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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Job Market Timetable

As conversations this week with a number of the great fellows we have here at Harvard who will soon be going on the market have reminded me, the biggest question about getting ready for the job market is not only the "what" I should be doing, but the "when."  To that end, I thought I would take a rough stab at presenting a sort of timetable for the job market.

A couple of caveats before I start.  I don't mean this timetable to be some kind of orthodoxy, this is just what I aimed for and what seems to me to make sense.  I would very much appreciate the views of others in the comments section.  Second, and relatedly, do not panic if your own timetable is totally out of whack with the one I detail here; there are multiple successful paths to the job market.  All times are in terms of the Faculty Recruitment Conference (FRC).

1.5-2.5 yrs before the FRC: Consider doing a fellowship. I posted extensively on this during my last blogging stint so I will just refer you to that.  Eyeballing the interim hiring data reported by Larry Solum this year so far, it seems as true as ever that (especially at top schools) a fellowship or a PhD has become an important aid in securing a job.

1 yr before the FRC:  (1) You need to pick a job talk paper and start working on it.  This will realistically give you enough time to write it, circulate it, get feedback on it, revise it, mock job talk it, etc.  In an ideal world it would actually give you enough time to write two major papers, one to put into the submission cycle in the Feb/March before the job market, and one for the job talk itself.  That, however, is an aspirational goal. The  job talk paper is what you cannot do without.

Figuring out what to write about is actually a very difficult and important part of the process.  There are many things that are good papers, but not good job talk papers.  For example, they are too doctrinal (or not doctrinal enough), they don't fit well enough into the type of academic you claim you want to be (you say you are interested in health care law, but you look like a con law person), or they are likely to piss off some important constituency at the law school who may be a gatekeeper of your candidacy, etc.

Other possible job talks seem promising but turn out to be, as Plato put it in the Theatetus, "wind eggs".  There, Socrates describes himself as a midwife who delivers ideas rather than babies, but some of them turn out to be wind eggs, an empty egg that does not lead to a successful birth under anceient Greek embryology.  You discover too late that the ideas are preempted, it is  too long or short for a job talk paper, or it just "doesn't write."  You need to build in time for all of this, which is why I recommend the long time frame.

(2) Network. Many sub-specialties in law have their own conference or conferences.  For example, the health law teacher's conference is happening in June.  This can be a great opportunity to meet people in your field, and get on people's radars as a promising person in your field.  Generalist conferences can also be good, although possibly less bang for your buck.

6 months before the FRC: Line up your recommenders, which I posted about in more depth earlier. If possible, it is great to have your recommenders look at a draft of your job talk paper, so they can really speak authoritatively on what you are up to.  The earlier you complete drafts of various things (the job talk paper, the research agenda, etc) the more likely you can get your busy recommenders to give you feedback.

3-4 months before the FRC: (1) Do a draft FAR form (the 1 page biographical form you submit to AALS). You should do a draft one and circulate it to your recommenders.  Much of the FAR form is quite intuitive (one tip that I learned is to use the comments block after various sections to add or clarify -- I used mine to list other recommenders, other publications, and to expand on courses in the health law sector i wanted to teach).  Other parts still remain very mysterious to me even now (e.g., I still am not sure what "law and medicine" is as opposed to "health care law" and "bioethics").  There is also lots of strategizing that goes into where to place things in the tiers of preferences, how many "big" (esp. 1L classes) vs. specialized one, how well it coheres with your research agenda, etc, although it is not clear that there are "right answers" here.

(2) Get the list of all the hiring chairs at all the schools you are interested in. Harvard and Chicago, I know, provide their students on the market with such a list the schools compile.  Find out if your school does the same.  Prawfsblawg has in the past made such a list by voluntary chair self-identification.  Get the chairs' email and snail mail addresses.  You'll need this for both the "package" I will discuss next, and to give your recommenders to let them know with whom they may want to put in a good word.

(3) Prepare a "package" to send to hiring chairs.  The FAR form is short.  The package is the long form version.  It will definitely have a cover letter, your transcript, CV, a copy of one or more of your prior publications, a list of your recommenders.  It may also include a research agenda and your job talk -- this will depend on how far along you are with each. I did not include my job talk in my package, in part because it was not "there" yet, and almost all the hiring chairs contacted me in the two-three weeks pre-FRC to see if I wanted to send it along then.

There was considerable debate on this blog about the utility of these things.  The consensus, I think, is that it won't hurt, but it is not clear how much it will help (especially given the private cost to you of the photocopying and mailing, and larger cost to the environment), though I am a fan of them. 

