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Monday, June 26, 2006

Thoughts on Visiting?

Ethan's post below, and some of the comments, suggest that, in the spirit of many of our past posts discussing various aspects of law teaching, it might be instructive to open up a discussion on the phenomenon of professorial visits at law schools.  As the comments to Ethan's post suggest, most of the regular bloggers on this site will be taking the show on the road for at least part of next year.  (Another testament to the power of blogging -- our home institutions want us elsewhere!)  Some have already visited before, for others it's their first time -- and many of our professional readers have certainly visited and/or moved between institutions.  So perhaps, as with our previous posts on the meat market and other aspects of life in law teaching, we can serve as a forum and clearinghouse for information on the visiting process, a practice about which I suspect that many prawfs lack hard knowledge and rely on loose talk, even if they've done it themselves.

Here are some questions on which I'd be eager to hear semi- or fully-informed views:

* What are the virtues of visiting?

* How does one go about landing visiting opportunities?

* What are the relative virtues of "podium-filling" vs. "look-see" visits, and how often does the former effectively turn into the latter?

* What are various schools' policies on "look-see" visits, ie. offer on the spot vs. refusal to consider until after the visitor has gone?

* How does one make the most of a visit?  What obvious or not-so-obvious aspects of protocol would our experienced readers recommend that a visitor observe? 

* What are the drawbacks of visiting -- especially, to be unsparing about it, for junior faculty?

Comments, additional questions, and amusing/horrifying anecdotes are welcome.  Keep in mind that I'm not asking for names of visitors or institutions or other sensitive or privately held information.  I'd rather pool information than share gossip, just this once.  Anonymous posts accepted, albeit commenters' actual names are always preferred.

UPDATE:  Those interested in this topic should definitely also consult a couple of superb posts by Christine Hurt at the Conglomerate, here and here.  One of the commenters to Christine's second post notes that "this is one of those posts where lots of people are reading but not many will comment."  True, for understandable reasons, and I was slightly leery about posting, but I think that's the point: this is a topic lots of professors are interested in and no one wants to talk about or even acknowledge, which increases the likelihood that people will possess incomplete or bad information.  It ought to be possible, perhaps with the assistance of anonymous comments, to pool information about something that happens every year at pretty well every law school, but maybe I'm being overoptimistic here.  Folks who want to share information quietly via email are therefore welcome to do so, and I'll cull the best bits. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on June 26, 2006 at 11:42 AM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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Rosa's point is discussed, and I think a couple of schools that follow her suggestion are mentioned, in a discussion thread on Brian Leiter's site from some time back; not to be too recursive, but there's a link in the post from Christine that I link to above. As for AA's point, I get it, but the point holds mostly if you don't think there are any other good reasons to visit, which there are.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jun 27, 2006 1:07:38 AM

Oh, yes, and my apologies for the gendered analogy.

Posted by: Anonymous Adam | Jun 26, 2006 9:33:18 PM

I would be careful about taking a "who knows" approach to a podium filler. If I can make an analogy, it's like hanging out with a beautiful woman who says you're "just friends" but acts like you're on a date. If you start thinking that maybe she really likes you, you're probably gonna end up very disappointed. Folks who take a "who knows" approach often end up pretty bitter when the podium filler ends up being just that.

Posted by: Anonymous Adam | Jun 26, 2006 9:31:29 PM

Anon asks a good question: what do you do with your family? Which leads me to my hobbyhorse: visits are a ridiculous way to hire laterals. Visiting is incredibly disruptive for people with families; given the way the world works, they are particularly rough on women, who are more likely than men to have major child-raising responsibilities and less likely than men to have a spouse who's willing to pack up and move one, two or three times in a few years.

What's more, the idea that schools "need" to have people visit to truly assess lateral candidates strikes me as bizarre. Most other disciplines get by with reading a person's work, then inviting them out for a few days or a week. The "visit" system is a relic of the bad old days, and should be abolished. Many enlightened law schools are beginning to recognize this, and offer people the option of being considered as laterals based on a workshop or a short course. I think senior faculty should push their schools to adopt this apporach: make visits a recruitment option, not a lateral hiring requirement.

Posted by: Rosa Brooks | Jun 26, 2006 9:06:08 PM

Thanks for the comment, Rick. You effectively raise two interesting points. The first has to do with the distinction between the look see and the podium visit. Much depends on the sharpness with which the distinction is maintained. It seems to me that all of life is an audition, in any event, so that, apart from the intrinsic virtues of the look see visit, well described by Christine -- to meet new people, see a new institution, road-test your courses, and workshop your stuff to a new audience -- there is a "you-never-know" virtue even to podium visits, and the visitor should thus treat any and every kind of visit seriously. The second suggests that etiquette is not a matter for visitors alone, but also for the resident faculty, who are under an obligation not to take their visitors for granted in the press of day-to-day life. So far I've found the faculties at which I visited, pre-tenure-track, to be very welcoming, but my wife and I still have vowed to try to welcome visitors to our own community. It worked well for Lot, after all. (Given his wife, though, I suppose we should also have vowed to never look back.)

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jun 26, 2006 7:00:21 PM

Another question that might be addressed - what do you do with your family during a visit?

Posted by: Anon | Jun 26, 2006 5:42:43 PM

I wonder if the "podium visit" v. "look see" visit distinction is a good one for schools to employ? (Mine does, so far as I know.) I can see the upside, in that people know where they stand, and there isn't the uncertainty of wondering whether or not one is engaged in a long job interview. On the other hand, I worry that the distinction can throw up barriers between the visitors, and the regular faculty, thereby depriving both of the chance to really get to know new people. And, I would think that a school that does *not* use a sharp distinction might be more attractive to interesting potential visitors. Or, do I have it backwards?

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jun 26, 2006 5:24:27 PM

Thanks for breaking the ice!

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jun 26, 2006 2:13:10 PM

I think it's helpful to emphasize that at most schools there are two very different kinds of visits: look-sees and podium-fillers.

A look-see visit is a three-or-sixth month job interview, as the school visited is potentially interested in hiring you: a podium-filler is just a visit in which you cover a course for the school without a suggestion of consideration for permanent employment. You take a podium-filler because it sounds like fun to be in a new place for a bit; you take a look-see because you think you may want to move to the school and this is the main way of getting a lateral offer.

Christine Hurt's posts nail a bunch of Paul's questions. I would also add that a look-see *up* the academic food chain is usually pretty organic: They hear about you and your work, and they invite you to visit. If they're above your current school in the food chain, they'll assume you're interested in visiting if you can swing the logistics. In contrast, getting a look-see across or down the food chain usually requires initiative: You need to let the school know that you're interested in the move, because otherwise they don't know you're available.

Posted by: Anonymous Adam | Jun 26, 2006 2:09:06 PM

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