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Friday, June 07, 2019

Interview with Professor Adam Chilton from the University of Chicago Law School on the Harry A. Bigelow Teaching Fellowships

It’s finally time for the first posted interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  Thanks to Professor Adam Chilton, the co-director of Harry A. Bigelow Teaching Fellowship program at the University of Chicago Law School, for participating in this series!  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Adam to respond to any questions in the comments. 

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other related caveats here.   For more information about law faculty hiring generally, check out the section of the AALS's website devoted to this topic at https://teach.aals.org/.


Q.:   Hi Adam.  Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.  I’d love to start by asking about your role with the Bigelow Fellowship.

A.:  I am one of the co-directors of the program. We have two people that serve as the directors of the program every year. I've done it for the last three years with a different person each year rotating onto it for one year. One part of the role of the directors is having the primary responsibility over the hiring process. So we sort through candidates and decide who to interview (but then the actual decision on who to hire is a broader faculty decision that many people are involved in).  And then the other part of the role is working with the current fellows on their teaching, their scholarship, and navigating the market.

Q.:  I'm going to try to walk through the fellowship program chronologically, starting with the application process, and then we'll talk more about the program itself. Can you tell me about the application timeline? When do you typically start accepting applications, and when do you start doing interviews?

A.:  Sure. We open up the application process on roughly August 15th.

Q.:  Okay. And then, is it a rolling application?

A.:  Yes, then it's rolling. We accept applications until we have completed the hiring process and made sure we have the right number of people for the program. So we'll typically end up accepting applications into roughly February or March. But it is much better to apply early when we still have more spots to fill.

Q.:  And when do you typically start doing interviews?

A.:  We have two separate stages of the interview process. The first stage is a screening interview. That's done over the phone and lasts between a half hour and an hour. We start those probably in September, when we first sift through the applications. We do those on a rolling basis as applications come in. Frequently, both of the co-directors of the program will separately do a screening interview of the same person before we decide to offer them a call back.

Q.:  How many applications do you typically receive?

A.:  About 75.

Q.:  Okay. So first there's a screening interview over the phone. Do you then invite people to campus?

A.:  Yes. From there, we invite people to campus. And this is one thing that I think is distinctive about our program is that we take the on-campus interview extremely seriously. We spend a lot of time on it.

The way that our on-campus interview is structured is the same format and structure that we do for our entry level candidates, with one main exception. The one exception is that instead of the job talk for lunch, the candidates go to lunch with some of the current fellows to talk about the program and get advice from them.

But everything else about the structure of the visit is the same. Which means it starts the night before the interview with a dinner with three faculty members. So there's a long dinner, the same as an entry-level interview. Starting the next morning, there's a series of office interviews with groups of faculty members (some of the current fellows are also involved at this stage of the interviewing process). So, it'll be, say, two to four people in a room that do the interviews.

And there are multiple rounds of office interviews. Then there's the lunch with current fellows. In addition, there is a one-on-one meeting with our Dean of Students, a one-on-one interview with our Deputy Dean,  and an interview then with a focus group of students.

Q.:  At the end of that day, how do you make a decision on whether to hire someone? Who are actually the decision makers there, who votes, if there’s a vote?

A.:  Well, it's not exactly a vote. But, every single person that's met with the candidate—so every faculty member, every fellow, even the students—all submit comments about their reaction to the candidate. . These written reactions are a little more qualitative than a formal vote (e.g. what they thought about the person as a potential teacher, as a colleague, as a scholar, et cetera).

The final decision is made by the dean, the deputy dean, and the two co-directors of the fellowship program, taking all those views into account.

Q.:  How many fellowships do you typically have available each year?

A.:  Three.

Q.:  And is that set, or do you have flexibility in a given year?

A.:  Our most prominent fellowship program, and our biggest fellowship program, is the Bigelow Fellowship. The Bigelow program is structured around our legal writing program. We have six sections of legal writing each year, and so we have six Bigelows at a time. There has been some variance in the number of Bigelows hired. In a handful of cases where people were hired for two years but accepted a job in the first year, then we might hire four people the next year.  But the total number of Bigelows at any time  in the building is six. 

Now on top of that, we have three or four other programs where there's occasional a fellow. So, a law and economic fellow, behavioral law and economic fellow, a public law fellow, or a Dickerson fellow (which promotes diversity in legal academia). And those fellowships do not hire on a fixed schedule. Some years they we hire for those fellowships; other years we do not. So, when there's a particularly promising candidate that has applied for the Bigelow, we will also keep them in mind for possible other fellowships.

Q.:  And how would somebody find out about one of those other fellowships?

A.:  I'm not sure if that's it is how anyone actually gets their information, but they are posted on the University of Chicago careers website. But the best thing to do is reach out and email the faculty member associated with a particular program and apply.

Q.:  So, let's talk about the criteria that you would use, or the school would use, in selecting fellows. And we can split it up into research, teaching, and other, if that works. If you're thinking about the average successful candidate, do they typically have a full paper coming in? A draft? A published article? What's the norm?

A.:  Definitely the norm is to have a paper. Not everyone has a paper, but we do require a writing sample of some kind. There have been successful candidates that submit a student note, but successful fellowship candidates now almost always have a complete draft, if not multiple publications.

Q.:  And is that typically a draft they wrote in practice, or would this be in a PhD program? Where are they finding the time to write this article?

A.:  I'd have to look at the exact numbers, but maybe half of our fellows have PhDs when they come into the fellowship program. In some cases, they're coming straight from the PhD program (in fact, they might even still be an ABD in the PhD program and working on it that way). Others are coming with a PhD, but coming from a clerkship or from practice.  And in those cases, even if they have not done research for a few years, they have written material from when they were PhD students. 

We've had fellows apply from being in a firm of from a clerkship. In some clerkships, the candidate has had more time to work on a paper.  We've had others that have taken a month off of leave from their job, and some that are just a super person that can work full time at a law firm and somehow produce a paper.

Q.:  And do they typically have, in addition to that paper, a pretty well developed research agenda?

A.:  Yes. We're in a pretty lucky position where we only hire three people a year, and we are able to get the very top fellows in the market.  And so, people typically have a pretty well-designed research profile and they know the methods that they will use, their perspective on the subjects they are studying, and have multiple projects ongoing.

Q.:  Let’s turn to the teaching side? Do you expect teaching experience, and if not, how are you gauging teaching abilities?

