There's certainly a correlation between school prestige and specialty journal prestige, but there are also exceptions. For example, the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law is very highly regarded, and the Berkeley Technology Law Journal beats out some IP journals at even higher ranked schools. I think the Washington & Lee rankings are probably more helpful for specialty journals than for flagship law reviews. (Others may disagree.) You can do some research there.

Posted by: Yesteryear | Sep 4, 2017 5:25:14 PM

Thanks, Yesteryear, that's all very helpful information.

Posted by: newb | Sep 4, 2017 7:53:09 PM

@anon 12:20:54 pm

Thank you for your replies. Your clarifications about "visitingships" are very helpful.

Just to clarify, when I wrote that I have "6 years of experience in the UK" - I meant as an Assistant Professor.

Posted by: UKAcademic | Sep 4, 2017 8:53:16 PM

I submitted my materials on FAR, and this morning sent individualized applications to five schools that I'm particularly interested in, based on subject matter and geography.

When should I realistically expect to start hearing from schools (either good or bad news)?

Posted by: 1sttimer | Sep 5, 2017 9:17:24 AM

We typically won't reach out until at least 2-3 weeks after the distribution. We first reach out to those who seem particularly well-matched to our openings, filling no more than half our interview slots. We then wait until the second distribution to fill the remaining slots, and those slots ultimately tend to get filled by those from the first distribution who just missed the cut-off for our first round of invitations (i.e., we often don't find many candidates in the second distribution who suit our needs, but we at least wait to see before filling our slots).

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 5, 2017 9:33:39 AM

Um, you're not going to hear bad news - you just won't hear at all. Schools don't tell you that they are not interviewing you. I have even done in person interviews and not gotten rejections so "bad" news is not something you often get expressly. Which is annoying because the silence can be deafening.

Posted by: anon | Sep 5, 2017 12:09:49 PM

Reposting this question because I don't think it's been answered yet:

Do job talk papers need to be works in progress? Or can they be recently published or accepted for publication?

Posted by: JobSeeker | Sep 5, 2017 1:21:29 PM

works in progress; that way if there is discussion you can always say you will revise. most job talks are not published pieces.

Posted by: anon | Sep 5, 2017 1:38:37 PM

@jobseeker: accepted for publication counts as a work in progress, b/c the piece is still capable of editing. something technically "in progress" but mostly done (i.e. done enough to submit) is ideal for putting your best foot forward. recently published can be ok, but schools tend to prefer a jobtalk that's still amenable to feedback.

Posted by: jr committee member | Sep 5, 2017 1:40:22 PM

I'd go with accepted for publication as 1) the fact that it's been accepted (hopefully somewhere good) will help dispel any questions as to whether your proposed topic will even work and 2) you can still (at least theoretically) use the feedback to revise.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 5, 2017 2:44:15 PM

Agree that accepted for publication seems to be the sweet spot. In one of my call-back interviews, it was a big deal that the job-talk paper was accepted--a fact that wasn't originally communicated, but quickly corrected--as it showed that I could "place" a paper well.

Posted by: RecentlyThroughThis | Sep 5, 2017 3:00:53 PM

"Do job talk papers need to be works in progress? Or can they be recently published or accepted for publication?"

Agree with above that accepted for publication is fine. In theory, recently published should be fine, too. But in practice, some professors may look at it as a little odd because there's a fiction that a faculty candidate job talk is just like a faculty workshop. Job talks mirror the format of faculty workshops, and the point of the latter is to help the author improve the paper for publication. Given that, some professors may think it strange to present an already-published paper for a job talk. I don't think that reaction makes any sense at all, as the point of a job talk is to evaluate how good a scholar the person is rather than to improve the paper. But it's a reaction some professors may have anyway.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Sep 5, 2017 3:17:14 PM

Agree that accepted for publication is the sweet spot. I've heard of people successfully presenting recently published works as job talks. It's not ideal, but if that's the situation you're in, it would behoove you to talk about it as one in a series of papers exploring X, and then frame the Q&A at the very beginning of the talk (before the talk, really) as being about suggestions for how you continue your exploration of X in future work, since obviously this paper can't benefit from the audience's feedback. You could even dedicate the last several minutes of the talk to where you've taken this article (for example, in a new WIP that's not yet shareworthy), to orient the discussion towards the future. People fundamentally do not want to discuss published works.

