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Monday, August 26, 2013

A Clearinghouse for Questions, 2013-2014

In this post, you can ask questions about the law teaching market, and prawfs or others can weigh in.

Both questions and answers can be anonymous, but I will delete pure nastiness, irrelevance, and misinformation. If you see something that you know to be wrong, please feel free to let me know via email, slawsky*at*law*dot*uci*dot*edu.

We have a different thread in which candidates or prawfs can report on callbacks, offers, and acceptances. That thread should be used only for information relevant to hiring, not for questions or comments on the process. This is the thread for questions.

(Before you ask your questions, you may want to take a look at the many questions and answers in the threads from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.) 

Update: here is a link to the last page of comments.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 26, 2013 at 11:02 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


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I feel like we're on a tangent here. Does anyone have questions about the meat market or call-backs?

With regard to mooting job talks, I have friends who have been mooting their talks this past month. Definitely do it now because you may get a call-back that is only days after the hiring conference. Schools vary on when they bring candidates back.

Posted by: 5thyearprawf | Oct 10, 2013 10:13:52 PM

Anonalso, I don't necessarily disagree. Law schools don't train practice ready lawyers but they contribute something else that is essential to the profession which is depth of legal understanding and analysis.

Fully competent lawyers are people who could also be appellate clerks. Lawyers aren't car mechanics, we need more than simply technical, vocational skills. The legal profession is essential to government policy and regulation. Law permeates nearly every social, business and professional relationship - studying and understanding that matters.

Yeah, we could restructure law schools so that people come out of them able to mechanically handle simple cases...but they wouldn't have the creativity, flexibility and insight of lawyers trained not only to practice law but to think about the law in a more nuanced, multidimensional and yes, academic way.

And what would the benefit be exactly? The scambloggers act as though graduating students unequipped to practice law independently from day one somehow caused or contributed to the perceived legal market crisis. It didn't. The legal market changed when the financial crisis caused the financial industry and large corporations to scale down on their use of super expensive big law firm services, and gave big law firm partners an excuse to hire fewer associates to preserve their own wealth.

The lack of "practice ready" graduates is a complete red herring that represents nothing more than a desire to shift the cost of training from law firms and government agencies onto law students. Law graduates have never been independently practice ready from day one anymore than med school graduates can skip internships and go straight to leading brain surgery. Law firms don't hire new people to be nice to them, they hire them because they need them, and if everyone entry-level requires training, they'll have to pay to train them if they want to hire new entry level people. On the other hand, if law school graduates were all ready to take the lead in complicated cases and business transactions after graduation, this wouldn't create more cases and the need for more associates, law firms would still only hire according to need.

If anything law firms would hire fewer entry level people because if they were productive from day one rather than requiring several years of training, they wouldn't have to over-hire at the entry-level to compensate for associate attrition prior to productivity to the same extent. So we'd not only be screwing law students by passing the costs of training further onto them while simultaneously cheapening the profession, we might even be undercutting their job prospects.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 10, 2013 3:27:24 PM

Our schools do a terrific job of training students to be appellate clerks or aspiring academics, perhaps also district court clerks, but not much beyond that, certainly not lawyers.

Posted by: Anonalso | Oct 10, 2013 2:08:55 PM

Some comments:

1. Hiring law professors with more practice experience doesn't create jobs for law school graduates - that is an unrelated problem. Experienced lawyers teaching law school does not translate into more demand for legal services!

2. Doctrinal law professors don't teach how to practice law, they teach how to think about law, make legal arguments, and analyze legal materials. These are two very separate skill sets and in fact many lawyers have practices where they don't spend that much time making novel and insightful legal arguments. A clerkship or a VAP is actually much better experience for what law professors actually do then working at a law firm. Being a 5th year big law associate gives you basically no advantage whatsoever in teaching torts or con law or whatever (maybe a corporate transactional clinic if those exist though).

3. And, law schools *shouldn't* try to teach the actual practice of law outside of clinics because the practice of law is highly specialized to the practice area, setting, and career level. Law school's can't and shouldn't attempt to replace on the job training (and, why anyone thinks that in effect getting students to pay for training that law firms would otherwise have to pay them to do is going to help students is beyond me).

