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Saturday, August 28, 2021

Law School Hiring Spreadsheet and Clearinghouse for Questions, 2021-2022

I. The Spreadsheet

In the spreadsheet, you can enter information regarding whether you have received

(a) a first round interview at a school (including the subject areas the school mentioned, if any, as being of particular interest, and whether the interview offer was accepted);

(b)  a callback from a law school and/or accepted it; or

(c) an offer from a law school and/or accepted it; feel free to also leave details about the offer, including teaching load, research leave, etc. A school listed as "offer accepted" may have made more than one offer and may still have some slots open.

Law professors may also choose to provide information that is relevant to the entry-level market.  

Anyone can edit the spreadsheet; I will not be editing it or otherwise monitoring it. It is available here:

II. The Comment Thread

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.

You may want to take a look at the many questions and answers in the threads from 2014-20152015-20162016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020, 2020-2021. In general, there's quite a cache of materials relevant to the law job market under the archive categories Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market and Entry Level Hiring Report.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 28, 2021 at 03:15 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink

Comments

To the student - legal academia requires maximum geographic flexibility if you want to be successful. Yes, there are a few people every year who get offers in their ideal locations at their ideal school, but they are the exception, not the rule. I have watched multiple candidates from T6 schools with stellar grades, top flight clerkships and fellowships, and great publications receive offers only at schools outside of CA, D.C. & NY. Even if your states are not ones typically in high demand on the east/west coasts, that's no guarantee you'll land there. Schools usually have teaching needs and fields they want to cover when doing a search, and your area of interest may or may not overlap with those preferences the year you're on the market. The whole process is just far too random to be able to say with confidence that you can land in one or two particular states. This is not to say don't try at all - you may get lucky! I've seen it happen. But most likely, you'll have to decide if you love the work enough to move.

Posted by: Anonymous | Apr 1, 2022 12:30:59 AM

Hi all. What advice would you give to a law student who is interested in legal academia, but really does not want to live outside of one or two states long-term? Does this make legal academia a pipe dream?

Would you say the same thing if they went to Harvard and got good grades there? What about top grades from a lower T-14?

(My situation involves a possible transfer. I'd really appreciate thoughts re. this simplified semi-hypothetical.)

Posted by: AnonStudent | Mar 31, 2022 9:46:04 PM

Also, now is the time to get some practice experience before you start teaching, so that you're not a law professor who has never practiced law.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 26, 2022 8:01:33 AM

AntsyAnon - it may be useful to look at the hiring report for this year (and prior years), to get a sense of how common it is for candidates to land jobs in the 1-4 years after getting a JD. I think you'll find that this usually happens only when the candidate has also completed a PhD or prestigious fellowship, but there are exceptions.
As a recent applicant, I would just emphasize that going on the job market can be incredibly time consuming and intense. I wouldn't recommend doing it unless you're willing to devote a lot of resources to the process.

Posted by: AnonAdvice | Mar 25, 2022 4:55:46 PM

How soon is too soon to be applying for faculty positions? I know typically non-PhD applicants spend a few years doing fellowships/VAPs and maybe clerkships before applying, but would it be a waste of time to shoot my shot even if I'm only a year out of law school without having done any of that? I already have a couple publications in T25 flagships.

Posted by: AntsyAnon | Mar 8, 2022 5:23:02 PM

PhD,

Generalizing is hard, but having a PhD is usually useful because it (a) suggests that the candidate is actually an expert in something that is relevant to legal scholarship, (b) shows commitment to scholarship generally, and (c) tends to lead to the production of scholarship by the time the person goes on the market. If you can do those things without a PhD, you don't need one. But it depends on so many factors. (This is putting aside whether you want one and whether it's worth it given the many years of your life it takes to get one, of course.)

