« Two Good Posts on Whether to Attend Law School | Main | Wonderful news! »

Friday, July 20, 2012

What Would You Tell Aspiring Law Professors?

Dan was kind enough to note below that I'll be speaking at the upcoming Aspiring Law Professors conference at Arizona State; the details are here. I have heard from several past attendees that they found the conference very useful. I should note in fairness the obvious point that attending is no guarantee of a successful application; I assume the value of the trip will be greatest for those who have a viable shot but would like some serious advice and an opportunity for practice and refinement. 

While I have some thoughts on what I want to say, I would be very happy to solicit any advice about what you would tell aspiring law professors if given the chance. In doing so, I should note two related matters. First, I appreciate the juxtaposition between this post and my recent post about "failing law schools." While hoping to forestall unduly obvious "advice" along the lines of "don't apply at all," "burn down the schools," "withdraw until you have practiced at least 20 years," and so on, I do think the juxtaposition is relevant and, indeed, it's the main reason I was so glad to agree to come. I do intend to bring some of these issues into my talk. I do think people entering a teaching profession, in this or any other time, have an obligation to think about what that position requires of them, including, say, getting to know one's local legal market and becoming actively involved in faculty governance. Second, for better or worse, for purposes of this talk I am taking law schools' hiring preferences as a given. If I ever give a talk to aspiring hiring committee members, my text might differ on this point. In any event, I welcome advice on what advice to give! -- either about how to get a teaching job or about what duties that job entails. I posted the same request on Facebook and got some very useful advice (thank you, "friends"), so I thought I'd ask here as well.   

Posted by Paul Horwitz on July 20, 2012 at 08:37 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What Would You Tell Aspiring Law Professors?:


Folks, I'm closing this thread, which has run somewhat off course given that we have an annual open thread in which candidates and prawfs can have an informal but polite conversation about tips for the teaching job market. That post will be up soon. Please watch for it. Many thanks!

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jul 23, 2012 8:37:57 AM


I've not sat on a hiring committee, but earlier posts here have suggested that over the last few years, a VAP, PhD or some sort of similar post law school (non-practice) work is important to landing a job.

Re: research areas - my impressions overlap with Jack's. Tax, corporate law and commercial law. I'd also add that I hear that Professional Responsibility is a big one.

Re: publication record. I'm told that to be assured a job (in better markets, not this one), you wanted to have published one article for each year that you were out in practice. So, if you graduated in 2009, you'd want to have your student note, an article in 2010, 2011 and 2012, plus your job talk piece. Lots of people seem to get hired with less, but this was the advice I was given (and did not take).

Posted by: on the market (again) | Jul 23, 2012 8:06:12 AM

Tell them it's helpful to have a supportive and understanding - nay! saintly - spouse who is willing to go wherever the law school hiring roulette wheel might land.

Posted by: Kelly Horwitz | Jul 23, 2012 12:25:50 AM


Based on the clarity and precision of your 8:00 post, I think you are going to do fine.

I've been on appointments 7 or 8 times. Committees tend to do more reading now, rather than just counting publications. So the kind of publication anyone needs, H, Y or other, is a publication indicating the ability to do high quality work. One that makes readers think "there is no question that the author of this paper is likely to earn tenure." At my top 40-ish school, faculty assume that a quality paper should land in a top 40-ish journal. There are reasons that it might not, and a speciality journal that is well recognized could be an equivalent. One well-done, creative, rigorous piece is far superior to several mediocre pieces.

A Ph.D. is a big plus. I've seen it work on a number of occasions. But you should have a plan as to how it will improve your scholarship. That is, what line of research do you have in mind that you could do better with a Ph.D.? A fancy J.D./Ph.D. will not help a candidate who does not have a creative spark. The Ph.D. program makes sense if it offers methodological or substantive training that will lead to interesting scholarship.

What research areas are in demand? I think (impressionistically) tax, corporations, and commercial law/bankruptcy. It is not necessarily that the most jobs are in that area, but that there are not enough quality candidates compared to, say, criminal law or constitutional law where there are big pools.

Good Luck!

Posted by: Jack | Jul 22, 2012 9:47:24 PM

I think Mr. D.D. Fields gave good advice about how to approach this, AnonRecentGrad. Not all schools are the same. They are not all equally in the running to hire the people with the most exalted CVs, who will often, but not always, have their hearts set on the most prestigious place that will hire them. They are looking for people with good records who show promise as scholars and teachers. A good solid article would beat out a couple of pedestrian ones that were just put together for show. It is relatively easy to spot a person who is really into what they have written and give signs of wanting to do more. It is about showing promise, not being fully formed.

Not everyone who gets hired has a PhD. That is a serious project to undertake and should not be done unless you really want to do it. It's worth it if you want to get a PhD. The people I know who have done it did so because they really did want to study their subject in depth.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 9:39:22 PM

It should be pointed out that virtually *everyone* who reads a blog like this one has already been exposed to a great deal of information about the decline of law school applicants, the debt to income ratios of graduates, high levels of unemployment/underemployment, and the potential for many law schools to close their doors in the coming years.

We all know about the arguments around this. It doesn't have to be subject of every single discussion about law school related careers.