Posted by: Anonsome | Oct 10, 2013 1:17:40 PM

anontoo, to quote Homer Simpson: "A-duh!" :-)

Posted by: Steve | Oct 10, 2013 12:37:23 PM

anon at 11:19, in addition to that, I'm drinking heavily. :)

Posted by: anontoo | Oct 10, 2013 11:28:58 AM

at this point before the AALS, are people just mooting their job talks?

Posted by: anon | Oct 10, 2013 11:19:08 AM

I'm not sure how this whole issue flared up on this thread about job market questions -- most likely, it's job candidates with a lot of practice time trying to get an edge over candidates with less practice time.

If we're going to have this discussion, though, we may as well talk about basic labor market realities. People who have great academic talent, and particularly if they have other advanced degrees, face high opportunity costs to practicing. So such people tend not to practice for long. This is why the top schools hire people with little practice experience. It's not due to "discrimination" against practice experience. Top schools tend to want the most academically talented candidates, and these candidates at least tend to have little practice experience for the simple reason set forth above.

I suppose there's also the fact pointed out in an earlier post: law firms have to train students in effect in any event, whether the professor teaching 1L torts has 1 or 10 years of practice experience. So student employment outcomes really don't depend on most professors' practice experience in any material way (obviously, clinical profs in a different category, and maybe some doctrinal areas too). This goes to support top school's decision to just hire people with the most perceived academic ability / potential.

Posted by: mrpracticeman | Oct 10, 2013 11:11:57 AM

anon, I don't see what those two things (lack of jobs and what you see as not enough practice experience in law professors) have to do with each other. The jobs problem is a job market problem, not a pedagogy or staffing problem. It's a problem of too many law graduates, not graduates with the wrong skill sets. Indeed, many of the schools that have made it their mission to amplify the practice credentials of their faculties are among the ones with the very worst job outcomes (and I completely agree with the commenter above, by the way, that candidates should be very careful about taking jobs at schools with the worst job outcomes in the LST spreadsheet, especially where such schools are not connected to a major university).

Also, a few people here have made the empirical claims that experienced lawyers can better help students get jobs and are better teachers, both as compared to professors with less practice experience. These are facially plausible conjectures, but I know of no empirical study that establishes either one. I would recommend that any more experienced candidates highlight for committees how they intend to enhance their teaching (and perhaps their assistance to students looking for jobs) using their practice experience (and don't say that you're going to tell a bunch of "war stories" to amaze and delight your charges). Perhaps that will be convincing, but nobody should assume that faculties are going to take at face value the claim that experienced practitioners are inherently going to be better at these things.

Posted by: anotheranonprof | Oct 10, 2013 11:11:01 AM

Yes. Lack of faculty practice experience is one component of the so-called law school scam. For whatever the reason, however, this issue if swept under the rug when we in the academy discuss the ongoing failures of legal education and the abhorrent job outcomes of our students.

Posted by: anon | Oct 10, 2013 10:48:39 AM

5thyearprawf, it's terrific that you're spending so much time at bar and professional meetings. My experience, though, is that the typical prof with very little practice experience does not--either because they don't feel comfortable or don't see the value in doing so.

It's true that profs usually end up teaching where they didn't practice. But because they are both comfortable with and see the the value in making connections with the local bar, they make those connections, and that translates to jobs for students in that city as well as firm sponsorships for one's conference, institute, center, etc. And regardless of where one practiced, practice experience enriches classroom dialogue and the students' learning overall experience more than perhaps you understand.

I agree that not every prof needs to have more than two years of practice experience, and some practice areas probably "need" it more than others, A constitutional law prof does not necessarily need practice experience in that area (it's hard to come by anyway), but such credentials should probably be expected for an immigration prof or a tax prof.

