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Monday, October 17, 2005

Interview Advice (v.76) and Piercing the Judicial Veil

To make themselves seem versatile, law professor candidates will often list many courses as their "teaching interests."  They are told to do this because committees routinely have curricular needs that are somewhere in someone's mind -- and a school's needs can't help but be relevant in the hiring process (even at schools that give the "we'll hire the best athlete" spiel).  Accordingly, it is usually good to make it seem that you can teach outside your note topic and your article topic.  The list most candidates produce is usually wider than their narrow writing interests suggest and candidates will often be asked how the committee is supposed to assess or give credibility to their interests in teaching, say, civil procedure, if all they have written about is, say, constitutional law and genetic privacy.   

In my experience, it is dangerous to point the committee to some judicial opinion you helped draft, even if it shows your facility in a given doctrinal area and shows where your research may be heading in that area of interest.  Although almost every law professor knows that judges rarely write their own opinions from scratch -- and almost every judicial opinion is a work of "co-authorship" functionally (which one would assume that people evaluating your legal writing might wish to read) -- most law professors will view you as some kind of jerk if you try to take credit for an opinion in any way. 

I wouldn't judge someone who said at an interview "I wrote this opinion with my judge and it shows how comfortable I am with the governing doctrines in administrative law, which I hope to teach even though I haven't written in the subject yet."  But, then, I like thank-you notes and clearly have idiosyncratic views of ethics and manners.  Still, beware: I think most law professors are suspicious of those who pierce the judicial veil.

Posted by Ethan Leib on October 17, 2005 at 03:04 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Isn't it discreet enough to say "I clerked with judge so and so, during which time she decided case x vs. y, which familiarized me with admin law issues"?

Posted by: gr | Oct 17, 2005 7:16:26 PM

I think, in answer to Paul's question, that clerks are under such an obligation ... at least, I believe myself to be, with respect to the judge for whom I clerked. As a result, in contrast to Ethan, I would be uncomfortable with an interviewee who stated or suggested drafting responsibility for an opinion.

Posted by: Joe Miller | Oct 17, 2005 4:56:06 PM

Aren't clerks under an obligation of confidentiality as to the process of opinion-drafting?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Oct 17, 2005 3:42:32 PM

Do you have to have taken a class in law school to teach that class? If you've written on the first amendment but not taken a class, can you teach the first amendment? Will they ask if you took the class? Other than writing something on the topic, how do you qualify yourselves? Thanks for the help!!

Posted by: anon | Oct 17, 2005 3:34:53 PM

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