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Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Clearinghouse for Questions, 2016-2017

In this comment thread to this post, you can ask questions about the law teaching market, and professors 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, sarah*dot*lawsky*at*law*dot*northwestern*dot*edu.

We have a different thread in which candidates or professors can report 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.

You may want to take a look at the many questions and answers in the threads from 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Here is a link to the last page of comments.

Originally posted August 25, 2016.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 25, 2016 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


I could see that being a turnoff; however, if a candidate has a very good reason such as they have little flexibility to move I could see someone emailing now. Or if the school is known to be hiring in their subject matter. Also from the candidate perspective it seems to be a very luck driven process driven by class fit and to some extent who one knows and who is lobbying on their behalf. I would estimate there are probably at least 50-80 extremely well qualified candidates in the FAR that could easily be a candidate for many of the jobs (assuming class fit). This process impacts the candidates life and the life of the candidates family and spouse. A candidate sending a simple email especially when the process seems a bit luck driven on own end is just really a measure of interest. If a candidate applied next year -and seemed like a perfect fit for the job and/or increased their publications - would the school even remember his/her name and not offer an interview because they emailed a week before the FAR the year prior? The fact that such a simple act could leave a negative impression speaks to how random this process is.

Posted by: anon | Oct 6, 2016 10:30:47 AM

Can I say what an extreme turn-off it is to have a FAR candidate write me and request an interview in D.C. Does that really work for anyone? It was one thing for folks to apply directly early on the process (i.e., before we might have reviewed the FAR), but at this late date, it's a different matter. If you're in the FAR, we reviewed your materials and we're either going to invite you on that basis or we're not. A request at this date does no good, but could do some harm (as it can create a negative impression). I realize the stakes are high and the pressure to succeed in what is, in many ways, luck-driven process, so I don't share this to be mean, but merely as a head's up on a behavior that can be alienating to a hiring chair.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Oct 6, 2016 9:31:01 AM

Any one else noticing the space available at the hotel? Prices have been dropping. Guess not many folks planning to stay there?

Posted by: Anon | Oct 5, 2016 6:05:50 PM

We do 2-4 per slot, but 3 is the norm.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Oct 5, 2016 5:55:12 PM

anon | Oct 5, 2016 2:28:44 PM,
typically 2 to 4 callbacks per position. Anecdotally, I think the norm is 3 call backs per available slot.

anonLetter | Sep 26, 2016 5:16:55 PM,
You have to check with each reference whether he or she is willing to write a letter or only field phone calls.

candidateperspective | Sep 26, 2016 3:25:00 PM,
i was wondering myself what the average number of call-backs is this year. When someone asks about your other AALS interviews, they are asking either about number or names of schools. It's your choice whether to answer or be coy; the latter might look bad, on the other hand the questioner should know that the question may be out of bounds (e.g. the interviewer might only have one or two interviews because of geographic constraints, and the dearth or interviews doesn't indicate the quality of the candidacy).

Next topic, from my perspective not writing thank you notes indicates indifference. Many people don't think that way, but writing notes is a good way to avoid negative perceptions from people like me.

Posted by: AnonProf1 | Oct 5, 2016 5:42:52 PM

How many call backs do schools usually give per position, after the initial interviews? Meaning the full-day, meet everyone, job talk call back. Is it like 2-3? More? I'm sure it varies but wondering what is typical.

Posted by: anon | Oct 5, 2016 2:28:44 PM

Does anybody know who the hiring chair at Berkeley is?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 27, 2016 11:08:50 PM

Are all references "letter writers" and vice versa? I just received an email from a hiring chair asking if all my references are letter writers. My assumption when asking folks to serve as a reference was that the relevant duties included writing letters if need be. Is this not the case? What am I missing?

Posted by: anonLetter | Sep 26, 2016 5:16:55 PM

what's the average number of interviews for a decent candidate these days? my sense is that it is much lower than past years, but i'm unclear what is considered decent.

on a related note, when law schools ask about schools where i'm interviewing, are they fishing for this number?