Posted by: anon | Oct 10, 2013 8:20:06 AM

In further response to anon 3:47's question about "sinking ships," one of my advisers suggested looking at the Law School Transparency website. If you go to the following link, you will see a listing of law schools and their employment outcomes:


As my adviser put it, if a school's JDs aren't getting jobs, they won't be able to maintain enrollments. So one simple approach to identify "sinking ships" would be to look toward the bottom half of the list at the link above. Bottom third, maybe?

Posted by: Steve | Oct 10, 2013 12:24:53 AM

One other concern I've heard faculty sometimes voice about long-practicing attorneys: will they be willing to give their practice up when they become tenure-track? ABA rules generally allow consulting for one weekday a week. But it is generally frowned upon before tenure, because it takes time away from class prep and scholarship. So the attorney either has to make a leap of faith and sever ties with their firm, or stay of counsel and risk upsetting faculty.

Posted by: 5thyearprawf | Oct 9, 2013 11:47:08 PM

anon: Experience translates into better job connections only if the prof has connections in the same city/region where they are working, or have students willing to move out of state. Besides, many of us with fewer years of practice still spend many hours a month at various bar/professional meetings where we help network for our students.

Again, I am not criticizing professors with more experience; I'm saying that they don't automatically get more jobs for our students.

Posted by: 5thyearprawf | Oct 9, 2013 11:37:04 PM

Profs with connections to the real world of practice can help their students get jobs. Faculties should value that, now more than ever.

Posted by: anon | Oct 9, 2013 11:31:41 PM

Too much: First of all, my school has hired candidates with 20+ years of practice for tenure track, and ones with none. That being said, with so-called non-traditional candidates, the only issues that get raised are (1) have they shown they can make the transition to academia research-wise (i.e., are they now publishing law review articles instead of bar journal ones) and (2) are they great teachers (harder to tell without VAP teaching evaluations, easy if they used to be an adjunct).

What sticks out in a bad way: a FAR form where all the listed publications are non-law review, or worse, where there are none. Couple that with no teaching experience and you have someone who is way too high of a risk to consider hiring. Being a great lawyer does not necessarily translate into being a great law professor.

One thing that is worth pointing out: many schools are beginning to value the quality of teaching much more than they used to. This makes people with some form of a teaching track record less risky compared to those with no teaching experience.

Posted by: 5thyearprawf | Oct 9, 2013 11:13:06 PM

At the top schools, more than four years of experience (especially law firm experience) is seen as a negative. Why?

Possible explanations:
1. It demonstrates lack of commitment to academia.
2. The candidate is only applying for academia because he/she has been told he/she won't be making partner.
3. Spending that much time at a law firm corrupts the person so that a candidate's values become less compatible with those of academia. I'm serious about this; my mentors have told me this, and I think it's true.
4. Practice dulls the mind from an academic perspective.
5. There actually isn't much value-added in terms of development of analytical skills, which is what law schools are trying to teach, beyond year three or four.

Many other possibilities. Thoughts?

Posted by: Too Much | Oct 9, 2013 10:23:10 PM

@depressed, i don't think anyone is going to come out and list "sinking ships" on a board like this. but run some careful searches and you'll find ominous news items about specific schools. i think a tactfully worded question during a screening interview--along the lines of how has the school adapted to recent changes/what's the strategic plan in the face of the decline in enrollment-- may get you some real insight based on what's said and not said. (others may think this question too bold, but my committee always loves to receive it.)

Posted by: jrprofessor | Oct 9, 2013 10:11:49 PM

It's ridiculous to say that 3 years in practice is no better than 0. We might as well say that 3 years in law school is no better than 0. It all comes down to what is the nature of one's experience during those 3 years. As someone who has spent at least 7 years in practice, I certainly was far and away a better attorney after year 3 than at time 0. That was because I was given significant responsibility during those 3 years, including pro bono opportunities where I ran my own cases, and was advised by a number of mentors who took an interest in my professional development. And, yes, I was at a big firm. I'd much prefer to be taught by a professor who had "just" 3 years of practice experience than someone who had 0, and I suspect that it is the norm.

