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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Evolving Scholarly Benchmarks?

Reposting this because for some reason the comments button was off.

I have found the Jr. Law Prawfs FAQ series quite interesting and thought I would add my own question.  What is the new normal for pre-tenure scholarly output?  How many articles (or equivalent) are required for tenure? 

I have co-chaired our Appointments Committee for two years now, and have been able to see the incredible array of talented applicants.  The rise of VAPs, Fellowships, and apparently very self-directed law students (who knew they wanted to teach before law school) has meant that many aspiring law professors have written two or more law review articles before going on the teaching market. 

So, my question is:  Does this early output impact later scholarly output once candidates become full time professors?  I would imagine most law schools have not upped their formal tenure requirements in the last ten years, so has there been an informal change/expectation?  If the formal tenure and retention standards require three published articles, does that really mean four or five now?  Has there been any noticeable change?  What should be the new normal?  And, before you respond, “it depends on quality, not quantity” and “it depends on the school,” (both are true, no doubt), let’s put some concrete numbers behind it.  How many articles did you write before tenure?  How many are average pre-tenure at your school?  And, we can assume that the quality is up to snuff.    

Posted by Andrew Guthrie Ferguson on April 14, 2016 at 03:05 PM | Permalink


My school's formal requirement is 2, though informally the requirement is now 3.

My pre-appointment pieces won't count, though I had 3 before I came on board. That said, I'll include them in my tenure file (just like I will blogging, etc. that also doesn't count).

Posted by: anon | Apr 17, 2016 8:31:59 PM

Andrew: I have thought about this issue before, so I'm glad to see you write about it:

1) I know my school has not changed its standards and I do not know of other schools doing so.

2) I am not sure how much that matters. At many schools, the written tenure standard did not reflect what the committee was actually looking for. A candidate who only met the 2/3-article line was actually in trouble. (A colleague likened it to the "flare" scene in the movie "Office Space."(http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2015/11/office-space-explains-tenure-requirements.html))

3) That being so, the unwritten (common law?) expectation increases. It is more reasonable to expect one-plus in a given year--one big article and something smaller, such as a piece for supplement. It is more reasonable to expect junior faculty to be branching out to other fora, such as blogging. It also becomes more reasonable for senior colleagues to find ways to help junior colleagues create those opportunities.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 17, 2016 8:26:07 PM

This is an interesting question. I'd love to hear if some schools have formally or informally upped the tenure standards in light of the rise of the full-time fellowships, VAPs, etc., that most entry-level candidates have already completed before arriving.

My guess is that most schools haven't recalibrated. And with the rise of new online forums to do scholarship (online law reviews, blogging, op-eds, etc.), increased coauthoring in law reviews, and more indisciplinary scholarship outside of traditional law reviews, it's probably a good thing that the standards haven't changed. These are things that it seems many schools haven't figured out how to count for tenure, and these innovations shouldn't be discouraged pretenure. If schools decided to up the tenure standards they'd need to take those innovations into account. Otherwise the one-major-article-per-year standard (with perhaps a free first year *plus* a-little-more-of-something) seems to provide enough flexibility.

Posted by: Chris Walker | Apr 15, 2016 10:14:37 AM

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