Monday, October 21, 2019

VAPs and Fellowships: Open Thread, 2019-2020

On this thread, comments can be shared regarding news of appointments to VAPs or similar fellowships (for example, the Climenko and Bigelow).  Here is last year's thread.

You may also add information to the spreadsheet.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on October 21, 2019 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (74)

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Interview with Stuart Benjamin from Duke Law on its Visiting Assistant Professor Program

I’m excited to announce the latest interview in my series on VAP and fellowship programs. This interview is with Stuart Benjamin, the Douglas B. Maggs Professor of Law and co-director of the Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law School. He spoke to me about Duke’s Visiting Assistant Professor Program. An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Stuart to respond to any questions in the comments. Thanks, Stuart, for participating in this series!

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

Q.: Can you start by telling me about Duke’s VAP programs?

A.: We have one main VAP program and, by design, it is a very small program. And so we hire anywhere from zero to two VAPs a year. We keep it that small because we want to make sure that the VAPs have a great experience and can be fully part of the faculty. Ultimately, because of the small size of the program, we really can make sure that they get a lot of attention and a lot of feedback that will really benefit them.

Q.: What I’d like to do is essentially move through the VAP program, chronologically, starting with the application process and then moving through the fellowship itself and then the job market, if that works. When does the program start accepting applications typically?

A.: We accept applications on a rolling basis and applicants can send them in any time through November 15th.

Q.: And when do they open up in the fall?

A.: It is open now.

Q.: What materials do candidates need to submit?

A.: A CV, a transcript, references, copies of any articles they've written, whether published or unpublished (including a rough draft), a list of the courses they would be interested in teaching listed in order of preference, and an outline of their scholarly agenda with a particular focus on what it is they plan to complete during the VAP.

Q.: And what's the timeline once somebody submits those application materials?

A.: The law teaching committee does a fairly intensive review of all of the materials. We'll read the articles, we'll discuss the various candidates, and we will then come up with a list of candidates to interview. We tend to reach out to candidates by the end of November or early December and try to have those interviews usually in mid-December.

Q.: Those interviews, are those at Duke’s campus or by Skype?

A.: They're generally by Skype.

Q.: And is it just with the law teaching committee?

A.: Correct.

Q.: How many applications do you typically receive?

A.: In recent years we’ve had anywhere from 40 to 75.

Q.: And then when do you typically fill all of the positions, recognizing that it may vary by year?

A.: Usually we make offers by mid-January. But let me reiterate that we fill zero to two positions. We offer a VAP only when we think an applicant really would benefit from the program and have scholarly promise. In some years there may not be anybody that we think is a great fit.

Q.: Do the fellows have teaching responsibilities at Duke?

A.: We designed this program to be maximally beneficial to the fellows. So they teach only one class a year and it's usually a small seminar. It is always a class that they're interested in teaching – every VAP has taught a class they wanted to teach. We never have them teach legal writing. We don't have them teach any first-year classes. The idea really is to give them time to write, and we want them to be able to teach a class that's going to help their scholarship.

Q.: So then during the application process, how were you gauging teaching ability?

A.: That can be tricky to assess, and our main gauge is the interview itself, trying to get a feel for the person and how that person would be in the classroom. But sometimes an applicant’s teaching ability is noted in a letter of recommendation or evaluations from a TA-ship are included, and we consider all of that information as well.

Q.: Are you looking at practice experience at all and how much practice experience do you typically want or prefer?

A.: I think we're unusual among VAP programs. We have a preference, for one of the two VAP slots each year, for those with two or more years of practice experience. And the reason is we know that it can be challenging to find time to write when you're in practice and that you might not have as much writing as somebody who's been in a more writing intensive program like a PhD. We want to give people from practice a chance to come into a VAP and shine.

Q.: Let's turn to the scholarship side. How much have the typical successful applicants typically written when they apply? Are they coming in with one piece, five pieces, no pieces, typically?

A.: I wouldn’t say that there is a single, typical successful applicant. Everybody we've hired has had at least a draft, although that draft might not be something that they end up working on as a VAP. We might say to them that this draft shows you have great promise as a scholar, but actually this might not be the best way for you to spend your time, here might be some suggestions on slightly different routes to go. And we're often looking for diamonds in the rough. Some programs are essentially post docs. Ours isn't. We really want to give a person the opportunity for a higher trajectory. And so our focus is less on people who have written a significant amount and more on people who we think have enormous potential and who can benefit from coming to a program like ours.

Q.: So let me ask you a question, which is something that I've been thinking a lot about on the entry level hiring side, which is how do you find the diamonds in the rough? In other words, you're looking at people who presumably aren't fully polished yet, right? And so what are you looking for that gives you a fair level of confidence that they will become great scholars even if they're not there yet?

A.: That’s a great question. And of course there's no simple answer.

Q.: I wish there was.

A.: Especially because the same question arises for entry level hiring. Let's be honest—what is now required for a VAP was in earlier decades what was required to be an entry level hire.

Q.: That’s what I had when I was on the entry level market -- I had a draft.

A.: Right, exactly. I often think of it as looking for someone with a lively mind who has a methodology or approach that will add something to what already exists in that field. So it's somebody who looks like they can make a contribution. It's tough at the draft stage, no question. But does it look like this is a person who's really got a fire in the belly and is really ready to write interesting things? This is difficult to determine.

Q.: Right, right. I mean, it's very much the inquiry we go through on the entry level side as well. So I feel the challenge in that question. Is there any preference in the application process for candidates from particular curricular areas?

A.: No.

Q.: Not at all?

A.: Not at all.

Q.: How about preference for candidates with PhDs?

A.: No particular preference for PhDs. As I noted, in fact for one of our two slots we have an explicit preference for candidates with two or more years of practice experience. That said, we have hired a bunch of PhDs over the years because PhDs often come in showing exactly the kinds of scholarly potential that makes them really attractive.

I think other programs might be looking for people who just seem like safe bets, and that tends to favor people with lots of writing and academic experience. We don’t limit ourselves to safe bets because we're hoping to enlarge the pipeline with our program. We're hoping to give opportunities to people who otherwise might not have the opportunity to go into law teaching.

Q.: Well, let me follow up there because when I started this blog series, I had a lot of emails from people saying essentially I didn't go to one of the top 10 law schools. I didn't perhaps do an elite clerkship. How do I stand out in this process? If you're looking at 70 applications, how do those people stand out? What advice would you have for them?

A.: Given that we are looking for people who will benefit from our program, we're naturally interested in candidates who come from all backgrounds, including non-traditional backgrounds. They often can benefit the most. And as it happens, three of our last five VAPs came from law schools outside of the three schools you mentioned in your email, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford – these three came from GW, Duke, and Illinois law schools. Again, the reason is we want to cast our net as widely as possible. So the way to stand out in our process isn’t based on what law school you went to. The way to stand out is to have a draft that shows, wow, this is a person who has interesting ideas and has an interesting approach or methodology. And with the benefit of our program this person can develop into a great scholar who law schools and law professors will value. That is what we're focused on.

Q.: Do you make any special efforts through that process to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A.: Oh yes. We greatly value diversity—a value that is reflected in who has come through our VAP program. For example, over the last decade, more than half of our VAPs have been people of color. Beyond that we're interested in multiple aspects of diversity, including ideological diversity and methodological diversity. And I think we've done pretty well on all those scores.

Q.: Do you have any special ways that you try to broaden your pipelines to recruit diverse candidates into your pool?

A.: We hope that anybody who looks at the program will see that we aren't limiting ourselves to the people who've already gone to the same law schools and then gone to the same PhD programs. And so I would hope that anybody who examined our program would say to themselves, it really does look like rather than just talking about enlarging the pipeline, they're actually doing it. I don't know how to advertise that, but the proof is in the pudding.

Q.: Is there anything else that comes into the application process? Any additional criteria that I might've missed?

A.: I don't think so.

Q.: Okay. Let's turn to the fellowship itself. You mentioned that you hire anywhere between zero and two a year. How long is the fellowship?

A.:  Our program is two or three years, at the VAP’s discretion, to allow the VAP to do what they think is best for them. So the VAP gets to choose 2 versus 3 years, and they can make that choice at any point, with the understanding that they will enter the law school teaching market in the fall of their last year as a VAP. 

Q.: And so in some circumstances you were saying perhaps it's renewable if somebody needs a third year, is that possible?

A.: Right. There are some people who might think, “I need two years to write instead of instead of one year to write.” We're totally open to that. And whatever year you go on the teaching market is your terminal year.

Q.: Okay. And are you comfortable sharing how much the fellows are paid?

A.: It's 60,000 dollars plus benefits including health insurance. And then there's also a faculty account that you have as a VAP, just like the faculty account we have. It's a $5,000 account that covers travel to conferences, etc.

Q.: And is that 5,000 per year or over the course of the VAP?

A.: Per year.

Q.: Okay. And are fellows expected to live in the Durham area?

A.: Yes. And the reason is that our VAP is not about adding one more line on a CV. This is a VAP for people who will benefit from the intense experience of being a faculty colleague right alongside the rest of us -- with an office along the same corridor as us, going to all the faculty workshops, invited to all the job talks, etc. So you're going to benefit from the program if you're actually here.

Q.: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I think that's probably the most valuable part of VAP or fellowship. Do the VAPs have their own intellectual community of sorts? Do they get together on their own to workshop papers or anything else?

A.: There is a group of VAPs and fellows who get together and workshop papers. But the amazing thing about our program is, because it's so small, we don't need to have a separate program: as a VAP, you are guaranteed at least one slot to present in the general faculty workshop and you're participating in all of the workshops. So VAPS don't need to be their own cohort. My understanding is that at some law schools, there are so many VAPs and fellows that the faculty often don't often know who all of them are, and the VAPs and fellows need to be their own cohort in order to get feedback. That's just not the case here. Everybody in the faculty is going to know you and you're going to get all the feedback you could want and so you don't need to create your own route to get that feedback. VAPs aren’t part of a separate program; they are part of the faculty.

Q.: That's a great opportunity to then make those connections and get people reading your stuff. I mean is it the case that for example, the regular Duke law faculty are routinely reading the VAP’s papers, giving feedback?

A.: Absolutely. If we make an offer to a VAP, that means that not only has the Law Teaching committee been impressed but also faculty in the VAP’s areas of scholarly interest have said they are interested in working with the VAP and have committed to mentoring the VAP. So any VAP comes in with a group of faculty in their fields who are interested in helping them develop.

Q.: And are they given assistance in developing their broader research agenda, not just their job talk paper, but thinking about their scholarship more generally?

A.: Yes. Those are the main conversations that most of us have with VAPs. For most of those who are not in their field, it's difficult to give great, detailed substantive comments on a paper, but those faculty can and do give a lot of advice about how the VAP can develop a scholarly agenda.

Q.: Are they given assistance making connections with faculty in their area of interest outside of Duke in other law schools?

A.: Absolutely, and that’s easy for us, because the VAPs arrive at Duke with faculty in their field who are excited to work with them and who help them make connections with faculty in other schools.

Q.: Yeah, that's great. I'm wondering if you have any advice for candidates who come in with PhDs? Any special considerations that they should keep in mind during their fellowship to make the transition back over to legal scholarship?

A.: That's a great question. I think that the kinds of questions we ask in faculty workshops and about papers that we read are probably different from the kinds of questions that people ask in other disciplines and in legal practice. So there is a way in which, if you've gotten accustomed to certain lines of inquiry, you have to re-acclimate yourself to the way we approach things in law schools. But that's true for PhD students as well as people coming out of practice. The difference for PhD students is that they have to acclimate to a slightly different approach. For people coming out of practice, it may involve being newly exposed to academic workshops as well as acclimating more specifically to law workshops.

Q.: Yeah, I agree. I think it's one of those transitions that's easy to overlook or minimize, but it's a real one. So it's important for candidates with PhDs to keep in mind I think. Let's flip over to the teaching side again. I'm wondering if the VAP, when they're teaching that seminar every year, if they receive any training or feedback or mentoring related to their teaching.

A.: Yes, but we leave it up to the VAP’s discretion how they want to utilize what we can offer. So for instance, we offer to have people sit in on their classes. Some VAPs don't want that in a small seminar because it can change the feeling around the table if you've got eight students and then one or two faculty colleagues, so VAPs often prefer instead to get input in other ways. We can also record classes, and they are always welcome to sit in on our classes and discuss them with us afterwards. Beyond that, we have resources about how to structure a class so that it goes well, for instance with examples of syllabi and approaches that we use. We have found what works best is letting this be driven by the VAP's own sense of what would be helpful.