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Feb 28, 2022 2:39:06 AM

I think the PhD can be advantageous in two other ways, besides the time factor. One is providing a methodological approach or specialized expertise to generate novel, original legal scholarship. Economics, history, philosophy and political science can all be useful training for this reason - but also consider the intellectual property scholar with a PhD in the sciences or engineering, or someone studying health law with a PhD in public health.
A second way, though, is professionalization. PhDs gain experience presenting academic work, engaging in scholarly debates, and teaching. Fellowships try to substitute for this (and provide time to write), but given how short they are, they don't provide the depth of professional development a PhD can.
There are, of course, tradeoffs - someone who obtains both a JD and PhD, plus practices for a period of time and/or clerks, and then does a fellowship, is likely looking at being in their mid to late 30s by the time they land a law professor position.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 26, 2022 11:25:49 PM

@PhD -

There's also a simple question of time to publish. If you're in practice, you probably have very little time to work on your publications. If you're in a PhD program, you have tons of time and flexibility. For many PhD candidates, it can be difficult to direct your research to inform on legal issues, but for candidates who can use some or most of their PhD time working on legal or law-adjacent issues, the payoff as measured by time alone can be huge.

I think the credential is valuable, but I don't think it's as valuable as many think. It's difficult to overstate the value of the time, though, for those who can find it -- and that undoubtedly includes a number of top candidates every year.

I suspect that legal academia candidates with PhDs do better than legal academia candidates without PhDs on the market overall. I also suspect that the PhD advantage is overwhelmingly concentrated in those PhDs whose programs allow them at least some time and space to write law review articles, and whose research is otherwise closely related to legal issues. So I'd be very reluctant to get a PhD primarily for this purpose unless I was very confident that my program and course of study put me in this latter category.

Posted by: a non | Feb 24, 2022 11:53:54 PM

@ PhD?

The cynical answer: preferring PhDs is another gatekeeping tool to keep down the volume of applicants (let's all be real, being a law prof is better than being a big law associate ground into dirt with 12 hr days, 6 days per week for years on end).

The less cynical answer: it gives a better idea of whether the applicant has the demonstrable skills to be a good scholar (the former proxy for this was one's law review student note, which, isn't anywhere near the level of expertise or insight required for a PhD).

Finally, econ PhDs tend to be highly regarded in law schools, too much so imo. I actually think there has been a significant take over of law by economics that has its origins in the 70s, but that's a different debate.

Posted by: anon | Feb 24, 2022 10:30:14 PM

@AssocProf: Yes, I mean Fall 2022. Thank you for your helpful answer!

Posted by: Timing Q | Feb 24, 2022 2:24:41 PM

@ Timing Q - To be clear, when you say you'll be on the market "this coming year" you mean the hiring cycle beginning Fall 2022?

I ran into this problem with my own job talk. My article was accepted in February, in print in December, and my final job talk was not until the following March. To be safe, I would aim for April 2023 or later, assuming the journal gives you some flexibility in that regard.

Note that it was not a dealbreaker for my school, and several other candidates in recent years have presented on papers already in print.

Posted by: AssocProf | Feb 24, 2022 12:54:59 PM

Why do so many candidates on the market have a PhD? What makes this credential desirable for future law professors when it was not necessary in the past? I'm deciding whether it makes sense to pursue that route before going on the market. I also would appreciate any thoughts on whether all PhD subjects are viewed as beneficial. Does it improve marketability to get one if the area is unrelated to, say, economics?

Posted by: PhD? | Feb 24, 2022 10:42:34 AM

Anonym:

26.7%, 9 days.

But seriously, at my school, after a job talk and before the discussion/vote meeting, we reach out to the references of every candidate up for discussion. So at my school that info would indicate nothing about likelihood of receiving an offer.

Posted by: Prof | Feb 23, 2022 11:24:30 PM

Quick practical Q: My job talk paper was just accepted for publication and I want to make sure it's not published before I've secured a job (I'm going on the market this coming year). What is a safe publication date to ask editors for? March? Earlier? Later? Thanks!

Posted by: Timing Q | Feb 23, 2022 3:35:15 PM

If an appointments committee is reaching out to a candidate's references about two weeks after a job talk, how likely are they to make an offer? On what timeline?

Posted by: Anonym | Feb 22, 2022 4:46:41 PM

Just tell them you loved that idea so much, you've decided to do an entirely new paper centered around whatever it is they told you to include. But then never do it . . .

