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Friday, August 18, 2006

Law Firms for Law Professors

No, this post is not about a charity event for law professors (not with the all the money we are making from selling those complimentary text books). 

Rather, this post concerns the entry-level hiring market.  We all know that there are certain credentials that law schools look for when they hire new faculty.  Recite after me:  law school, rank in class, law journal, position on law journal, student note or comment or other publications, prestigious federal clerkship, great references, teaching experience, and, increasingly, an advanced degree in law or other discipline.  Heck, I don't even care if the candidate has a personality (and apparently many law schools feel the same way) if they have all these qualifications.

What else is missing? Well, one thing that sets apart law professors from their colleagues in other disciplines is that many of them practice in their field before becoming professors (and, in the case of some (read: Lipshaw), they practice many, many, many, many, etc., years).  Indeed, one might argue that at least a couple of years of law practice should be required for aspiring law professors (maybe more on that later).

So, in any event, my question for this post is if there are certain law firms which have a notable record of placing its attorneys in legal academia?  This thought came to me when I started noticing that a large number of law professors friends coming from the same firms (and not always the largest or starting with "Sullivan" or "Davis").  Consider Heller Ehrman, which through a rather informal, unscientific google query seems to have a large amount of its former attorneys in academia (including labor and employment types Maria Ontiveros and Michelle Travis).

But even if there are law firms which place more attorneys in academia, is this because the law firms encourage such movement (through formal programs) or because it just so happens that the firm attracts the type of intelligent, thoughtful people (I'm blushing)  likely to find a career as a law professor attractive?  It seems like the latter, but do people know of firms who have programs for attorneys who want to become law professors?

My impetus for leaving law firm life:  I was actually dreaming in billable hours.

Posted by Workplace Prof on August 18, 2006 at 10:21 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Many of the DC appellate shops produce large amounts of future profs, who naturally gravitate to high-end appellate work (even if you exclude their S.Ct. hires). Jenner & Block and Mayer Brown come immediately to mind.

Posted by: anonprof | Aug 20, 2006 1:51:14 PM

In New York, Debevoise (where I started my practice) and Cleary had reputations for being academically-inclined places. I think this had more to do with the firms' reputations (intellectual, nice places to work) than anything. Right now, I'd bet that a number of the DC firms are on top in part because they attract Supreme Court clerks who want to practice for a few years with appellate practices that minimize the chances of being forced to do real work. (IMHO, you're not a real associate until you really understand how paper cuts from document review can be a real workplace hazard).

Posted by: Ben Barros | Aug 18, 2006 9:12:09 PM

Any firm with a lower billable hour requirement is the place to go. Faculties mostly don't care where you're practicing, but they do care what you've written, and you're not going to be writing if you're working at 2am.

Posted by: lawprof | Aug 18, 2006 3:56:20 PM

WilmerHale, where I practiced (when it was Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering), is right at the top. Although I haven't done any systematic checking, I think they've probably outplaced Covington in recent years.

Posted by: Trevor Morrison | Aug 18, 2006 1:52:26 PM

Covington & Burling, where I practiced, has long claimed to have produced more law professors than any other law firm. I believe the current numbers are close to 100. The year I went on the market, five current or former Covington attorneys received entry-level faculty jobs.

Posted by: Carlton Larson | Aug 18, 2006 12:43:31 PM

Arnold & Porter. During the five years that I worked there, while planning my move to academia, I noticed around two associates per year becoming law professors - usually from DC but also from the NY and LA offices.

Posted by: Thaddeus Pope | Aug 18, 2006 12:02:03 PM

I don't know if they have had great success at placing people in academia, but Phelps Dunbar actually has a program called "Practice Before You Teach" that looks very interesting.

Posted by: AR | Aug 18, 2006 11:52:56 AM

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