A.:  We take the teaching piece particularly seriously. We advertise to all the fellows that there is a trade-off coming to Chicago: you'll do more teaching and more work, but you’ll get more back in return in terms of developing your scholarship and your academic career. But that's the deal we offer.  We are really trying to identify people who will be good teachers.

The candidates have a range of different levels of prior teaching experience. Of candidates with PhDs, most of them have teaching experience. Many of them have experience in law-related classes. So for them, we're able to look at teaching evaluations. Additionally, we’ve also had a number of people that have done Teach for America, or other forms of teaching prior to law school. Finally, there's other cases where people have been to law school, clerked, and practiced, but they do not necessarily have direct teaching experience. But they have extremely good practice experience that could be useful in the classroom. 

But regardless of candidates’ prior experience, we're still trying to gauge what someone would be like in a classroom. That's partly why we do so many interviews, so we can see how people think on their feet and how well they can explain complex ideas. It's also why we have every candidate do a one-on-one interview with our dean of students and an interview with a room full of students. And they're only thinking about teaching  (they can ask the candidates about whatever they want, but their role in the process is to be specifically focused on who we would a good fit teaching our 1Ls legal writing).

Q.:  What types of things might give people a little bit of an edge in the process? So, for example, is whether someone has a PhD, is that something that you weigh heavily in the process?

A.:  I don't think we weight it in any particular direction. I think that someone who has spent time in a PhD program, probably has a well thought out views on research. And as a result, they can be successful in our interview process where we have many faculty members drill people about their research. But if someone has a PhD but their research isn't very far along or sophisticated, we might be less forgiving than we would be of a candidate that is coming straight from practice. Because if someone's coming straight from a PhD program, we would expect that it is pretty well thought through.

Q.:  How about preferences for candidates in particular curricular areas? Are you paying attention to the subject areas that seem to get a lot of play on the market?

A.:  Not really.  We have had conversations about whether or not a second candidate might be too similar to a person that we've already hired. If we've already got candidate A doing con law with a particular background, we’ll talk about if it’s a mistake to hire candidate B doing con law with a similar background. So we have that conversation.

But although we’ve had those conversations, in the end we end up hiring the people we think are the best.  For example, last year we had three law and economics candidates on the market. Two that were Bigelows, one that was the behavioral law and economics fellow. So we had the conversation to the effect of “is this too many people with an economics background?” But they were all fantastic, so we still hired them.

Q.:  How about making an effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A.:  Yes, this is something that we care about and prioritize. To put it immodestly, we’ve been able to hire the very best fellowship candidates on the market each year. And we’ve been lucky that, at least for the last few years, that many of the best candidates have added to the diversity of our law school. In the three years I’ve been involved in running the program, I’ve either worked with or hired thirteen Bigelow Fellows. Of those, eight have been women and five have been men. Several of them are first generation college students. Several of them are people of color. They are from all around the United States and even outside of it. So, we had a pretty diverse group. But we are always looking for ways to identify and attract exceptional candidates from diverse backgrounds.

Q.:  What else factors into your decision making?

A.:  Yes. One thing that might be slightly unique about Chicago is that we have roughly 36 tenured or tenure-track faculty members. For comparison, our peer fellowship programs are at schools with faculties that are two to three times larger. The result is that we really see our fellowship program as a way to constantly bringing new ideas and new people into the building.

Moreover, our fellows’ offices are immediately next door to faculty offices. If you're a fellow, you'll have tenure-track faculty directly on both sides of your office. And the fellows are fully integrated into the law school.  They come to every faculty workshop and every job talk. 

As a result, we are really looking for people that our tenure-track faculty is excited to interact with daily for the next two years. So, for example, we'll have a candidates who does corporate law come interview, and immediately the corporate law faculty may say “we have to have this person in the building. We're so excited about working with them, learning from them, and co-authoring with them.”

So the kind of candidates that generate excitement form our faculty is something that we really prioritize. Who would be a fun person to have around, that would be interesting and intellectually engaging?  

Q.:  So, when I posted this series of questions on prawfblawg, I got a number of people saying essentially, ask the fellowship directors about candidates from non-traditional backgrounds (i.e., people who didn't go to Chicago or Harvard or Yale, maybe didn't have an elite clerkship).  Is there a way for them to stand out in this application process? How would you advise one of those candidates?

A.:  It’s difficult for anyone to stand out when we're trying to hire two or three people from a pool of 75 exceptionally qualified people. But last year we had a fellow that was amazing that did not attend a top-14 law school, so it is possible. 

But the way that it is possible, though, is to have produced extremely impressive research. The only reason that where someone went to law school matters is as a proxy for how someone will be as a scholar and a teacher. But when we have more reliable proxies, we don't have to rely on that at all.

So, when we have candidates apply with four or five great articles that people feel today are fantastic, we don't have to guess whether or not the person will be a good scholar. We know that they are.  But that's the thing they do have to focus on.  Make that proxy of where you went to law school something you don't have to rely on at all.

Q.:  How much is practice experience valued in the selection decisions?

A:  It’s definitely valued. We have hired a few people without practice experience, but it’s a big hurdle to overcome. This is not like having a PhD, where I’m not sure what weight it plays in the process. Practice experience is something that always weighs strongly in someone’s favor.

Q.  Let's transition away from the application process into what I'm going to call the terms and conditions of employment. I have come to learn that it is really hard for fellows to find out the basics about compensation and other terms of employment for fellowships and VAPS.  How much are Bigelow fellows paid per year?

A.:  I am under the impression that we pay as much, if not more, than our peer fellowship programs. But I don’t know the specifics, and I am not sure I could disclose it if I did.

Q.:  Do fellows receive health benefits, or access to university housing or subsidized housing?

A.:  Yes to health benefits. No to subsidized housing.

Q.:  Do they receive travel funding, or other professional development funding?

A.:  Yes.  

Q.:  How about funding to hire research assistants?

A.:  Fellows receive a guaranteed amount of research funds to use at their discretion, which can be used for travel, hiring RAs, or whatever normal things people use research funds for. And then in addition to that guaranteed amount, there are various opportunities for additional internal funding that fellows may be able to take advantage of depending on the project.

Q.:  Do they receive reimbursement for market-related expenses when they go on the hiring market?

A.:  The research funding is increased in the second year with the idea that it offsets, at least some, of the costs of the market. 

Q.:  Are fellows expected to live in the same city as the law school? I know obviously, they're teaching a class. But could somebody live in New York, and then just come in and teach their class, if that's what worked better for them?