Q.: So we've talked about the scholarly side, we've talked about the teaching side. Do the VAPs have any other duties at the law school, any administrative duties, anything else?

A.: No. We see this program as really doing a service to the VAP. To be blunt, the program is not particularly helping us because we aren't filling important teaching needs, and as I noted we don't have them teach legal writing, first year classes, or large lecture classes. We want the program to be maximally beneficial to the VAPs, and we want their time not to get taken up with other kinds of duties. So there are no other responsibilities that VAPs have. They are in a better position than tenured and tenure-track faculty, in that they focus on scholarship and teaching with no administrative responsibilities.

Q.: And so my next question was going to be what do you think makes this VAP program stand out? But I wouldn't be surprised if you said that's what makes it stand out.

A.: Yes, and also that you are completely fully integrated into the faculty. You are right alongside us as another member of our faculty, your office is with us. You're going to all the faculty events, you're joining us. And I think that that's different from a lot of other VAP programs where frankly the VAPs can sometimes be a little bit off on their own.

Q.: And so given that close connection at Duke between the VAPs and the rest of the law school community, I'm wondering if you have any advice to fellows in terms of making the most of that opportunity?

A.: Don't be too shy to knock on people's doors. People will definitely knock on your door to offer help, but don't be shy to knock on their door. You're fully a part of the faculty and you should take full advantage of that.

Q.: Let's switch over then to the job market. What kind of mentoring do the VAPS receive related to the hiring process?

A.: A ton. We're providing support right from the outset, helping them think about what papers they want to write and what their larger research agenda is. We then give them lots of feedback on their papers, and guarantee them a workshop slot. Jumping to preparation for the teaching market, we help them understand what to emphasize in their AALS form and CV so that they can look their strongest and how to flesh out that research agenda that they're going to be sending out to law schools. And then we do mock AALS interviews and mock job talks.

Q.: Who's doing that? Is there a faculty or staff who are responsible for shepherding the candidates in some ways through that hiring process?

A.: That is the responsibility of the Law Teaching Committee, which I chair.

Q.: Yep. Okay, great. Let’s talk about the program’s success rate, so to speak. If you look back over say the last five years, 10 years, what percentage of the fellows have landed in tenure track positions at law schools?

A.: In the history of the program, all but one of the VAPs have gotten tenure track jobs.

Q.: Okay, great. And for candidates who might not get a job in a given year, you mentioned before that the year they go on the market is their terminal year, wondering what happens if somebody doesn't get a job that year?

A.: It only happened one time and the particular VAP decided that legal academia ultimately wasn't where she wanted to go. And so it was less about the market I think, and more about her own interests. So it's really not something that we've had to confront. But that's in part because we are able to choose people who really do have pretty great potential, and give them a lot of support along the way.

Q.: I'd love while I have you on the line to ask you some broader questions about the VAPs and fellowship, I'm wondering what do you think are the benefits of these programs as an entry point into legal academia and what do you think of the cost?

A.: That's a great question. I think the main benefit is that VAP programs, if they are designed to increase the pipeline, can increase the pipeline. But if VAP programs are focused only on those who've already had time to write, it may not accomplish that goal. And that's why we designed our program to look hard for those haven't had tons of time to write and who would benefit from being fully integrated into a law school.

Q.: Do you think that these programs have a greater obligation than perhaps we've seen to open up law faculty positions to candidates from diverse or non traditional backgrounds? And if so, how might we do a better job as a profession at that?

A.: Yeah, absolutely. Law schools traditionally have been very wary about taking risks in entry level hiring. In our VAP program we are willing to take risks on people who haven't yet had as extensive opportunities as others. We think it's really important that a program like ours cast its net as widely as possible. And this isn't just words, we've actually done it.

Q.: I'm sure you've heard the criticism from hiring committees that VAPs and fellows get so much help on their job task paper, on their research agenda, from the faculties, from the schools where they are, that it can be hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work is their own and how much of the ideas come from the faculty where they're employed. What do you think about that criticism?

A.: I'm not persuaded. VAPs workshop their papers with us and we give them tons of feedback just as we do for our tenure track and tenured faculty. And I don't think other schools have difficulty evaluating our tenure track and tenured faculty.

Q.: Perhaps one difference is that a tenure track faculty member is coming up for tenure in that same faculty. So the faculty knows how much help that person's gotten and is able to evaluate it appropriately. It may be harder for a VAP, right?

A.: Right. But when schools are looking at laterals and that person is pre-tenure or immediately post-tenure, they similarly have the person's papers to rely on. School X considering someone at school Y doesn’t know exactly what help the candidate got at school Y. But most of us assume that anyone on the tenure-track received a lot of help, because that's what it means to be on the faculty. That said, ultimately the papers are the author’s responsibility. I don't know why that's different when you're thinking about hiring somebody who's been a few years at another school on the tenure track as opposed to being a couple of years at another school as a VAP.

Q.: That’s a good point. On another point, let’s talk about trade-offs. Time is zero sum in so many ways, and so time spent in a fellowship is obviously not time spent, for example, in practice. I’m wondering what you think of that trade off given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A.: These days to be competitive on the entry level market, you must have already demonstrated some scholarly productivity. It's hard to do that coming straight out of practice. Part of the reason we designed our VAP program was in particular to help people who have not had time to write, so I think VAPs from active practice makes a lot of sense.

Q.: Do you think the rise of VAPs and fellowships is contributing to the small amount of practice experience we're seeing today in new hires?

A.: Perhaps, but at least with our program there is a countervailing consideration, which is that our program helps to enable those with practice experience to enter the legal academy. If there were no VAP or fellowship programs of any kind, then PhDs would have an enormous advantage over those in practice because the PhD would have had a ton of time to write. It would be very hard for somebody coming out of practice to look attractive compared to someone coming out of a PhD program. So I see VAPs, or at least a program like ours, as providing a greater opportunity for those with practice experience to enter the legal academy.

Q.: So I've asked you a lot of questions. I know we've been through a lot of different topics, but I'm wondering if there's anything else you want to share about Duke's VAP program or thoughts on the law teaching market more generally.

A.: The main feature that I like about our program is you really are a full member of our community. Moreover, it gives people who might not otherwise have a chance at becoming legal academics a real opportunity to cultivate themselves and to have time to write. In some ways I wish our program could be bigger so we could do that for more people. The problem is if it were a bigger program, then it wouldn't be the same program, then VAPs wouldn't get the kind of attention that they actually get in our program.

Q.: Great. Thank you so much Stuart. I really appreciate your time today.

A.: Thank you.


Posted by Jessica Erickson on October 15, 2019 at 03:24 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Interview with Dean Theodore Ruger on Penn Law's Academic Fellowships

I’m excited to announce the latest interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  We're coming to the end of this series, but I hope to have one or two more this fall.  This interview is with Theodore Ruger, the Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He spoke to me about the various fellowship programs at Penn Law, including the George Sharswood Fellowship, the Regulation Fellow, the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) Fellowship, the Quattrone Fellowship, and a new fellowship with the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL).  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Ted to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Ted, for participating in this series!

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

Q. Thank you for speaking with me about Penn's fellowship programs, I appreciate it.

A. Sure, I'm happy to discuss them. We've really expanded our programs in the past several years. With multiple programs running simultaneously, it forms a great cohort of fellows, but there's not a single director, so as Dean I'm someone who has seen the growth of our fellowships and can speak to all of the different kinds.

Q. That's perfect. Sometimes in schools there are several fellowships, it can be tricky to find somebody who is familiar with all of them, so I appreciate that you were willing to talk to me about them.

Can you start by giving me a brief overview of the different programs at Penn?

A. I’m happy to. The centerpiece of our fellowships, which has been part of our intellectual community for about a dozen years now, is a generalist flagship fellowship called the Sharswood Fellowship. This fellowship that allows future academics to spend two years here researching, writing, presenting their work, and being a part of our faculty. In terms of continuous existence, that’s the most longstanding. Every year, there are as many as four Sharswood Fellows in the building on two-year fellowships, which means we often hire two every year, although sometimes we'll have three in a given year and then hire one the next year.

We've been able to recruit top scholars and place them well through this program, and I think the distinguishing feature is that we want our fellows to focus on both their own work and their collegial contributions to our intellectual and scholarly community, which means that we make a really light teaching ask of them. More to the point, we don't conflate the functions of being an emerging scholar and also doing the incredibly important job of teaching our 1Ls how to write. We've got a fabulous half-dozen professional faculty in our Legal Practice Skills department who are full-time here. They're not under the fellow model, which we think is great for our students’ development of legal practice skills. It also means that the Sharswood Fellowship is attractive for emerging scholars planning to hit the entry market because we don't load onto it that really demanding 1L teaching function.

Q. Do the Sharswoods teach any classes?

A. Yeah, they teach one class a year in the spring, which is typically a research seminar in their area of expertise. We certainly give them the opportunity in their second year spring to teach a larger class if they'd like to in order to develop their teaching experience, but again, we're not bringing them here with any kind of notion that we're going to rely on them to teach core classes. The teaching follows from their scholarly research.

Q. That does set it apart from some of the programs that you referenced earlier. We can talk more about the teaching side of it in a bit, but can you also describe the other fellowships at Penn?

A. Sure. What's grown dramatically and successfully in, say, the last four or five years has been fellows that come to us through various of our leading research centers and are more subject-area specific. These fellows come to us at a similar time in their career and with similar academic aspirations as the Sharswood Fellows. However, the application processes are separate and they are hired by the directors of a few specialized centers.

For instance, there's a successful criminal justice reform center we have called the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, and they have hired two to four fellows every year for the last several years who come specifically to do cross-disciplinary data-driven work on criminal justice reform. It's also a two-year fellowship, which has the goal and an excellent track record of placing people in tenure track law jobs. Just last year we placed somebody in a tenure-track position in the sociology department at Stanford doing criminal justice work, and the year before sent Quattrone Fellows to George Mason’s Scalia Law School and the University of Georgia Law School.

Another center that has had a successful track record with fellows is our Penn Program on Regulation, which is run by Professor Cary Coglianese. As the name would imply, these are administrative law and regulatory scholars who come for one or two years and do both their own research and partner with some of our faculty on research. They've also placed well on the academic job market.

Then the other center which has had strong placement success in recent years has been the Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, which brings scholars who are working at the intersection of law and technology. Likewise, it's typically a two-year stint, and then they go on the market.

Q. Looking at the total number of fellows then who are in the building in a given year, is it around 10 to 12?

A. Yeah, that's about right. Some years a bit fewer but in most years it’s about 10 to 12 or even 15 more recently.

This may anticipate one of your questions, but partly because these fellows come to us through slightly different pathways and are maybe working on different specific subject areas, in recent years as we've gotten a bigger cohort, we've implemented some programming for the full group of fellows as a whole, including both a smaller lunch series and workshops that — in addition to the regular faculty workshops that they take part in — help them interact as a cohort as well as learn some specifics from faculty about doing a job talk paper and working in an academic setting.

Q. Great. I definitely want to circle back to that. Let’s start by moving chronologically through the fellowships, starting with the application process, then turning to the fellowship itself, and then the job market.

Starting with the application, do your various fellowship programs run on the same application timeline?

A. The precise timelines are not exactly the same, but the fellowships all begin to review applications in the fall and then operate, in most cases, on a rolling basis through the fall and winter.

In terms of precise dates and consideration, some of the center fellows are going to be on a slightly different time fame than the general fellowship, the Sharswood.

Q. I take it then that there are essentially four or five different sets of decision makers.

A. Correct.

Q. I'm not looking for particular names, but who decides? Is there a committee for each of them? Is it the head of the centers for the center ones?

A. That’s right in terms of the center-based fellowships, it’s the faculty member or members who lead the centers. There is an Academic Careers committee which is the primary decision-maker for the Sharswood Fellowships.

Q. How does that work?

A. The most proceduralized is the general fellowship, the Sharswood, where there's a committee called the Academic Careers Committee, which has two roles. One is supporting our current and former fellows as well as other Penn Law alumni who are going out on the job market. Then the other role is soliciting, managing, winnowing and then deciding among the Sharswood Fellowship candidates. Then that committee's recommended choices are also put to the full faculty for a vote. Another difference with the Sharswood Fellowship compared with our center-specific fellowships is that all of the Sharswoods who come to us receive full faculty discussion and a vote before coming here, which is not the case for the center-specific fellows.

