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Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Advice from an "Other Other Legal Academy" Tenure Committee Chair

Back in 2017, I found myself appointed to our Tenure Committee, the thirteen-person group that does the detailed work of tracking the teaching, scholarship, and service of pre-tenure professors on our now "unified" faculty (i.e., all "doctrinal," clinical, and legal practice skills professors).  The Tenure Committee makes recommendations to the full tenured faculty, which has the final faculty say on tenure decisions. I had to miss my first meeting because of a conference commitment and was horrified to find that, in my absence, the committee had elected me the chair.  That job ended this past June 30, when I went on phase-out, removing myself from the ranks of the tenured, and ending my eligibility to serve.

I was just going through some old computer files and found some bullet points that I must have written in 2018 as content for an internal program on pre-tenure scholarship we never formally conducted.  I'm sure I said all of these things informally to somebody at some point.  In the spirit of Jeremy Telman's views on scholarship in the "Other [non-elite] Legal Academy" and my response (to the effect that I never felt that level of distance from my perch in a law school ranked somewhere outside of the US News top 100), I offer them  in their almost unexpurgated original.  They are one person's view; your mileage (and that of equivalent committees or faculty members at your particular school) may vary:

  1. Don’t get hung up on rankings when placing articles.  Yes, if you are on the faculty at a top 50 school, the placements may make a difference.  For everybody [else], except at the extremes, there are no significant pluses or minuses.  Yes, a placement in a T17 flagship will get you lots of points, and a T50 placement significant points, and a placement in a specialty journal in the unranked 4th tier will get some head scratching, but in between it doesn’t make a lot of difference.  The key thing is to be good and to be productive.  See histogram in the blog post.*  (I don’t like many of the heuristics, but the idea of placing articles in law reviews at schools ranked higher than your own doesn’t offend me.)
  2. Aim for one traditional law review behemoth a year.  But don’t overlook short pieces - reactions, brief essays, and so on.  The online supplements are nice for this.  You read a piece and have 3,000 to 5,000 words (or fewer) to say about it.  Do it!
  3. With the shorter pieces, take a shot at a peer reviewed journal.  It takes longer, but it really is a professional affirmation.  Steel yourself for evil reviewer #2, however, who hates your piece, your school, and you.  (Most peer reviewed journals have a word limit - usually 10,000.)
  4. People react far more to the gestalt of your CV than to individual items.  Hence, a lengthy list of long and short pieces has a nice visceral impact to the point of “productive scholar.”
  5. “Law and ....” is good.  So is borrowing from other disciplines of law.  But it is a two-edged sword.  If you are a tort specialist borrowing from Nietzsche, show the piece to somebody with Nietzsche chops and then put that person’s name in the starred footnote.  Disingenuousness is not your friend.
  6. When you submit, you certainly can play the expedite game, but my personal view is that it’s moderately unethical to submit to law reviews for which you would not accept an offer if it were the only one you got.  
  7. Network in your area.  If you read somebody’s article and like it, send the person a note with this in the subject line “Loved your piece....”.  Be a commenter on others’ work.
  8. Blog.  PrawfsBlawg was founded as a forum for new (i.e. “raw”) professors.   Again, it’s a two-edged sword.  If your stuff is good, it helps.  If not, it doesn’t.  When I was unsure of a blog post, I would send it to a friend first.

* That is exactly what my notes say, and I've linked the PrawfsBlawg post from 2018 to which I was referring that included the histogram.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on October 12, 2022 at 01:08 PM in Blogging, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw, Peer-Reviewed Journals | Permalink

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