A.:  I do not think someone could be a successful fellow if they did not live in the same city as the law school. It's our norm that fellows, as well as tenure-track faculty, are in the building on work days.

Of course, people have professional and personal travel that takes them away from Chicago. And there are days people work from home. So although there is not a strict face time requirement, I don't think that a fellow could be successful if they came in two days a week, the ways I've heard of friends and colleagues doing for other fellowship programs.

Now, we have had fellows that have been in long distance relationships, and those people may take longer weekends every two weeks. Or be away from Chicago for several weeks over winter break, over spring break, or during the summer. But, the expectation is that people are in Chicago coming to work most days.

Q.:  I know the typical duration of the fellowship is two years. If for example, somebody didn't get a job in that second year, is it possible to renew the fellowship for a third year?

A.:  That has not happened yet, so we never had to cross this hurdle.  We've had 100% of our fellows land a tenure-track offer.  So we haven't ever had to set a policy on what would happen if they did not. We certainly do not have a guarantee of renewal. If it ever did happen, I think there would be an assessment about whether or not that would make sense for the candidate and whether it would make sense for the school to extend for another year.

Q.:  Let’s turn now to how someone makes the most of their fellowship years. How often do the fellows get together, and in what capacity? So, for example, do they have a regular workshop series, or another type of gathering?

A.:  We have a pretty good community of fellows. We have a minimum of six, but, more realistically, nine or ten fellows in any given year (the six Bigelows, plus as I mentioned, multiple people in some stage of the other programs I mentioned). And I think that those fellows talk constantly. Both about their research, and their teaching. 

The fellows also typically have a regular meeting that is either weekly or every two weeks, depending on the time of year, where they talk about each other’s research ideas. These meetings are not to formally research, but an informal discussion

Q.:  And that's just the fellows?

A.:  Yes. This is just the fellows. And then there's the what's called a research colloquium, which is a workshop to present at more formally. It runs during the academic year, and the people that attend are the fellows, JSD students (graduate students that are primarily foreign), and a handful of other people that are visiting scholars or particularly ambitious law students.  And the fellows have the option to present at this forum, and when they do, to invite a handful of faculty members that they're working with or that they're close with, so that they can get some kind of faculty feedback, but not in the high-pressure environment of formal feedback.

Beyond that, before the job market, every one of the fellows gives a workshop in front of our full faculty at our Works-in-Progress (“WIP”) workshop.  But before presenting to the full faculty, the fellows do a dress rehearsal in front of the people that run the fellowship program, all of the fellows, and say four or five of the other faculty. And before the full dress rehearsal, the fellows typically practice by doing a fellows-only workshop. And in some cases, fellows will do multiple rounds of practice workshops if they think they can benefit from additional feedback.

Q.:  That's a great opportunity for them.  Do they get to participate in faculty workshops where they're not the speaker? In other words, do they go to Chicago's regular faculty workshops?

A.:  Yes; they're expected to be at every WIP (once again, with the caveat that we understand people have other professional and personal commitments). But our weekly WIP is the center of our academic life. And the fellows are encouraged to ask question at it. If anything, the view from our faculty is that they should ask more questions. I have never once heard anyone take the view that fellows asked too many questions. So, the expectation is that they attend and that they will participate. 

The WIP is for internal speakers, and it runs every Thursday all year long (with the exception of three or four Thursdays that are over Thanksgiving, winter break, and maybe something like the Fourth of July). So it meets say 48 weeks a year.

During the academic year, we also have workshops for outside speakers. For instance, we have a law and economics workshop and a public law workshop that meets on alternating weeks that are highly attended by faculty. In addition, we have a number of other workshops for external speakers during the academic year: a con law workshop, a sexuality and gender workshop, a law and philosophy workshop, etc. The fellows are encourage to attend any of the workshops for external speakers that may be relevant to their research. 

At these workshops, the fellows are encouraged to be even more involved than the WIP. And also there are dinners after the workshops for external speakers. Our fellows are encouraged to sign up to go to dinner. Especially, when it's someone in their direct field, or in some way would be a valuable person to meet.

Q.:  What assistance are they given in finding mentor?  For example, are they matched with a formal mentor?

A.:  There are not formal mentors. There are the two co-directors of the fellowship program.  The assumption there is that those people will be the Bigelows’ first contact point. Certainly when you start, but also when you have your first research draft, your first need for comment, anything like that. So, they can get lower stakes feedback without having to go to some extremely prominent person in their field and show them a very rough draft.

Moreover, we typically would not hire someone if the relevant people in their field weren't excited about them. So, that sort of cures that problem of a Bigelow not having mentors because we make sure there is buy-in from the natural mentors for a candidate before the hiring ever happens.

  And when people do first start, the directors of fellowship program try to give advice about who the fellow should meet and facilitate that process. But that said, as I mentioned before, we're a faculty of less than 40 people—everyone is in the same building and everyone comes to work almost every day. And as a result, within a few weeks, everyone knows everyone anyway. So mentors are found pretty organically.

Q.:  Are they given assistance making connections outside of your law school, meeting people in their area at other schools?

A.:  One opportunity that I already mentioned is that when we have outside speakers who are connected to the fellow in some way -- same method, same subject area, similar background -- we try to make sure that the fellow does to the dinner, and we also try to have them set up a meeting with the person while they're on campus for coffee. Things like that.

We also host a lot of conferences over the course of the year.  And when the conferences are relevant, the fellows are frequently asked to be a speaker and participate, so that's another way. So, for instance, shortly after I started as a Bigelow fellow, Eric Posner and Al Sykes hosted a conference on international law, and they invited me to be a speaker, attend the dinners, and fully participate. At that event were a number of people in my area—Anu Bradford, Rachel Brewster, Katerina Linos, Mila Versteeg—that I got to spend time with and I’ve now written papers with all of them.

Additionally, we have a pretty large number of faculty members who go to conferences like the Empirical Legal Studies Conference, the American Law and Economic Conference, Law & Society, or events like this. And we try to make sure that the faculty that are going know about the fellows that are going, and that they invite the fellows to meet or come out to drinks with the faculty member’s friends from other schools. So that's one reason we try to encourage the first-year fellows and make sure they attend conferences and actively participate. 

Then finally, if a fellow is looking for an introduction to someone from another school, there is always a faculty member willing to facilitate it.

Q.:  Do fellows receive help in developing their research agenda?