Posted by: Anonprof | Feb 17, 2022 12:20:11 PM

AnonJuniorProf:

Thank them in the author star footnote, and then just ignore them. In the end, it's your paper, and you need to be happy with it.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Feb 17, 2022 3:17:31 AM

Hi! Since we are talking about this, I thought I might put out this question: what should I do if I receive advice from my senior colleagues that I think would make my work worse, not better? Strategically, I know it makes sense to be at least deferential to their views. And substantively, they've been at this a lot longer than me. But what if, even taking that into account, I believe the advice I'm getting is not consistent with the approach I want to take and the type of projects and views that would best fit my own intellectual interests and aspirations? I am wary of doing something they will eventually believe is not tenure-worthy, but I am also wary of trying to please them and, in the process, doing work I am not proud of and that is not something I am fully committed to, which probably isn't good for tenure either. Thanks for any advice!

Posted by: AnonJuniorProf | Feb 16, 2022 12:44:33 PM

LoL

Posted by: William Morrison | Feb 15, 2022 2:25:32 PM

Nobody (serious) will think publishing too much is bad. The advice you got was probably that publishing too many *bad* articles (rather than fewer *good* articles) is bad. That advice might be true at the extremes (i.e., if you are truly publishing a bunch of junk in obviously mediocre journals), but in general I think publishing more is better since I doubt anyone is likely to read all of your work.

t25 is great placement for a tt law professor, let alone someone outside of the academy.

Posted by: IncomingProf | Feb 15, 2022 8:07:48 AM

Is T25 flagship a respectable level at which to publish my first article? I received an offer from one, and I wager that's going to be my best offer this cycle. And how many articles should I aim to publish before applying to academic fellowships/VAPs? I'm debating whether I should write another one this summer or hold off a bit. Someone told me that if you publish TOO many, fellowships/VAPs may view that as a negative (unsure if that's true or what's the reasoning).

Posted by: AspiringLawProfessor | Feb 14, 2022 4:31:41 PM

AnonSoonToBeProf,

Because tenure rates are so high at most law schools -- well over 90% -- placement doesn't matter all that much for tenure purposes at most schools. Top placements will signal to those of your colleagues who aren't paying much attention that you are a good scholar, which makes things easier, but most end up in the same place either way. There's the broader question of how much placements matter for lateral purposes, etc., but that's a separate question.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Feb 14, 2022 4:13:13 PM

@AnonSoonToBeProf - I completely disagree with what AssocProf just wrote (especially where it might send the wrong message on the holistic nature of tenure reviews and how they are traditionally conducted). At my institution (T30) consistent publication is far more important than mere placement, and that is especially true for interdisciplinary scholars who produce pieces that might find home in: (1) specialized journals (e.g. in the areas of tax, tech, international, business); (2) peer-review journals (especially in the areas of legal history, sociology of law, law and political economy, if to name but a few examples); and (3) full monographs and books.

I'm excluding service or teaching from our discussion, though obviously these play a role too. Focusing only on research, I would suggest the following evaluation is far more common, even at top schools:

1) Were the tenure reviews by senior faculty in the candidate's areas of expertise (both from within and outside the law school) positive? were they glowing? Did the candidate's scholarship considered original and contributing to the legal discourse? Let alone ground breaking or policy changing.
2) Did the candidate grow in their time as tenure-track faculty into an established academic persona that is both recognized in their field and generating new academic opportunities for themselves and for the school.
3) What is the candidate's "scholarly impact" as a scholar: this can be based on an array of factors that may be considered such as interaction with government (local, federal), submission of amicus briefs, generating an active social media presence and writing and interviewing in an impactful way outside of main stream academic publications to a broader audience.

What I am trying to get at here, is that it would be absurdly misleading, even at T30 law school to assume that your colleagues will only assess you through the narrow lens of "placement" as if "placement" is the only way to measure the arc of an academic's career. It will be a holistic account that will consider a bunch of factors all at once, and some factors can compensate for others. On top of all of that remember that tenure approvals at most law schools (excluding perhaps the top 5) are generally favorable, and that in any event no one will try to catch you off guard -- rather at various points throughout your tenure clock you will be meeting with the tenure and promotion committee to assess your progression. You will be given specific guidance and cues from colleagues and those are FAR MORE important than the random messages that anonymous faculty at other schools might give you on this blog.