There is also a question of how many to send out, to whom, and when. I sent about 35.  I sent it to the 35 or so schools I was most interested in, but I actually think these packages do the most work at schools that othrewise might not think you are interested.  If people want to interview you and they didn't get the package they will ask for it (and sometimes they may just want e-copies of all elements anyways to make it easier to circulate).

I mailed mine out in mid-August.

[The calls start coming in to do FRC interviews during this period from mid-August to early October]

1 month before the FRC: You should try to do both a mock interviews and  a mock job talk. You need to get used to having a 1-minute, 5-minute, and 20-minute version of the job talk, according to the setting. You also want to have practice answering both substantive questions about your work as well as questions about you, and your interest in the school.  For fellows, Harvard arranges a series of mock interviews and mock job talks with faculty giving feedback.  I think these are a wonderful asset, and more schools should consider doing the same if they want to promote their students on the job market.

2 weeks before the FRC: Try to take a small vacation, it may be the last one you'll get in a while.

The day before the FRC: Wander around the Woodley Park Marriot hotel where the conference is held to figure out in what tower different interviews are, and to practice getting back and forth between them quickly.

Posted by Glenn Cohen on April 24, 2008 at 03:34 PM | Permalink


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Another Anon -- the latter, the "for real."

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 29, 2008 3:04:12 PM

"It usually happens at the moment when you are going to be voted on by the hiring committee (aka to be "voted out of committee")"

Glenn -- which "moment"? when they are deciding to interview you for the FRC? or after the job talk and are thinking about whether to hire you for real?

Posted by: another anon | Apr 29, 2008 3:00:31 PM

Future Prof -- I think that definitely would come off as presumptuous. If they are interested in a pre-FRC interview they will let you know (the NYC schools in the past have done a fair number). The one exception is if you are dealing with a school in another country or maybe way way out geographically (like Hawaii). In my case I let the University of Toronto know in my "package" that I travelled frequently to their area to see my family (who live there) and would also be happy to meet them in Toronto if that was easier.
On a side note, if you are geographically flexible you may want to consider the University of Toronto and some other great schools in Canada and England. I know of at least two recent hires (one a UVA law grad and one a Yale law grad, both of whom had PhDs) who ended up at Toronto. Both are excellent scholars, and both are having fantastic experiences, and the lack of knowledge on their part of the Canadian legal system was not a problem for the school. Toronto is a great university at the heart of a great city.
Toronto has come to the FRC the past couple of years, but a number of other schools in Canada (e.g., Osgoode Hall, McGill) have not, so if you are interested you may want to try and find their call for admissions and timetables which are slightly different from the U.S. schools.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 29, 2008 2:10:00 PM

With respect to the hiring chair "packet", would it be considered poor form to suggest one's interest in a pre-FRC interview? I could see this coming off as too presumptuous, but could also envision a hiring chair assuming a candidate would not be interested in meeting pre-FRC if her cover letter suggested only an FRC interview.

Posted by: Future Prof | Apr 29, 2008 1:10:56 PM

Another anon -- (1) I would not indicate any of that except possibly a paren indicating that a journal is peer reviewed if not obvious, or the mentioning of a very prestigious prize (i.e., something not at your school but national) awarded to the paper. Even then, my prior would be not to do that on the FAR form but on the resume, but it is a weak prior.
(2) Some will offer a pre-FRC talk (I did one and received offers for more). Others immediately after. The best schools tend to wait till the end, sometimes into March, very occasionally in April. So actually more like Oct-April.
(3) They will always ask for your transcript. It usually happens at the moment when you are going to be voted on by the hiring committee (aka to be "voted out of committee") and they want to make sure they have a complete file on you.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 29, 2008 11:38:45 AM

TJ and Glenn -- thanks for your comments.

a few more questions:

1) On the FAR form, is it expected/appropriate to denote any attention that your published work has received (e.g., SSRN downloads, citations, reproductions in casebooks/treatises, distributions at conferences, awards)? i imagine any of these "accomplishments" are small beans, so they might look silly to highlight(i would never put such things on a resume, for example), but, then, the academic hiring process seems a bit silly...

2) what is the general window for actual job talk interviews? generally all in nov-jan? or do some go later, into march/april?

3) it does not look like the FAR form asks for transcripts. if invited for a job talk, do schools typically want to see your grades at that time? or is denoting a rank or something on your resume enough?