A.:  Yes. Our standard advice -- although it may change depending on the specific fellows background – is that they should have a pretty good idea of what they think they're going to write first by the time they arrive during the summer to start as a Bigelow.  Since they are asked about that during the interview process, typically all of the incoming fellows do have that first project planned out.

The goal is to have the idea for the project completely crystallized by the time the academic year starts, which brings us to the end of September. And so, during that process, they will get a lot of feedback about one specific idea. Then the goal is to get it done by the end of the quarter, then get feedback on a full draft over the winter break, and be ready to submit it by roughly February for the law review submission cycle. 

We then tell fellows to switch to a second paper and have the idea crystalized by the start of the summer, and have a second paper written before the market starts.

Q.:  There is always this lore that fellowship programs help fellows, informally or formally, place their work. Is that true? Do you find that at all?

A.:  You mean like reach out to law reviews?  Well, I'll say this, I have never done that. And I’ve never heard of it happening. I don't even know how you would do that.

Q.:  I don't either. But I keep hearing it, so I figured I'd ask.

A.:  I do think that some of the law reviews like seeing themselves having a kind of kingmaker role where they pick out prominent fellows from the pile and publish their job talks. So top law reviews may be looking for the papers from the top fellows. I’ve heard of former editors claim that they tried to find a paper from one fellow for their volume, for instance.

But the idea that a faculty member would be emailing students a copy of a paper of a fellow is, I don't think, really credible.

Q.:  Yeah. I've never seen it either, but I saw enough comments about it that I thought well, I'll ask. So, let's switch over to the teaching side of the Bigelows’ job. How many students do they typically have in their legal writing section?

A.:  30 to 33.

Q.:  Is that their only teaching responsibility? Or do they have the opportunity to teach other courses as well?

A.:  In the spring of their second year, they teach a seminar on a topic of their choosing.

Q.:  What are their responsibilities in connection with the legal writing course?

A.:  They teach a course on legal writing -- going through IRAC, structure of memos, bluebook, all that kind of stuff. Also, we do new legal writing assignments each year. We never recycle the topics for memos or briefs that the students have to write about. And the Bigelows are in charge of developing three assignments for the year—a closed memo, an open memo and a brief. And the group of six Bigelows divide up the work to develop those three assignments (typically in groups of two per assignment). Additionally, they meet with the students and give feedback on their work, and they also have to grade the students’ memos and briefs. Finally, the expectation is that they are a more approachable mentor than the doctrinal faculty, so they should be available to give advice on things like studying for exams, applying for summer jobs, and navigating the rest of law school.

Q.:  What percentage of their time do you think they spend on teaching versus their research?

A.:  It ebbs and flows a lot. There are three months a year when the three main assignments are due. And those months the fellows are giving feedback, grading assignments, things like that. So there are three periods a year where the vast majority of the fellows’ time is teaching. There’s a lot of other periods throughout the year where there is little or no teaching. This happens over academic breaks and at the beginning and the end of each of our quarters (our legal writing always ends before the other courses so students can transition into studying for their exams).

Q.:  Do the fellows get training, mentoring, or other feedback related to their teaching?

A.:  Yes. Although probably this is an area where we could do better. The fellows receive student evaluations, and we review all of those evaluations and talk to the fellows about anything that comes out of those evaluations. We also meet with them to talk about the content, what they should be covering, advice on how to cover it, et cetera. But we could probably do better still here. 

Q.:  Do fellows have any other responsibilities? Any administrative responsibilities, or anything else?

A.:  No; nothing that they do not choose for themselves.

Q.:  Following up, what could they choose for themselves? Are people getting involved in student organizations, or other things?

A.:  Yes, things like that. Some fellows will give lunch talks for student groups, or play a larger role being mentors for student group. Some fellows have organized conferences. Others have been a part of outside organizations. But these are all things that the fellows are free to choose to get involved with.

Q.:  Let’s step back. If you had a candidate who was choosing between the Bigelow program and one of the other top fellowship programs out there, and you were trying to convince them to come to Chicago, what's the argument you would make? Why do you think this is the best, or one of the best, programs in the country?

A.:  I do strongly think that this is the best fellowship program in the country. But, in full disclosure, I was a Bigelow and now help run the program, so I’m likely biased. But I have reasons.

I think that the University of Chicago Law is the most intense academic environment in any American law school. We have an extremely dedicated faculty that is always at work and engaged. There is essentially no one on our faculty that is not an active and engaged scholar. So, people are engaged, inquisitive, hard at work, and the fellowship is the opportunity to fully be a part of that community for two years. Now, not everyone might want to be part of such a place long term. But for the two years before you go on the market, I can't think of a better investment for your time.  I'm sure you'll get more feedback, more mentorship, and more guidance at Chicago than any other place.

Q.:  And how would a fellow make the most of the Bigelow opportunity? What have you seen people do to really maximize the opportunity that they have over those two years?

A.:  The way to maximize the opportunity is to be extremely present and physically show up to as many things as possible. And beyond just being physically present, be outgoing. Force yourself to meet with and talk to faculty members.  I think our experience is that people on the faculty are happy to read drafts when you send them and keep giving feedback.  We'll force feed people some amount of feedback, but people who are really successful are folks that are going above and beyond to get feedback and develop their scholarship.

Q.:  The job market itself, obviously it's an intense period that all your fellows are going to go through. Do they receive specific mentoring related to the job market?

A.:  Yes. The two co-directors and Brian Leiter are pretty involved in giving feedback, and we also loop in the fellows’ other mentors. So, anyone that is a recommender for the person will give feedback on all of their specific materials. So, the CV, the research agenda, the FAR form.  So, they get multiple people giving them feedback on that. As I mentioned before, we also do a series of moot job talks. Finally, we additionally do moot interviews for everyone before AALS.

Q.:  Earlier, you mentioned that Chicago has a 100% placement rate. Is that over the entire course of the program?

A.:  The modern version of the Bigelow program started in roughly 1999. Since then, 100% of fellows have had a tenure track offer.. There were two people that had tenure track offers, but decided not to take them and to go another direction with their career. And one fellow left the program to accept a Supreme Court clerkship, but went on the market after and landed a tenure track job. But other than that, there's been 100% placement.

Q.:  And I think there's actually a list on the website. Do you mind if I link to it?

A.:  Yes, please do.  [Here’s the link!]

Q.:  A few more broader questions about VAPs and fellowships more generally.  What do you think are the benefits of the rise of fellowships and VAPs as an entry point for so many law faculty positions?  What do you think are the costs?