Posted by: LawProf&Tenure | Feb 12, 2022 1:54:27 PM

@AnonSoonToBeProf -- At my institution (T25), consistent placement in T40 journals will secure you tenure without anyone batting an eye. Better placements can help, but are not necessary or expected. I have yet to see anyone who has consistently placed in lower journals, however, so I'm not sure what the floor is.

Posted by: AssocProf | Feb 11, 2022 12:20:09 PM

Prof. Kerr, what about for recent hires? How much does placement matter once you've survived the market and found a TT job, but are now starting the tenure clock.

Posted by: AnonSoonToBeProf | Feb 10, 2022 10:30:53 AM

Anon,

Most serious entry-level candidates will have more than one publication, although I don't think the placement of the publications is as important as your question suggests. When looking for candidates to interview initially, appointments committees will look for someone who has written serious academic articles, and so you want articles that by their title and journal look serious and academic enough to prompt the committee members to actually read them. A top placement is helpful because those placements tend to go to serious academic articles, which will in turn tend to prompt a closer look by a committee. But I don't think the us news rank of the journal is determinative; it's just a signal that can help you get read.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Feb 10, 2022 2:09:57 AM

Going on the entry-level market, do most applicants have multiple publications? If so, what range of publications (e.g. T50, T75, T100), are the top ~100 law schools expecting to see, and if accepting an offer lower than X level going to hurt, rather than help, someone on the market? Thanks for any insight.

Posted by: anon | Feb 7, 2022 2:06:12 PM

I have to second the pushback on 99.9% of hiring being done. Last week, I did a Zoom callback (off a screener that was held in November) and scheduled two additional screening interviews for entry-level tenure-track positions. There are some schools that are just getting around to posting their positions and haven't scheduled any screeners. I think the 99.9% claim is probably approximately true for schools that got started early and did their screeners in September or October, but the process is way more spread out this year. As one more data point, 6 of my 16 total screening interviews this cycle have been in December or later.

Posted by: Anonym | Feb 6, 2022 3:52:03 PM

Others will likely disagree, but I see almost any speciality publication as a signal that the author didn't receive an offer from a suitably ranked flagship. The one exception might be Harvard Civil Rights/Civil Liberties (which I view as the equivalent of a T50). Thus, personally, I'd probably take almost any T75 flagship over any speciality UNLESS people in your field really would be more impressed by the speciality journal in question. Even then, those "people in your field" may or may not have a loud enough voice on the faculty of the school you're interviewing with (not to mention the hiring committee) to influence your ability to get an offer. Thus, I just think flagships are safer. Two final points: first, despite what I've said, I'd talk to 3-4 mentors/people you respect in your field and see what advice they give about deciding between competing offers; second, go to the speciality journal's webpage and see if the people they regularly publish are people you find impressive. If not, I might lean away from that journal (despite the HYS affiliation, there are MANY HYS specialities and some are able to publish more highly regarded authors than others). Please note that this post is intended to be helpful and, again, I acknowledge that others may see things differently.

Posted by: AnonProf | Feb 6, 2022 2:27:15 PM

@AnonProf, that really is an inaccurate estimate. Even just anecdotally I know of five people who have screeners or callbacks scheduled this month. And I don't know that many people.

Posted by: AnonFellow | Feb 6, 2022 2:10:05 PM

How are HYS specialty journals viewed by hiring committees relative to flagship journals in trying to assess a candidate's scholarly potential? Is there like a +50 rule (I think I heard that once) or are flagships even T60ish considered superior from the evaluating-a-candidate-on-the-market perspective?

Posted by: anon | Feb 6, 2022 2:02:39 PM

I have to believe that almost 99.9% of entry level hiring is complete by now. That being said, there's no harm in updating them of recent publications.

Posted by: AnonProf | Feb 6, 2022 1:25:05 PM

For schools we are still waiting to hear from post-callback (i.e. probably voted acceptable, but not choice 1 or 2), is there any benefit to updating them with publication placement this cycle?

Posted by: anon | Feb 6, 2022 10:17:27 AM

I'd ask that people keep comments on this thread focused on the topic of the thread. For people interested in specific publishing issues for this publishing cycle, there's a link to a Reddit thread below that seems to include an embedded spreadsheet and everything.