Q. That's interesting. I haven't heard that before in my discussions with other law schools, so that's an interesting distinction. Why do you do it that way?

A. Well, I think the reason we do it that way for the Sharswoods is, for these individuals who come to us with very diverse topical and methodological backgrounds, we want to have the full faculty vested in their success. We want to introduce them to the full faculty and discuss their work in a faculty meeting before we invite them to join us, and we want them as engaged across the building as possible. I think as a de facto matter, several of our successful center fellows have, once they're here, achieved the same internal recognition throughout the building, but by design for our flagship Sharswood Fellowship program, we want to have that ex-ante with the full faculty. We know that the Sharswood fellows are going to succeed more as scholars and as candidates on the job market if they have the support of the full faculty, so we want to bake that into the process.

Q. What does that mean for the interview process? Do they interview with the entire faculty?

A. The interviews are done at the committee level, so we don't go so far as to bring the fellow candidates in for full faculty job talks or interviews. That's something the faculty is willing to delegate to the committee members. But every fellow that comes to us as a Sharswood Fellow has interviewed with the full Academic Careers Committee.

Q. Is that over Skype or in-person?

A. If at all possible, we do in-person interviews. We strongly prefer in-person discussion. I believe there may be some very rare instances where we'll do only Skype if necessary to accommodate a candidate, but we like to spend plenty of time and have an in-person visit from the candidate.

Q. Do they interview with anybody else, say you or the students?

A. The core of the interview process is with the full committee, although again, we will add individual interviews if it fits with the candidates’ schedule just to both get a better sense of their work and give them a better sense of what to expect here at Penn Law.

Q. How does the interview process for the other fellowships differ from that process?

A. The most distinctive difference is in the decision makers themselves. In the case of the center-based fellows, the call for applications, the screening of applications, and then the ultimate interviews and selection are done by the faculty who lead and participate in those individual centers. Having said that, the actual process looks fairly similar. There's a call for applications, there's submission of materials, there would be an interview, in-person if at all possible. The two big differences are the identity of the ultimate decision makers, who are more specialized in the case of the center-based fellows, and then the fact that center fellows are not put forward to the full faculty for a vote.

Q. Let's talk about the criteria that these different groups use and reviewing applications. On the scholarship side, how much scholarship do successful applicants typically have? Do they have a published paper, more than one published paper, only a draft?

A. This is a really important question and one on which I think there are good faith differences of perspective on our internal committees. Frankly, even as Dean, I'm of two minds. What I mean by that is, there's one conception of these fellowships, particularly the Sharswood Fellowship, where the original intent was that they would be an alternative pathway for really talented aspiring academics to consider rather than pursuing a JD-PhD or other post-JD academic work before going on the market. Under this view we might look for really talented people who did well in law school but then have worked at the highest levels of practice in the public sector or the private sector and haven't had as much time to write. So, some of the people who’ve come on Sharswood Fellowships have not written much more than a single paper and could really benefit from a two-year fellowship because they haven't had the time to write academic papers given their top-level work in practice.

Having said that, when we are reviewing a group of incredibly impressive applicants, it is hard not to be swayed by somebody who has already been successful at publishing articles or books. And some of our most successful Sharswoods have already completed doctoral or master’s degrees before coming into the fellowship. Having a proven track record of publication is certainly helpful. What I can say empirically from the scholars we have chosen, is a substantial proportion are scholars who have already written one or two or five published articles before they even apply for the fellowship.

I think that kind of internal tension in our selection process is to be expected and is a healthy one, and will probably always be there, so we do look for outstanding candidates from both pathways, both folks who have been doing such interesting and demanding things in practice that they haven't written much, but also scholars who — maybe due to an advanced degree or doctorate, or other experience in a scholarly setting — are further along in their scholarly career. We don’t have a single mandatory model.

Q. If you had you try to put a percentage on it, do you think most successful candidates follow the path where they have multiple published papers already?

A. We try to look for outstanding candidates on all parts of the spectrum in terms of how much they've already written. I think if you look back at the past 10 Sharswood Fellows, you'd find a substantial proportion who are kind of already quasi-academics even before they apply, but then you'd find also a number who have come out of top levels of practice. We do try to look for really talented future scholars in both cohorts.

Q. For candidates in the first bucket, clearly practice experience is very relevant. For candidates in the second bucket, who may have come out of a Ph.D. program or the likes, how much does practice experience matter for that group and how much practice experience would you typically be looking for?

A. Well, I think in law school hiring generally and in fellow hiring specifically, I would say that practice experience is no longer required in all, or even most cases. We're projecting that someone will be a topflight scholar and teacher, and although practice experience can be extraordinarily useful, if we see evidence of a top scholarly potential and teaching skill, we would take, and have taken, candidates with little or no practice experience. Every other top law school does the same. I think for a candidate coming out of a PHD program, where the bar might be slightly higher for them is that we want to see evidence of potential for further forward movement in their work. Given that this person has already been in a scholarly setting for a number of years, we would pose the sharpened question: what tangible additional benefit would they gain by working with us for another two years, above and beyond just more time to write?

We try to prioritize the candidates who we think would grow in their particular skillset and desire to work across disciplines here at Penn and Penn Law, who would particularly thrive here. That may not apply to every single candidate coming out of a PHD program.

Q. Okay, that makes sense. How about teaching ability? How do the decision makers try to gauge teaching ability in the interview process?

A. I think there, again we have the luxury of the fact that we are not relying on these fellows as teachers. We can take the long view about their teaching and their ability to interact with students, which means that we certainly look for somebody with great ideas, who is able to express themselves clearly and who has the capability to engage with colleagues, whether they be faculty or students. But we're not looking for — nor do we need to look for — a fully formed teacher or somebody who can dive right in there and work with students on day one.

Once the fellows get here, we throw them into the heart of our faculty workshops. They see a lot of ideas in action there, and we also encourage them to sit in on large classes with some of our best teachers and enhance their teaching that way. Then we ease them into teaching with a very small seminar in their first year. We view our role not as hiring fully formed teachers who will go immediately into the core classroom, but really developing their teaching at the same time that we develop their scholarship.

Q. Do you have a preference for candidates in particular practice areas? Obviously, some of the center fellowships are focused on specific areas, but for the Sharswood, is there any preference, for example, for candidates in areas that may be more in demand on the entry level market?

A. No. I think the bedrock principle of the Sharswood Fellowship is it spans all areas of legal academia and law practice. We use a so-called best available athlete model for selecting them, and I would say the only way in which subject matter area comes into our consideration with respect to the Sharswood Fellows is that we do want to make sure that there are multiple standing faculty members here at Penn Law who can work with and mentor the applicant. Because again, the whole goal is to help them develop as a scholar and a teacher. Indeed, I should mention that part of our process with the Sharswood is that during the application process, we think hard about identifying key mentors and talk with these faculty about the candidates and we want to be sure that they are in place to advise the fellows who come here.

We have a broad enough faculty that we can cover almost any area, but we do look to the subject area when it comes to thinking about the development of the fellow, were they to come to Penn Law, and we want to make sure that we have the faculty in place to support that.

Q. Do the programs make any special efforts to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. Yes. As with all aspects of our hiring, we want to look for multiple dimensions of diversity at every stage of the process. That involves our initial outreach, that involves our screening of applications, that involves our interviews, that involves our efforts to match people with specific mentors when they come here. In some cases, it even leads us to actually add additional fellows. In the past decade more than half of our fellows have been women and about 40% have been people of color. We’re proud of the role we have played in helping launch these extremely talented individuals into the legal academy. We also benefit from getting to know these scholars and their work very well, and that helps in building the strength and diversity of our permanent faculty. Two former Sharswood Fellows – Tess Wilkinson-Ryan and Jean Galbraith – are currently on our tenured faculty, and a third, Karen Tani (now at Berkeley), will join us next year.

We also look for diversity in terms of methodological and experiential background. Our newest “graduate” of the Sharswood program, Mark Nevitt, was a Navy jet pilot and then high-level military attorney in the Pentagon before coming to Penn – he will soon join the permanent faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy teaching law and ethics and we anticipate his continued involvement here exposing his students, and ours, to the unique perspective of each other’s institution. Other fellows have come to us with doctorates but without JDs, and after two years immersed in the law school environment here have been able to land jobs on law school faculties.

Q. Do you happen to know how many applications are typically received for these programs?

A. On the center fellows, it’s a couple dozen. For the Sharswood Fellowship, it’s about a hundred.

Q. When I started talking about this interview series on prawfsblawg, I had a number of people reach out to me and essentially say, “Please ask the people who oversee these fellowships, what candidates should do if they don't have the typical markers of law professors?” Let's say they didn't go to a top 10 law school, they didn't do an elite clerkship, what advice would you have for those candidates?

A. One thing that we look at really closely for the fellow applications is the statement of scholarly agenda or trajectory. I think what's most important for any candidate, whether they come from a traditional law school background or less traditional. Every time we hired a fellow, we're making a prediction and even a bet on the future, so we really read carefully what each fellow says about his or her vision of their future work not just for the two years they would be at Penn Law, but for the next five or 10 years. I think that’s one way that candidates have impressed us no matter what their past track record, really talking about a clear vision and an impressive and even ambitious vision for what they want to accomplish moving ahead.

Another advantage we have is that, if I think about the dozens of people who have done fellowships here over the past five years, they do have different backgrounds in terms of where they went to law school. Some of them didn't have law degrees, some of them came to us with PhDs in other fields. Because there are multiple decision makers, it probably helps us get more diversity in terms of educational background because it could be that somebody who has a particular interest and expertise in one of our more focused fields and centers might come here and wow everybody in the building, even though their initial background might not have put them at the top of the overall Sharswood committee for instance.

Q. That's helpful. Let's turn away from the application process and move over to the fellowship itself. I'm going to ask a couple of nuts and bolts questions before we turn to the intellectual life part of the fellowship. You mentioned that the fellowship typically lasts two years, are they ever renewable for a third year or longer?

A. The standard model is two years and we have sometimes extended if the fellow himself or herself is able to come up with some additional funding. We can sometimes extend, but we typically only budget for funding for two years.

Q. Are you comfortable sharing how much the fellows are paid for a year?

A. Each fellowship is different, but they are competitive with comparable fellowships at other top law schools.

Q. Do the fellows receive health benefits?

A. Yes.

Q. How about access to university or subsidized housing?

A. We are fortunate in Philadelphia, for both fellows and faculty, to have a range of great neighborhoods that are relatively affordable for a coastal city our size, so we typically do not give a housing stipend. Also, so long as the fellows are spending enough time here to connect with colleagues, its possible for them to make the longer but doable commute from New York City, New Jersey, or perhaps even the DC area. This is not ideal given the travel time, but several fellows have successfully done it.

Q. Do the fellows receive any travel funding or other professional development funding?

A. We support the fellows in traveling to relevant conferences and other venues for their professional development.

Q. Can they hire research assistants?

A. Yes, we will support, up to a reasonable amount, the fellows hiring research assistants.

Q. Do the fellows have to live in Philadelphia? Obviously, I assume most of them do, but if somebody wanted to commute from New York or Chicago, could they do that?

A. Yes to the commuting point. We have no fixed residency requirement. We do want the fellow to be engaged enough in the intellectual community both to support their development as well as to contribute to our overall academic discourse, but within that rule of reason, there is no mandate about where they live. I do think commuting by train an hour or two is workable and fellows have done that, but I’m not sure that a plane commute would work.

Q. Let's turn to making the most of the fellowship years themselves. You mentioned that the school typically has between 10 and 15 fellows at a given time. Tell me about the workshop series that they have just for the fellows, the one that you mentioned earlier?

A. One of the major parts of our fellowship experience for all our fellows is the ability, and even our expectation, that they participate as full faculty colleagues in our weekly general faculty workshop series as well as a host of other specialty faculty workshops that we run every week. Among top law schools we’re relatively mid-sized, with a standing faculty of about 50, which means that our workshops are likewise medium sized, so our fellows feel that they're very much a part of that intellectual life. I think that's something that we do well and that our fellows have benefited from.

