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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Duke's new VAP program and Ph.D.'s

Stuart Benjamin blogs here about a new visiting-assistant-professor program at Duke.  The program is designed

to bring aspiring law teachers into the law school as visiting assistant professors.  Visiting assistant professors spend two academic years at the law school (to give them time to work on scholarship in anticipation of their entry on the law school teaching market).  Each visiting assistant professor is provided with an office and is invited to participate in faculty activities open to visiting professors.  Each has a very light teaching load – one course per year.  Selection for participation in this program is competitive, based on potential for success in an academic career.

I have been wondering, as VAP programs proliferate, will there be any effect on the demand for, and prevalence of, Ph.D.'s in the entry-level market?  I guess the answer depends on whether Ph.D.'s are in increasing demand because they (a) know more, (b) are better trained in research methodologies, (c) they have teaching experience, and / or (d) they come pre-socialized into the academic life.  Two years in a good VAP program can supply some of these advantages, it seems to me, though not all.

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 19, 2006 at 04:05 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Rick raises a fascinating point about Ph.D.s transitioning into the world of the legal academy -- a world where, on some tenure tracks, it can be a disadvantage that you are steeped in another tradition. Depending on how you internalize your role as legal academic, writing effective legal scholarship coming from a Ph.D. in economics can seem bizarre (I'm told). And in my experience, "acculturation" of this kind can be both destructive and invaluable, depending on the personalities involved. One thing about the VAP slots is for sure, though: it gives one a chance to catch some bearings before being "on the clock" in a tenure track somewhere and that will be a positive advantage to a lot of people.

Posted by: Jamie Colburn | Nov 19, 2006 8:55:14 PM

I'd guess that many PhD's will apply for these programs, too, if they are seen as good ways to get jobs at top programs. If so, and if PhD's are competative in getting VAP positions, then I'd guess it would make no difference in the hiring market. I'd also assume that the big advantage of having a PhD in a field is that you then have highly specialized and developed knowledge in a particular discipline. While it's not impossible to get that on one's own, it seems pretty unlikely that one could get it even in a fairly generous program like the one described above, especially if one was spending time writing papers necessary to get a regular job.

Posted by: Matt | Nov 19, 2006 5:13:56 PM

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