Posted by: anon | Oct 9, 2013 9:11:10 PM

If you count all time spent in judicial clerkships as time spent practicing law, the mean time spent in practice for entry-level TT hires in 2013 goes from 3.6 to 4.25 years.

Posted by: Paul Campos | Oct 9, 2013 6:39:17 PM

Paul --

What do the numbers look like when you "count" clerkships? Given that clerks typically get firm credit for their time spent clerking, that strikes me as being a better indicator of experience. In other words, even if a district court clerk only works at a law firm for three years, she will leave the firm as a fourth year associate -- and will generally have had experiences and been given responsibilities at the firm more in line with what an associate who worked at the firm for four years (but who didn't clerk) would have. Now obviously this breaks down a bit for a first year who had two clerkships and therefore "starts" as a third year. But in my experience, this gap closes pretty quickly, and by around 1.5-2 years at the firm, most clerks have caught up to their classmates in every meaningful way (except for, sometimes, client development). Therefore, counting a fifth year associate who came from, and was given credit for, two clerkships, as someone with "three years or less" of experience is actually pretty misleading.

Posted by: anonymous professor | Oct 9, 2013 5:46:01 PM

The quoted numbers don't count time spent in a judicial clerkship as practicing law.

In response to 3:47, I suspect the answer to your question has to do with a number of factors, including:

(1) Higher-ranked schools function under various constraints that aren't relevant to un-ranked schools. For instance, a school that's concerned about its ranking may be less willing to slash admission standards further in response to declining applications. This makes it harder to maintain tuition revenue. By contrast a lot of un-ranked schools are moving toward something close to an open admissions policy.

(2) Even as recently as a couple of years ago, many low or un-ranked schools were running big operating surpluses. Again, such schools have comparative advantages in regard to fixed costs when compared to schools still playing the prestige game. They don't need to worry about spending money to maintain or increase institutional reputation, because very few students are choosing such schools on the basis of reputational factors. This isn't to deny that some low-ranked schools are now struggling with serious financial problems -- some, perhaps most, clearly are.

But even or perhaps especially among schools that are struggling, the argument deans can make to central is that, if a school can just hang on while some of its competition goes out of business, the days of healthy surpluses getting kicked to the rest of the university will come again.

(3) Of course free-standing law schools are in a different situation, since they don't have a university to carry them if they're losing money. Anybody interviewing with such a school would be well-advised to check out their tax filings, specifically IRS Form 990, which is a public document, and which gives interested parties all kinds of information about the likely financial health of the institution (the 2102 filing should be available).

(4) Some schools are cutting costs by replacing senior faculty with junior hires. For example, a school will be given authorization to hire at the entry-level if enough senior people take the buyout packages which are being offered to expensive senior faculty all over legal academia.

(5) Anybody who is planning to interview with any of the Infilaw schools should do his or her homework very carefully before doing so.

Posted by: Paul Campos | Oct 9, 2013 5:27:13 PM

Voice of experience, I'm anon at 2:15. I agree with you completely. Three years of practice experience, whether at a law firm or government, is essentially meaningless. I was implicitly referring to faculty with more substantive legal experience, such as those who had 7+ years at law firms, in government, or public interest organizations. Ideally, our students would be taught by capable academics who have significant practice experience, e.g., former partners at law firms or lawyers from senior governmental or public interest positions, but that is an exceptionally rare combination. In any event, I agree with your point: for purposes of training and educating our students, three years of practice experience is as meaningless as zero.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 9, 2013 5:00:43 PM

I agree with Voice of experience. A law school is an academic department in a university (usually), in which one studies an academic field (including legal doctrine, legal policy, legal theory, legal analysis, non-legal issues and history relating to specific fields of law and how they developed, etc.) not covered by any other department in this focused manner. If we say there is no value to this study and all we need is vocational training, we lose so much. We prefer the machine to the intellect. Nobody has ever learned how to be a lawyer by going to law school, but people are presently noting this failure because in a bad economy lawyers are getting tired of training new lawyers at their expense. I am optimistic that the ivory tower will persist and recover from present attacks, as it has with prior such attacks during hard times, perhaps with a bit more practical experience opportunity. This will never mean that all of the faculty need to be experienced, just that some do.