Still not ideal, but may help.

Posted by: anon | Sep 5, 2017 3:32:03 PM

I feel like there is a lot of conflicting advice about 1) whether sending "packets" to schools participating in the hiring conference will actually make a difference, and 2) what those packets should contain beyond a cover letter and the same materials that got submitted to AALS. Any thoughts or insight would be appreciated.

Posted by: littleprof | Sep 6, 2017 9:53:55 AM

i have been on the market a few times, and i can say that it is hit or miss with the packets. I feel like most schools know off the FAR who they want, either from the FAR or word of mouth. Also most schools are constrained by subject matter so even if you send a direct app, if you aren't business law then you are out of luck.

i got i think 2 more interviews based on direct applications and that was because the schools did not realize that my third choice subject matter was what i wrote in ( i guess they were lazy and only searched for people who marked it first or second). Other years I sent direct apps and no change from what I got from the FAR itself.

So I don't really think direct apps help too much though it could on the margins and it can't hurt to show interest.

Posted by: anon | Sep 6, 2017 1:48:02 PM

Have any applicants heard anything yet?

Posted by: anon | Sep 6, 2017 6:22:52 PM

We are not hiring this year, but we did last and for us, the packets were helpful. However, you needed to tell us in your cover letter why you were particularly interested in our school. We are a T75 in a relatively rural environment, so we assume we aren't most candidates' first choice. That being said, those who applied to us directly and explained their interest in our school (and were a match with our curricular hiring needs) really got our attention in a positive way.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 6, 2017 6:33:58 PM

Yes, I am the writer from above- I can see packets helping in that instance, and in the one case where it helped me it was because of a geographical connection. But I don't think they matter at all at the top schools. Top schools ask affirmatively for people's packets often.

Posted by: anon | Sep 6, 2017 11:26:46 PM

Does anyone know how many FAR forms were submitted for the first distribution? And how that number compares to last year?

Posted by: seekinglawprofjob | Sep 7, 2017 11:16:20 AM

First distribution just posted: 403 forms.

Posted by: CommitteeMember | Sep 7, 2017 12:00:42 PM

Regarding how the number of FAR forms compares to previous years, see here:


I have used the information posted above for this year (403).

Posted by: Sarah Lawsky | Sep 7, 2017 12:23:46 PM

How many of the 403 are serious candidates? Like I wonder what percent are people who are BigLaw candidates who want to transition to academia but have not taken affirmative steps (i.e., fellowship, ph.d, etc.). I heard last year 100 of the FAR people were Ph.ds.

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2017 1:32:57 PM

It's not cheap to apply and certainly not to attend the conference. Thus, anyone who attends is, in some ways, a serious candidate.

If you mean, how many candidates are likely to be hired, Sarah's been collecting data on # of recent hires for the last few years.

If you mean, how many candidates you're truly competing with for those jobs, I think how many people have fellowships, etc. is less relevant than how many people are able to credibly project that they could teach in your subject areas.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 7, 2017 1:44:38 PM

A rough count of the first bulletin suggests there are approximately 100 jobs open to entry level candidates. I don't have access to last year's bulletin, but I wonder how that initial number compares (even recognizing that not all the posted jobs will result in a hire).

Posted by: littleprof | Sep 7, 2017 1:44:50 PM

I hate to say this, but every year there are people in the FAR who have almost zero chance of being hired. I'd estimate that they're around 20% of the total. People with poor academic backgrounds (e.g., graduated near the bottom of their class at a low ranked school), no publications, etc. -- people I fear who do not understand the typical requirements for law professors. There are also those who position themselves as a professor of a subject area that is in low demand (e.g., agriculture law, animals and the law, etc.).

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 7, 2017 1:58:09 PM

How do committees even review that many forms, practically speaking? (I say that understanding that I have reviewed many more docs than that in a day, but...)

