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Saturday, July 27, 2019

New AALS Website on Becoming a Law Professor

Hopefully by now, many of you have seen the AALS’s new website for individuals interested in law faculty positions.  The vast majority of the work developing this site was done by the AALS staff (including Sean Scott, the former Associate Director of the AALS), but I served on the AALS Committee on Becoming a Law Teacher, which worked on the project as well, so I wanted to take a few moments to highlight the site and a few of its unique features.

First, I want to recognize that this site builds on the amazing work by Prawfsblawg’s own Sarah Lawsky over the past several years collecting data on entry-level law faculty hires.  The site relies on this data in various places, and it now does a better job of acknowledging her contribution to the site and the profession more broadly.  Thanks, Sarah, for all of your work over the years spearheading this data project!

Second, the site includes a wealth of information about the realities of the law teaching market.  Many of us have probably received phone calls from alumni of our schools or local lawyers expressing interest in law teaching, and it is difficult to convey just how hard it is to land a law faculty position while also explaining the necessary steps and the relevant processes.  This site lays out all of this information in a single place, with the goal of making this process more transparent.  We definitely didn’t want to sugarcoat the process, but we also want to make sure that people who are committed to this path know what they have to do to have the best chances to succeed.

Most interestingly, from my perspective at least, the site includes a mock video of a job talk, a video discussion about how to make the most of a fellowship, as well as sample CVs, research agendas, FAR forms, and teaching statements.  The goal was to make these steps in the process a little more familiar for people trying to break into the profession.  For longtime professors, it feels obvious what a good job talk or FAR form looks like, but for candidates new to the process, these steps can feel pretty foreign.   A huge thank you to the professors who agreed to let us post their materials for others to learn from, as well as to Kate Weisburd for giving a mock job talk and Aman Gebru for sharing his thoughts on the fellowship process!

My favorite part of the site is the personal narratives from three newly hired professors.  Hiba Hafiz at Boston College, Andrew Winden at the University of Florida, and Richmond Law’s own Rebecca Crootof all wrote amazingly heartfelt narratives about their own journeys into the profession.  We were inspired to include these narratives after we read Brad Areheart’s story on the University of Texas’s website, and his experience and advice is also valuable for prospective candidates to read.  Data and facts are helpful, but there’s something special about reading first-hand accounts of people’s journeys. 

And the site includes all of my interviews with fellowship and VAP directors.  There are more interviews to come,  and it will soon also include interviews about the Ph.D. in Law program at Yale and the Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) PhD program at Berkeley Law.  These interviews were sparked by Sarah’s data showing that nearly all tenure-track hires today have done either a VAP or fellowship program or received a Ph.D.  Despite this reality, there was very little information out there about how these programs work and how to successfully land a position in them.  I am grateful that prawfsblawg was receptive to allowing me to publish the interviews on their blog, and I will continue to post them here.  If you are looking for all of the interviews in a single place though, you can find them on the AALS website. 

Finally, as I understand it, this site is just the beginning.  The AALS plans to develop similar materials for other types of law teaching, including clinical and legal writing positions, so stay tuned for even more information.  In the end, our goal is to demystify the process of becoming a law professor so that it doesn’t feel like a secret society that only some people can access.  With that goal in mind, if there is more information you think we should include, let me know!

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 27, 2019 at 06:52 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink

Comments

Thanks for this, Jessica. These are some helpful resources, and we appreciate knowing about them.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 29, 2019 2:03:49 AM

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