Posted by: yetanotherprof | Oct 9, 2013 4:51:32 PM


Do those experience numbers count clerkships as experience or not? I understand why VAPs or fellowships shouldn't "count" as practice experience, but clerkships are pretty darn helpful to understanding how the legal system functions. I'd take a fourth-year associate with a district court and appellate court clerkship any day over a six-year associate, if all I was doing was evaluating experience. The marginal value of an extra year or two in private practice is not near as great as the marginal value of one or two clerkships with respect to the skills needed to successfully teach law school.

Posted by: anon | Oct 9, 2013 4:13:42 PM

Anon at 2:15, for what it's worth, I can't tell the difference between associates who have had clinical training and those who have not. I still have to teach practical skills, including how to research, think, and write like a real lawyer. And three years of law practice at a big firm does not qualify anyone to train practical skills. I'm sorry. I don't view third year associates as qualified to supervise first years, so why would law professors with three years of practical experience be any better? The doctrinal and theoretical stuff actually does matter. People who can think deeply ultimately become, in my experience, better lawyers. I can teach them the other stuff, even though clients won't pay for the time.

Posted by: Voice of experience. | Oct 9, 2013 4:07:13 PM

Curious... In this market, what is considered "a lot" of interviews?

Also, while I'm sure no hiring committee is going to come out and say that this describes their school--and may be unwilling to say this about another school--are there some schools that are "sinking ships" not worth boarding for the voyage? If so, which ones?

I am curious in part because I am--well shocked--wrt some of the schools that apparently have money to hire. Schools not incredibly well ranked. And yet, there are a bunch of schools "in the middle" that don't appear to be doing any interviewing. Is this a last effort by the more lowly ranked schools to attract good faculty (buyer's market after all) and improve their ranking????

Posted by: DEPRESSED | Oct 9, 2013 3:47:56 PM

Paul, thanks for breaking down the data. These numbers are somewhat shocking. How can we credibly claim to be appropriately training and preparing law students for the practice of law, especially in the current economic climate, when so few of our hires (and, presumably, more senior faculty) have such limited practice experience? I would argue that law students should be made aware of these data broken down by school so that they can make a more informed decision on which schools would best prepare them for their jobs following graduation. Of course, this is less relevant to the highest rank schools where the mere degree almost guaranties a good post-graduation jobs, but certainly relevant for schools outside of that tier.

Posted by: anon | Oct 9, 2013 2:15:32 PM

I broke down last year's hiring data, and it turns out that using year of law school graduation as a proxy for experience practicing law is highly inaccurate. This is because of the proliferation of multi-year VAPs, fellowships, advanced degrees acquired after law school, etc. A remarkable (to me anyway) number of people spent several years in academic limbo while pursuing a TT job.

Anyway, 28% of last year's entry-level hires had no legal practice experience, while 58% had three years or less. 13.5% had more than six years, and 7.3% had ten years or more. Most of the people with three years or less who had experience were junior associates at big firms.

The mean amount of practice experience for all TT hires was 3.6 years. For hires at top 25 schools the median was one year, and the mean was 2.2 years.

Posted by: Paul Campos | Oct 9, 2013 1:42:21 PM

How I got my one last-minute interview last year: I met very early for coffee with a committee member (she is an old friend of one of my references and we write in the same field). Later that day, when someone canceled, the committee member convinced her colleagues to interview me so I got a call. My areas of interest did not at all match their teaching needs which were in rather specialized fields (think something like tax or environmental law). The other committee members were very gracious, but it was pretty clear that they would have preferred to take a break (I'm not blaming them!).

Posted by: grainofsand | Oct 9, 2013 11:16:12 AM

Anon 11:25, I'm wondering the same thing, but what I've gathered from the thread so far is this:

The main method of getting yourself some more interviews is to be a way more desirable candidate than you currently are. I only have one interview, so I'd love to pick up some of the canceled slots, but I don't expect any because, you know, I'm one of those people who only gets one interview ...