I also know that, now and in the future there will be a *non-zero* number of law schools. This non-zero number of law schools will hire a non-zero number of entry level law professors. I want to know how to improve and/or consider my chances of being one of those people who get hired. Because someone is going to get hired - and prospective law professors are already aware of the instability of legal academia as a whole and have determined that they are still interested.

So, the exclusive and derailing focus on how precarious many law schools are is not helpful - we are already aware of this, but, at the same time note that not *all* law schools will fold, and among those that remain open, they will continue to hire *someone*.

If anyone has any more thoughts on what to tell aspiring law professors other than "do a job less desirable to you, and, go back in time and warn your former self not to go to law school" - that would be great...In particular obviously I'd love if someone knowledgable (like, someone who has sat on a hiring committee) could take a shot at some of my unanswered (unless I missed it) earlier questions such as, what sort of publication record does a non-yale/harvard t14 graduate need for a credible application, is a phd worth it, and what research areas are in demand.

Posted by: AnonRecentGrad | Jul 22, 2012 8:00:12 PM


That's a good point regarding bar requirements. I'd forgotten about that. I disagree that the nine-month metric is all that useful, though. The employment outcomes for most students are determined when they get their LSAT scores back.

As far as business school goes, its certainly overpriced, like most education. But it is probably better to have less debt from a business school and more career flexibility than more debt from a law school and less career flexibility.

Duke v. UC Berkley? I'm not surprised that Duke's B-school is almost as expensive as Cal law. Duke is private, and Cal is public.

Field, I'm sorry we're raining on your parade. There actually was a post about law students on this blog a few days ago. I think the lack of interest in it shows how much thought law profs really give to their students.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 22, 2012 6:07:59 PM

Is there a special term for the blogosphere that captures the idea of commenters who hijack a discussion thread--especially with personal attacks on other commenters, with "facts" that lack any nuanced understanding of the problem, and with predictions that they confuse for facts? Is that a "troll"? Is there no other forum for you to get this off your chest? In any event these folks remind me that more advice for prospective academics is to answer questions directly, to err on the side of respect/kindness for others, and to appreciate that facts and situations are usually more complicated than they appear (no matter how passionately you feel about those issues). Hiring committees can usually spot folks (like "trolls" if I'm using that term correctly) who aren't mature (circumspect, measured, careful) enough to be academics, and won't hire them. We want folks who are in love with ideas (generally), rather than those who are in love with their own ideas. These folks are often easy to spot in person, even if they think they keep it under wraps in live conversations as opposed to blog posts.

On some of the specifics raised above, in response to the changing dynamics of the legal profession and legal education, aspiring profs should be told that not all law schools have the same missions. Schools that aren't in the top 3, top 14, top whatever, are not just schools that have failed to achieve the greatness of the top schools. Many (most?) of them have different primary objectives altogether than the great schools: they want to diversify the legal profession, the want their graduates to serve underrepresented and disadvantaged populations, they want to provide an opportunity for students in a region who have no other options to become a lawyer, they want to provide their state government with well-trained lawyers, they want to offer a different curriculum, or whatever their mission may be. Unfortunately because of US News and its fallout, it's as if we took all of the olympic track athletes and put them all in one ranking and race after some had trained for long distance, others for sprinting, others for hurdles, etc. Now of course these non-elite, non-national schools have been affected by the changing dynamic of the profession--indeed especially so. So the issue for each of them is how can they still afford to have this mission? And that's what each of these schools is struggling/planning to do. For most it probably means they will shrink--not abandon their mission, not close their doors, but simply admit fewer students; that's my best guess. How schools are planning to effect that--and what principles will guide their choices--is an important topic of conversation for prospective profs to pursue (albeit probably at the call-back or offer stage, rather than at the screening interview).

Posted by: David Dudley Field | Jul 22, 2012 5:32:49 PM


The reason for three months as opposed to nine months is that there is no licensing requirement for practicing business as compared to law. In law, grads do not know whether they have passed the bar until six months after law school, which effects employability. In business, there is no such requirement. So while there is perhaps a difference between 3 month and 9 month employment rates for business grads, its probably not that great (although I concede that I lack any empirical basis for that statement).

As for cooking the books, if business schools have been doing that then it would suggest that their already dismal employment numbers are even worse than the ones cited by US News and World Report. Business school would therefore be an even worse bet.

Finally, the numbers on Duke: 86 percent of its students are in debt after graduation with average debt of approximately $125,000 according to US News. This difference is accounted for in the difference between a two year business program and a three year law program. Another top law school, UC Berkeley, has an average student indebtedness of $104,000, which is only $8,000 more than Duke Business School.

Posted by: FWIW | Jul 22, 2012 5:26:36 PM

Number 5 was what I was trying to convey to the person asking about teaching subjects F and G. There are times when a school is in need of someone to cover a specific area, and they go out looking for that. But they would not turn aside a really great candidate just because he or she did not cover the subjects they needed at the moment. There is usually room for targets of opportunity. And Mr. Maxeiner is right about consensus hiring. It is well nigh impossible for one person to force a hire on an unwilling faculty.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 4:59:27 PM

This thread has gone far afield from Professor Horwitz’s sincere request to find ways to help prospective law school faculty members. It discloses bitterness among those who have been part of the process. I have been on the disappointed applicant side of the process more often than most. In the end, I did enjoy a modest measure of success. I would like to contribute some thoughts that I hope will provide practical help.

