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Monday, July 11, 2005

getting a job: should heart travel

I'm about to move to the most beautiful setting for a law school that there is [ed. - more beautiful than the Loop? The 'Bu? The Garden District? me - mais oui! Hillier than all of them, for just one thing - means you have to be careful on your bike, though.], but doing so is going to require me to leave New York City, the kind of thing that countless of my fellow residents contemplate with undisguised fear.

It's also the kind of thing that would-be professors need to think about very carefully. That one isn't allowed to indicate any geographic inflexbility if one seriously wants to teach is a truism. What's more, I think that it's risky to try to backchannel secret geographic preferences through one's references. Like pep squads, many academics don't trust applicants who don't have the most possible commitment to the job. I'll go even further: I would recommend against going into the process with a preference for anything other than the best possible students and colleagues.

That, at least, is how I tried to approach my search; and I thought those who approached their searches differently got a white-knuckle ride through the market. For some of them, there were happy, geographically preferred endings, for many others, there were not. It is, of course, difficult to move to a plains state when your spouse operates a lighthouse. But there are also many geographic obstacles that look much less compelling to hiring committees, and many geographically attractive schools - say, the ones located on top of ski resorts - that aren't that interested in developing a junior faculty rich in ski afficianados.

Of course, I may be different than many. I'm not bothered, for one thing, to be leaving New York, which is sort of wasted on me, as my leisure tastes run to the sorts of flicks and novels that are available anywhere, while things you can only do in Manhattan - Broadway, dance, heavy-metal and air guitar karaoke - are only approximately my cup of tea. I will miss the food, though. During this valedictory month, I've sampled 29 dollar burgers, high-end Thai, soup dumplings, lobster rolls, utterly correct pizza, and low end falafel. And that was all just for lunch.

But that's the nature of the game, right? To commit to teaching also commits most would-be professors to moving to another place. It's crucial to approach it with optimism. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery, a place where the trash gets collected regularly, where I'll triple the amount of furniture I own and acquire a kitchen with cupboards. And a toaster.

Posted by David Zaring on July 11, 2005 at 08:08 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Professors are people, too, and they understand this. Indeed, I think every school realizes that such factors are tremendously important to a candidate's decision of where to accept an offer. The flip side is that some candidates really only want a teaching job if they can get a job at a particular set of schools, whether only top ranked schools or only schools in some cities that are considered fun places to live. That comes off as obnixious, and schools react negatively to the attitude.

Posted by: lawprof | Jul 16, 2005 5:18:40 PM

For a committee to question a candidate's commitment to the profession because of geographic preferences reflects an astounding ignorance of post-feminism reality. Families are often comprised of two people who have equal commitments to their jobs. Candidates should openly express this fact to committees in order to change their antiquated notions to the contrary.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 16, 2005 2:01:50 PM

One person's dystopia is another person's dream life. I'm reminded of the abominable snow monster living in Nepal in Monster's Inc. (voiced by Cheers' Cliff Claven): "Wasteland? I think you mean Wonderland!"

The best attitude to have on the market is that of Indiana Jones stepping off that cliff only to have a bridge appear under him. Keep an open mind, and you may be pleasantly surprised. If someone told us three years ago that we would be moving to Milwaukee (our vision of a Wasteland), we would have been rolling on the floor laughing to the tune of Laverne & Shirley. Well, we're here in our Wonderland.

Posted by: Christine Hurt | Jul 11, 2005 10:32:59 AM

Heh. The former Iowan in me protests the observation. But for those who really madly truly prefer to be in region x as opposed to region y, I'd still advise pursuing jobs all over, and hard, and waiting until there's offers in hand before giving vent to one's geographic predelictions.

Posted by: david | Jul 11, 2005 10:01:07 AM

There are some areas, however, that are just to benighted to even conceive of. As someone who went to a rural legal aid office right after law school out of misplaced (geographically) altruism, trust me on this. It's just too much to ask anyone to go to some places. I mean, Oklahoma. Nebraska. Wyoming. Idaho. Montana. Utah. It's like the state of nature in each of those places -- and not the happy Rousseau state of nature, but the Hobbesian state of nature. Solitary (nobody to talk to except, perhaps, colleagues), poor (rural, agricultural or industrial), nasty (surprisingly polluted, what with pesticides and all), brutish (no good coffeeshops -- you should SEE the "best" coffeeshop in Salt Lake City!!!), and short (impossible to stand for very long unless you grew up there).

I plan on behaving absolutely strategically when I go on the market with this geographic stuff: not list any geographic restrictions, but absolutely, positively, not take any job (or a callback, should I be fortunate enough to get one) in any of the dystopian states listed above or their equivalents.

Posted by: Name Removed For Self Protection When I go on the Market | Jul 11, 2005 9:44:06 AM

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