Posted by: another anon | Apr 29, 2008 11:24:39 AM

I am glad people are finding this post + thread useful. Let me give my .02$ on the last few questions that have been raised:

Another Anon - I agree completely with TJ's responses, but just to add a little on the firm issue: putting aside moral questions of how much you ought to disclose, duties to one's employer, etc, from a purely self-interested point of view I don't think you need to disclose before the FRC. I would go to the FRC and see how many bites you are getting for job talks and whether they are from places you are interested. If things are not working out the way you want to, you may decide to go back on the market the following year, in which case no harm, no foul to the firm. Two caveats: (1) there is a very small chance someone on one of the hiring committees might talk to someone at the firm about you. This would be a larger likelihood if you listed a person from the firm as a reference, but this is not something you should do in any case (academics are impressed by other academic references). (2) I was told a story by one hiring chair of a promising candidate a top school was set to interview at the FRC who had to cancel near the last minute because, despite authorizing her vacation for that weekend, the firm needed her for an emergency litigative matter. One thing to consider is whether your firm tends to respect the best laid plans....

Hank -- People have varying views on the research agenda. I sent out mine in the initial package, but I may be an outlier. A colleague of mine who got a job at a top 5 school actually never sent out a research agenda. In fact, he was never asked for one by any of the schools interested in it. I have also noticed that it varied from place to place where I did the job talk whether or not the hiring chair had circulated a copy of my research agenda.
You should definitely draft an agenda. This is because (1) some schools may ask, and (2) even if they don't ask at countless interviews you will be asked to essentially state your agenda orally.
What should the agenda look like?
In my view (happy for others to disagree), it should have the following elements:
(1) Discussion of your fields AND methodologies, where you place yourself on both.
(2) Brief discussion of your job talk paper and any past publications and how they relate -- this is great to do if you can do it convincingly, i.e., to tie stuff together thematically or methodologically.
(3) One to two paragraph description of the next 1-3 papers you plan on writing.

Some additional comments: be prepared to talk in depth about anything you list on the agenda, it is completely "fair game" for discussion going forward. Don't claim you want to do a project you have no intention of doing it, but also know that no one at tenure will go back to your agenda and quiz you on why you abandoned this project or took that one in a different direction. This is a snapshot of where you think you see yourself going, not a contract.

Mine took up about 3.5 single spaced pages, but I think this was longer than ideal.
Unfortunately, I don't think I can post a document as part of a blog post here, but I am happy to share my agenda if you'd find it helpful. Just email me. That said, remember, this is just one example, and I can't even say with authority that it is a good exemplar of the genre.

As always, I'd welcome others with experience to chime in.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 29, 2008 9:22:39 AM

Thanks for your helpful thoughts, Glenn. One more question for the group: When in the process do hiring committees expect to see a research agenda? Is this something that should be sent in my initial packets to schools of particular interest? How long/detailed should such an agenda be?

Thanks again,


Posted by: hank | Apr 29, 2008 8:54:56 AM

These are just my personal views, but as someone coming straight from a law firm:

1. Having a fully prepared paper to talk about at the FRC is a must. Think of FRC interviews as a short job talk.

2. My job talk paper was published by the time I did my last couple of talks. Made no difference that I could discern, either in the talk itself or the chances of getting an offer. A work-in-progress is nice, but I wouldn't write off a paper just because it is already published.

3. The timing varies, but certainly by the time you get job talk offers in distant places, it is almost impossible not to tell the firm. Also, schools do ask. I suspect that it is a minor negative (the "commitment to academia" box) if you still haven't told the firm by the time you are doing job talks.

Posted by: TJ | Apr 29, 2008 1:41:28 AM

1) is one supposed to have a job talk paper for the meat market, or only upon actually being invited for a job talk?

2) if one has published a few articles, but likely will not have the time to draft another article in time for 2008 FRC (70 hour work weeks), what is the best course of action? Wait a year and work on a job talk paper for the 2009 FRC? use a published piece?

3) if one is working at a large law firm, how does one manage doing job talks (assuming invitations are extended)? it's sortuva delicate subject if you are working in a large law firm and are not doing a fellowship program or vap program.

Posted by: another anon | Apr 28, 2008 10:13:59 PM

Since this comment list seems to have some steam to it, I thought I'd through this out there: How heavily does grades/class rank play in hiring decisions, at least for choosing FRC interviewees? Also, does this change for non "Top 10" (broadly defined) graduates?

And while I'm at it, how strong is a "top 40" article placement? I understand it's not the same thing as a SC clerkship, but is it pretty helpful? When I check the entry level hires and their publications, I'm quite surprised how few have such placements, and very few have 3 publications.

Posted by: anon | Apr 28, 2008 6:54:47 PM

I probably could get a decent placement with the piece if I submitted it this fall...my most recent article got plenty of offers, albeit mostly from specialty and low-ranked main journals. And I strongly suspect that some journals would be willing to be flexible.