What we started to do a couple of years ago though, in addition to that, was to run a series several times a semester, supported by the law school, where the fellows got together themselves in a smaller setting across all of their different types of fellowships and took turns presenting their own work. We then folded in certain kinds of faculty advising for that process so that there are also opportunities for fellows to workshop papers either just with other fellows or with a select group of faculty, and then also listen to faculty present their own work. There are multiple tracks going on any given week or month in terms of the chance to share ideas and comment on each other's ideas. To summarize, our core vision is that the fellows are diving right into the full faculty discourse, but we also wanted to provide a space for them to trade ideas just among themselves as beginning scholars.

Q. Are the fellows matched with an assigned mentor or guided towards faculty in their area in any formal way?

A. Yes. Every fellow we bring in, we bring in with one or more faculty who are assigned to them as their primary mentors. Having said that, of course we hope and in most cases see that through their interactions with the faculty, fellows more informally develop a wide network of deep mentoring. We want to encourage both of those processes.

Q. Are they given assistance in making connections outside of Penn Law with faculty in their area at other law schools?

A. Yes. Another thing that starts almost from day one, but then picks up in earnest by the spring of their first year, is specifically targeted advice and support for going on the national job market. Part of that is talking with them and in some cases connecting them with or exposing them to the individuals who would be their recommenders and supporters at other schools. From day one, we're thinking about what that AALS form will look like.

We're looking at every aspect of the form and helping to support the fellow in making sure that they've got the right networks of support around the country.

Q. Do they have people reading their papers inside Penn and helping them with specific ideas saying, "Hey, part three needs to be developed," that sort of thing?

A. Yes, that is part of the substantial active mentorship we do. And then further on in the process, that role is also played by the Academic Careers Committee, the same committee that the year prior might have selected the fellow. We also run workshops and mock job talks and things like that in looking ahead toward the job talk paper presentation.

Q. Obviously, some of your fellows are coming in with PhDs. Do you have any special advice for those candidates in terms of making a transition over to legal scholarship or back to legal scholarship, and/or taking advantage of their interdisciplinary training?

A. First of all, we're in a wonderfully rich time in legal academia where legal scholarship is connected to other fields as never before. That certainly is true here at Penn where much of our recent hiring and over half of our current faculty holds advanced degrees in addition to their JD. For candidates with a PHD who are contemplating going on the market, I think an important feature to remember is that they're going to be more attractive to many more schools if, in addition to their methodologically sophisticated and focused scholarship, they are at the same time able to teach and speak about a range of core legal subjects. Sometimes coming straight of out of the doctoral program, that conception of breadth and a focus on core legal topics can be de-emphasized.

What we've seen our fellows do really effectively, and what I would suggest any fellow anywhere ought to do if she comes out of a PHD program, is to spend time during the law school fellowship listening to workshops and hearing colleagues talk about other areas of law, to comment on papers outside of her field, to perhaps even sit in on large introductory classes of the sort that she might teach as a first year law professor. None of that will diminish the sophistication of the core research, but it will make the candidate that much more attractive on the market as a teacher as well as a scholar.

Q. Let's turn it back over to the teaching side, we talked about the teaching responsibilities of the Sharswood Fellows, do the other fellows have teaching responsibilities and if so, how many courses do they teach?

A. I would say the baseline presumption for the center-based fellows is that they have no teaching responsibilities. That’s another reason why we don't feel it necessary to run them through full faculty approval, because it's presumed that they won't be teaching a class.

That said, we do encourage them to do shorter modules or guest lecturing or take advantage of other opportunities to present their work to students and faculty orally. We want to help them develop that skill, but we don't presume that they're going to teach a class as part of their fellowship.

Q. Do they have other administrative duties related to the centers?

A. Many of them do support the overall work of the centers in addition to doing their own research. Often this can entail presenting at conferences the center runs, and conducting research and coauthoring papers with the faculty who lead the center. There've been some really successful examples of this, and it’s a win for everybody involved because it allows all of the scholars on the paper to amplify their reach and combine their talents. A good example of that was the paper our Academic Director of the Quattrone Center, Paul Heaton, co-wrote with two then-fellows, Sandra Mayson and Megan Stevenson two year ago. They co-authored the definitive empirical article on misdemeanor bail reform, which was published in 2017 in the Stanford Law Review and has since been cited widely by courts and other journals.

Both of those fellows are now in tenure track law jobs: Mayson is at the University of Georgia Law School and Stevenson is at George Mason's Scalia Law School. The paper they wrote with Professor Heaton is a good example of the intellectual collaboration that we love to see between our fellows and the current faculty.

Q. For the fellows who are teaching, do they receive any feedback or mentoring related to teaching?

A. The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it's much more regularized and substantial for the Sharswood Fellows because they are teaching their own class and that's a standard part of their program and mentorship. For the center fellows, many of whom have developed into excellent teachers, feedback and mentoring are somewhat more individualized based on their preferences and the structure of their relationship with the faculty running the centers.

Q. We've been talking about a lot of the details of these fellowships, let's step back for a moment. If you were talking to a candidate who perhaps had lots of options on the fellowship market, how would you sell them on Penn’s fellowships? What do you think makes Penn’s fellowships specifically stand out?

A. I think from the fellow's perspective, what makes the Penn Law fellowships stand out is a unique opportunity to focus on your own research and be supported and engaged with a collegial cross-disciplinary faculty that's situated within a research university that has many connections with the law school. Fellows are able to do all this with minimal teaching obligations, which underscores the fact that we think the role of fellowships is really to improve the research and teaching ability of the fellow. At Penn, we don't hire fellows to serve two purposes — we believe that our intellectual community is going to thrive if the fellow thrives in his or her own research, so that's what we want to support.

Q. Do you have any advice for fellows when it comes to making the most of a VAP or fellowship?

A. Sure. I think first and foremost, fellows should realize from the start that those two years are going to go really fast, particularly if the plan is to go on the market in the fall of the second year. That means they should jump in with both feet and take full advantage of the intellectual atmosphere, listen to as many new ideas as possible, make as many new scholarly connections as possible and also keep the momentum of their own work as a fellow going. It can be challenging to do all of those things at once, but it's also a really engaging and exciting atmosphere to do it.

Q. Let's talk about the job market briefly, you mentioned that the fellows have an opportunity to do a mock job talk in front of their faculty. How about a screening interview, do they have any opportunity to do a mock screening interview?

A. Yes. Through our Academic Careers Committee as well as more informal structures, we want to make sure that the candidates are as prepared as possible for the job market. Just to start, it entails lots of feedback on their written job talk paper, lots of feedback even on the nitty-gritty of their AALS form and their CV, but also the more performative aspects so lots of mock interviews and mock job talks. I think we want to be there to backstop all of our fellows to do that. There are some fellows who ask for more help than others, but we make that part of the process for all of them.

Q. Do you happen to know off the top of your head what percentage of Penn Fellows over say the last 10 years have landed in tenure track positions at law school?

A. I know that for Sharswood Fellows the placement rate into tenure-track law jobs is over 90% on both a five- and ten-year time period. The center-based fellows have also placed really well, most of them to law schools but also a significant fraction into arts and sciences departments like political science and sociology.

Q. I would love, if you don't mind, to take the last few minutes of our conversation and focus on some of the broader policy questions around VAPs and fellowships. I don't know if you saw the data, but last year 96% of the candidates who landed entry level law teaching jobs had either a Ph.D. and/or had done a VAP or a fellowship. What do you think are the benefits of this trend and what do you think are the costs?

A. There has been a clear trend over the past 10 or 20 years in requiring more evidence of scholarly achievement before making an entry-level tenure track hire than might have existed two decades or certainly three decades ago. That may have been driven in part by the appreciation of and proliferation of JD-PhDs. Even for those without a Ph.D., there's no question that the bar to entry is higher in terms of demonstrable published work.

Clearly, in that area, one purpose fellowships or VAPs serve is to give the really talented future scholar who may have been in a practice setting and unable to write as though they were in a doctoral program, time and space to develop and publish their ideas.

I do think it's interesting and perhaps counterintuitive that a substantial number of fellowships at top law schools have nonetheless gone to people who have JD-PhDs before they even entered the fellowship. As I mentioned earlier in the interview, in our own selection for the Sharswoods, we struggle with that tension because we do believe that one purpose of the fellowships is to provide a chance to do scholarship for those who have been in a practice setting. I think that the data on how prevalent VAPs or fellowships are for those who enter the law teaching market does underscore just how incredibly competitive that market is, how there are fewer positions perhaps than there were a decade ago, and how in that world law schools are demanding ever more evidence of not just scholarly potential, but demonstrated productivity before we make that initial hire.

Perhaps it becomes a predictable circumstance that those who have had more time to write are going to do better in this competitive market. From a student's perspective, leaving a JD program, even at the very top of his or her class, I can imagine how this seems to be a daunting phenomenon in that it extends the pathway into academia by at least a couple of years. I do think that's the new reality we're in across the country in terms of legal hiring.

Q. There has been a criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their papers and that therefore it's hard for hiring committees to tell how much of the work and the ideas come from the VAPs or fellows themselves and how much comes from, say, Penn Law faculty. Do you have a thought on that?

A. I think there's no question that their papers are read with care. I know that even the most senior Penn faculty, when they write papers, have them read and critiqued and commented on by their colleagues, so the dynamic of rigorous review doesn't stop with the tenure track job here or at most other good law schools. I would certainly hope and know that here, colleagues are reading their own papers as carefully as they read the fellows’.

I guess you'd say it's an argument that proves too much, because we would hope that faculty papers are workshopped and critiqued and modified through that collaborative process almost as heavily as fellows’ papers.

Q. Last question, given that life is zero sum in so many ways, time spent in a fellowship is obviously time that's not spent in practice. What do you think about that trade off, especially given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A. Given the trend we've been discussing of the increased scholarly productivity that is required even to enter the entry-level job market, I think there is a zero sum trade off where we're seeing relatively less practice experience and relatively more great candidates who've never practiced law on either the public or private side. I do think that is a cause for concern, and ought to be a cause for concern both at every law school and in the legal academy at large, in that we ought to draw great teachers and scholars from multiple different backgrounds. We know from specific hires we've made that some of the best scholars and teachers we have are those who started in a topflight practice background and then made the shift to extend the insights from their practice career into topflight, methodologically rigorous scholarship.

There's no question the phenomenon of the academization of entry level law hiring is real. It has real benefits, but there's a point at which we ought to support candidates who come out of the highest level of practice who want to enter the profession.

Q. Anything else that you want to add, either about Penn Fellowships or about the state of law, faculty hiring, or generally?

A. Well, that's a good question. I can't think of anything else. This has been a really great wide-ranging interview; you've asked a ton of great questions. I can't think of anything else that I would add now. Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

Q. Thanks so much, Ted.

A. Thank you, Jessica.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on September 10, 2019 at 09:36 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Interview with Candace Zierdt about the Bruce R. Jacob Visiting Assistant Professor Program at Stetson University College of Law

Next up in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors is Candace Zierdt, a Professor at the Stetson University College of Law.  For the past decade, she has served as the Director of the Bruce R. Jacob Visiting Assistant Professor Program at Stetson.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Candace to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Candace, for participating in this series!

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

Q. Can you start by telling me your role with Stetson's VAP program?

A. Yes, my role right now is that I am the director/coordinator of the program, and I have been that since its inception about 10 years ago. In August a colleague of mine is going to take it over, Professor Marco Jimenez. We'll be looking for a new VAP this year, and although I'll still be working with Marco, I wanted to cycle out because I have a lot of other things on my plate. After 10 years, I thought this would be a good time for me to get somebody else to help with it, and Marco has been intimately involved with the program since its inception as well because we have a cadre of faculty who always help our VAPs.

Q. That's great, and can you tell me just a little bit about the VAP program itself? How many VAPs do you typically have? How long do they stay?

A. Sure. We started out 10 years ago hiring two VAPs, and then we decided to go to one. Really, I think that decision was partially motivated by what was happening in legal education. The number of available jobs were becoming much smaller. Legal education had all these issues in the last five or six years when the number of law students started decreasing. We decided we didn’t want to hire any more VAPs than we could actually market and place in a tenure-track position.

So, we thought it would be a better idea to hire one VAP a year. Now, occasionally we'll have one that overlaps. Last year we did not hire a VAP, so, this year we'll be starting with a VAP who doesn’t overlap. We try to have one a year and have them overlap, so hopefully we'll be able to start back in that process again.