Posted by: candidateperspective | Sep 26, 2016 3:25:00 PM

FWIW, I'm in the pro-thank you note camp. And, contra jim's suggestion, I have never been annoyed to receive a thank you note.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 23, 2016 5:26:34 PM

I think thank-you notes are warranted after an on-campus visit (including pre-FRC interviews), but more annoying/desperate than anything else after the blur that is the FRC. I followed this approach last year and it seemed to work for me.

@anon | Sep 23, 2016 1:30:55 PM, my flyouts took place throughout November and I got my first offer in early December.

Posted by: jim | Sep 23, 2016 2:50:24 PM

Flyouts happen novemnber and early December. These schools end school by mid-December, and some could conceivably interview first 2 weeks of January. Higher ranked schools interview later.

Posted by: anon | Sep 23, 2016 1:32:48 PM

anon 1:16, is it fair to say that you don't think it's a good idea to spend time on thank you notes?

i may be jumping the gun here, but i'd like to know when most fly backs take place. i'm in practice and am fortunate enough to have a few interviews. i would like to have a general sense of the most intense weeks for fly backs, so that i can plan to lighten my work schedule and have some vacation days lined up. is it pretty soon after the conference, or do we have a couple of weeks to decompress and lick our wounds before the second round of interviews?

Posted by: anon | Sep 23, 2016 1:30:55 PM

There's been a surprisingly robust debate over thank you notes on this board over the years.

My takeaway as an observer to those debates and a former interviewee is that thanking the chair is a good idea, though not essential. However, if you have a lot of interviews, looking up every single committee member and thanking all of them does not strike me as a good idea. It will take a long time, and obviously so, thus suggesting (if you do it) that you didn't have many interviews or did but chose to spend your time googling 100 people's email addresses and the spelling of their names. You are also more likely to make an unforced error here.

I'm sure there are exceptions. For example. you forgot to mention you spent five years of your childhood in the law school's town. But probably you remembered to bring this up; few things worth bringing up in the interview that you somehow failed to bring up in the interview, are worth bringing up via thank you note. This is my general advice on this subject.

Posted by: anon | Sep 23, 2016 1:16:47 PM

Sorry if this has been asked on a previous year's thread and I overlooked it.

When you send a thank you note after an interview should it just go to the chair, or should you send separate thank you notes to each person?

Posted by: Thanks | Sep 22, 2016 10:37:38 PM

Who is the hiring chair for GW? Any idea of their hiring needs? Thank you.

Posted by: anon! | Sep 22, 2016 6:13:45 PM

@anon-- one more detail: you may get invited to evening receptions. so if school x invites you to a friday night reception and interviews you saturday afternoon, you might not want to be wearing the identical dress & blazer (though again, nothing wrong with same suit/different top).

Posted by: committee member | Sep 22, 2016 9:53:11 AM

@anon: whichever you're more comfortable in, skirt suit or pantsuit or dress with blazer, is fine. I would not skip the blazer, as without it you're not in business formal territory at all. I agree with the poster who said you can wear the same suit both days with a different top. (you might want to throw a second pair of shoes in your bag and bandaids just in case you get blisters.)

Posted by: committee member | Sep 22, 2016 9:48:29 AM

What's the proper role of actual letters of recommendation in this process (as opposed to references)? I obviously have references lined up and listed on my CV, but my understanding was that there was no need for them to write letters unless asked to do so by some school that had an interest in me. Now one of my recommenders has written a letter and is sending it out to the schools that are interviewing me and the others I'm interested in but haven't heard from yet. Should I be asking my other references to do the same thing? I kind of thought letters wouldn't be needed until at least the callback stage but now I'm worried I had that wrong.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 22, 2016 9:37:34 AM

I wore pant suits last time. I don't think it matters if you wear a skirt suit or pants suit. I would not invest in buying a new suit just for the second day; in fact you could even wear the same suit with a different shirt. You likely won't be seeing the same people so unless your suit is very noticeable (i.e., not black) no one will notice what you have on.

