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Friday, July 08, 2005

Teaching and Specialization

Orin's post below on law teaching and specialization is excellent, as are the comments.  I hope more folks here and elsewhere will post on the teaching market through the fall, as the subject is always interesting (at least for some of us) and most of us who have been successful in getting teaching jobs really, really hope for the best for those who are going on the market.  There are good standard guides online and off-line, but they are often a little thin on the details (exactly how you should fill out your AALS form, for instance) and risk becoming outdated each year, to some extent.  I hope also that folks will blog about the intangibles; we can give advice on what you should do, but it's helpful to have some sense if, if I may speak Californialistically, the vibe of the job market process: the Marriott Wardman inter-tower dash, the jockeying for attention at school-specific cocktail parties, the feeling of waiting in the corridor for your interview, the purgatorial elevator rides with other candidates, etc.

Let me add a thought or two on the specialization question. 

If you really want to teach and don't care too much about what you teach, by all means be strategic in formulating your teaching interests.  But if it's the subject that drives you, don't lose heart entirely.  Even the hot subjects sometimes loosen up, if you're willing to be patient.  I went on the market more than once, and the last time I did (this past year) there were, for some reason, many more schools looking for con law teachers.  I ended up getting a couple of offers to teach exactly what I wanted to teach: con law and the First Amendment.  (It helped that I also listed professional responsibility high up, and was able to speak enthusiastically enough about it; as has been noted, it's always a demand course.)  Would I have been willing to teach absolutely anything rather than practice?  No.  My practice job was good in many ways, and there were always alternatives. 

Some people would answer that question differently.  If so, be as strategic as you like, keeping in mind that you will actually have to spend time and effort developing expertise as a candidate, and teaching and writing as a professor, in a subject that might not be your ideal.  But if you're subject-driven, and are willing to be patient, you need not give up your interests completely.  Of course, compromises are available; you could, for instance, sell yourself in a high-demand subject or two that you're willing to spend time on, while suggesting you would like to teach a seminar addressing your pet subject. 

Also, you might look for adjunct or visiting positions in your pet subject.  I taught con law at Iowa and USD as a visitor before getting hooked up with a permanent position.  These jobs don't necessarily lead to full-time positions, but they give you (some) time to write and meet other academics; they accustom you to the jargon and atmosphere of the academy and particularly to the folkways of presenting a paper; and many schools (not generally the top schools, though) will appreciate both your teaching credentials and your ability to talk usefully about teaching in the interview process.    

Posted by Paul Horwitz on July 8, 2005 at 12:34 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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One other question: could you talk a little about looking for adjunct or visiting positions--specifically, where does one go to find out who is hiring for these sorts of jobs and when do schools usually hire? Thanks.

Posted by: adk1997 | Jul 8, 2005 9:45:49 PM

In picking out areas of interest, how important is it that they all fit together naturally with one another? I've heard from many people that schools like candidates who seem to have a solid research agenda that ties together a few related areas of interest. I think I can market myself this way based on the pieces I've published. But, I'm also, separately, really interested in IP law, especially copyright. IP has no relation to my other interests. I haven't published in the area but I'm working on a piece now and would be happy focusing on IP scholarship and teaching IP. Should I list IP as one of my top 3 AALS areas, alongisde two of the courses related to each other, or is there a chance that going on the market with multiple and unrelated areas of interest could make you seem scattered? Do schools expect one area of interest that encompassess a few related classess are few different interests ok (with the understanding that you'll focus on the topic you get hired to teach)?

Posted by: adk1997 | Jul 8, 2005 7:02:02 PM

For those prospective job candidates who are interested in anecdotal information about the AALS experience (including having to go through the process multiple times) and what Paul describes as the "vibe of the job market process", I published an essay about my experiences over the duration of a decade-plus in obtaining an entry level tenure track teaching position in the University of Memphis Law Review -- "The Pedagogical Don Quixote de la Mississippi," 33 U. Memphis L. Rev. 529 (2003). I put it out there in the hope that prospective candidates would get some value out of the narrative.

Posted by: David W. Case | Jul 8, 2005 6:40:59 PM

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