The program that we've designed is for two years. Generally, we try to start new VAPS the first of July, so that they can have time to prep their classes, get used to being at Stetson, and do whatever they need to do to get ready for the job. The first year, a VAP’s only responsibilities are to teach one class in the fall and one class in the spring. In the second year, the responsibilities include teaching one class in the fall, and then two in the spring. Generally, in the spring the VAP will teach a course that they really want to teach.

For example, two past VAPs designed wonderful seminars. They were basically about looking at documents, and looking at it in the business perspective, either from the UCC perspective, or because one VAP was an expert in blockchain, she brought some blockchain in, so that's in their second year. The only other responsibility they have is that we require our VAPs to produce a paper of publishable quality by the time they go on the market the second year and, honestly, every single person who has been in our VAP program has done more than one.

Part of the reason for that, I think, is because the responsibilities only require teaching one class a semester, and we really encourage VAPs to block out a few days where they work on a paper. Then, in the summer between the first year and the second year, we give VAPs a small research grant that helps them in terms of completing their paper. We want them to have a paper ready when they go back on the market, so they can use it for their job talk.

We do have a possibility to extend the position by a year if, for example, somebody was not able to get a job. However, no VAPs can stay at Stetson. They always have to leave as part of their contracts. One reason for that is we always fall in love with our VAPs, and we want them to stay. That would defeat the program because we can't keep them all.

We've never had to use the third-year extension because all of our VAPs have gotten jobs. We're actually at 100% placement.

Q. That's great. What I'd love to do is essentially move through the program chronologically starting with the application process, and then going through the fellowship itself, and then the job market. When will you start accepting applications this year?

A. We start accepting them in August. In reality, the committee starts looking at them and working on them probably at the end of August. This year our classes don't start till August 25th, so it may be the end of August or the very beginning of September.

Our VAPS are usually teaching either bread and butter advanced courses or first-year courses. They've taught contracts, property, civil procedure, criminal law, professional responsibility, UCC courses, business entities, and just a whole array of courses.

Because we have our VAPs teaching those substantive courses, we actually hire our VAPs the exact same way we would hire any faculty member, although we know that they don't have the same experience, generally, and skills, and publications as a person who we would hire right off the bat. So, our process has us looking at applications starting the end of August and September, and we go through all of the FAR forms.

The committee reviews the whole FAR book and, I believe, almost every one of our VAPs have actually come from the FAR, instead of through the direct app process, I think we have a particularly good eye for looking at people who we think have great potential, but may not be able to quite make that leap into the market. So, we write them, tell them about our program, and see if they want to be considered for our program. We have two ways to get applications direct applications, and through AALS hiring conference.

There certainly have been some times when people have been in the FAR book and also sent us an application, but it's interesting that a number of our VAPs actually didn't apply directly until we reached out to them. We then interview all of our VAP candidates just as we would a faculty candidate.

If they're going to be at the AALS conference, we interview them there. If they're not, we'll have a 30-minute Skype interview, just as we would do if we were at the AALS conference. After we do those interviews, we then invite our top VAPs candidates to campus for a regular faculty visit. We bring them in the night before to go out for dinner with some faculty.

The next day they meet faculty and do a job talk. The job talk is really important to us because, and I know this is one of your questions, that's one of the ways that we gauge their ability to teach, if they don't have a lot of teaching experience. After we've brought everybody in, the full faculty votes on the VAPs.

The full faculty is involved because, as I said, we have our VAPs teach the same courses that any faculty member would teach. Not a lot of programs do that, so it's really important to us that the whole faculty be able to see that person before they're teaching classes. After the faculty vote, we make an offer. One of the things that we have done so far, and I'm actually very proud of this, is we have waited sometimes five or six weeks to see whether or not the person we've made an offer will get a job offer in a regular tenure-track position. If they do, they don't need us, and I wouldn't want them to have to come to Stetson. So, we are able to wait and give the candidates plenty of time to see how they would fare on the market.

Q. I'm intrigued when you say that you find a lot of the candidates through the FAR process, and I know there are other fellowships that do this as well. Tell me, when you go through the FAR forms, what are you looking for?

A. I'm looking for people that have mostly practice experience and usually have a small number of publications. It's important to us that they have something published or a good work in progress other than something they may have written as a law student. We're looking for people that have some practice experience. Sometimes we receive applications from people who look great, but they only have one or two years of practice experience, and, in my mind, that's not sufficient to really be a good teacher most of the time. If we're trying to teach our students about how to practice law, it helps if our faculty actually have practiced law.

We also consider marketability, where the person went to school and/or how well they did in school. That includes what kind of honors they received in school and that sort of thing.

Q. Let's talk about the scholarly piece. You say that you want somebody who has ideally published something or have a draft. Do you know, and I've been asking this question a lot, how do they find the time in practice to write a scholarly article?

A. I always say to some of our VAP candidates, "Wow. I don't know how you did that." But honestly, they always do, and to be truthful those are the people who are most motivated to get in academia, and I think they are the ones that are going to be the most successful.

We've had candidates and VAPs who have come to us who have families, small children, husbands, wives, some who are single parents, and they always find time to get something written. So, that also tells me that this is somebody who is really motivated and is going to continue to publish. I think that is something that law schools will look for when considering potential hires. We want to make sure that they get a job on the market.

Q. And how do you gauge their teaching abilities? You mentioned the job talk. Are there other ways?

A. The job talk is one. If they have taught, and many of our VAP candidates have taught either as an adjunct or in some other area, we get all of their student evaluations. When we check their references, we ask about teaching abilities, but, just like with any faculty member you're hiring, some of the main ways you can see whether they will be able to communicate with students and maybe build a rapport is by watching how they communicate at the job talk.

Of course, with VAPs, we're looking at VAP candidates who usually don't have the same kind of experience as a person interviewing for a regular tenure-track position. In fact, we've had people interview for a tenure-track position, where the faculty didn't vote to hire them for a tenure-track position, but they asked us to consider them for our VAP program.

Q. You mentioned on the practice experience side, that two years may not be enough. How many years are you typically looking for? What's the minimum that you would consider, and then what do you find is the norm?

A. First off, this is a committee decision, right? So, different people on the committee might think differently. I would think most of us would expect at least two to three years in practice. Now, in my mind, it should be a little bit longer. Of course, I practiced for 12 or 13 years before I started teaching, so that's probably where my mindset is. I think some of my colleague are fine with just a couple of years. It really varies on who is on the committee.

Q. And do you have any preference for candidates in particular curricular areas?

A. We do. When we first started this 10 years ago, we didn't. We just looked for the best person, but now we always have needs at the law school depending upon people who are on sabbatical, or areas of practice we're trying to develop. Generally, it's a pretty wide array of classes. It might be business law, the UCC and commercial law, civil procedure, or criminal law.

It seems like in the last two years, our needs have been more in the business and commercial law area, and so we've been looking at those. I'm not involved in the process for this year, and we have a new dean, so I'm not sure what we will need, but generally we put in our ad the areas of expertise that we're searching.

Q. Oh, interesting. Okay, and is there any preference for candidates with PhDs? How does having a PhD factor into your process?

A. There's certainly not a preference. I suppose sometimes I even think, well, people with PhDs might already have a little bit more experience, so they might not need a VAP program as much. It wouldn't hinder or help you.

Q. Do you make any special efforts to hire candidates from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds?

A. We do. We do that for a variety of reasons, and I suppose one of them is because we think there's a need for a lot more diversity in legal education.

Q. We've talked about a variety of things that might come into the decision making. Is there anything that comes into your process that I haven't asked about?

A. Those are really the areas that we look for teaching and publications. I'm trying to think if there's anything else. We look at publications. We look at honors. One of the things you had actually asked in a question that I had thought about, is that we also consider research agendas and why they want to teach.

Q. What are you looking for in that research agenda? How many projects out do you expect them to have planned?

A. I'm happy if they've planned out one really good one.

Q. As I've talked about this series on the blog is I've heard from candidates who perhaps didn't go to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. They didn't do an elite clerkship, and they're wondering how they can stand out in the application process. What advice would you have for those candidates?

A. Honestly, a lot of the Harvard, Yale, Stanford candidates, in my mind, are going to get jobs on the market, so I don't look at them quite as seriously unless they apply directly to us. I will, but that's not high on my list for a VAP candidate. I guess what I'm really looking at, if they're not from a top five, or six, or seven school is really looking at their ability to publish and when, or where, or what type of articles they've published in addition to how well they did in law school. That will help them stand out.

Q. How many applications do you typically receive for one of your positions?

A. We don’t receive that many, maybe 50 or 60.

Q. How many people do you tend to interview in the screening interviews, and then on the call-backs?

A. We do not have a set number ... I know we've had days in DC where we've interviewed 10 candidates, or over 15. Occasionally we have had one room for VAPs and one room for tenure-track faculty in DC.

Q. Let's turn over to some of the nuts and bolts of the fellowship itself. Just to make sure I understand how it works, the fellows are there for two years, and you tend to hire every year? So, you have two in the building at a time typically?

A. I would say our goal would be to hire every year. Now, as I said, we have a new dean who came in this month. So, part of that will depend on her. There have been occasions where we had a VAP for two years who was here alone without another VAP, but we were trying to hire every year. If we can do that, that's great for the VAPs because the ability to have another person who has gone through the program a year ahead of them is enormously helpful. They tend to become a tight group, and get to know each other really well.
Actually, two of our former VAPs who overlapped like that are writing a business book, a textbook right now.

Q. I know them both, and I'm excited to see it.

A. Me too.

Q. Yeah, and are you comfortable sharing how much the VAPs are paid?

A. Yeah. I know it's not a lot, but it's certainly competitive with other VAP programs. We also pay complete benefits, and we give them housing. The housing is a really big deal because that adds quite a bit that they don't have to worry about. One huge advantage of Stetson is that we own an apartment building, and 20 or more houses right around the law school.

So, every VAP has received housing and that just makes it so easy because you don't have to worry about anything. If you need furniture, most of the times we're able to give you something that has furniture in it. We have housing for dogs, cats, children, husbands, wives, and so it's a pretty wide array of housing. To me, that's probably one of the best perks that we have.

Q. Oh, that's a great perk.

A. And they get paid, TIAA-CREF, health benefits, and a small travel budget. We expect them to go to the AALS in January for the meeting. We pay, generally, for them to go to the SEALS Conference, and we'll send them to one other conference that will help them in their professional capacity. Then when they go on the market the following year, we pay for all of that.

Q. Wow. Those are very generous benefits, I can say now having talked to more than a dozen of these programs.

A. Oh, I know.

Q. Do they receive funding if they wanted to hire research assistants?

A. Yes. They get research assistants, just like any faculty member.

Q. Okay, and are they expected to live near Stetson? Obviously, they have their teaching responsibilities, but could somebody live in Miami, or in New York, and commute?

A. No. I don't see how that would work; we want them integrated into the faculty and it is a full-time job. We sit in on their classes. We talk to them about teaching. We have, like I said, a whole cadre of people who will read papers, and help with advice. I think part of what's really important, to be honest, is to be part of the academic life, and get a taste for what that's like, so that when they enter into academia, it's not such a big, huge difference in terms of their previous job. Certainly, you could live in Tampa, but Miami or somewhere like that, just wouldn't work.

Q. Let’s switch over to how to make the most of the fellowship. Does Stetson have a regular colloquy series or speaker series that the VAPs attend?

A. Yes. We generally have a series of faculty exchanges with other schools that our VAPs attend. I think on one or two occasions we've sent VAPs, although I don't prefer that because I don't like them to go to other schools until they're really ready to give job talks. We also have several national speakers that all faculty are invited to attend.

Q. Who actually supervises the fellows?

A. It's been me, and this year it will switch over to Marco. I generally sit in on most of their classes during the first year and we spend time discussing teaching.

Q. That's amazing. Can I just follow up there and just say I almost don't know what to ask? Literally, you're in the room for every one of their classes in that first year? That's amazing.

A. Yes, and I will say the first semester, I try to do every single class. The second semester, if things are going well, I might not sit in on every single class. By the second year, it's more selective unless people are having issues, but again, it's one of the ways that I think our faculty feels comfortable with the idea that our VAPs are teaching any class that any other regular faculty member would teach.

It's good because we can talk about teaching. We also invite them to sit in on other classes. We have a number of different faculty who teach in a number of different styles, and they're welcomed into their classrooms. I always tell our VAPS, "What you can do in your two years here is develop your own style of teaching, so look at how other people teach. Sometimes it'll work for you. Sometimes it won't. Sometimes little pieces will."

