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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Neglected Importance of Faculty Collegiality

No two ways about it, I am a huge fan of collegial law faculties.  Now, I know I might just be stating the obvious here, but I feel truly blessed being surrounded by the colleagues (especially the junior ones) that I have.

I think this is an important aspect of a law school for entry-level candidates to keep in mind as they go through the meat market this year.  Yet, it might be one of the most under-appreciated or under-valued ones.

So I am clear about what I mean by collegiality, I don't mean everyone is best friends or that there are dinner parties at one another's house every weekend (though that might be fun), I am talking more about the little things that go on during the day like colleagues stopping by your office to make small talk and ask how both your professional and non-professional life are going, colleagues offering to read your law review article drafts before they go out on the market, or just the yearly ritual of explaining to new faculty the ins-and-outs of a law school.

Surprisingly, my observations of other law school faculties in action and the anecdotal evidence I have from friends around the country suggest that such collegiality is lacking much more than one might think.  In some cases, it seems that the faculty just don't get along because there are splits among different political lines or individuals take different sides in hot-button debates surrounding certain law school issues (you know the ones). 

For others, it is just the dynamic of the faculty and the fact that there just aren't that many junior faculty to interact with in schools that have disproportionately large amounts of senior faculty (I guess a lone associate would feel the same way in a law firm filled with mostly partners).  Don't get me wrong, good senior colleagues are important too, but they do not fill the role played by junior ones.

In any event, if you are going on the job market this year, spend some time  figuring out the dynamic among faculty members, and also pay attention to  how many junior faculty members a school has.  From my own perspective, it has been the personal connections that I have made especially with my junior colleagues (who number near 10 here) that has been the most important part of having an enjoyable law professor career so far.

Posted by Workplace Prof on August 23, 2006 at 01:34 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I would add to Delaney's comment that sometimes it is really nice NOT to know the politics, and it is important to remember that faculty dynamics are always evolving, so that if a law school hires 7 new people over a couple of years, there may be a whole new enviornment. I completely agree with Paul's advice to juniors to try to be at a place where there are other juniors - its wonderful to have close friends who together are experiencing the stages of becoming prawfs.

Posted by: Orly Lobel | Aug 23, 2006 7:52:29 PM

After 17 years as a tenured full prof at a private university, I decided to take a year off and take a visiting professor position in a warm place...The last week has been interesting...I had forgotten what it felt like to be the new kid, to not know the politics, or even who to call to figure out how to access your phone mail.

Posted by: Delaney J. Kirk | Aug 23, 2006 6:00:08 PM

I'm happy to give public testimony of Paul's own great service to me in "explaining to new faculty the ins-and-outs of a law school." Thanks!

Posted by: Chris | Aug 23, 2006 1:03:33 PM

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