Posted by: anon | Sep 21, 2016 10:12:28 PM

So, for screening interviews, any advice for what women should wear? Skirt suits v. pant suits? Is a nice formal dress acceptable? How about a nice formal dress and a suit jacket? I only own one suit and I'm trying to figure out if it's worth it to buy a second one for the second day of the conference, or if I could throw the suit jacket over something else. And thinking about tips for what suit to buy, if I (as appears inevitable) cave and just buy another suit?

Posted by: anon | Sep 21, 2016 9:59:33 PM

It is from personal contacts I have so i would not want to say the schools. But just look at last years and the year before spreadsheet-some schools never hire entry level. Also 2-3 years ago is when you seriously got a lot of underplaced people. It would not surprise me if a lot of schools opt for the lateral market. I was on the market last year and 3 of the middle ranked schools I interviewed with at aals opted for laterals. I could see why; unless an entry level candidate wows and/or would otherwise add to the faculty's diversity why not go with someone who is a more known quantity?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 20, 2016 10:07:48 AM

Anon @10:42, which top ten schools aren't hiring but are scheduling interviews? And how do you know this?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 20, 2016 6:28:59 AM

My school has finished scheduling interviews. We're interviewing 18 people for two positions, and all of them seemed to have quite a bit of availability when we contacted them to set up our interview. I share this FWIW.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 19, 2016 10:53:00 PM

I think that's true. But I think the top 7 or 8 schools sometimes aren't seriously hiring. I know at least two of the top 10 schools are not hiring any entry levels, yet they are still scheduling interviews. And if you look at the past, you see that some of the top schools historically never hire entry levels. NYU for instance I don't think has hired entry level at least the past 3-4 years, maybe even longer historically.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 10:42:20 PM

I think that it's not a common practice, at least not any more.

I can understand why Harvard or Yale might have a vested interest in knowing the upcoming talent and assessing the scholarly potential. Even if they don't hire in that given year, they might end up hiring the most talented individuals several years down the line. They have an interest in tracking candidates' careers.

However, I am skeptical that average schools are wasting money interviewing a bunch of people for the he!! of it. That's wasteful. If they are being strategic, which I believe they are, they are doing intel on the candidates and offering interviews to 6-15 candidates that they may actually hire. If schools are shrinking budgets and have less money to hire actual candidates, I don't think they are spending money to go to DC for the sake of appearances.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 10:01:31 PM

I am fascinated by the concept of schools coming to the conference and interviewing people just to "show the flag." What benefit exactly is there that a school has to gain by doing this? Would a school's reputation really suffer if they do not hire anyone for a year? And won't it eventually be public knowledge that they did not hire anyone anyway once the job market ends (this blog has a thread with everyone who gets hired)?

Is this a practice that is just confined to the top schools, or do lower ranked schools do this as well?

Posted by: Fascinating | Sep 19, 2016 9:35:53 PM

But I do think most people with 6-12 last year got jobs. Having 20 interviews is still novel enough to be noteworthy.

At any rate, things are still looking a little slow on the other thread. Any hopes that more schools will be scheduling additional interviews this week? Are commitees still making decisions about interviews?

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 5:03:23 PM

I was not trying to suggest that you need 20 to get hired. I am sure that jim is correct that most people who got hired had fewer than a dozen interviews. But that does not make it true that most people who had fewer than a dozen interviews got jobs. As I said, it depends on what question is being asked. Someone with a dozen--or half a dozen--is probably an extremely strong candidate on paper with great credentials, strong publications, etc. But that number is by no means guaranteed to lead to even one callback, let alone a real offer. 2 callbacks from 12 interviews is not an indicator of poor interview performance these days; it is par for the course. Even with 12 callbacks, there are a number of schools where you will realize in retrospect you were DOA walking into the interview for reasons entirely outside of your control--they're actually looking for Corps, and will only call back Torts people if they don't find Corps candidates, or the school isn't actually hiring, or whatever. If you are expecting a 50% conversion rate on your callbacks, that is highly unrealistic and you should adjust your expectations, even if you correctly believe you are an amazing interviewer. A lot of this isn't about you as the candidate.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 4:03:09 PM

FWIW, most people I know who got jobs last year had no more than a dozen FRC interviews.