But I think that's one other thing that's particularly helpful to them, and sometimes we'll have other faculty sit in on their classes, if they are going to be references for them when they go back on the market.

Q. Wow, and what type of feedback are you offering them? Is it after every class?

A. No. I would say it depends on them, unless there was a problem in class ... We had one person who didn't have a great class about the second week and was really upset. We talked the next day and I said, "We all have a bad class."

She turned into a fantastic teacher, but people need that confidence as well. I always try to explain, even if you've taught as an adjunct, it seems harder sometimes when you're teaching these classes full time and not always in your comfort zone. We’ve all had a bad class. Who hasn't had a class where you thought, "Oh, God. I wish that I could redo that one"?

So, it really depends on the VAP, but I've always tried to do it regularly, maybe every couple of weeks, unless they want to talk more. There have been occasions where we have talked more at the beginning while people are getting used to teaching in this environment.

Q. What assistance are you hoping to provide? What types of feedback specifically do you think is the most helpful in those early years?

A. In terms of teaching, or scholarship, or both?

Q. Teaching. When you sit in on the classes.

A. I'm looking to figure out ways to help them to impart information in ways that can be engaging, and also proactive in terms of not just sitting there and reading your notes, right? I have seen faculty members who will just literally read their notes in front of a class, and that might have worked 30 years ago. But I hope not. When, I started teaching 30 years ago it didn't work for me because I would have been bored out of my head. I think it's important to have an engaged class.

For example, one of my pet things is that, and this was something I had to learn, teachers need to learn to use the whiteboard, or blackboard, or whatever you have. If you're a person who uses PowerPoint, that's fine. If you're not, that's fine, but we get students who are a lot of different learners. There are visual learners. There are learners who will learn mainly from hearing. And some learners need both of those things. So, I try to help them think of ways that they can actually reach all of those students to the extent they can. Almost all of the VAPs who have come to us, at the beginning I've always harped on them using the board.

By the end, they usually say, "I can't imagine I ever wasn't using the board for something, or asking those sorts of questions." Trying to get them to see that it's perfectly okay to follow up, and it's also okay to say, "I'm not sure what the answer to that is. Let me think about that." A lot of times when you first start teaching, you think you can't say that, but I think you can, and I think it's important in how you do it, and students will respect you for it.

Q. I'll say I'm almost embarrassed to ask this question, but I'll say after 12 years of teaching, I still get a little nervous and self-conscious when somebody sits in on my classes. Do you find that the VAPs are self-conscious having you there? Do you think that that influences their teaching?

A. That's a good question. I suppose you would have to ask them because I don't really think they are. I sit off in a corner unobtrusively, as unobtrusive as I can be. I mean, I know what you're asking because I was in an LL.M. program 30-some years ago, and not only did they sit in on my class, they taped my class. They critiqued my class, and that was grueling.

Because I spend a lot of time getting to know our VAPs before I observe their classes, I hope they know that I'm only there to be helpful. It's just to try and help them think about ways to improve their teaching. I'm sure to some extent that's got to make you a little nervous.

Q. And I will say having asked that question, I think it's a tremendous resource and gift that this offers to the VAPs.

A. Well, the other thing, I tell VAPs is to, "Think about the two years here. You can make little mistakes that you don't want to make in your first permanent job, and we can fix them, and because somebody's observing, we can talk about it and say, 'Okay. Let's go back and think of a way to fix that.' And I'm not going to be writing a tenure report on you." I think that's a huge boon to be able to use that as a resource.

Q. Beyond the classroom visits, is there other assistance that the VAPs are given on their teaching?

A. Beyond the classroom?

Q. That's a big thing, but I wanted to make sure I caught anything else that might be out there.

A. I mean, we've helped them with picking books and that sort of thing, depending upon what they're teaching. There have certainly been times where we've had VAPs come in, and we've given assistance on different books, and pros and cons of different books. I'm trying to think of what else we could do and that I would have time to do.

Q. How are the courses that they're teaching selected? In other words, how does it come that they're teaching contracts or civil procedure or anything else?

A. We are generally looking for somebody who is teaching in a specific area. Recently has been in business law and commercial law. In the past we've had a need for contracts, crim law, civil procedure and business entities. We've tried to match our VAPS to their expertise and our needs before we’ve ever interviewed or hired them. They know when we make the offer what their classes are generally going to be.

Q. Let's turn over to the scholarly side. Are the fellows matched with a mentor, a scholarly mentor when they arrive?

A. We have a small group of faculty who always help mentor our VAPs. Let me think. Maybe about six or seven people that I can count on, and they're in every area you can imagine. We will read their scholarship and work with them. So, if somebody is in, say, the criminal law area, I'm going to ask Professor Ellen Podgor, who has worked tirelessly on this program and is a national criminal law scholar.

Additionally, we have faculty in almost all of the other areas. We also try to do more than have one person read scholarship because I think it's important to have people who aren't in your area read your work as well. Recently, it's been pretty easy because we've had a number of UCC-type people, and that's my area.

We also have helped talk through some topics for scholarships. I actually steered somebody away from one area of scholarship to a different area for them, because of the topic. I believe certain topics are more appealing to law review editors. It worked out really well because she got a great placement. Because of the wide range of people that we have that are intimately involved with the program, we've never really had a problem not having somebody who is in a VAPs general area.

Q. And what type of assistance would those mentors or other professors provide? You mentioned the feedback on the topic itself. What else are these people doing?

A. Not everybody will read every draft, but some people will read every draft and give feedback on that. We always will be able to find a few people who will read most every draft and give feedback. Plus, when VAPs go on the market, I require that they do a minimum of three to four job talks in front of faculty. After the job talks we all discuss what went well and what might improve the presentations.

A. I try to get different faculty to listen to the talks so that they can have people who don't know anything about the area, people who have never read their papers, and people who have read their papers. That way they get a wide range of feedback on their scholarship.

Q. Are they given any assistance in making connections outside of Stetson with people in their area of interest?

A. Yes. I think this is one of the things we are particularly good about. We expect them to go to the annual meeting of the AALS and SEALS, and we're good about taking them around and introducing them to people. Another thing that we do, that I don’t think a lot of VAP programs do, is that we send them to the AALS new law professors faculty conference in July before they start teaching. I think everybody has made lasting friendships from that meeting and lasting contacts.

Q. That's a great meeting. Yeah. We've talked through a lot of the details of the program. I'd love to step back for a moment. Imagining you had a candidate who had options who was deciding between Stetson's program and perhaps some of the other VAP or fellowship programs out there. What would you say to them about Stetson's program? What do you think makes it stand apart?

A. I think what makes us stand apart is we have 100% placement of every one of our VAPs. I don't think a lot of places can say that. I've had people here who had offers for a VAP or fellowship in legal writing. I tell them "If you want to do legal writing, that's actually what you should do," because although there has been a push sometimes for us to think about including legal writing, I have been very reluctant to do so. That is because I want to have as many tenure-track job possibilities as possible to place them in. There are fewer opportunities like that in legal writing.

Q. Let’s turn back to the job market. You mentioned that the candidates have the opportunity to give multiple job talks, which is fabulous.

A. And mock interviews, too. We generally do, again, a minimum of three. I try to do four to five.

Q. And are you coordinating this? Is there a committee?

A. No. It is just me coordinating it. This is part of the job of the person who runs the program to make sure all those cogs are happening. So, I coordinate all the job talks and all the mock interviews. Again, what I'm trying to do is consistently get different people because different people will have different questions, and different things that are important to them. I sit in on every job talk and every mock interview so that I can see them. Then I can say, "Look how much progress you've made here in terms of being able to answer different kinds of questions, either about your scholarship, or why you came into academia." I think it helps them. It can also let them see how they're doing better, or if somebody asks them something off the wall, I can say, "Don't worry about that. You're always going to have one of those people."

Q. They will. They will. I'm just curious, institutionally. Maybe I ask this question as an associate dean. These responsibilities that you've taken on sound like they must be an immense amount of time.

A. They are.

Q. How does this fit for you with all the other things that you must have on your plate?

A. It's something I'm committed to doing, and I get a course reduction in the spring, so they do give me certain benefits for being the person in charge of the program that have been very good. I feel like the administration has always taken that into account and been very supportive.

Q. Okay. Good. That was part of my question. I just thought, "Wow. It's a lot to take on." You mentioned that 100% of your fellows or your VAPs have placed in tenure-track positions. Were those all at U.S. law schools?

A. One person, when the legal education market was at its lowest, went to a tenure-track business school, and then after a few years moved over to a law school. So, they're all in tenure-track law school positions, yes, in the U.S. now.

Q. And do you happen to have a list of those people online, so if someone was trying to see that track record for themselves, they could look at it?

A. I don't, but if they asked me, I would get it. They always seem to find it. I always have candidates who have said, "Wow. I talked to so-and-so or so-and-so and I really want to do this program now." So, they always seem to find it.

Which is curious, now that I think about it, because they do. A candidate last year found one of our very first VAPs and spoke with him. Another reason I also really like to have a VAP overlap is so the person who is coming to interview for the VAP position can talk to our current VAP. That way they can just talk to the current VAP alone without us around, and get the real scoop on what they're thinking about the position.

Q. That's great.

A. I just don't happen to have a list of former VAPs online. I have it in my head, which is probably not a good place for it. So, maybe we can add that to our website

Q. While I have you on the line, I’d love to talk about some of the broader questions related to the rise of VAP and fellowship programs. As we know, it's basically a de facto requirement these days to have either done a VAP, fellowship, or a PhD. What do you think about that trend? With do you think are the benefits and what do you think are the costs?

A. I think the benefit for a law school is that they're getting people generally with some sort of experience and often it is inexpensive labor compared to a tenure-track faculty member. I think the cons, the things I worry about, is that I don't think all the VAP programs support their VAPs as much as we do. I think some of the VAP programs over the years had developed these programs as cheap labor.

Those really, really bother me because one of the things I will always tell a VAP if they have other possibilities in a VAP program or a fellowship is to talk to other people and find out what kind of support they are going to get. Maybe it would be a good program for you. If it is closer to your family or whatever, but make sure you're going to get the support.

If they are not going to get the support they need and they spend two years of their lives earning much less money only to find out they didn't get the support they needed, or a job that would be very unfortunate. So, I think what bothers me the most about them is worrying whether or not schools are using those programs for cheap labor or they're using them to really support new people and help them try to get into academia.

I was in the Temple LL.M. program 30 years ago. It was one of the few around, and that was instrumental in enabling me to make the move into academia, which is probably part of the reason our VAP program has been so important to me, I have tried to take all the good parts of the LL.M. program that I was in, and use those. But when I did it 30 years ago, I think literally there were a handful of these programs.

Now it seems like everybody wants to have a VAP or Fellowship, and some schools are doing them right. Don't get me wrong. They really are doing a great job. I've had a number of schools call me and ask what we do because they've heard about our program. And they try to establish programs that give a lot of support, but my biggest worry is that we're bringing people in with high hopes not knowing how hard it is to get a job in the academy right now.
I don't want to give people false hopes.

Q. What is the responsibility of these programs to try to open up law faculty positions to people from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds? Do you think these programs have a responsibility to do that, and how do you think they're doing if we judge them on that metric?

A. Yes. I think everybody has that responsibility, not just VAP programs. I think law schools have that responsibility because it makes a huge difference. I taught at another school where the diversity that we really needed were Native American faculty. When we finally hired a Native American faculty member, it made such a huge difference to our students. It's enormous to have those sorts of role models for our students. I can't really say how other VAP program are doing because I don't really pay much attention to them. I hope that they're thinking about it, but I really don't know.

Q. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know if you're heard this criticism, but you'll often see it on the blog. It's the concern that the VAPs or fellows may get so much help on their scholarship, that's obviously one of the benefits of these programs, but they may get so much help on their scholarship that it's then hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work and the ideas come from the VAPs or fellows themselves.

A. I think that's silly.

Q. In what way?

A. I think that's ridiculous, and I will tell you why. We give our VAPs the same help that we do any other faculty member. So, they give us a complete paper and we say, "Have you thought about this or that?" That's not any different than any other faculty member who is sending out articles for comments. I mostly write books now, but when I was writing articles, I sent them out to people and said, "Give me a sniff here. How is this looking? Do you have any other ideas?"