Posted by: newb | Sep 7, 2017 2:11:53 PM

newb: we divide them up (e.g. 403 far forms divided by 5 committee members = 80, take a week or so to roll through them & narrow down, then meet w/ committee to highlight promising candidates & whittle down list further as a group).

Posted by: jr committee member | Sep 7, 2017 2:20:18 PM

Makes perfect sense, thanks.

Posted by: newb | Sep 7, 2017 2:36:09 PM

jr committee member- how long does all of that take before you start reaching out to candidates?

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2017 2:37:07 PM

idk, i think every committee does its own thing on that front. you'll get better info reading prior years' threads about when calls were made (accounting for different distribution date) and following this year's thread tracking calls.

Posted by: jr committee member | Sep 7, 2017 2:51:56 PM

Last year FAR went out like 8/20, I got calls on 8/27 and they were the earliest calls. Better schools tend to take longer. Some schools will start mid week next week I presume.

I have heard there are a fair share of candidates who don't really understand the process. For most people this is a multi year process, as most people do a fellowship pr ph.d or have some connection to that specific school. Unless you are supreme court justice person, and somehow find the time and energy to write when working at a law firm, I doubt more than 20% of candidates are coming out of law firms. Though I would expect that there are a fair share of law firm candidates in the FAR. They make alot of money, have great credentials in terms of school and such, but not really the publications or connections

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2017 3:24:46 PM

What do you mean by connections to a school? I can imagine a number of things this might mean, and I've seen references to it a few times, but I am not sure I am on the same page.

Posted by: newb | Sep 7, 2017 3:29:42 PM

I mean if you went to that school or work with professors from that school. I have seen someone get like a job at University of Georgia because they went there and were a top student. In many ways they could be a better candidate than the HYS person with no connection to the school. They are also a safer bet for the school - they likely want to be at that school and are somewhat more likely to stay instead of using it as a stepping stone.

I wonder why there is such a drop in FAR - down 200 odd applications in the last 2-3 years. Is it that people just dropped out of the market when it got bad? People stopped entering fellowship programs?

The market looks better this year than years past. Seems to be alot more jobs (and multiple openings at each school) than years past.

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2017 3:32:55 PM

Are there any schools reviewing FARS that have not posted in the bulletin? Or should we assume that the bulletin is the comprehensive list of all schools that are hiring?

Posted by: anon | Sep 7, 2017 4:43:57 PM

There are schools not listed in this bulletin that are hiring - they just missed the deadline and will be in the next one.

Posted by: anon22 | Sep 7, 2017 5:16:14 PM

The second bulletin is the best one to consult for an accurate picture of hiring schools. Too many don't get their hiring process going in time for the first one.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 7, 2017 5:19:50 PM

To those saying "this year looks better" - a cautionary word. I've been watching this very closely since 2011 or so (before and while applying for, and after landing, a TT job), and each year following the first terrible ones (the 2012-13 or 2013-14 cycle), smart people have speculated that *this year* things were turning around or at least bottoming out. In the most recent cycle (2016-17), hiring dropped to a new record low, down ~25% from the prior year. Maybe that really was the bottom, and things are now looking up. Of course, each year we wished for the same thing. We won't know about this cycle till next summer.

Posted by: another anon | Sep 7, 2017 11:42:23 PM

Yes I followed this for the last 5 years and the FAR is meatier than in the past - with more jobs and schools with more openings with multiple positions. Problem is that not all schools end up hiring. Based on sheer numbers, this year looks to be the best in years but many of the schools won't end up hiring

For instance, 2 years ago there were very few schools with multiple openings. This year it seems there are a fair share that are advertising multiple spots. Schools also seem more directed than in the past. Last year business law was huge; it is still huge, but a little less than last year.

The top schools send out lists of schools - there are more schools looking than in FAR but not a whole lot more.

Posted by: anon | Sep 8, 2017 12:02:44 AM

Got first request for more info (school I hadn't contacted).

Posted by: anon | Sep 8, 2017 10:28:49 AM

The first request! How exciting. anon@10:28:49 - would you be willing to share the general ranking range of the school?

Posted by: The Only Tubulidentata | Sep 8, 2017 10:41:46 AM


Posted by: anon | Sep 8, 2017 11:08:20 AM

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