Posted by: jim | Sep 19, 2016 3:44:49 PM

Anon 1:46: what question?

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 2:35:51 PM

As far as starting at 8:30, in most cases you are dealing with the administrative assistant, so if you really want 8:30 it does not hurt to put that in your choices. I had an 8:30 a few years back, You would most likely get the 8:30 for saturday morning as I think most committees want to get out of there Saturday afternoon. No one is going to care if you list it as 8:30, and in most cases, like I said, the committee isn't even going to know.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 2:06:46 PM


Really? Our dean asks this question during all callbacks (and was miffed when a candidate dodged it). It's something we actively consider when making offers. I was asked this question at every interview a few years ago, so I suspect that your institution is an outlier.

Posted by: Anon | Sep 19, 2016 1:46:21 PM

Do most schools interview starting at 8:30am or at 9:00am? The reason for my question has to do with my response to e-mails asking when I am available and/or when my preferred time slots are. Is it enough of a standard practice to have 8:30am interviews that it would be okay to list that as one of my choices in such an e-mail?

Posted by: anon 23 | Sep 19, 2016 11:59:33 AM

The traditional wisdom was that six FRC interviews should yield one callback and that three callbacks should yield one job offer. I am unsure whether this traditional wisdom was ever true, and am especially unsure whether it is true in today's market. The market varies a lot from year to year and from subject area to subject area, so it is difficult to generalize. But, no, two callbacks from twelve FRC interviews would not be a very low yield.

Posted by: KEB | Sep 19, 2016 11:48:48 AM

Any other thoughts on a good number? It's pretty rare for people to have 20 interviews, and I'm operating in the world of averages. Most of the people I know who got hired had fewer than 20 interviews. There are no guarantees and the more than better, but saying that you need 20 to get hired is not very helpful. And only 2 callbacks from 12 interviews is very low yield and may speak to ones interviewing skills.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 11:28:24 AM

I still don't see how any non-business law candidate (or maybe crim law or health law) could possibly have over 20 interviews. I think it is very subject-specific. If you look at the spreadsheet it is almost all business law so you could be a Supreme Court clerk and you just are not getting interviews at many of the lower ranked schools. Any hot business law (pr maybe even crim law) should have 20 interviews but I don't see it in other fields.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 10:52:08 AM

The very strongest candidates these days will have 20+ interviews. 30+ used to be more common but it is hard to pull off these days with fewer schools hiring. Mid-20s still happens in this tough market. As for what is a "good" number, it depends on what you are asking. The more the better. 6 interviews is decent these days, and it indicates a candidate who is objectively pretty strong, given the state of the process. But 6 interviews does not give you great odds of actually landing a tenure-track position (let alone having some choice of where you work at the end of the process). 12 is certainly better, but even there you would be extraordinarily lucky to have that translate to more than 1 or 2 callbacks. If you are interviewing with 12 schools, some may be not really hiring but just showing the flag, some may be mostly focused on a different area, for some you may have a bad interview, and so on.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2016 10:43:45 AM

We are a T30-100, and we interview roughly 8-10/slot. We also interview 3-4 junior laterals for each slot as well. So we're drawing from less than 15 per slot, typically.

As for favorites, individual committee members may have favorites going in, but we've done this long enough to know that what you see on paper and what you see in person can be quite different. I think most of us are fairly agnostic about everyone until we see them in D.C. -- then favorites quickly emerge. That being said, we don't interview anyone who we think doesn't have potential to wow us.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 18, 2016 8:46:42 AM

I have a few questions:

1) How many people do schools interview for one position? I'm not talking about HYS, which may interview candidates just to see who's out there and assess future scholarly potential. I'm thinking about middle of the road schools. What's typical for say a T30-100 law school?