I hope any new faculty member, or even a senior faculty member, would try to get ideas about things they might do better. It's not like you're sitting there writing the paper for them. Nobody would have time or want to do that, certainly at this school.

Q. Last question for you. Given that life is zero-sum, in so many ways time spent in a VAP program is not, for example, time spent in practice. What do you think about that trade off, especially given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A. In terms of the trade-off for law schools, I think it's great for law schools who have VAPs. When I went from practice to teaching, it was such a different mindset, and trying to learn to even handle that different way of working was difficult for me at first. I kept staring at my phone waiting for it to ring and it rarely did. So, I think the trade-off for law schools is great because they get people who know what academia is like and what to expect. They know that you have to be a self-motivator, and be on your own in terms of making sure you sit down, write, prep for classes and those sorts of things.

I think for the person in a VAP or fellowship that it is a difficult decision because they are spending two years of their life without a certain job at the end. They came from practice, so they are earning a lot less money. They're doing work that's very different, and if for some reason, at the end of the day, they don't get that job they want they've lost two years and they have to go back into practice.

Now, I've never had a VAP who had to do that, but I've often thought about that, and thought how hard that would be for the person. So, for the person coming into the program, I think she has to be very, very motivated, really want to get into academia, and realize that nobody can guarantee a job at the end. Part of it is being in the right place at the right time, where the schools have the right need.
And you can't predict that.

Q. Well, is there anything else that you want hiring committees or perspective candidates to know about Stetson's VAP program, or about the state of law faculty hiring more generally?

A. We've covered so much of it. I think the main thing is that I really hope that people who are either going into VAP programs or running VAP programs are doing it for the right reasons in terms of really trying to help people get into legal education. That's really important to me. When we first started this program, just between you and me, I argued against it.

Q. Oh, that's funny.

A. I was worried that we would wind up being one of those cheap labor schools, but as it turned out, our faculty and our administration have been incredibly supportive. I don't think any schools give more support than we do financially, even, in terms of where we send people. There may be a school that does these things, but I don’t know about it.

I also hope that schools realize that there are some really good people out there that can't afford, because of families or whatever, to move. They're having to move themselves, and possibly a family usually to a different place for one to two years in the hopes that they get this job. Some folks cannot do that twice—once for a VAP program and again for a permanent job.

I thought the vast majority of people that were being hired either had PhDs, or had been in VAPs or fellowships and it doesn't surprise me, but it worries me that we discount those that haven't had that experience, and I think we're probably missing some good people that way.

Q. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Well, thank you so much, Candace. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 23, 2019 at 07:51 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Interview with Gordon Silverstein about Yale Law School's Ph.D. in Law Program

For those of you who have been following my interview series, you know that it generally focuses on VAP and fellowship directors.  This interview, like my earlier interview about Berkeley’s JSP program, focuses on a related, but slightly different, trend in law faculty hiring—the increase in the number of entry-level hires with Ph.D.’s. I interviewed Gordon Silverstein, the Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs at Yale Law School, about Yale’s Ph.D. in Law Program.   An edited transcript of my conversation with Gordon is below, and I have invited him to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Gordon, for participating in this series!

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here

Q. Can you start by giving me a brief overview of Yale's Ph.D. in Law program?

A. I think it emerged from a few concerns – One was that with a growing number of students interested in law teaching were doing PhDs and other degree programs in addition to their JD, too often student would become great economists, or political scientists and sort of flip the script – instead of being legal scholars who used economics or political science, they became economists who used legal material. This may seem a subtle point, but it’s not: Consider normativity. You won’t get far in legal scholarship without serious normative concerns. But an economics PhD committee will strip the normativity out of your work. Some students can move back and forth, writing very differently for the different fields, but others end up stuck in the middle and satisfying neither.

The PhD in law also was meant to engage a conversation about the issue of disciplinarity itself. Is law a discipline like Economics or Chemistry with clear and agreed upon methods? Or more of a field like political science, bound together by the subject under study, the question rather than a uniform method. What does it mean to study the law and how should we go about doing that?

And it was designed to bring greater rigor to the process of training people to become professional students of the law. There would be specific course work, exams, writing requirements and the supervision of a three-member faculty committee among others.

Q. Is the idea that basically everybody who goes through the Ph.D. in Law program will then go on the legal academic job market?

A. Yes. The program is aimed directly at academic law. We expect some students may well end up in public policy arenas, or pursuing other related interests, but the objective is to prepare students for a life of legal scholarship.

Q. And what is your role with the program?

A. I am responsible for the program administratively. There is a faculty committee that oversees the program and a faculty member who serves as the Director of Graduate Studies – a role mandated by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences which is the unit at Yale that is exclusively authorized to grant the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Our students receive their degree from the Graduate School and for purposes of this program we function much as would any other PhD-granting department. Being a part of the Graduate School is a big plus for our students, who can take courses anywhere on the campus in any program, division or school, and they are welcome to teach in Yale College and across the campus. While this is not an explicitly interdisciplinary program such as the Berkeley JSP, we welcome students looking to the other departments and schools to supplement their studies in the law school.

Q. Okay. What I'd love to do is essentially move through the Ph.D. program chronologically, starting with the application process, then moving to the Ph.D. coursework and dissertation themselves, and then the job market. Can you tell me when the Ph.D. program starts to accept applications?

A. Applications open on August 15, and the deadline to submit an application is December 15. Though we don’t formally offer a rolling admission, we can provide an earlier decision for those facing hard deadlines with other programs.

Q. And what materials do applicants need to submit?

A. Candidates are asked to submit a personal statement about their motivations and qualifications, plans and interests. They are asked to submit a research proposal for their dissertation – which can take the form of a traditional monograph, or three related law review style articles. We ask for a writing sample – which might be a published article, an article in preparation, or perhaps an article they wrote in law school. In addition we ask for a CV, undergraduate and law school transcripts and letters of recommendation.

Q. And do you conduct interviews of applicants?

A. Not as a routine matter. There have been instances where the faculty admissions committee wanted to get more information and has conducted some interviews, but it's not a regular part of the process.

Q. Okay. How many applications do you typically receive in a given year?

A. It has varied from about 30 to about 90.

Q. And how many people do you admit and then enroll?

A. We have a limit of no more than five students in each cohort, and some years we have accepted fewer than five. We have had the good fortune to have enrolled every student we have admitted, giving us a perfect “yield” to date – but the numbers are small so I don’t want to over emphasize that point!

Q. I'll admit, I don't know a lot about the financial side of Ph.D.'s, so I'm going to ask an open-ended question which is, how does that work? Is there financial aid? What are the stipends?

A. This is a fully funded program – students pay no tuition and are provided with a living stipend, and full health coverage. The living stipend – set by the Graduate School – currently is about $32,000 a year (which I have to say goes a good deal further in New Haven then it might in some cities to the north or west. Students should complete the PhD without any additional debt. We also provide them with research funding from the Law School, and access to a number of very generous research support programs across the campus.

Q. And is that stipend for teaching?

A. No. They do have a requirement of two teaching experiences, but these are quite explicitly meant to help them learn pedagogy and classroom technique. They can fulfil this requirement in a number of ways – but their stipend, which they can receive for three and sometimes four years, is not connected to the teaching.

Q. Okay. So let's go back to the application process. Who actually decides on the applications? Is that a committee?

A. Yes. I do an initial read and sorting of applications, and send along the most promising files to the faculty committee. Yale is still a remarkably hands-on faculty governed institution and the final admissions decisions rest with the faculty committee.

Q. And what is the committee and you looking for in this process?

A. It's a highly qualitative kind of an evaluation. We're looking for people who both have an original and creative cast of mind, as well as the quality of mind that we believe will thrive in an academic environment and allow them to make real contributions to important academic and public debates. We are looking for evidence of their capacity to write, to engage in serious analysis and make real contributions. We look to the writing sample and research statement to provide evidence for of these qualities, and the letters of recommendation to help us see the qualities of mind that we are after.

Q. So let's talk about that research statement a little bit. What are you looking for there to try to judge the quality of somebody's thinking and their promise as a scholar?

A. One could turn the question around and say when you finish a book or an important article, "Well, that was a really good piece." There are a lot of things that might go into that final evaluation. Was the question they tackled important? Did they understand the foundations under the work they were doing? Was it surprising in some way? Or, not at all surprising, but definitive, and compelling treatment of long and difficult problems? Was it convincing? Was it compelling? We don’t expect them to have the answers at this point, but we do hope we have enough to get a sense of their insight, their creativity, their cast of mind. It isn’t easy. You are making a guess about where someone can and likely will reach in 10, 20, 30 years. But do you see the spark? Is there evidence to justify taking a risk?

I think any of us who've been in a classroom, you know, have been struck time to time by a student question or comment. They help us to see something fresh and different than we have seen so often. We know a fresh perspective. We can spot (or we like to think we can spot) potential and raw talent. We wold love to see those students in our program and help them bring out and refine these raw qualities. Each case is quite independent of the others. And because it is a small program we have the luxury to take the time and really read deeply into their materials and the letters of recommendation.

Q. For the candidates to come to that level of knowledge that they can be asking these types of good questions and be familiar with the literature, where are they finding the time to do that? Where do they acquire that knowledge?

A. That varies a great deal as well. Some candidates come to us directly from a J.D.. Some from clerkships and/or private practice. Some from government or public policy. Where they found the time to do the writing they present is sometimes a mystery. For some the writing sample might be a law school paper, or perhaps an article written just after law school.
Some might have skimped a bit on their billable hours. Others just burned the midnight oil. And some are coming from VAPs or other fellowships where they were able to write.

But again, as I said it's not so much that we're looking for a finished piece by any means. It's just that we're really trying to get a sense of, how are they approaching this? Do they have a sense of the kinds of things they need to know, even if they don't know them yet? And as far as the literature mastery, no, I mean, there's no expectation of that.
That’s part of what they are coming to do in our program.

Q. How much does practice experience matter in the application process?

A. We have had some very successful PhD students who came to us from practice, but I’m not sure that practice has played a particularly central role for our candidates, though I suspect some have drawn on their experience to improve their questions and deepen their appreciation for the complexity of a number of important issues.

Q. Do you have any preference for applicants in particular curricular areas? And let me say I ask this question because obviously when it comes to the entry level job market there's more demand in certain curricular areas than others. Is that something you're taking into account?

A. No, not really. Yale has long subscribed to the objective of finding “the best horse in the field.” In part because we are making guesses about the market 3 or 4 years out. What was hot last year may be in the doldrums five years later. We do emphasize that our students should be comfortable and competent in teaching the basic courses, but in the end we can them to truly excel in their research and writing and that is hard to do if you are working on a paper in a field far from your own interest and commitment.

Q. Do you make any special efforts to recruit and admit candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. We have been extremely fortunate and have discovered that the PhD program has been a real asset for students from diverse backgrounds. The traditional route to law teaching very much favored those with deep personal and family experience in elite education. For first-generation law students, the profession of legal academe may be unknown. By the time they realize the importance of personal recommendations, the utility of working with faculty on their research, and have gained a vague understanding of the process, they are well into their second or third year of law school. The PhD in law actually was particularly well placed for these students. Having discovered their interest late in law school, they could learn the professional ropes in a program that would give them structure, form and support. Our program gives them a chance to engage with their peers on a level playing field. And our program has attracted and very successfully placed a number of first generation law students, as well as other under-represented groups. It was not an explicit goal for the program originally, but it has been a very pleasant discovery.

Q. So how would you advise somebody who may not have gone to Yale Law School, or one of the equivalent schools, who didn't have an elite clerkship? How would you advise them to try to stand out in the application process?

A. It's the writing. Write, read, and try to get published. And it doesn’t have to be a giant law review article. Show us what you’ve got – maybe it’s a book review. Maybe it’s a law school paper. The advice is the same as we all give to all aspiring law professors – write, write, and write some more. Then take some of that writing back to your law school professors. Ask them to read – even if it’s just an abstract. Engage them. Get them excited about the work. And if you don’t have that sort of relationship with a faculty person at your own law school, you can even try to blindly engage faculty elsewhere. Read what they write. engage them on their own ground with questions, comments. Once you have their attention, ask if you could send an abstract. If that goes well – they will ask for the paper, or you can offer it. And you might just be off to the races.

Q. The successful candidates, how much writing do they typically have when they apply? Do they have a published article? Do they have more than one published article?

