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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Law teaching and exploding offers

Jennifer Mnookin over at LawCulture has a great post concerning exploding offers on the teaching market.    She writes:

I get the feeling that exploding offers just might be increasing, and sometimes with deadlines that seem ever-earlier.

Our readership includes lots of people on both sides of the hiring process.  If any of you have any experiences to share, please drop a comment.  Comments may be anonymous, but please identify the "tier" of the school or schools you are talking about.

[See also Dan Filler's post at Co-Op on the subject, taking a different view.]

Posted by Hillel Levin on January 26, 2006 at 03:30 AM in Hillel Levin | Permalink


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I received an exploding offer from the University of Tulsa School of Law in early October. I had 25-30 interviews in Washington, D.C. at the AALS FRC. The interviews were evenly split between first through fourth tier schools.

I went to Tulsa with an open mind, and liked the faculty and the direction the School was going. The faculty recruited me hard but was generous, kind, and sensitive to the fact that I had other options to consider. The School has a new Dean, Robert Butkin, and he was able to offer me a generous teaching and compensation package. I felt as though the Law School community wanted me there, and I felt as if I could make a contribution to the growth of the School. My wife and I both liked Tulsa, and I accepted the offer.

I have no regrets. I am excited about moving to Tulsa this summer. I was especially excited to avoid the Wardman Park Marriott in November.

If Tulsa had not made me an exploding offer, would I have ended up there? I doubt it. But because of the way the faculty made the offer and then recruited me, I am excited to be going there and am pleased that the process worked out as it did for me.


Posted by: Gregory Duhl | Jan 27, 2006 7:56:11 PM

Here's my horror story, which I also posted at LawCulture -- names having been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent. I used to teach at a top-40 law school, we'll call it School A. It was one of three serious call-backs that I had when I was on the market. I scheduled my call-back with School A first, then my call-backs with School B and School C ten and twelve days later. School B was lower in the rankings than School A -- but exceptionally strong in my area -- and School C was considerably higher and my clear first choice.

A few weeks before my call-back with School A, the head of the hiring committee called and asked me to move up my call-back ten days. Not having much bargaining power, I agreed. The call-back went very well and, to my surprise, the Dean made me an offer two days later. Unfortunately, she gave me an exploding offer -- set to expire precisely one day after my final call-back, with School C. I called Schools B and C to explain the situation; both told me to interview with them anyway and they would see what they could do. And so I did. Both call-backs went very well, particularly at School C. In fact, School C told me that I was definitely their first choice, with one caveat -- there was a small but real chance they would not be able to hire anyone that year, and they wouldn't know for about a week. I then called the Dean of School A and asked for a week extension, three days less than the 10 days they asked me to move my call-back up. The Dean refused, telling me that he had other candidates waiting.

It was, to say the least, a frustrating situation. School C was my dream school and wanted to hire me, but the Dean couldn't guarantee they'd be able to. School A was a great school, though far less desirable for a reasons other than simple prestige (not my primary criterion). I had a long heart-to-heart with the Dean of School C, with whom I'd become good friends, and he told me -- not surprisingly -- that the offer from School A was too good to pass up, given the possibility that I would end up unemployed otherwise. So that's what I did.

In the end, School C did have a line to fill. I spent most of the summer before I moved to School A bitter and angry. And as much as I enjoyed my students and colleagues, I could never get past the hardball to which I had been subjected. So it should not come as a surprise that I left School A the moment I received a more desirable offer -- and a few years before I ever intended to change schools.

My new school is better than School A, with smarter students and a more interesting faculty. I know I have my years at School A to thank for my ability to "move up," but I will never have anything but unpleasant feelings for it. The moral of the story, I think, is that playing hardball with a candidate is always counterproductive: even if the candidate accepts the offer, she is unlikely to forget her earlier mistreatment. And that's not good for the candidate or the school.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jan 27, 2006 4:40:53 PM

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