A.:  I think that, with very few exceptions, anyone that wants to enter into legal academia should do a fellowship.

There are several unique features of the legal academy that make fellowships especially important. For one, unlike other disciplines, law students do not have a set dissertation supervisor whose professional reputation in part dependent on getting you a job. For another, legal academy has a notoriously short tenure clock. The result is that it is extremely important to hit the ground running the day your clock starts ticking. And because most of our research is not peer reviewed and placements in law reviews can be path dependent, the initial trajectory of a legal academics career is extremely important. So it is important to get the best first job you can because you can’t rely on blind review of your articles to let you publish your way up the ladder the way you may be able to in other fields. Finally, our field has very few tenure denials. The result is that if someone is hired based on promise they never realize, they may occupy that job for the rest of their career.

Fellowships are the solution that legal academia has organically found for these problems with our profession. They allow aspiring scholars to acquire strong mentors, develop a research agenda that can carry them through tenure, ensure that they get the best possible initial job, and provide hiring committees with a huge amount of additional information (from published scholarship to teaching evaluations) which ensures that fewer hiring mistakes are made. 

Of course, there are costs. For instance, fellows may have to make an extra move to a new city and may make less money than they would in private practice. I’m sympathetic to the former point, but I’m less sympathetic to the later point. Legal fellowships pay comparably to what law clerks or public interest lawyers make, and more than twice the stipend that people earned as PhD students. Finally, doing a fellowship raises the costs of striking out on the job market, and I worry that this may deter strong candidates from ever even trying to be a law professor.

But, on balance, I think the rise of fellowships is a welcome development. If we wanted to reduce the reliance on them, schools would have to start imposing meaningful tenure standards and be willing to peer review research instead of out sourcing the work to students. I’m skeptical that either thing is likely to change soon, so fellowships are a second-best solution to help develop and identify talent that is here to stay.  

Q.:  Do you think that fellowship and VAP programs have any responsibility for helping to open up law faculty positions to people from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds?  How does your program help to do that, if at all?

A.:  I think everyone in the legal academy and the legal profession should be trying to find ways to promote inclusion and diversity. The diversity of our cohorts of fellows is something that we are all very proud of. We’ve tried to accomplish this in a few ways.   

First, we try to actually read as much of scholarship as possible. When you let the work speak for itself, instead of relying on proxies, it’s possible to find people that are creative and distinct thinkers.

Second, we try to do outreach and target candidates from diverse backgrounds and encourage them to apply. This includes trying to find people to directly email and ask to apply, but also trying to find forums to promote our programs.

Third, we have a fellowship, the Dickerson Fellowship, that is specifically for promoting diversity in legal academy. The fellows that have come through this program have been extremely successful on the market and in their academic careers. 

Fourth, one of faculty members (who himself was a former Bigelow and was a co-director of the program when I was hired), Daniel Abebe, is very active in the Culp Colloquium program run by Duke Law School. The Colloquium brings together current leading academics to help give feedback and mentorship to diverse candidates before they go on the market. We have been able to identify potential fellows from their participation in the program, had people in the Colloquiums network refer candidates to us, and several of our fellows have attended the Colloquium after starting at Chicago.

Of course, I’m sure we could do even better, and we are constantly looking for ways to improve. But those are a few of the steps we’ve taken in recent years.

Q.:  What do you think about the criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship from other faculty and that therefore it is hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work and ideas comes from the VAPs or fellows themselves?

A.:  That criticism misunderstands what fellowship programs are doing. Or, at least, what we do at Chicago. Those criticisms imagine fellowship programs as giving entry level candidates an extreme amount of help writing a specific paper, but really we are training people how to be better scholars. For instance, I’ve never once given line edits on a fellows paper, but I’ve had plenty of conversations over lunch about what are the kinds of questions worth writing about. It’s being part of those conversations every day that improves the quality of fellows scholarship. We are not giving people a fish, we are teaching them to fish.

Q.:  Any thoughts you’d like to pass on to hiring committees about law faculty hiring?

A.:  Nope, I can’t think of any.  

Q.:  Thanks for participating in this interview series!

 

Posted by Jessica Erickson on June 7, 2019 at 08:41 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink

Comments

I just wanted to second the comment below. Thanks, Adam, for taking the time to answer these questions so thoroughly! The goal of this series is transparency around VAP and fellowship programs, and the interviews themselves are only a part of that. I love that you are willing to engage in a dialogue with the commenters here.

Posted by: Jessica Erickson | Jun 12, 2019 9:35:32 AM

So much respect for Adam Chilton. Thank you for engaging as much as you have both in the interview and in the comments' section.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 12, 2019 4:50:14 AM

I said we won't hold early bad papers against someone if it's clear that they are now a very different scholar. My previous statement is that people shouldn't be cranking out bad papers because it makes the signal clear that they aren't a strong scholar. Nothing remotely inconsistent there. It's fine if you initial had a bad paper if the signal your recent scholarship is sending is that you are good scholar. It's a problem if you are continuing to pump out papers that send the signal you are bad scholar.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 11, 2019 11:13:38 AM

Ok. How does this square with your previous statement that previous articles of lesser quality serve as a bad sognal

Posted by: Anon | Jun 11, 2019 11:00:22 AM

"Do you take into consideration increase in scholarship quality?"

We read the writing sample people send us, and people typically send us their most recent paper. We may also ask for earlier papers or just go find them online. But I wouldn't hold a paper someone wrote before they knew what they were doing against someone if its clear they are now a very different scholar.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 11, 2019 10:08:30 AM

Do you take into consideration increase in scholarship quality? For those who were not groomed for the professoriate, sometimes learning the method takes a bit of practice.

Posted by: anon | Jun 10, 2019 9:38:37 PM

A few additional thoughts.

First, on how much weight is put on article placement. I personally try to place zero weight on placement of papers in student edited journals. Although the students that run the journals are smart, hardworking, and take their role in the production of scholarship very seriously, they simply are not experts on the scholarship they are reviewing. Given that, where a paper places should not update our evaluation of it in any direction.

That said, although I wish placement did not matter, it is extremely implausible that it does not matter for at least some outcomes (the most obvious outcome it directly influences is expected future citations, but perhaps lateral movement as well). My evidence for this claim is simple: (most) tenured law professors care about where their own articles place. If it did not matter, there would be zero submissions stress for law professors. Instead, every February, most law professor I know have their heart rise and fall based on the emails they're getting from 2Ls. Moreover, too many law professors name check the law review their articles placed in when it's a "good" placement ("In my recent Columbia law review article..."). So I trust the revealed preference of law professors stress over the stated preference that it doesn't matter.