(1) Most law school hiring is done by consensus. First, a committee by consensus selects candidates. Second, the faculty by consensus chooses the people to get offers. The one universal consensus as to a good candidate: Yale law graduate + federal judicial clerkship + one credible law review note. Everything else becomes a matter of debate, e.g., additional law degrees, non-law graduate degrees, serious publications, serious professional work, etc. As to these credentials, there is no consensus. They may be positive draws or they may be of little interest. It depends on the faculty doing the hiring. In my many times on the market, since my credentials did not match the consensus, it seemed my chances were better the smaller was the hiring committee.

(2) Private employer hiring is done less by consensus. Convincing one person to hire you may be all that is needed. That person may find you interesting. Use Martindale to find people who may find you interesting. Attractiveness as a candidate in the private sector is not greatly diminished by one or two years spent doing other thing after law school. Even three to five years of doing other things is not fatal.

(3) Law school chances reduce over time. My first couple of times at AALS, I had around twenty-five interviews. As the years passed, the number of interviews fell to ten and then to five. Perhaps the better to teach age discrimination law, law schools practice it.

(4) Most law schools hire the “best candidate” and thus are not especially concerned with subject matter specialty. The definition of best candidate as a former federal clerk tends to limit emphasis on specialties.

(5) Experience as a visiting professor, or as an adjunct, helps to establish oneself as a serious candidate generally, but is not especially helpful at the school where one is employed.

(6) Take nothing personally! Never sell yourself short.

Posted by: James Maxeiner | Jul 22, 2012 4:25:01 PM


Those are unfair comparisons. The schools you listed are generally considered the top business schools in the country, if not the world.

I'm comparing Appalachian's law school to its other graduate programs.

If you compared Duke's business school to its law school, I'm guessing the law school debt would be higher.

I'm not sure what relevance the employment statistics have. If they're anything like the law schools, then they're just a bunch of cooked books. But it is interesting that they measure the success ratio by students employed at graduation and three months after, and not nine months after.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 22, 2012 4:05:51 PM

To tie this back to the post, I would tell aspiring law professors to avoid schools that they would not attend themselves.

Kendall, it looks like you missed this article about the "flexible" law degree: http://www.americanlawyer.com/PubArticleALD.jsp?id=1202563363671&Do_Not_Trust_Deans_Bearing_Versatile_Juris_Doctors&slreturn=20120622155338

Posted by: Anon | Jul 22, 2012 3:54:42 PM

I'm not sure we want to elevate business schools into bastions of good debt-free opportunity.

According to US News:

"On average, the 135 business schools that reported graduates' employment data to U.S. News and had at least 20 graduates seeking jobs had 57.7 percent of their graduates employed at graduation. The number of newest alumni who were employed leapt to 78.7 percent, on average, three months after graduation."

As for the level of indebtedness:

These 10 business schools graduated students with the heaviest average debt loads in 2011, based on school-reported data to U.S. News:

Business school (name) (state) Average indebtedness U.S. News b-school rank
Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) $96, 805 12
Dartmouth College (Tuck) (NH) $96,346 9
Yale University (CT) $93,723 10
University Of Michigan—Ann Arbor (Ross) $93,602 13
University of Virginia (Darden) $90,949 13
Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) $90,200 4
Cornell University (Johnson) (NY) $90,194 16
New York University (Stern) $89,040 11
Vanderbilt University (Owen) (TN) $87,587 25
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) $86,688 4

Posted by: FWIW | Jul 22, 2012 3:50:02 PM


With the exception of practicing law, anything you can do with a law degree, you can do without one. HR? The total cost of attendance for a 1L at Appalachian state is more than 31,000. That doesn't even include cost of living. And that's in state. General in state graduate tuition is about four grand for a year. That's a pretty big difference.

There's considerations beyond cost. An MBA takes less time. It's more geared towards business. A person with one has a better shot than a person with a law degree at getting a business job.

A few successful non-attorney lawyers doesn't change the fact that the JD is not a versatile degree. If that's true, then why are 33% of the class of 2011 underemployed and unemployed?

So, forgive me if it sounds like you're telling people they should spend too much to get a degree they don't need for a job they probably can't get.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 22, 2012 1:50:01 PM

Law schools are in the process of deciding how to proceed at this time. Between their deliberations, the vast amount of information out there about this topic-- people in the academy are discussing this-- and the thoughtfulness of the people on the market, we can assume that most people who are entering this endeavor are thinking things through. The people I know who have been through this kept their options open.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 1:46:33 PM

Let me be clear on the point I am trying to make.

There are groups of aspiring law professors:

1. Someone coming out of a role which means that they are a "hot property," i.e., attorney general, etc.

2. Someone who, even out of law school, was considering being a law professor;

3. Someone who has already taken steps down the road to being a tenured professor, e.g., a VAP

4. A law professor looking at a lateral transfer.

My comments assume that for the putative professor, they fall into any of these categories. In that case they need to put some serious thought into their alternatives and indeed keeping their future options open. Only the truly delusional see being a law professor as beings a secure alternative in the way my peers (who are now professors as it happens, I checked) 20 years ago saw it (and sorry Paul, I just called BDG delusional (which was better than the more appropriate adjectives.) Given this context, anyone looking at being a law professor needs to consider the alternatives and the consequences of joining the "professoriate" for any alternatives. Moreover, they need to look at the law school they are thinking of joining in the context of a market with 197 law schools than can probably support between 90 and 110.