I'm currently an associate at a large firm, and I'm not planning on sitting on this piece until a year from next fall, so it probably won't matter in terms of placement if I hold off. It's worth contemplating, since anything that boosts my resume would be good (which is why I wanted to get this piece accepted ahead of the conference).

Posted by: Ubertrout | Apr 28, 2008 6:11:45 PM

I'm in a kind of atypical situation, and I'm looking for any sorts of advice anyone can provide. I'm one of those JD/PhD (in education policy) folks, and I'm finishing up my second year on a tenure track job in an education school. I want to get to a law school (or ideally score a double appointment), and I'm thinking about going to the AALS this year. I have a couple law review articles and a few education policy journal articles, and I have a book coming out this summer with a great press. But I'm geographically limited because my wife is also a prof on a tenure track (we both have jobs in Chicago).

Is the AALS conference a realistic route for me to find a law school position within commuting distance? Is a visiting prof job a possibility? What's the potential for a spousal hire from a job that comes out of the AALS (my wife focuses on math education)?

Thanks in advance for any ideas or advice.

Posted by: Ben | Apr 28, 2008 5:11:58 PM

Thanks Ubertrout. Just to be clear I think the "have your cake and eat it too" strategy is even better if you think you can successfully negotiate for it. I'll also note two other considerations, though I don't know how widespread they are. (1) Are you more likely to get a better placement once you have a faculty position, or can even say you are "professor-elect" at X school? (2) Dan Markel noted in an earlier post, http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2007/02/spring_submissi.html, that "[s]ome law schools are known to count towards tenure only those articles that have been sent out once you've been on the tenure-track. Thus, if you're a VAP or a fellow, with a job already accepted at this point, you may want to consider sitting on the paper you have ready for another six months just so there's a greater likelihood that this piece will count toward your tenure portfolio."
I don't know how widespread this distinction is (actually it would be great to get more prawfsblog readers to weigh in), but to the extent it does exist, it is another reason for waiting on publishing your job talk.
All that said, I want to emphasize that your focus right now should be getting the best job (however you define it) possible, and that all other considerations are secondary. One "split the difference" strategy is to send out the job talk in the coming cycle only to law reviews a placement at which would significantly sweeten your existing publication record, and then if you get a bite negotiate with them for the delayed publication. If no bites are forthcoming or you can't negotiate for delayed publication, you can always re-submit to those journals and more in the next cycle, as many profs have done.

Posted by: I. Glenn Cohen | Apr 28, 2008 4:17:11 PM

Glenn, thanks for your very helpful advice. I think I'll follow your advice and hold off on submitting the piece I'm working on until after the job talk, and put it in the comments section...I can always put it on SSRN to avoid worries of preemption.

Posted by: Ubertrout | Apr 28, 2008 4:07:16 PM

Ubertrout, two great questions, both of which I faced while on the market. (1) The received wisdom is that it is best to present something not-yet-published as your job talk. From the point of view of creating a better work product, the end result will benefit tremendously from having so many people read and examine it closely (at no other point in your scholarly life will your work receive this level of attention). From a more cynical point of view, it allows you more leeway in answering hard questions, since you can honestly answer that a particular suggestion is helpful and something you will think about more; you can offer a first line response to a hard question, but admit that it is inchoate and you want to develop a better answer. More generally it just changes the mood of the talk subtly, by allowing the re-framing of what otherwise would be critique/errors into helpful suggestions or new directions.
You can, however, have your cake and eat it too, if you can get a paper submitted in an earlier cycle but negotiate for it not to come out until the very end of the volume (after most or all job talks) in which case you will be able to both get the reputational benefit of a good placement and the job talk benefit of a work in progress. I was able to do this with my Stanford article http://ssrn.com/abstract=1114806. Another colleague tried the same trick with something of his and the journal could not accomodate him. If this is something that is important to you, consider negotiating for it before accepting a journal's offer (when you still have clout). The journal will often tell you they can't make any promises, that it depends on the managing editor's scheduling which hasn't happened yet. Depending on your bargaining position, I would try and force them to explicitly give you what you want in writing.
That said, you should also know that many of the top schools do their talks later in the process so negotiating a February or March timeline for publication may not help you there (this was one of a number of reasons I used a companion piece for most of my job talks, which I placed in the S. Cal. L. Rev. in the September cycle of the semester when I was on the market, http://ssrn.com/abstract=1114806 and negotiated for publication the following (i.e., this) September).
(2) If the job talk has been placed in a journal, and especially if you like the placement, I would have it take up one of your 3 spots on the form and relegate an earlier publication to the comments. If it is not yet placed, I would probably put it into the comments. I wouldn't worry too much, though, as I am not sure there is a right answer. In any event, if the chair is not sure what the job talk is they will often ask you at the point when they invite you to do an FRC interview. You can also make it clear in the "package" I discussed in the post.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 28, 2008 2:47:35 PM

A question about the job talk paper. Am I correct to surmise that the job talk paper should not be already accepted for publication, but rather it should still be a work in progress? I was originally planning on submitting a paper for publication this fall, but I could certainly hold off on it.