Second, in response to the mid-career academic noting that it is sad to hear the admission that you cannot "publish your way up the ladder." To be clear, I said that you cannot rely on blind peer review to publish your way up the ladder. Of course, there are still people that publish their way up the ladder. But they have found a way to do it without the advantage of gate keepers seeing their research without their name and affiliation attached.

This is just one of the ways that having a student-edited publication system is deeply problematic. For instance, because students decide on article placement, and article placement influences citations, neither placement or citations are a measure of research quality that are based on the revealed preferences of experts. The result is that faculties cannot rely on any metrics when making personnel decisions. Instead, they must outsource their personnel decisions in part to students at other law schools, or they must engage in an extremely inefficient independent review of scholarship.

I assume that everyone agrees that the later option is the only defensible one. In other words, we agree that academics have to read each others scholarships to evaluate the quality. The question then is just how we structure the process of that review. My view is that we might as well have subject matter experts making these evaluations ex ante and blind instead instead of 100 separate faculties each doing it ex post with the biases that come along with knowing a persons position and the articles placement.

Third, on the overall field, "aa"'s comment is basically right. Out of 75 applications, there are maybe 15 applications that are non-starters because the applicant does not understand the position they are applying for. For instance, someone that says in their cover letter that they are looking for a way to kill a year between clerkships and that their goal is to be an M&A lawyer. There are another 15 applications that are obviously going to get a screening interview. Both of these groups of applications take only a short time to review. This leaves maybe 35-45 applications that we need to spend time evaluating before the screening interview stage.

But because we accept applications on a rolling basis, after an initial burst when we open up for applications, we only receive a couple of applications each week. And there are two of us doing the initial screening. This means we each have to read a few writing samples every two weeks. It's time consuming, but it is not a crazy the way it is for appointments committees that have to decide within a few weeks which of 450 applicants to offer a screening interview to. We slowly work our way through a tenth of that pile over the course of like four months. In this way, we are at least trying to give everyone that is a serious applicant a fair review (by serious here, I simply mean anyone that makes it clear in their materials that: their goal is to go on the entry-level law school market; they are trying to secure a fellowship to advance that goal; and they have put in at least some time thinking about what research they'd like to do while they are a fellow).

Finally, a note about the quantity of papers required to land a fellowship as a non-traditional candidate. I would not want anyone to interpret my comments as suggestion that the right strategy is to just crank out papers. Quality is necessary for everyone, and that is probably only more true when you have non-traditional credentials. If you write four bad paper papers before even landing a fellowship, the signal about your potential as a scholar will appear clear--just not in the way you'd like.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 10, 2019 6:05:31 PM

Profanon: we do use some other proxies (mainly, word-of-mouth from colleagues and peers, highly prestigious academic awards such as dissertation or paper prizes from major associations, PhDs from the very top programs, and, to a lesser extent, top fellowships like the Bigelow) that are more accurate indicators of quality to narrow our pool down to a couple dozen people, generally between 50 and 100. Once that is done, yes, at least two committee members read articles by every candidate in that pool, and by that point article placement matters very little, if at all. I realize that reliance on these kinds of proxies may not be plausible at some tier of schools, but from what I’ve seen, the “national law schools” all have a roughly similar system. Article quality in student-edited law journals, including the very top ones, are just too uneven for us to take them seriously as a proxy—not to mention too many excellent articles fail to be picked up by them.

Posted by: Anon-prof | Jun 9, 2019 6:10:26 PM

aa-people do not point to evidence because they do not want to say "Profs X,Y, and Z all published terrible/average articles with top schools when they were fellows." It would simply be unprofessional and impolite. I also think your last statement was self-contradictory. You don't think fellows get an advantage, but then you say they should be pushed to the top of the pile. I was an editor for a top ten journal 13 years ago, and I can say with absolute certainty that people with elite resumes (including and especially fellows) received special consideration at my journal. People even said this explicitly (i.e., we should give deference to the experts, the faculty at HYS must have liked this article, etc.).

Anon-prof: I know many people who say this, and I try to hold myself to this standard. But does your hiring committee actually read articles from everyone on the market? At least at my third-tier school, we inevitably use placements to help in deciding who to select for further consideration. They also matter in terms of influence and citations.

Posted by: Profanon | Jun 9, 2019 1:34:15 PM

I cannot emphasize enough how little weight is placed on article “placement” in student edited law journals at my school (and possibly at “top” schools in general). We don’t take student opinions and what little “peer review” that some law journals claim to do as reliable indicators of quality, and instead read each candidate’s work independently of which journal they publish in, unless that journal happens to be fully peer-reviewed (and even when that’s the case, we still trust our own judgment more than the journal’s). The articles that carry the most positive weight in our hiring decisions are very, very often not the “best placed” ones in a candidate’s profile, and the Harvard Law Review is not seen here as a better indicator of quality than some secondary journal in, say, international law or law and technology. So, my advice to job market candidates: write the best work you can, and don’t worry about law review placement much.

Posted by: Anon-prof | Jun 9, 2019 11:52:23 AM

--aa - I am glad to hear that this wasn’t true for you, but I think the trend is more than backed up by the evidence. Profs at good schools get a massive leg up in the process for various reasons, and that applies to VAPs and fellows as well.--

I strongly disagree. I've been following these discussions for the past several years and the "evidence" I see consists of law professors like yourself stating this as if it were true while other former articles editors, like myself, say something along the lines of 'not at my journal.'

The process is sufficiently idiosyncratic that I am sure that being a fellow gives you a leg up (close to being a prof at that school) at some journals. And as a normative matter, as far as signals go, I think a top fellowship is one of the best available; if I were on articles committee now, I'd push for giving moving submissions from the elite fellowships to the top of the pile. I do not think, however, that there is any particularly good evidence showing that fellowships convey any significant advantage in the article selection process--while there's a decently sized body of anecdotal evidence suggesting that top fellows get little-to-no advantage.

Posted by: aa | Jun 9, 2019 11:11:51 AM

aa - I am glad to hear that this wasn’t true for you, but I think the trend is more than backed up by the evidence. Profs at good schools get a massive leg up in the process for various reasons, and that applies to VAPs and fellows as well.