I am not here going to get into my assessment of certain law schools including Appalachian 's likely future, but I do strongly urge anyone that before they take a further step down the professor track to recognise the harsh reality that there is at least a 50% over capacity in the law-school industry and that the product is dramatically overpriced and that an adjustment seems to already be in progress. It is better to consider that issue now, than to regret in leisure later.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 22, 2012 1:32:17 PM

I'm no psychic, but if I can predict that this conversation is about to dive back into sharp disagreement, may I remind folks to be civil. I'm loath to cut off the conversation, even though it is moving farther afield from the OP (I assume I won't give a three-hour speech about all these issues!), but I do prefer discussion to be relatively impersonal even when it's sharp.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 22, 2012 11:23:16 AM

At some point, we need to change the expectation fot a JD. Yes, some will go on to become lawyers (even if only 28.6%), but is a legal career the only measurement of success for the degree? It is not. I know plenty of people with law degrees that went on to earn as much if not more money than their lawyer brethren working in fields like human resources, contract analysis & marketing, ethics & compliance, amongst others. If we would widen our perspective on the value of the degree, we would be able to appreciate how the degree can help graduates improve their career and standard of living. I see part of my role as helping my students see this bigger picture so that they don't become disheartened by the rhetoric coming from certain naysayers and doomsday speakers out there. Anon's "truth" does not have to determine the destiny of students at ASL or any other school.

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 22, 2012 11:16:56 AM

Edit the third sentence -- " you just have not written"

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 8:57:24 AM

I think the point is that you have to go with what you have. You are either in the process or you are not. If you haven't written in F and G, you just have written in F and G. There are people who have written in F and G, and it may not be very impressive. They may not have received good marks for their teaching in the fields. Your passion for your subject, and the quality of the work you have done, along with the intangibles that are the inevitable part of any interview process, will be very important. It is not like they are dealing with established scholars. One or two articles in a subject area does not even assure that the person is going to stay interested in that area for long. And most law professors have had the experience of covering classes in subjects that are not their primary interest. It is part if the job. You can look at many careers where people started out teaching and writing in one area, and then dropped it for something else. So, you have no choice but to lead with what you have, and not paralyze yourself by thinking that what you do not have will certainly doom your chances.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 22, 2012 8:34:14 AM

"anothervapper" - I think that one issue that you might face, but did not raise, is how do you successfully convince a committee that you are qualified to teach F and G? I presume that most people write in fields A and B because those are the fields in which they are most qualified and/or the most interested in.

I don't know how you can present yourself as the best candidate against budding academics who both teach and write in F and G. Unless the market in those areas is thin, you have some sort of special advantage that you--for whatever reason--do not choose to exploit by writing about that area of law, etc.

FWIW, I found that during almost every interview I was asked to name my ideal course package. Sometimes I was also asked to defend those choices. So, even if you say that your ideal course package includes F and G, that seems less credible to me than someone who writes in those areas and who would not just be "covering" those classes.

Posted by: on the market (again) | Jul 22, 2012 7:31:00 AM

Kendall, what do you say about these employment stats: http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=appalachian

I don't know how that "serves" anyone. 180K+ in cost and 28.6% full-time legal employment. You make a depressed area more depressed. AND your school doesn't provide its students salary data. US News has your school as the only accredited school, in the entire country with employment at 9 months under 50%.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 21, 2012 7:21:29 PM

That is right, Professor Isaac. Appreciation of colleagues, atmosphere, and mission can matter a great deal. Nothing in life is certain. So, we do the best we can.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 4:50:11 PM

Thanks Barb. Sorry my English was not pristine at 6am. And yes, my offers were from accredited schools, but I was drawn to the people at ASL. Knock Appalachian all you want, but it is filled with great people, high integrity and has developed a niche in an underserved area. This niche will ensure it will not "close soon".

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 21, 2012 4:40:45 PM

meatmarketeer-- perfect.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 3:40:37 PM

Can I download said list on SSRN?

Posted by: meatmarketeer | Jul 21, 2012 3:25:22 PM

On the top of your list? Well, that settles everything!

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 3:21:02 PM


Were your other two offers from accredited schools? Appalachian near the very top of my "schools that will likely close soon" list.

Posted by: Anon | Jul 21, 2012 2:56:30 PM

Thanks, CHS!

Posted by: anothervapper | Jul 21, 2012 11:59:12 AM


Regarding your third question, if I were in that position I'd broadly apply for one-year visiting gigs in the spring. Alternatively, I'd consider some of the type of programs Anonity mentioned above.