Posted by: Steve | Oct 9, 2013 10:27:52 AM

The South and Pacific NW do not seem wild about hiring this year.

Posted by: anon | Oct 9, 2013 7:59:44 AM

What is the best way to pick up one of these spots for canceled interviews? Do schools have ranked lists? Does it help to leave your résumé in their box? How have people in the past gotten interviews last minute?

Posted by: Anon | Oct 8, 2013 11:25:51 PM

Has anybody heard from Duke yet?

Posted by: anon | Oct 8, 2013 11:11:41 PM

Anyone heard from LSU?

Posted by: anon | Oct 8, 2013 10:19:39 PM

Has anyone heard from SMU?

Posted by: anonymouse | Oct 8, 2013 10:19:22 PM

Not everyone fills the slots that get canceled by candidates, up to a reasonable number anyway. Many (most?) just enjoy a few breaks in the day when that happens. It often depends on whether a *ranked* back-up list already exists (and some will have done this in the first place before embarking on their original calls), as nobody is going back into a full review/selection process to fill a couple of spots. Appointments is a ton of work.

Posted by: yetanotherprof | Oct 8, 2013 8:52:47 PM

No. It's not common. I expect that you may add one or two, at most.

Posted by: Veteran of the meat market | Oct 8, 2013 8:39:37 PM

I had to cancel some recently. That may leave some spots to be filled. Maybe others have done the same.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 8, 2013 8:30:54 PM

Veteran of the meat market: Did you receive any calls the week before? Is that common? Trying to gauge whether I'm looking at my final schedule or whether there is room for expansion.

Posted by: anonyfun | Oct 8, 2013 7:50:27 PM

Thought this might be of interest to the thread based on an earlier discussion. Tracey E. George & Albert Yoon, The Labor Market for New Law Professors, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, forthcoming - http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2332073

Posted by: anon | Oct 8, 2013 5:12:35 PM

On some committees, I've found that at least one person had read everything that I had ever written. They were clearly in the driver's seat for my interview and other than making eye contact with others as I discussed my answers, other people didn't really participate in the interview. The person who was familiar with my work, however, wanted to hear my thoughts on what unified my work and whether I was going to continue moving in the same direction in the future.

It was the rare interview that did not involve a very substantive discussion of at least one of my articles, if not several of them.

Posted by: VotMM | Oct 8, 2013 10:34:09 AM

(at non-elite schools)

Posted by: Know thyself | Oct 7, 2013 9:29:58 PM

Veteran: out of curiosity, when you say people actually read your work, do you mean you have the sense they read your job talk paper, research agenda, or what? Conventional wisdom about the FRC seems to be to expect at most one person in the room to have looked over your job talk paper, and perhaps a couple to be familiar with the main ideas in your RA.

Posted by: Know thyself | Oct 7, 2013 9:29:20 PM

The meat market is, in my opinion, fun. You are going to talk to people who've read your work and still want to talk about it! They want to ask you thoughtful questions and listen to your answers.

Yes, you are selling yourself and that can get tiring. But if you take it for an opportunity to talk to smart people about your work, I don't see why you'd want to turn down any interviews.

Posted by: Veteran of the meat market | Oct 7, 2013 9:21:21 PM

I have nowhere near the number of interviews some of you appear to, but my schedule is now filling up to the point where I can fit in only a few more and maintain 30 minute breaks and an hour for lunch - i.e., my sanity. I probably will not get a ton more calls (though 6:33, I did get a call today, as did a few others - see the other board) but if I do I may well cancel a few. Knowing myself, I do not believe I will be at my best if I have to do this 15x a day for two days. I already have one back-to-back.

Talking about your work for a few hours sounds like a lot of fun. Running up and down stairs across three towers for the same first date over and over again, with five new interlocuters each time, every half hour for two days, sound exhausting to me. At least during OCI, it was 1-2 people on the other side and conversation was light and fluffy.

Posted by: Know thyself | Oct 7, 2013 9:16:45 PM

Should I cancel my hotel reservation? Any advice? Anyone out there who received phone calls today?