Posted by: Sarah Lawsky | Feb 1, 2022 7:36:27 AM

Thanks for the responses to my earlier question about the angsting thread tradition. I'm sorry to see it go. Especially as publication questions are popping up in here.

It would be really fantastic if Prawfsblawg could take on a new "prawf" or grad student or someone with free time to moderate a new Angsting Thread. They are so informative and helpful to unconnected non-insiders trying to make their way in the opaque world of legal academic publishing / careers. We would be greatly in your debt, Prawfsblawg Team.

Posted by: honest question | Jan 31, 2022 11:19:36 PM

Oh - one other follow up question: Do academics use connections to get their articles placed in top journals or does everyone use Scholastica, etc. and hope for the best?

Posted by: Anon | Jan 31, 2022 5:11:13 PM

These comments are really helpful - thanks! The importance of publishing well brings me back to my first question: How do academics create scholarship reading circles and what are some best practices for doing so? Would love to hear perspectives on this rather daunting (for someone on the outside of academia) exercise. Thank you. : )

Posted by: Anon | Jan 31, 2022 5:10:02 PM

Just to share one thing I've encountered as a hiring chair -- we are indeed impressed by the number of publications, but we're more impressed by the quality of the pieces. Now, whether we admit it or not, we'll often use placement as a proxy for quality, associating publication in a T50 journal as the piece being quite strong. But if it's published in a "decent" journal, the placement isn't going to help you and, thus, it needs to actually be really good. The reality is that there are so many journals out there trying to fill their book that really anything that gets submitted will get published somewhere. We know that and, thus, numbers alone aren't very impressive unless the articles are strong. Not saying anyone on here is suggesting otherwise, I just want to add this caveat.

Posted by: AnonHiringChair | Jan 31, 2022 1:32:27 PM

I have a slightly different perspective, which I think is consistent with the advice below, but is a bit more nuanced: I suspect I have published more than the average entry-level candidate. My publications were in OK journals, but I would not consider them the "top" journals. During interviews, I received positive comments on how much I had published. So my slightly nuanced opinion is that publishing in a collection of "decent" but not "top" journals (think flagship journals at lower ranked schools) can still be a plus. I think that most hiring committees understand that it is hard for non-academics to get published anywhere, and thus might be more forgiving of "lower" ranked publications. To give this advice some practical application: if you are an aspiring academic deciding whether you should publish a piece in a "decent" but not "top" journal, I would choose to publish it in the "decent" journal rather than not publish it at all (unless you have a unique ability to view your own work objectively and really think it is groundbreaking and needs to be in the HLR next cycle or something). I think there is a benefit of deciding to get a piece published, and then turn your attention to the next article (rather than tinker with your current article in the hopes that you will get it published somewhere better next cycle).

I caveat the above advice with the fact that I have not served on a hiring committee.

Posted by: Publications | Jan 31, 2022 11:25:39 AM

For entry-level hiring, the distinction between "publishing" and "contributing" is generally measured by looking to the journal. If you publish in a journal perceived to be good (and different schools have different 'cut-offs' for this), your publication is going to come in with essentially a presumption of quality. The converse of this is also true. Hiring committees and interviewing faculty do generally read the articles of candidates they're seriously considering, and these presumptions are absolutely rebuttable, but this is going to generally be what determines how you do. In my experience, perceived publication quality trumps just about everything else on the job market (with the possible exception of a SCOTUS clerkship): most schools aren't going to care all that much about where you went to law school, what sort of PhD or fellowship you've done, etc., if you've published well. And if you haven't published well, most schools probably won't give you a serious look unless you meet some difficult-to-find hiring criteria ( / maybe have a SCOTUS clerkship).

I think that's what the previous poster was getting at: just publishing alone isn't enough. This isn't just some box you need to check -- did I publish? You need to publish well.

Posted by: @Anon | Jan 31, 2022 10:57:36 AM

Thank you both for your thought. Another Anon, that's an interesting distinction between publishing and contributing to the literature. Could you say more? Is the latter primarily assessed by download/citation counts? Professors these days seem to moonlight as PR agents for their work - they're so good at distributing it via different channels and in different forms. I often wonder how they learned that skill...