Posted by: Anonymoose | Jul 21, 2012 9:47:05 AM

Having went on the market last year and received 4 interviews and 3 offers, I would tell people to be confident in yourself and stop worrying about statistics. If you want to work in this profession and you have passion for it and are open to live anywhere, you will find an opportunity. I graduated from a 4th tier law school and was not a top 10% student. So what I lacked from an educational perspective I had to overcome with subject-matter expertise, a willingness to be open to all possible job opportunities, exceptional references from people who know that you can't always measure talent by looking at the stat sheet (err I mean FAR), insightful scholarship, and the determination to prove that I have star potential in academia.

Also, every industry at some point will hit a downturn, it is inevitable. Law schools are not immune. It's our turn. If you walk into a career worried about being downsized, you are doomed before you start. You cannot predict the future. But you should go into it eyes-open and make smart choices based on the opportunities before you. If you are lucky enough to have to choose between offers, look closely at the economics surrounding the school. If you are not so lucky, jump into the mix anyway. What's the worst that could happen, you get downsized? Lesser people than you have survived worse! It happens, you will be ok. I wish you aspiring profs much success on this endeavor!

Posted by: Kendall Isaac | Jul 21, 2012 5:58:15 AM

A follow up:

4. If you have primary research interests where supply vastly outstrips demand (legal theory and constitutional law) should you try to develop a publication record in another active research interest that might have a better supply to demand ratio - or is this pointless as long as you can present yourself as someone who is competent to teach the more in demand areas?

5. What *are* the in demand research areas that a hiring committee would most like to see entry level profs write in? Obviously people should write what they are interested in and can make a meaningful contribution to, but sometimes you can go in certain directions that are more marketable than others, if you know which ones are most marketable.

Posted by: AnonRecentGrad | Jul 21, 2012 1:18:55 AM

Along the lines of FARout's questions, since I also will not be able to attend the conference but would love some advice from professors outside of my own law school, I would be greatly appreciative if someone(s) could attempt the following questions:

1. How do you feel about PhDs after a JD as means of enhancing one's chances on the faculty job market? Is it enough of a plus if from a to get someone over the stigma of having a JD from the lower end of the t-14 (say you would hypothetically end up as a JD from Northwestern, Dphil Politics from Oxford)? Or is it outweighed as a liability since, if you don't get a faculty job, no law firm/govt. agency/non-profit law org, will ever hire you once you have a PhD after a JD (and is this a correct assumption)?

2. What kind of publications record do you need to get to the interview stage, again assuming you're coming from a place like Northwestern not a place like Yale. I have heard everything from that you only need a note, and a post-JD journal article at another school, any other school, to the idea that the more publications the better even if they are in secondary journals of lower ranked schools, provided that all your publications are of high quality in content - to perhaps most discouragingly that you need at least one, probably more than one, article in a top-10 or top-5 journal to get a TT job. Anyone have an opinion on what the situation is with this?

3. Say you've been on the AALS market and you don't get a job. Your fellowship/phd/VAP is about to end. You have no non-academic legal work history because you always wanted to be a professor, and already spent several post-JD years preparing for it. What do you do *then*? I would think that, even with top grades from a good law school, spending 1-4 years doing something that was obviously intended as preparation for a law teaching position would not endear a candidate to traditional law firms (but would it utterly rule them out?) - but is there a fall back career path? Or do people who don't get jobs at the AALS market just have to work at McDonalds for the rest of their lives?


Posted by: AnonRecentGrad | Jul 21, 2012 1:13:39 AM

I think the last option would be best. Any schools that would mark you down because you have not written in F and G are not likely to be mollified by your promise to write in F and G some day. I suppose an alternate talk in F and G, if that is what you mean, might be taken as an indication that you will write on the subject. That would have the advantage of letting them know how you might handle the subjects. But overall it would be best to lead with your strengths, and express your willingness to be flexible in your teaching.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 12:54:48 AM

Any thoughts on how/whether to simply and briefly acknowledge to interviewers the "crisis" discussed above, so as to avoid seeming oblivious of it but also avoid annoying anyone? Or is appearing oblivious actually preferable to reminding the committee and depressing everyone?

Posted by: juniorminted | Jul 21, 2012 12:42:43 AM

Say I write in fields A and B but propose to teach in A, B, C, D, E, F and G. I also have geographical constraints due to my spouse's job. If the schools I hope to target are hiring not in A or B but instead in F and G, how can I present myself as the best candidate, given I will be competing against people who write in F and G? Do I need to profess passion for those topics, claim I hope to write on them next, prepare an alternate jobtalk, or just try to prove myself a generally qualified candidate who badly wants to join that faculty and will cover those classes effectively while writing on A and B?

Thanks for any suggestions you can offer and for your other comments on the thread! I too have to miss the AZ conference as the meatmarket will exhaust my conference budget.

Posted by: anothervapper | Jul 21, 2012 12:36:58 AM

I think they are aware.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 21, 2012 12:14:19 AM


I think it just depends on what a person means by short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Next year? Probably not. Five-ten years? That could be it. Like others have suggested, it only takes one.

In any event, potential professors should be be aware, just like potential law students.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 20, 2012 11:57:54 PM

It is good to have multiple references. But you want to make sure they are very strong references, people who really know you and your work. It is usually very easy to tell when that is not the case.