Posted by: No interviews Oct 7 | Oct 7, 2013 6:33:03 PM

Regarding the number of interviews that you can handle, I took every slot I was offered (around 30) and had a total of two breaks in two days. Good advice on the bottle of water and accepting a cookie now and then. Also, wear comfortable shoes. I organized information about each school and the hiring committees in a little notebook, that I also used to take notes during the interviews.

I was actually really energized at the end of the first day. At the end of the second day I wanted to sleep for about sixteen hours. But honestly, the meat market is like a giant cocktail party where you get to talk about yourself and your work for two days (if you're lucky). A lot easier than spending those two days in the office.

Good luck everybody!

Posted by: 4th Year Prof | Oct 7, 2013 5:18:24 PM

Yes, it would be very interesting to see an updated version of Redding's analysis using more current data.

Posted by: anon | Oct 7, 2013 5:13:56 PM

I think the debate about cancelling interviews where one would not want to work is a pointless one, since the individual factors that go in to the decision are so specific to each candidate. For many people, the lure of this job is so great that they are willing to go anywhere, and give up almost anything, to do it. Hence the candidates doing multiple VAPs in less desirable locations, the taking of jobs in remote locations far from family and friends, and yes, the forgoing of existing larger salaries that we are seeing. This was true for me, and I would not have cancelled an interview in this market and didn't (not that I had so many).

However, this is not true of everyone. Many other people would not go to just any school, given potential geographic constraints (for family reasons or otherwise), potential stability constraints (if as the primary or significant income for the family, going to a school that is less likely to survive or unaccredited is too big a risk), and most importantly, alternatives. Many people like the jobs they are in, and while they see academia as a better option if they get to be at certain schools, they may not be at all willing to give up whatever job they have to go to just any school (especially given the proliferation of more unaccredited schools, or for profit schools, which may be low on people's preferences for many reasons*). Since we can't know anything about people's individual constraints from this board, it makes little to no sense to say "you are making the wrong choice" to cancel an interview.

Perhaps, the most we can say is "keep an open mind about more schools than you think, since this job is a special privilege at almost any school" to put a thumb on the scale towards not cancelling some interviews you may be on the fence about. If you do cancel, cancel politely, since it is a very small world, and word gets around.

*Perhaps if enough people felt this way, those schools may not be able to attract enough quality faculty to survive, which may be better on the whole, but I am not convinced that will ever be the case.

Posted by: anonandoff | Oct 7, 2013 4:58:15 PM

hrm. two frankly's in one post is at least one too many.


Posted by: ... | Oct 7, 2013 4:23:31 PM

Frankly, as a candidate, I wish you'd all cancel all of your interviews so that they'd call me instead. Seriously though, while I respect your right to cancel interviews for any reason you see fit, I cannot agree with your choices.

I would interview with any school where I would conceivably work. That means I'd have to be 100% certain that I wouldn't work there and, as a lawyer, I'm basically never that certain. So, I take all of my interviews.

Frankly, I've found that a lot of cities in middle America are surprisingly lovely. They have charms if you're willing to find them. Of course, maybe I'm willing to find them and you're not and so it's perfectly sensible to turn these interviews down. It's just that I wouldn't.

I agree that you should not expect to be able to lateral.

Posted by: ... | Oct 7, 2013 4:22:55 PM

I'm with you. And I too can live with the outcome.

Posted by: M | Oct 7, 2013 3:23:02 PM

My reasons for canceling interviews:

1. I want to believe in the place where I work, especially when my salary is paid by students who take on debt. I don't want to teach, not even "for just a few years," at a law school that offers the vast majority of its students terrible employment perspectives, charges top tuition, and admits large numbers of students who--in my opinion--have no business becoming lawyers. I'm no fan of the law school scam movement and I think there are perfectly legitimate reasons for deciding to teach at such a school (I also realize that most who do won't agree with my characterizations), but it isn't for me.