2) Relatedly, as a general rule of thumb, what's a good number of interviews to have? I get that the process can be a bit arbitrary, but statistically, there must be a numerical range that reflects a candidate's overall strength. What's that range? I have heard 6-12 in the past, but I'm curious about others' opinions.

3) Do schools have favorites before AALS? Are committee members ever genuinely surprised by whom performs well at AALS, or are the candidates who get call backs pretty much who committee members expected to get callbacks?

Posted by: anon | Sep 18, 2016 8:38:07 AM

When I was on the market, I ended up with a job from an 8:30 AM Friday interview! So, don't read too much into your time slots.

Posted by: anon | Sep 15, 2016 8:16:03 PM

meaningless if you are returning the call and especially if by an admin assistant. If you answer the ring the times available could be significant but probably not worth overanalyzing

Posted by: Anon | Sep 15, 2016 6:46:12 PM

Any intuition on interpreting the times you are offered to interview at? E.g., what if a school suggests first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon? Is this meaningful data, or just calendar slot filling? Thoughts?

Posted by: Anon | Sep 15, 2016 6:01:58 PM

Many schools do 25-30 interviews for 1 spot, not 2-3 spots. Even then some schools don't end up hiring anyone. Some of the top schools like Harvard and NYU often will do through this whole thing and then not hire anyone. Some schools also like to see what is out there for the future, and are not necessarily wedded to hiring this year.

Point I am making is that if you literally only get one interview and you are not a super specialized field, that probably means you are not getting alot of action to make you competitive at other schools. Schools care about that, they all talk among each other, especially at the top schools. I doubt any top school interviews yet alone hires anyone that only had 1-2 interviews. If you are specialized, yeah, maybe the one interview will do it. Even if not specialized, you may still be a perfect fit for that particular school and you may still get the job, but some people literally are going to be spending over $1000 to fly for one interview and some people may not fully understand that the chances of landing a single job are slim and that some of these schools are really interviewing 25-30 candidates for 1 spot and if you are competing against people with multiple interviews your odds are not great, though still possible. Before you make the economic decision to spend so much money, try to figure out if the school has one line or two open. Many with one line interview 25 people.

That said, it is still fairly early in the process, as we still have a month to go before the conference and it looks like schools are taking longer and longer to decide. Hardly any action this week or last.

Posted by: anon | Sep 15, 2016 9:55:30 AM

Does anyone know the name of the hiring chair at Tulane? And does anyone know what area they are looking for this year?

Posted by: Lateral? | Sep 15, 2016 9:38:47 AM

Honestly, I'd ignore any attempt to calculate "odds" in this process. Candidates aren't fungible and schools aren't looking for the same things. Just anecdotally: I had 6 FRC interviews and got a job with the first school that called. So that one interview would have been enough.

Posted by: untenured | Sep 15, 2016 7:48:07 AM

Are the odds really 1 out of 30? Do schools interview 30 candidates if they are filling 2-3 positions, and closer to 10-15 for one position?

Posted by: anon | Sep 15, 2016 5:12:13 AM

you can always ask to do a Skype or phone interview if only one interview. They interview 25-30 candidates, and if you only have one interview, unless you have a very specialized field, chances are not that great of working out (they are not great for any of us really, if you look at the odds of one single interview out of 30 candidates yielding a job offer, especially if field is not super specialized).

good news is that unless you are business law, I doubt anyone has more than 2 or 3 interviews at this point because not many of the non business law schools have moved yet.

No one has really posted much in the past 10 days, so i think it just has been slower.

Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2016 6:35:43 PM

@anon applicant: the conference is still a month away. Congrats on the first interview; you may well get more.

If you've already booked, good to know the options, but probably makes sense to sit tight for as long as possible? (The cost of canceling a flight doesn't go up the closer you get anyway.) If you have not yet booked, you can sometimes lock in the price (United offers this, for example) for several days for a reasonable price without committing. The $500 fee you paid to register with AALS is a big percentage of the total cost, and while I am not sure it makes sense to go for one interview, I would go for three.

Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2016 6:17:53 PM

Thanks for the advice about not staying at the conference hotel. That's helpful--I had wanted to stay with some relatives and avoid hotel costs altogether but wasn't sure if I perhaps really needed to be at the conference hotel.
I only have one interview so far and while I'm hoping things change, I did look up the airline cancellation/change policies yesterday. I am coming from a very long distance and the costs are high.

Posted by: anon applicant | Sep 14, 2016 3:36:25 PM

I wouldn't follow up with questions before the interview, period. There is nothing you need to know right now, and you're just giving yourself unnecessary opportunity for an unforced error. If you have a real question, ask it at the interview.

Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2016 3:06:30 PM

I have some AALS interviews scheduled and said I would get back to the callers with any questions I have about the schools.

Any suggestions for questions to ask before AALS? Is it best to follow up by email, or with a phone call?

Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2016 1:20:31 PM

If you're going to stay in the suburbs, you should be aware that DC's metro is currently undergoing major renovations. Lots of reported delays. Google "metro safetrack" for more information.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 14, 2016 10:54:57 AM

Just chiming in a little on the cost issue to nth the advice to avoid the conference hotel. When I went on the market, I stayed at some motel-6ish place in Alexandria, for like 75 bucks a night. It was just fine. The DC area has decent transit so long as you're not really out in the boonies; anything near a metro station will be fine.

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Sep 14, 2016 10:41:55 AM

I consider it extremely bad form and, quite frankly, rude to ask a candidate where else they are interviewing. I'd never do it, and I'd take issue with anyone on my committee who asked such a question.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Sep 14, 2016 10:19:13 AM

Harold McDougall (http://www.law.howard.edu/429)

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Sep 14, 2016 9:48:21 AM

Does anyone know who the hiring chair is at Howard?

Posted by: anon | Sep 14, 2016 9:32:25 AM

anyone else get a kick out of the aals referring to itself as a "matchmaker" in the frc bullentin today?

Posted by: anon | Sep 13, 2016 4:46:31 PM

This isn't helpful to candidates who are fielding the question, but I think it is best if committee members resist asking the "where else are you interviewing" question, especially at the FRC stage. It puts candidates in an awkward position and the answer really shouldn't be all that relevant to the committee's decision. (Imagine if the candidate asked the committee, "who else are you interviewing?")

For candidates: I've noticed several commenters on the other thread note an invitation to interview, but say that no subject area was specified. My advice is to ask the caller what subject area you are being considered for. The answer is likely to yield useful information and help prevent a potentially awkward interview where the candidate is talking about one subject area and the committee is looking for another. It also gives you something to talk about with the caller to foster further conversation.

Posted by: KEB | Sep 13, 2016 12:47:02 PM

As a candidate, I found few answers to "Where else are you interviewing?" seemed to make much impression. Take Jim's example of interviewing at Montana. If you name only similarly-ranked Western state schools, someone on the committee will think you are a good fit. But someone else will probably think you are not as much of a "get" because you are not also interviewing at fancier schools. If you name fancy schools only, people will think you are egotistical, not a good fit, won't accept an offer, or all of the above.

I think JIm's answer is good. There are other good answers. Try to signal a mix of being a good fit (in terms of the school's prestige and geographic setting) and un-gettable. Of course these are in tension. The process is overwhelming for interviewers; once a candidate shows she is a good fit, un-gettability is a comfortable decision heuristic.

There are also bad answers. Naming every school shows a failure to understand that this question calls for some interpretation and judgment. Similarly, if you don't have many other interviews, do your best to mask that without being untruthful.

Has anyone experimented with or heard a successful dodge? Perhaps a variation on, "rather than discussing your competition, I'd prefer to focus on the kind of teaching and scholarship I hope to bring to your academic community." I was too chicken.

Posted by: anon | Sep 13, 2016 12:15:47 PM

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