Posted by: CHS | Jul 20, 2012 11:53:11 PM

"How can applicants who received JDs from non-T14 schools get noticed for purposes of obtaining a first round interview? (I obviously disagree with MacK's statement that you have to have graduated from a top-6 school and I think last year's hiring reports confirm my point; this is particularly true for those of us with LLMs from top-10 schools and/or fellowships/VAPs and/or appellate clerkships.)"

I didn't graduate from a top14 school, but did get an LLM from HYS, did a fellowship and a VAP and had absolutely no luck on the market. I had great references, numerous publications, the whole 9 yards, but here is the damn awful truth:

If you didn't get your JD from a top school, it is very unlikely that you'll get a law professor job.

The schools are just too status obsessed. Hell, how many law professors are "doing scholarship" or blog entries on rankings of some sort: law review articles, ssrn downloads, blog traffic.

It's just so pathetic.

Posted by: justme | Jul 20, 2012 11:48:33 PM

Correction: "My view is, I think, just an educated guess, not unaware of the context and the economics (I've followed the discussion closely on other blogs) but also based on experience and a certain perverse brand of fatalism about institutions' talent at avoiding short-term remedies, including badly needed ones, for problems such as these.'

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 11:46:31 PM

A quick note to thank you for all the valuable comments, both positive and negative, on this post and the failing law schools post. Further comments via email are also welcome! I would have liked to have had many immediate answers and comebacks, but 1) time pressures today (the Batman movie is, like, really really long. Seriously. It's like the Ring Cycle, if the Ring Cycle had more CGI and only about two notes in the score.) 2) When I ask for feedback like this, it's because I genuinely want to get input from the relevant stakeholders rather than thinking I know everything. All I can promise is that, both as to the talk and the paper, I will keep these comments (and any others) close, give them serious thought, and try to make changes where I think it appropriate and feasible. Neither will satisfy everyone, but I will have tried to seriously listen and respond. Again, thanks. (And thanks for calling me a jerk, Marc.)

Because so much was expended on this question and it would seem somehow not right to have others attacking each other without putting my cards on the table, I'll offer a couple short words on this subject. As I mention briefly in the review, I'm skeptical that there will be a large number of law school closures in the mid-term, and very skeptical that there will be several closures in the next nine months. I've been wrong before, of course! Divination was my lowest mark at Hogwarts. My view is, I think, just an educated guess, not unaware of the context and the economics (I've followed the discussion closely on other blogs) but also judging, based on experience and a certain perverse brand of fatalism about institutions talent at avoiding short-term remedies, including badly needed ones, to problems such as these. As I say, I could be wrong. I don't think my view on this depends on whether I think closures are a good or bad thing, just whether I feel confident saying a bunch are necessarily coming, let alone necessarily soon. I could, on the other hand, foresee (or, given current events, see) resources crunches at more law schools, more things like class reductions, and so on. Perhaps there will be closures too; I'm just more conservative in my risk assessment about that than some others. But I appreciate the discussion. I do think teaching candidates ought to think about the environment they're going to be teaching in and what resource constraints it may involve for them in the nearer and longer future. More important, they ought to think about the challenges, commitments, and duties and moral obligations to the students at those schools, both pedagogically, financially, etc.

Again, for what its worth, thanks. I'll try to listen and continue listening and incorporate advice. Anything I don't cover in the talk I'll try to put up here, and I may post the talk on SSRN for what little it's worth.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 11:42:41 PM

David - thank you!

Posted by: FARout | Jul 20, 2012 8:05:34 PM


Your smug and dismissive response to MacK is unfortunate. MacK's done his homework and, I think, has a pretty accurate pulse on where things are going in law school economics.

Established and respected schools are in dire financial straits right now. Rutgers-Camden may very well be on its death bed. Rutgers-Camden is a T100 school affiliated with New Jersey's flagship university. Despite this status, it has barely filled half of its seats for next month's entering class. In fact, less than a month from 1L orientation, Rutgers-Camden is sending letters to prospective students that have not even applied and is offering them full scholarships with top 40% retention stipulations. This is breathtaking and the rapid pace of Camden's decline should give everyone pause. Here's a link to prospective students talking about Camden's plight.


The word is out and I fear the damage to its reputation is irreversible at this point. Conventional wisdom on TLS and other sites has shifted greatly. For many prospective students, Georgetown or UVA at sticker are now seen as bad bets.

As noted above, all the industry needs is for one reputable school affiliated with a major university to close. Once this happens, I suspect a wave of closures will ensue. No one wants to be first, but once someone closes their law school, others will follow suit as they increasingly become financial millstones. Schools are expanding tuition cross-subsidization and discounting in a desperate rearguard action to preserve their USNews rankings.

Finally, I don't know how much longer the "independents" can hold out, especially as they engage in deep discounting to fill seats. It wouldn't surprise me if the 2013-14 or 2014-15 were the final academic years for places like New York Law School, Albany, or Brooklyn Law. They will be bleeding red ink this coming year to hold the line on incoming class LSAT/GPA.

Posted by: Voodoo94 | Jul 20, 2012 8:03:41 PM

I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogony.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 7:22:38 PM

Re FARout's numbered questions, I would contribute the following thoughts...

(1) There are many profs out here who didn't go to elite schools, so don't despair. Publications will get you noticed. Contacts can get you an interview. A targeted letter followed up by an email to the hiring committee at school can make a difference; but don't be a pest--show your interest and let the process run its course.