Posted by: Anon | Jan 30, 2022 4:09:05 PM

Seconding Anon2's advice. There are more second-career folks in academia than is perhaps evident from reading blogs such as this one (a great blog!). Especially if you're open to clinical or legal writing positions, which tend not to require fellowships. If you're open to a fellowship, that changes things a bit, but may require you to move and take a major pay cut (only to move again if you're successful).

Your practice experience can be a strength, because it gives you insights. Just descriptively, to be competitive in academia, you will also need to translate that into not just publications but a contribution to an academic literature. The good news on your end is that you have a top-tier JD, which means your institution may have someone one of whose hats is to advise grads on entering academia. That, plus a prof you have a relationship with who has some visibility onto the process, is where I'd start in your case.

Posted by: Another anon | Jan 30, 2022 10:44:16 AM

Anon, maybe a good starting point is to contact a law professor or two at the law school you attended and talk to them. They might have advice on how to proceed given your background and since you’re an alum they should be at least somewhat invested in your success.

Posted by: Anon2 | Jan 30, 2022 10:04:46 AM

Wow- after reading these comments, I feel a bit silly having applied for AALS. I have a JD from a top-tier law school and an LLM. I have teaching experience and great evaluations. And I am just getting momentum going in publishing. I got some interviews and a "fly back." But I don't have a VAP, a PhD or strong connections and I've probably spent too long in practice. I'd really appreciate any suggestions. I don't know the rules of the academic game; I just really love my area of law and writing and teaching about it. Thanks!

Posted by: Anon | Jan 30, 2022 1:26:43 AM

Hi! I have a question for this group (not directly related to AALS - hope that's okay): I am a second-career aspiring academic and don't have the same support system that many aspiring academics 1-5 years out of law school seem to have. I'd really like to find a group of academics to review drafts of and discuss my work. I don't see how my work can really get better without one. If any of you have advice for how to establish a scholarship coterie, I'd love to hear it! If any of you are toiling alone (like me), I'd like to know that too.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 30, 2022 1:13:17 AM

OK, thank you Sarah. The reddit thread is here: https://www.reddit.com/r/LawProfs/comments/rysetp/law_review_submissions_spring_2022/

Posted by: Anon | Jan 27, 2022 7:33:28 PM

Hi, you're welcome to link to the Reddit thread I think...? I certainly won't delete that comment.

I'm not doing the Angsting thread anymore because of the time it took to moderate it, and nobody else on the blog volunteered to moderate it - but I certainly don't have a general objection to people gathering that information! So, link away!

Posted by: Sarah Lawsky | Jan 27, 2022 6:27:17 PM

There is an angsting thread on reddit which we're apparently not allowed to link here, but if you look for the LawProfs subreddit you'll find it.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 27, 2022 6:13:43 PM

That stinks. Is it because some people couldn't behave? I was looking forward to having a resource for guidance given that it'll be my first submission cycle.

Posted by: AspiringLawProfessor | Jan 27, 2022 6:07:28 PM

iirc the decision was made that there would be no more angsting threads

Posted by: chiming in | Jan 27, 2022 5:02:45 PM

This is off-topic, but does anyone know if there will be an angsting thread for the upcoming publishing season? Or has prawfsblawg permanently sworn off angsting comment sections? Personally, I was hoping the feature would return...

Posted by: honest question | Jan 27, 2022 4:42:43 PM

This rosy discussion about tenure and hiring committees calls to mind this recent Strict Scrutiny podcast -- on how teaching and service are allocated and "counted." https://strictscrutinypodcast.com/podcast/cute-button

Posted by: anonimo | Jan 25, 2022 11:03:42 AM

probably also worth noting that law schools are almost uniquely able (at least compared to, e.g., humanities schools) to convince lots of students to pay almost six figures in tuition a year, which presumably helps sustain a 95% tenure rate at ~$200k in salary.

