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Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Law Conference Unlike Any Other

Our appointments committee just finished an exhausting two days - back to back to back interviews. They were scheduled for 25 minutes and most went the full half hour. I met a lot of great candidates, and it is a shame that we won't be able to call many of them back due to limited options.

They call the meat market the "Faculty Recruitment Conference," and I suppose it is - technically. It has many indicia of conferences: participation by many law schools, registration, nametags, receptions, meeting rooms, etc.

I think the conventional wisdom is that this is where the comparison with the usual conferences stops. After all, beyond evening get-togethers there is little opportunity to mingle with friends and colleagues from other schools or to showcase one's work.

Even so, I think the FRC might still qualify as a "law" conference, at least depending on the demeanor of the interviewing faculty. More after the jump...

My alternate conception of the FRC as a conference treats the candidates as participatants in a series of micro-workshops. They have half an hour to present their scholarship as well as (depending on the school) their teaching interests and ideas. Over the course of two days, they may present up to 28 times.

I'm quite sure that most candidates do not see it that way, and the stress of interviewing takes the fun out of workshopping. Even so, once they are hired interviewing candidates will seek out the very same pressing scholarly questions they are peppered with during their mini-workshops. How many of law professors get 10 or even 2 hours at any given conference to present our works in progress to diverse faculty from multiple schools?

The FRC as micro-workshop is, I think, behind the advice that candidates appearing to enjoy themselves will do better on the market. A detailed workshop (even a critical one) is the kind of thing one should relish as an academic, and candidates who enjoy it now are more likely to be good participants later.

Of course, it is tiring to present yourself for so long, but the FRC is only once per year, and it's not like the committee isn't tired as well. I wish all of the candidates who interviewed with us good fortune, and I look forward to seeing some of you again soon.

Posted by Michael Risch on November 7, 2009 at 07:37 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


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