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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Follow Up on Academic Vitas

Just because of the comments and interest the original post elicited, a few more thoughts.

I’m grateful for the comments, which helped me understand both the problem and also at least one way in which I was unclear.

I’d begin though by expressing my heartfelt sympathy for how frustrating the market is.  I spent much of my earlier career on hiring committees, but most of my last decade and a half helping prepare academic candidates for the market.  I know just how maddening it can be, and how difficult it has become with the relative scarcity of jobs.  As I assist candidates, year after year, I feel the pain.

I will say there is no magic.  As opaque as it can appear, committees and faculties want good minds and folks who will be good colleagues and teachers.  I get frustrated with many of the purveyors of advice who are looking for a silver bullet, some clever new tactic, when it is primarily about hard work and preparation and putting your best foot forward in logical ways.  (I also have many thoughts about the way the market has moved, and its preferences, maybe for another day.)

But on this subject of vitas, I was partly understood and partly misunderstood – my bad of course, I should have been clearer.

I don’t actually think it matters hugely what order the blocks on the vita come in, i.e. whether professional positions come before publications come before education.  I agree with our stellar director of academic careers that there is no one right answer.  I suppose if I had my preference – but it is just that and little more – it would be education, professional positions, publications, courses, references.  Maybe with presentations tossed in toward the end.  (For what it is worth that is how my vita still is, though I’ve wondered if I should just toss education down below – does anyone care anymore?)

What I and others have noticed this year – and I agree there has been gradual creep – is the profusion of subcategories (academic positions, professional positions, clerkships; academic writings, professional writing; other).  Even this would be fine; but what really gets my goat is how categories that are logically-grouped (all jobs together; all publications together) are on some vitas divided up and scattered throughout the vita. I see why it is happening – folks want to shove any conceivable academic aspects up top – but I still think it is a bad idea.

What anyone reading your vita wants to be able to do is understand the arc of your career.  How you were trained, what positions you have held and experience you have had, and what you have been writing.  It is important for a reader to get that.  To get you.  And when the various aspects of a vita are subdivided and scattered in an effort to get anything academic-y up top, it gets difficult to get a grasp on the whole person.

That’s my only point.  The rest is preference and reasonable strategy.

With that, good luck.

Posted by Barry Friedman on September 27, 2016 at 06:33 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink


This makes sense to me, but it seems that there are still some things that don't neatly fall into those categories but which one might want to put on the CV: professional memberships/affiliations; awards; media appearances; op-eds or other non-academic writing... rather than a "miscellaneous" category doesn't it make sense to have those as categories? or is the idea that those don't go on there at all?

Posted by: cver | Sep 27, 2016 1:38:59 PM

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