(3) I don't think it's possible to have too many references. I always love long lists because it makes it more likely that they'll be someone on the list that I know/trust. The downside of a long list, of course, is that you'd prefer people to contact your strongest reference--and on a long list, some recommenders won't know you as well as others. But I don't think there's a downside to a long list from the hiring committee's perspective.

(4) For me personally, I want to see (i) that you are genuinely enthused about your topic; and (ii) that your enthusiasm leads you to question, dig, wrestle, read, and write. But many colleagues of mine look for something very different. I want many things more than (i) and (ii) in a colleague, but I think it's hard to tell those other things from the job talk; I'll read the paper, talk to your recommenders, and have a conversation with you for those other things.

(5) I would take such questions as a sign that maybe my scholarship isn't their concern. Maybe it's not their primary concern with any of the candidates. Or maybe it's just not their concern with me. I don't think that conversation is off track, though. I would let it go wherever it goes; they're getting to know you.

(6) Practice experience can give you scholarship ideas and it can give you teaching ideas. If, in fact, it has given you scholarship/teaching ideas, mention it. But don't force it if isn't genuine/sincere.

(7) I don't like such information on the CV, but I'm probably in the minority on that. I wouldn't hold it against you.

(8) I would definitely wait until the expedite process is over; and then I would send an email to the hiring chair with an updated CV attached. If I didn't get an email back from the chair within a few days, I would telephone them just to make sure that it was received.

The recommendation (above) to get advice from many sources is spot on. There are many different cultures/types/personalities out here, so eventually you'll hear something that matches what you want to hear. (And I mean that in a good way!)

--Many Times a Hiring Committee Chair

Posted by: David Dudley Field | Jul 20, 2012 7:18:32 PM


You have a point. You have made it. Thank you - genuinely.

Now, kindly stop dominating the thread so that others, who may have other types of advice to offer more along the lines of what Paul was soliciting (i.e., substantive advice on *how* to get a teaching job, not whether), may speak.


PS Thanks also to FARout.

Posted by: AnAnonVAP | Jul 20, 2012 6:40:57 PM


If you think I am judging you (as opposed to say BDG) you are a little too self-impressed, but that is OK, you want to be a law professor and this is part of the job description.

By your own statements you are not a graduate of a T6 or T14 school and that makes it pretty unlikely, though not impossible that you are a former supreme court clerk. Similarly part of your complaint was that the points I and others had made related to candidate professors that would have the opportunity to pick and choose between law schools, rather than being someone hoping for a faculty offer, any offer.... That make it pretty unlikely that you "practiced in the area I want to teach/write for 5-10 years" but anything is possible. Nonetheless, you posted above as if my original comment was just about you, and well....it wasn't. Indeed this thread is not about you.

At this stage if you are a VAP, you have already started down a path from which a retreat is going to be difficult unless you are on some sort of leave of absence from a very big firm or have absolutely stellar practice credentials. You will of course note that my reference to practice experience of law professors was of "typical" professors and not just about you - or maybe you did not catch that (though if you had "practiced for 5-10 years" you might have.)

In any event, for anyone who is not FARout - a very hard look at where the profession of law professor (which is pretty separate at this point from lawyer) is going is advisable, and the medium term prospects of any law school that makes them an offer. Even for a VAP there may still be alternatives to say Cooley or others that make more sense.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 6:26:22 PM

Can folks please get back to giving advice to those of us who are doing this?

I, for one, have already considered the risks and made my move into academics. I'm a VAP. I'm going on the market. I'm not looking for people to tell me I made a bad choice. I am looking for advice about how to increase my chances for success. I assume other candidates are with me. There are plenty of other places to debate the validity of law schools, the future of the institution in general, and law teaching pedagogy.

MacK -- you don't know anything about my candidacy or qualifications. For all you know, I could've clerked for a Supreme Court justice and practiced in the area I want to teach/write for 5-10 years. Maybe try not to be so judgmental when you have such a dearth of information about the people you address.

Paul -- to the extent there are individuals attending the conference who have *not* given these issues thought, and assuming those individuals are still clerking or in the early years of practice, please go ahead and raise these issues. I am not suggesting they are not worthy of serious consideration. What I am suggesting, however, is that I suspect many of us have already thought these things through, followed the discourse, etc., and have nonetheless made the decision to go on the market. My understanding of this conference is that it is designed to *help* us, not make us question our decisions. So, my suggestion is to make the scary point, but please do not belabor it. Your slant on it, focusing on the real nature of "service" as it will apply to my generation of faculty, is appreciated and, in my opinion, much more valuable.

AnAnonVAP -- I'd wait until just before you go on the market to attend this conference. You'll likely be able to present/practice the job talk you'll give as a candidate, which perhaps isn't quite ready yet.

Posted by: FARout | Jul 20, 2012 5:52:44 PM

Incidentally "Horowitz" it is hard to insult you after reading your draft paper "What Ails the law Schools" since you are quite evidently aware that of the serious issues confronting the legal academy. I do disagree with you analysis of the solutions, none of which address the massive overcapacity problem or the need to cut the cost of attendance in real terms (which means perforce cutting tuition and faculty payroll), but compared to say BDG you are very far up the curve on grasping the scale of the problem.