I don’t think it is impossible to publish your way up, but it is very difficult. Most, but not all, of the people who do so have the type of top credentials that make it easier to place well even from a lower ranked school. Finding a prof who didn’t go to HYS or have a SCOTUS clerkship or top PhD who actually worked up the food chain is hard to do. Again, not impossible, but very rare. This is not a meritocracy.

Posted by: Profanon | Jun 9, 2019 9:56:37 AM

"And because most of our research is not peer reviewed and placements in law reviews can be path dependent, the initial trajectory of a legal academics career is extremely important. So it is important to get the best first job you can because you can’t rely on blind review of your articles to let you publish your way up the ladder the way you may be able to in other fields"

As a mid-career academic, this is so sad. The admission that in legal academia you cannot "publish your way up the ladder" and that "placement in law reviews can be path dependent" ...So sad.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 8, 2019 12:05:33 PM

--A fellow at Chicago is much more likely to place very highly than an assistant prof at a second or third tier school.--

As a former article editor, this would not have been true for my school, assuming similar quality of article.

-- So, if someone graduated from a top 40 school and has 2 or 3 great publications that placed relatively poorly, I wonder if they fall through the cracks.--

The implication here is that T14 grads without an affiliation have a much easier time publishing than T40 grads without an affiliation. At least at my law review, this was not true: Emory grads had an equal shot at a publication offer as NYU grads, all else equal.

--I have assume that you aren't reading the articles of all 75 applicants, right?--

I suspect that even with a strong applicant pool, there aren't 75 applicants with publications, let alone multiple publications. My guess is that once you narrow the pool to, say, 'everyone with a single T100 publication' you're really only talking about ~30 applicants, which could be pretty quickly narrowed further by a quick skim of the article abstract and intro. I have no idea if this is how Adam does it (and I'm not proposing even that this is how it should be done). My point is just that there are a couple of easy broad filters that could quickly reduce the number of applicants to a manageable number.

Posted by: aa | Jun 8, 2019 12:03:43 PM

Thank you for this post and these interviews.

I wonder how the fellowships judge the quality of articles. Article placement is a very poor proxy for article quality. A GREAT article from a graduate without a high ranking affiliation will probably place poorly. So, if someone graduated from a top 40 school and has 2 or 3 great publications that placed relatively poorly, I wonder if they fall through the cracks. I have assume that you aren't reading the articles of all 75 applicants, right?

On the regression point by Orin, I suspect that this is more a function of placement than article quality. A fellow at Chicago is much more likely to place very highly than an assistant prof at a second or third tier school.

Posted by: anon | Jun 8, 2019 9:10:48 AM

1) These interviews are great. They ensure that individuals interested in becoming an academic appreciate that this is an INSANELY competitive field. Chances of success are EXTREMELY slim, even for those with STELLAR CVs.

2) The debate about faculty influence on fellow's paper is pointless. A Law school has a vested interest in its fellows being successful and its fellowship program being perceived as best in class.

Posted by: anon | Jun 7, 2019 4:40:27 PM

Just a follow-up on the comment below: To be clear, I'm not saying that the two sets of statements are inconsistent, and I didn't mean to focus just on the Bigelow program. I was trying to make a broader point about the tension between giving VAPs great guidance and how to evaluate a VAP's work.

A stylized hypothetical might help bring out the concern better. Let's say a VAP comes to me with a draft paper. I read it, and I offer comments. You should probably drop the last 15 page section, I say, as it doesn't add anything. You should instead have a last section with a normative analysis of the proposal you are making. We then talk about different ways of approaching the normative question, with me suggesting (say) that a cost/benefit analysis could be useful, focusing on a few key features of the proposal. Over the next month, the VAP then rewrites the paper and adds a cost/benefit section at the end in response to my comments. I then convene a meeting of professors to discuss the VAP's new last section, and to think through strategies for what to say or not say in that section. The VAP listens to that discussion and rewrites that section of the paper as part of the version to be job-talked. On one hand, we could say that the faculty feedback has been on how to fish, using that one example of that one paper as a template for how to think about the aims and goals of a paper. On the other hand, when the VAP presents the article as a job talk, and the focus in the Q&A (understandably) becomes the cost/benefit analysis in that last section, to what extent is the VAP presenting the VAP's own ideas vs. echoing the earlier conversation of faculty members? I worry that it can be somewhat hard to tell.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jun 7, 2019 4:22:51 PM

Fair point Orin. I certainly hope that fellows’ papers improve a lot during their time here. But I thought the concern that Jessica was voicing was that “the job market paper may be good, but because they were a fellow, we worry the probability their next papers will regress (or potential magnitude of regression) is greater than average.” That’s the view I’m pushing back against. It is possible anyone will regress after the market. But I think this is actually less likely for candidates with solid training. And, if hiring committees are trying to assess who will have the better file by the time of tenure, my view is that the former fellow is a better bet.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 7, 2019 4:19:04 PM

Adam, this is a great interview. Thanks for it.

Lots to mull over, but here's one thought. I think there's some tension between your statements in the 1st half of the interview about how much faculty feedback and guidance Fellows receive on their job market paper (presented as a great benefit to being a Fellow) and the answer you give at the end in response to the concern that Fellows get too much help on their scholarship from faculty. In the 1st half, you say that fellows "will get a lot of feedback about one specific idea" for a paper, and "what to write about" based on their specific idea for a paper, and then "feedback on a full draft," plus then you'll "force feed people some amount of feedback" on their article with the hopes that they'll "go above and beyond to get feedback" on that article. But in response to the concern that papers may reflect too much outside help, you say the article is 100% their own work and we don't need to worry that the ideas from the paper came from someone else.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jun 7, 2019 3:30:09 PM

No one thinks that going to HYS entitles anyone to the presumption that they will be a great scholar. But we are trying to predict who will have a great academic career before they’ve started work as an academic. We use many data points to do that, but one of those data points is the candidate’s educational record. Not just where they went to school, but how well they did there. There is nothing odd about the view that educational records provide signals that employers should use when making hiring decisions. It would be odd is that was all that mattered, or if it trumped demonstrated research and teaching ability; but, again, absolutely no one thinks that.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 7, 2019 3:02:39 PM

Why does graduating from HYS automatically entitle you to the presumption you will be a great scholar, if that is what schools are interested in? As a proxy to weed out candidates, I understand why it is used. But actually what is going on here is the LSAT is being used as a proxy for scholarly and teaching potential. Very odd.

Posted by: anon | Jun 7, 2019 2:02:02 PM

A few thoughts on the comments.