Also, should one list the job talk paper in the publications section, or in the "comments" section, especially if the publications section is already full?

Posted by: Ubertrout | Apr 28, 2008 1:14:55 PM

My experience is that most schools wanted to see the job talk paper "as soon as possible," but were content with getting it around the 2-wk pre-FRC mark. I do know of at least one candidate who was behind on the paper, did not submit it before the FRC, and ended up receiving several job talks without anyone ever seeing the actual paper, but my impression is that this was quite rare (the candidate in question was exceptionally impressive: on paper, word of mouth, and in person).
If some of blog readership who have served as hiring chairs or on hiring committees want to add information on what their standard operating procedures have been, that would be very helpful.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 28, 2008 11:18:22 AM

How early in the process do schools expect to see a draft of your job talk paper? Just a couple weeks before the FRC, or even earlier?



Posted by: Hank | Apr 28, 2008 11:11:02 AM

"does anyone have any thoughts about how the demands of the hiring process differ - if at all - at lower-tier law schools versus higher-tier"

I don't think the timetable varies -- Glenn pretty much nailed it -- but what they expect might differ in one key way: it's easier to get a job with good legal experience and no fellowship/PhD.

(1) If you have one solid publication in a hard-to-staff field (e.g., corporate transactions, tax, ethics, patent, or real estate), then you're a solid candidate; in a more saturated field (e.g., litigation or civil rights), you probably should have two publications.

(2) This is a generalization, but I stand by it: The lower a school is ranked, the more that practice experience is valued. Top-ranked schools want to find the next [insert name of deep-think scholar here] to serve on their faculty; lower-ranked schools want prof who can help their students to pass the bar and become educated/skilled members of their city's/state's legal community.

Posted by: Scott Moss | Apr 27, 2008 8:47:04 PM

Sounds like sage advice, Glenn. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: GMcG | Apr 27, 2008 9:39:15 AM

As the last of a dying breed, I should say that if you plan on going to the FRC while employed at a law firm as opposed to a fellowship, start writing the job talk paper 1.5 years before the FRC.

Posted by: TJ | Apr 24, 2008 9:50:47 PM

I was wondering if perhaps this blog would be interested in doing a detailed tutorial on the FAR form? I started filling it out and was immediately struck by inane but relevant questions like "should I put down the citation or link for my scholarship?" and less inane questions like "given the space for three publications, which should be relegated to the comments section?" and "should I talk about citations and commentary in the comments section?"

And yeah...there's no way I can do all this stuff while practicing fulltime. At best I'll finish the article I'm working on now and circulate it / get feedback and make revisions via E-mail.

Posted by: Ubertrout | Apr 24, 2008 5:48:39 PM

At the risk of veering somewhat off-topic, does anyone have any thoughts about how the demands of the hiring process differ - if at all - at lower-tier law schools versus higher-tier? Accordingly, would the recommended time frame for preparing to go on the market differ at all for a candidate primarily targeting third and fourth tier law schools?

Posted by: Jim | Apr 24, 2008 5:18:10 PM

Thanks Andy, for better or worse I think that is exactly right, especially at the top schools. A senior colleague recently said to me that the standard we use to judge the entry-level candidates now is almost the standards we demanded for tenure 10 yrs ago.

I think there are interesting and difficult questions about whether this is a good development for law schools, which track bigger questions about the move to make the top law schools more like economic departments and less like professional schools in the last decade or so.

One implication is that fewer and fewer of the entry-level hires will have had significant legal work experience beyond clerking. Sensitive to this, Dean Kagan has recently announced a new VAP program at Harvard beyond the existing fellowships to try and ease a transition into the academic job market from practice, http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/fellowships/law_teaching_vap.php.
But you are right, it is becoming increasingly hard to apply to teach while working.

Posted by: Glenn Cohen | Apr 24, 2008 4:14:41 PM

how, exactly, is one supposed to do these things while working all the time? seems like you should add: "1 year before FRC: quit your day job."

Posted by: andy | Apr 24, 2008 3:52:34 PM

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