First Amendment writing may be interesting to law professors - but I think that your article on the current situation of the legal academy is a good start, if a little less willing to utter harsh truths than say Brian Tamahama, Deborah Jones Merritt or for that matter Paul Campos (at this point BDG is making evil eye gestures.) Law schools and their faculty need to start thinking very hard about what is happening - denial as the cliché puts it "is not a river in Egypt" or an approach that anyone approaching the practice of law should engage in or be an exemplar of.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 5:19:12 PM

Horwitz -- what is this frivolous trash? Get back to your First Amendment work!

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Jul 20, 2012 4:57:53 PM


What crowd is that? The 45% of the class of 2011 who are working (or unemployed) in jobs not requiring bar passage?

Uncertainty? Talk about the understatement of the year. Law schools will start closing, and potential professors should take that into consideration. How much longer do you really think this can last? LSAT takers and enrolling classes are down.

This is no attempt to start a fight. Just an attempt to make you aware of the obvious.

Posted by: sharksandwich | Jul 20, 2012 4:42:47 PM

Could folks please remember to insult me rather than each other....

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jul 20, 2012 4:37:59 PM

Actually, BDG, I am a fairly successful international lawyer, with personal offices in several countries, a few law books and a good few articles under my belt, posting today from Europe after the end of a long week - and next week to be at home in the US.

I think you need to absorb one little item of information to ask whether the prediction of law school closings is ridiculous, 47,000 JDs a year, 20,000 odd law jobs. You may make snarky comments about "my crowd," but if I am right I may be reading your resumé before long. In my crowd by the way are commentators ranging from Brian Tamahama - whose book any aspiring law professor should read, and numerous others, who will put hard numbers in front of those here.

Only a fool would think that law schools are not going to face a very painful adjustment shortly - and, not looking for a rise, anyone who cannot recognise that hard reality has no business teaching law. And by that I do mean you.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 4:35:54 PM

For those who didn't realize it immediately, I'll note that MacK appears to be a troll (i.e., s/he knows nothing, is trying to start fights). I'm not going to take the bait, but not much s/he says is true; most is a tired repetition of standard tropes we see occasionally from his/her crowd. Not to say that everything at law schools will be swell, but most of the conclusions s/he draws from the premise that the field will have some uncertainty are ridiculous.

Posted by: BDG | Jul 20, 2012 4:18:15 PM

Paul -

Great post. I'm going to go to the conference, the question is this year or next, for reasons that I suspect apply to others as well.

For those of us who, like me, are now beginning two-year VAPs and fellowships, and intending to go on the market in fall 2013, do you think it would in general be more valuable to go to this conference this fall or next? Assume that we have received advice about the market and so on from prawfs at our alma maters and in our current programs, but have not done a job talk or an academic interview (apart from the interview to get our current job).

Thank you for all your advice.

Posted by: AnAnonVAP | Jul 20, 2012 4:02:33 PM

But if you are not, you need to seriously consider whether the institution you are joining is going to be around for the sort of career that David Dudley Field describes.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 4:00:38 PM


I think in rejecting my comments you need to consider the nub of what I was saying. If you take a faculty position, become a law professor, that is very likely the end of any possible private practice career. Now for all I know you may be independently wealthy and able to live with no income. But if you are not, you need to seriously consider whether the institution you are joining is going to be around for the sort of career that David Dudley Field. There is a high likelihood that over the next 3-15 years a large number of law schools are either going to close, shrink faculty or freeze faculty pay. If that happens faculty mobility between law schools will be essentially non-existant. It is probably a safe bet that several law schools will close inside the next 9 months. Where will that leave you?

If you have the sort of credentials that can secure a faculty position, they can secure a non-faculty job in public or private practice. That job, with practice experience may, given the current environment, make you a better medium term candidate for faculty - it certainly will make you less vulnerable than a typical new faculty member with the often cited level of no more than 2.6 years of low level practice experience.

Posted by: MacK | Jul 20, 2012 3:59:54 PM

Having gone through the process last year, I'll offer some insight.

1) Talk to as many people as you can at all stages of the process. Everybody has a different perspective, and you want to gather as many as you can. I practiced for many years before going on the market and was out of touch with my past professors. A few phones calls, lunches, and referrals later, I had an amazing amount of support. Most people in the profession want to help you get here if they can.

2) Stop worrying. By the time you get interviews, the schools are already impressed with something about you. The vast majority will want to get to know you, your style, and determine whether you will fit in at the school. You can fake it, but you won't find a good long-term fit.

3) Do a moot job talk. There is very little good advice about how to do job talks. I put together a talk and gave it to a panel of professors at my alma mater (two of whom were new to the school since I graduated and were helping out of pure kindness). My talk stunk, and they gave me great advice. I ended up with rave reviews on the talk at my call backs. Practice is imperative.

4) Think hard about why you really want to be in this profession. What research drives you? What do you want to do in the classroom? How can your experiences advance your goals in those areas? The thought that you put into those questions will give you what you need for the meat market (other than your scholarship--which you already know well anyway).

Posted by: NewAnonProf | Jul 20, 2012 3:42:48 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.