First, on the amount of scholarship that would be required to land a Bigelow Fellowship as a "non-traditional" candidate." If the choice was between someone from a top 50 school with two excellent papers, and a median HYS graduate with two middling articles, I'd agree. But comments like this fail to appreciate how strong the pool for fellowships is now. We are not hiring median graduates, and we are not hiring people with middling papers. There are far more extremely strong applicants than we can hire. Given that, the question is how someone from a non-traditional background can beat out a pool filled with people with perfect grades from the best law schools, PhDs from top-five programs, Supreme Court clerkships, well-developed research agendas, and multiple great papers. It's true that four or five articles are an "unusual quantity of published work pre-fellowship", but you have to be at the far right tail along some dimension to get hired for extremely competitive jobs. One or two great papers is not the far right tail anymore. Perhaps it was back when the top job candidates forgo the fellowship market and went straight to the entry level market. But now that, as Sarah and Jessica have just shown, nearly everyone does a fellowship, it's not.

Second, I'm not sure what makes a job normal, but as far as I know, salaries at private university are typically confidential. At least, that's the norm we follow. When we decide to make a candidate an offer, the dean talks to them about compensation. The directors of the fellowship are not involved.
A few thoughts on the comments.

First, on the amount of scholarship that would be required to land a Bigelow Fellowship as a "non-traditional" candidate." If the choice was between someone from a top 50 school with two excellent papers, and a median HYS graduate with two middling articles, I'd agree. But comments like this fail to appreciate how strong the pool for fellowships is now. We are not hiring median graduates, and we are not hiring people with middling papers. There are far more extremely strong applicants than we can hire. Given that, the question is how someone from a non-traditional background can beat out a pool filled with people with perfect grades from the best law schools, PhDs from top-five programs, Supreme Court clerkships, well-developed research agendas, and multiple great papers. It's true that four or five articles are an "unusual quantity of published work pre-fellowship", but you have to be at the far right tail along some dimension to get hired for extremely competitive jobs. One or two great papers is not the far right tail anymore. Perhaps it was back when the top job candidates forgo the fellowship market and went straight to the entry level market. But now that, as Sarah and Jessica have just shown, nearly everyone does a fellowship, it's not.

Second, I'm not sure what makes a job normal, but as far as I know, salaries at private university are typically confidential. At least, that's the norm we follow. When we decide to make a candidate an offer, the dean talks to them about compensation. The directors of the fellowship are not involved.

Posted by: Adam Chilton | Jun 7, 2019 1:47:11 PM

Thank you for the honest interview. People seem surprised about the 4 or 5 article comment. The fact of the matter is that many people with top law schools and phds are coming in with 2 or 3 well placed articles even before the fellowship or perhaps one published and one or two well developed drafts. I would like to know more about the applicant pool; I would not be surprised if at least half and probably 75% are people from top schools with a PhD or one well placed publication and that they have probably 40 or 50 people that could be chosen and get a similar outcome.

But I don’t know this. What percent of applicants are people with promising ideas but are just an associate at a law firm? What percent are non top 14? Such an applicant often does not stand a chance in today’s market since there are limited jobs and half went to phds this year. The same goes for those from less elite law schools. I am not sure how to fix the problem outside of hiring more people because are schools going to not give offer to fellow from top law schools with 2 great pubs with their friends calling up compared to non elite with same scholarly record? The 4 or 5 paper comment is probably an accurate answer (outside of applying to one’s alma mater where such an applicant could get a position).

Posted by: Anon | Jun 7, 2019 1:15:50 PM

"A.: But the way that it is possible, though, is to have produced extremely impressive research. The only reason that where someone went to law school matters is as a proxy for how someone will be as a scholar and a teacher. But when we have more reliable proxies, we don't have to rely on that at all.

So, when we have candidates apply with four or five great articles that people feel today are fantastic, we don't have to guess whether or not the person will be a good scholar. We know that they are. But that's the thing they do have to focus on. Make that proxy of where you went to law school something you don't have to rely on at all."

I respect the honesty. So. Yale JD = 5 GREAT publications.
Let that sink in.

Posted by: VisAnon | Jun 7, 2019 12:16:06 PM

Thanks, Jessica, for taking the time to do these interviews, which will materially add to the (already fairly extensive) material available online for prospective law profs. Can't wait to read the next ones. Adam, thanks to you for taking the time to do this, and also for, as Jessica says, opening yourself up a bit to internet comments like this one.

In the spirit of your stated goal, Adam, of increasing inclusivity, I thought I might draw your attention to two things you say about the Bigelow process that might be addressed.

First, you decline to disclose how much the Bigelow pays (the transcript suggests you may not know, but reading the context a bit generously I gather this means you don't know what other programs pay). If you're keen not to state a specific dollar amount, I don't think that is a problem, but for people who are not "read in" to the process, this does not provide much information. The usual solution here is to state a range, e.g., "competitive with other top fellowship programs, i.e., $60-70k."

Second, you suggest that applicants who did not attend top 14 law schools can still be competitive for the fellowship by publishing. This is good. However, you then suggest this possibility kicks in when a candidate has "four or five great articles." That is an unusual quantity of published work pre-fellowship, even today.

You mention this in the course of talking about how scholarship can be a better proxy of scholarly potential than educational background; I would think two excellent articles or even one could meet the specific bar you're talking about. That is, I would think that an applicant from, say, a top 25 or 50 school who's published two great articles while practicing has demonstrated scholarly potential equal to if not greater than the median HYS graduate who's got a middling article or working paper but also enjoys certain presumptions from the HYS degree. In my experience, the go-to justification for replicating market metrics (e.g., where a candidate went to school) at the fellowship level is that ultimately those metrics will influence job placement. Fine. But the Bigelow is, like a Supreme Court clerkship, one of a handful of credentials that can help counteract this for individual candidates, if not change the system entirely (within reason; a graduate of a T100 school will have trouble no matter what).

What I'm suggesting for the Bigelow and other elite programs is to consider and actively address how they can be more open to people who weren't taken under a wing in New Haven or Cambridge and groomed for this. At a minimum, this would include sharing more about what it pays (as normal jobs do) and being more open to demonstrated scholarly excellence as a measure of potential without imposing impossible standards thereof (e.g., five articles). I have the sense you share this goal, but in the transcript it comes across as "if you went to Alabama, you'll need to publish four or five excellent law review articles before your application has a chance."

My thanks once again to you both.

Posted by: anonprof | Jun 7, 2019 12:00:09 PM

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