2. I don't assume I will be able to lateral so my SO and I both have to be comfortable with the location of schools.

3. If I am more than 95% sure I won't want to teach at a law school, interviewing is a waste of everyone's time. Plus, I'm taking away a slot from someone who is likely more excited about the school and therefore also more likely to be a good fit.

I also agree that you want to make sure you are prepared and fresh during interviews with schools you are interested in, but that isn't a consideration for me as I don't have a lot of interviews lined up.

As for how to cancel tactfully, I blame it on my SO's geographical restrictions. It's a bit disingenuous but there is some truth to it and it's an easy way to save face. I would think that regardless of the reason you give, most committees will appreciate that you don't take up a slot if you aren't interested (this is even more so at the callback stage).

One last thought: I have never interviewed for a job unless I was at the very least interested. I don't see why I should approach this process differently. This may well mean that I won't land a TT job, but I can live with that outcome. Here again, I understand and respect that others make different decisions.

Posted by: 2cents | Oct 7, 2013 2:04:25 PM

I'm just a candidate, but I've decided to cancel lots of FRC interviews because I know I would be worn out if I did all 30+ of them. That said, I recognize there are a number of risks and I'm assuming them with eyes wide open.

Posted by: anon | Oct 7, 2013 1:33:21 PM

@M, re declining callbacks-- I think you're better off giving an answer, even if it isn't entirely true. Geography (and spouse's career prospects, etc.) makes for a great excuse unless you're accepting a callback in exactly the same geo area.

@too much, you have to know yourself. If you're prone to bad headaches or other forms of physical punishment when your schedule gets too nuts, then yes, cancel some AALS interviews (or offer to do on Thursday, visit in person for screening interview, or try skype). Either way, get lots of sleep, keep blood sugar stable, have emergency caffeine supply on hand, etc.

Posted by: jrprofessor | Oct 7, 2013 1:33:08 PM

Thanks for the quick and thorough responses. Good advice. Further thoughts welcome of course.

Posted by: Too Much | Oct 7, 2013 1:19:56 PM

In this market I would have to agree with No such thing, come to think of it. Things were more promising back when I shot for every other timeslot.

Posted by: yetanotherprof | Oct 7, 2013 1:07:00 PM

I just saw Too Much's post after my response to M. To be clear, I canceled interviews as needed to keep my schedule every-other half-hour, for the very reason TM suggests. That, to me, qualifies as a schedule-based decision. That said, I did have to sometimes schedule one more in between ones I didn't want to cancel, so there were 2 or 3 times I did 3 in a row. That was very hard and I don't recommend it. Shooting for every other one allows you to review your notes on the next one and do a better job, as well as not be late.

Of course, callbacks are continuous, sometimes from breakfast through dinner!

Posted by: yetanotherprof | Oct 7, 2013 1:04:15 PM

I was on the market three years ago, during the 2010-11 hiring season. I received 49 invitations to interview (high-demand field and solid paper credentials). I declined 17 and did 4 before the FRC. That left 28 for the FRC itself. I gave myself a 1 hr break for lunch and a 30 min break after 4 interviews. I still ended up with 7 back-to-back on Saturday. I had 7 interviews with top 20 schools, which yielded one callback. In total, I received 7 callback offers, and 2 offers. (FWIW, a friend who went on the market the year before had 14 FRC interviews with top 20 schools and zero callbacks.)

The writer above is correct that top schools schedule many interviews to take a look at what's out there and who might be up and coming in a few years for a possible lateral hire. Unless you clerked for SCOTUS, etc., do not take interest from a number top 20 schools as an indication that you'll get an offer at one of them. Do not cancel interviews unless you have no slots left. And if you cancel, cancel on a top 20 school that's unlikely to give you a callback, not the lower ranked ones that just might.

Now, as you point out, that may be tiring. To make sure I could keep going, I made sure to have a bottle of water in my purse. I usually accepted a cookie (when the hiring committee offered) and a coffee every now and then. Also don't underestimate the adrenaline that can and will keep you going. Try to get as much sleep during the week before.

Posted by: No such thing as too much | Oct 7, 2013 1:02:25 PM

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