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Monday, June 01, 2020

The Initially-Foreign-Trained Law Student and the Legal Academic Job Market - Lubin Guest Post

The following is a guest post by Asaf Lubin.

For those considering a career in legal academia, these are uncertain times. The Association of American Law Schools has recently decided to cancel its 2020 Fall Faculty Recruitment Conference due to COVID-19. Instead, law schools are now invited to rely on the Faculty Appointments Register (FAR) to reach out directly to candidates for scheduling what will most likely be online interviews. Of course, it remains to be seen how many law schools will actually hire next year as “pay cuts, salary freezes, and furloughs are hitting law schools” across the country.

As we look to examine the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19 on the legal academic job market, one category of candidates deserves our special attention. Initially-Foreign-Trained Law Students (IFT or IFTs) on the market have faced unique challenges that have mostly gone unvoiced. While battling visa issues and the emotional and financial costs of relocating a family, this group of candidates also had to endure various forms of explicit and implicit bias. These adversities, and others, make what is already an uphill climb––trying to succeed in a highly competitive buyers’ market––seem insurmountable. Especially at this time, as the growing unemployment numbers due to the coronavirus are triggering a general isolationist sentiment centered on preserving American jobs for American workers, the challenges for IFTs loom larger. This sentiment is one shared by the current administration. President Trump recently signed a “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak.” According to some reports, Trump is expected to only broaden and tighten these foreign worker bans and restrictions, as pressure from conservative lobbying groups to do so intensifies.

Thanks to the dedicated work of Sarah Lawsky, who through this blog annually compiles information and produces reports about entry-level hires, we now have a decade of data easily accessible to us. I therefore set out to explore what the numbers have to say about IFT hires. Given that there are few resources available that exclusively target this group of market goers, the short essay I wrote provides some initial insight into their professional and geographical backgrounds and academic interests as well as offers some general advice.

Full disclosure: I am an IFT who went on the academic job market this fall and recently accepted a position as a tenure track associate professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. I am therefore in a good position to tell this story as I have just lived it. Nonetheless, I am also consciously aware that my experience is anecdotal and that the number of IFT hires each year is so small that extrapolating actual trends from them is quite difficult. I am also aware of my own implicit biases as a white cis-gender Jewish Israeli-Polish gay man. IFTs on the market have varied cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds and life experiences that I cannot fully capture or aim to represent. I therefore hope that by writing this piece I can encourage others to share their story.

The abstract of the paper is provided in full below. The paper is accessible on SSRN. I welcome any thoughts, feedback, or critique at [email protected].

To be a foreigner in a new country is never easy. Cultural shock and language barriers present an array of obstacles for the incoming individual. Being a foreign law student adds new layers of difficulty as you’re called to learn a completely new legal system in a short period of time. For some, real acclimation to an American law school and to American legal practice, would come at the expense of foregoing a great deal of what it meant to be a lawyer back home.

Initially-foreign-trained law students (IFTs) will undergo many “trials and tribulations of adjustment”, as Professor Damaška once described them, but none are greater than those that await them at the end of the line, if they choose to enter the U.S. legal academic job market.

This short essay offers a first account of the unique experiences that await IFTs on the market. Relying on extensive data accessible through Professor Sarah Lawsky’s Entry Level Hiring Report it offers IFT-specific statistical findings drawn from the past decade of law school hiring. The essay tries to explore a number of relevant points of comparison: (a) the general success rate of IFTs on the market; (b) the geographical origins of IFT hires; (c) their research and teaching areas of interests; and (d) their professional backgrounds.

Given that there are currently no available resources that are tailored to the unique experiences of IFTs, the essay aims to fill this gap by providing some brief insight as to the employability of contemporary IFT students. The essay further contains a few modest suggestions, based on the data, for future IFT students who might be considering a career as law professors in the U.S.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on June 1, 2020 at 11:00 AM in Entry Level Hiring Report | Permalink

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