Posted by: chiming in | Jan 24, 2022 1:55:58 PM

Anonym,

I'm with "wild speculation" on this question: I think it's a quirky reflection of history. Law schools are professional schools that ended up finding at home at universities, and that means trying to fit into an academic model. And to help law schools seem serious, ABA accreditation even required that there be tenure for full-time faculty. But historically, few law school faculties produced much scholarship. So tenure standards ended up being really low, so low that there wasn't a serious tenure bar. And this isn't all that long ago. Check out Justice Breyer's article on when he was up for tenure at Harvard around 1970; he was the first person who was required to write an actual article to get tenure at HLS, which seemed to him quite a burden. That kind of tradition can be pretty hard to change, especially on a really large faculty where law profs may not really understand the work their colleagues are doing. It's easy, and as "wild speculation" notes, much more pleasant, to maintain low tenure standards.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jan 24, 2022 3:50:24 AM

My working theory is that the default-of-tenure convention was established before the expectation-of-scholarly-productivity convention. Only over the last several decades has there been a shift to hiring people with PhDs/writing fellowships and expecting significant scholarly output before tenure. Prior to that, it seems like the dominant practice was to hire and then tenure clever lawyers/recent law graduates without as much emphasis on scholarship. So legal academia has shifted towards a culture of producing lots of academic writing, but the prior system of easy tenure has remained sticky. And these two features combine to make the entry-level market incredibly difficult for people without fellowships or PhDs.

I also think there are only two stable tenure equilibria - that nearly everyone gets it (e.g. law faculties), or that nearly no one gets it (e.g. sciences/humanities faculties at most top schools). Any in-between system is unstable because it leads to a lot more faculty conflict and pre-tenure anxiety, which the incumbent professors probably like to avoid. Once one equilibrium is established, it would be very hard to shift to the other.

Posted by: wild speculation | Jan 21, 2022 8:47:13 PM

An0n1:

This explanation seems a bit hard to reconcile with the ratio of qualified candidates to job openings. It seems hard to claim that legal academia has a recruiting problem that low tenure standards are the solution to. To the extent schools are worried about losing out on the "best" candidates due to higher tenure standards, I would think the best candidates (most productive scholars, best teachers) wouldn't be too worried about being denied tenure. If they're scared often by higher tenure standards, are they really the candidate you most want?

Posted by: Anonym | Jan 21, 2022 2:52:34 PM

Anonym: My guess is that law professors have (on average) more promising professional opportunities outside of academia than do academics in other fields (e.g., English professors). Thus, to lure a lawyer to academia, you have to give them more of a sure bet that they will be tenured down the road. At least, that might explain why tenure rates first became high in legal academia--and the rest is just momentum/doing things as they have always been done. I think you can see some evidence of this in law professor salaries versus the salaries of other academics.

Posted by: An0n1 | Jan 21, 2022 1:10:00 PM

Professor Kerr,

Thanks for that insight. Pushing the question back a level, do you have a sense of why tenure rates are so much higher in legal academia than in other academic fields? It can't just be that the folks who get entry-level offers are just better, because then schools could still take a shot on marginal/unproven candidates with the expectation that they could always deny tenure later. And it can't be because candidates would accept jobs with a lower chance of tenure, because there are plentiful of qualified candidates who would. Are law faculties just more conflict-averse than faculties in other fields? That doesn't seem quite right either.

Posted by: Anonym | Jan 20, 2022 9:26:30 PM

One thought re the "failed search" question: The key, I think, is that entry-level tenure-track hiring at law schools generally means hiring a person for life. The tenure rates at law schools are remarkably high, much higher than in other fields. This means that, when a school makes an offer to an entry-level candidate, they assume that, whether the candidate ends up being strong or not-so-strong, the candidate will get tenure. And if a candidate ends up not being very good, they are more likely to stay on the faculty for their entire careers after tenure. This makes schools on the entry-level market less willing than they otherwise would be to take a chance on someone. If an entry-level offer is in a practical sense an offer for around 50 years of guaranteed employment, making an offer now may mean that someone else can't take that spot for a half-century or so. It makes schools more cautious about entry-level hiring.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jan 20, 2022 7:00:37 PM

Just responding to the question that was directed to me. I'm on our hiring committee and we would have definitively hired everyone we made an offer to (which was 4 people). So far 3 turned us down, and we're still waiting on the fourth (though the delay is unsettling -- our dean is very much adamant against exploding offers).

Where are we now moving forward-- mostly looking at laterals for the spring. I may try to persuade my committee to consider some entry levels we didn't even screen in the first stage, but I'm just one person and I don't know if my senior colleagues share my viewpoint.

Posted by: RandomProf | Jan 20, 2022 3:55:47 PM

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