A. That varies a lot. Some have published articles – either as JDs or in the years since. Some have unpublished articles. And some present a set of shorter pieces. I think as a general rule the more writing the better.

Q. How many Ph.D. students in law are in residence in a given year?

A. Also variable. Course work is mostly in the first year in the program, and we have had students taking leave to take up a clerkship – making the PhD program flexible to adapt to the long lead time many students have with clerkships. And our cohorts are small. But I’d estimate that we have between 5 and 12 on campus.

Q. And how many at a given time are in the Ph.D. program total?

A. I would say about 10 to 12.

Q. Can you tell me what the Ph.D. program involves? In other words, you said there was one year of coursework. What courses do they take during that year?

A. The only course that's mandatory for all of the PhDs is a two-semester course on “Foundations of Legal Scholarship.” Beyond that, they are welcome to identify courses in the law school, or in any school or program at Yale University that will provide important foundations for their work. The number of courses and the specific choices are left to student to work out with their three-member faculty advisory committee. The ‘Foundations’ course is often led by two faculty members to provide two perspectives on some of the major works in legal scholarship. The first semester is focused on intensive reading across the literature of what you'd expect any credible legal academic should have grappled with, the materials that help define the enterprise of legal scholarship. The second semester is effectively a writing workshop where the students work with each other and the faculty instructors to build and workshop their first paper.

Q. Are they taking any other classes? You said only the foundation class is required, but are they taking other classes in the law schools or elsewhere?

A. Yes, and this will vary a great deal as I noted. For some they will look to the social sciences for methods training, others to History or Political Science, Philosophy or Sociology, the School of Management, Forestry and Environment, perhaps the School of Public health or even (though it hasn’t been done yet) the Yale Drama School. These choices are developed in conjunction with their committee. Each student has a three-faculty-member committee, a chair and two other members of the committee, and so they'll sit down with them and talk about what would be logical courses. And mostly, it has been courses in the Law School. So there is an expectation that they will take a total of four courses – some may take more, some may take less, as they work out with their committee. (It is important to note that all PhD in Law students must have a JD before matriculating to our program, so in effect they already have three years of law courses under their belts..

Q. How many years do they typically take to complete the Ph.D. program?

A. To date nearly all our students have completed the program in three years – though we are open to consider (and have granted) a fourth year in appropriate cases – to support research travel time, archival work, or specialized methods training. So it is set up as a three-year program with some flexibility. But that’s a misleading since, as I noted, all of our students have a JD in hand before starting the PhD – and we consider that part of the fundamental training that they must have in this profession. So you could see our program as something between three and six or seven years, though the time in the PhD program itself is three and sometimes four years.

Q. So the first year is primarily focused on coursework and getting their writing in that seminar off the ground.

A. Right, and we're kind of following the modern social science approach, which is to say that they can choose (in consultation with the their advisors) to complete a traditional monograph, a book-length piece, or three related law review-style articles. And I think all of them so far have chosen the three article approach, which probably makes sense given the market for law faculty and what hiring and then promotion committees will expect in the early years in their career.

Q. Is writing those articles the primary focus of the last two years of the Ph.D. program?

A. Yes. Writing, workshopping, in many cases presenting work at conferences and invited talks. They do have a teaching requirement to help them prepare for their future career, but this can be fulfilled in a number of ways – as a T.A. in law courses or in courses in Yale College or the other professional schools. We also have an arrangement with the Quinnipiac Law School that allows some of our students to go up and teach an independent course at Quinnipiac. They also have access to Yale’s programs and support for teaching which is offered to faculty and students involved in course teaching. This can range from informal workshops to a far more formal certificate program in which a few of our students have participated.

Q. Just focusing on that teaching side, can they teach an independent course at Yale Law School?

A. No. The faculty, I think to its credit, tries very hard to make sure that the vast bulk of the curriculum is taught by tenure-track faculty. Our students can co-teach a course with a faculty member and there are some informal courses they can lead, but if they want to teach a fully independent course they would either do that through Yale’s residential colleges which offer about 28 students a year the chance to develop and teach an independent course or pursue the opportunities we have arranged with Quinnipiac, where they also are video-taped and mentored by experienced faculty.

Q. And what do most, what's the norm? It sounds like there's lots of different options. What do most of the Ph.D. students do?

A. You know, I think it spreads right across the range a few have taught independent courses at Quinnipiac, others have taught in history and other cognate fields in the College and some have TA’d or co-taught at YLS.

Q. Okay, that's helpful. One of the conversations that we’ve been having right now on prawfsblawg is how much time Ph.D. students have to devote to their scholarship. I’m wondering if you were to try to break it out percentage-wise, of those last two years, how much of their time are they spending on writing and how much do they spend on teaching or other things?

A. I would say 60-75% on their scholarship.

Q. That's a lot. That's great.

A. This is one of the real differences between our program and some of the long-established Fellowships like Climenko and Bigelow which divide their Fellow’s time between teaching legal writing and working on their scholarship. I think it is great that there are a number of pathways to the legal academy, and the legal writing fellowships are superb opportunities that are perfect for many candidates. We think the PhD is just an alternative model.

So the idea is to put the maximum effort on their own scholarship, with direct support for them to develop as teachers as well as academic professionals. And the two – teaching and scholarship – often support each other. My own case is a good illustration – I had the opportunity to teach my own course as an undergraduate seminar during my PhD program. That course grew into my dissertation, which became my first published book. And I went on to teach that course off and on for about 20 years. So teaching can have a direct pipeline into the scholarship. But that aside, it is overwhelmingly scholarship, that's the focus of their time.

Q. And what does that mean in terms of where the students are actually located those last two years? I imagine they have to be in New Haven for the first year but do they tend to stay in New Haven for the last two years or do they spend some of it elsewhere?

A. Most of our students have been in New Haven for the full three years, but we have a couple of commuters and a couple who took up tenure-track positions in their second or third year, and are continuing their PhD writing from those campuses. While it would be wonderful to have everyone here for three years, this is a slightly older population than the typical PhD (because they already have three years of post-graduate education in their JD, and many have had clerkships and/or been in practice for a year or two. So some have spousal employment considerations and other reasons why they need to commute. Tele-conferencing has really helped make this work, and we have fully equipped seminar rooms that can bring all of our students together for workshops or presentations.

Q. Okay. Let's talk then about the workshop culture for the Ph.D. students since most of them are around to take advantage of it. Do the Ph.D. in law students get together professionally? Do they have their own workshop series, their own student organizations, something like that?

A. Well student organizations, I mean again it's just too small, to warrant separate organizations. But they are welcome to join – and have actively participated in – programs in the Law School and indeed, one of our PhD candidates actually launched a very successful new student organization that involved a number of JD candidates as well as JSD, LLM and PhD students. The second semester of the foundations seminar is effectively a workshop of their own work, and that's with other Ph.D. students and sometimes with some of our JSD students who join in, as well as students from related fields who might join from time to time. Our students – since they are students of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences – also participate in graduate student organizations and participate in the intellectual life of related fields.

Q. Can they go to the Yale faculty workshop?

A. Yes. In fact we strongly encourage them to attend the Faculty workshop in their first semester and beyond. In addition they are urged to participate in other long-standing workshop programs at the Law School, such as the Legal Theory Workshop, Law and Economics, and Legal History. We encourage them to participate in these, as well as workshops in the ISP (Information Society Project) and other centers. It is a delicate balance – these workshops and the myriad of events at Yale Law School and in the University are wonderful, but can easily eat up enormous amount of time, so they have to balance these opportunities with their primary task of research and writing. But the workshops are an important opportunity for professionalization in the world of legal academe.

Q. You mentioned that each student has their own committee. How is that committee formed and what assistance does it provide over the three years?

A. Right. This was actually one of the dilemmas for those who built the original program: There is a logic in students seeking out their own committee – but this would be far more difficult for applicants who did not do their JD at Yale. We wanted to open the program both to Yale JDs and to others. And so what we came up with, which I think has worked very well, is that when the Committee has agreed to admit a student, the Committee approaches faculty members and builds an initial committee for each admitted student. Unless we can secure an enthusiastic committee for each student, we won’t admit them. Once they're here, they're welcome to change that committee as their project develops and they get to know the Yale faculty. But we actually put together the initial committee.

The committee is there to advise them on their coursework, it's there to provide feedback on their writing, it's there to advise them professionally in terms of preparing for the job market. As with any committee, the chair is going to carry the bulk of that but the other two are there to provide some alternate perspective as well. In addition the Committee administers the student’s oral exam – this is a traditional PhD with exams and other required benchmarks. And one role the committee plays is to put together a reading list with the student which becomes the basis for their oral exam in the fall of their second year.

Q. Are they then talking with their committee over summer between the first and second year about their reading list or are they just on their own there?

A. They build a list in conjunction with a committee and so that will vary. Some committees will say to the student, "you put together the initial list and we'll edit it," or they'll work collaboratively on building a list. it varies from faculty member to faculty member. And then it's a traditional Ph.D. oral exam. It's a 90-minute exam with the three committee members and the student. You know, and in an ideal world those just become terrific intellectual conversations and it's really an opportunity to sort of begin to knit together these different pieces that you've been preparing in the first year. And you know, it's certainly not an exam where we expect people to fail and it's certainly not designed to do that all, it's designed to actually give them an opportunity to begin to put things together and synthesize what they've been studying.

Q. We’ve been talking a lot about the scholarly side. Coming back to the teaching side for just a moment, is there any training or mentoring related to teaching specifically in the Ph.D. program?

A. There is. We observe them in the classroom, we tape them and review the tapes. And there is an extensive new center at Yale to help anyone in the classroom from TAs to Senior Faculty. They offer workshops and even a certificate program in teaching. This is not required but some of our PhDs have taken the certificate course and were very enthusiastic about it.

Q. Let’s step back and compare the Ph.D. in Law program with some of the other options that applicants might be considering. I imagine somebody applying to the Ph.D. in Law program is probably trying to decide between this program and perhaps a disciplinary Ph.D. program, Berkeley’s JSP program or a law school fellowship. What would you say to candidates who are weighing Yale's program against these other options?

A. That's a really good question. I think that these are all valid and effective pathways to law teaching, and different candidates will benefit more or less from different programs. But it is important to recognize that they are very different. I think the legal writing fellowships offer the most distinct contrast. These programs provide great support and access to academy, but those do come with an obligation to spend 50 percent of your time teaching legal writing. This is an incredibly important thing for law students to learn, but the odds are it is the one course these fellows will never teach again. So there is a sharp learning curve with a limited long-term benefit. That still leaves a lot of time and support for writing and research but it is a significantly different allocation of time. The PhD has a teaching requirement, but for most of our students, they can make use of that prep in the future.

There is an upside tradeoff which is that right now the leading fellowships do provide higher compensation than the Graduate level stipend we provide. But then again, half the Fellow’s time really is more like a job (a wonderful job, but a job) and that’s not the case with the PhD

Turning to the other PhD programs, particularly JSP at Berkeley. JSP is really unique. It's the quintessential (and successful) instance of interdisciplinarity and is, I think, the best at what it does. The faculty are comprised of sociologists and historians, philosophers and political science professors. It grows from and between these disciplinary traditionsl The PhD in Law at Yale is not designed to be an interdisciplinary program – though we welcome interdisciplinary work. It is otherwise structures quite similarly to our program – exams, committees, dissertations. I think the great difference there as I said is that (and I would say this about disciplinary Ph.D.s also) is that you're an economist who uses law as your subject matter. You are a historian who is informed by law or studying the history of law rather than a legal scholar who uses history or economics or statistics.That sounds subtle, but I think it's actually a little bit more profound. I think that a lot of what JSP does and a lot of what cogante disciplinary Ph.D.s do, is of course to train you in the method and standards of that particular discipline. So, as in the economics example, they will spend six years beating you in the head to stop any normativity from leaking out. Then you'll finish that. You'll get your great job in law and then you'll come over and people will say, "Well, what's your normative bite on this?"

Some people can do that. Some people can move between those two worlds. They can function in the hard social science world and then flip over and function in the more normative legal world. But, it's hard to do that. It's really hard to do that. And I do worry that people can flounder when they try to do that. You know, I think that as between a disciplinary Ph.D. and ours, what's been lacking all these years and what our program I think begins to address, is that starts with a very self-conscious question. What is it that we are doing as legal academics? Are we really training people to be practicing attorneys while we do a little theorizing on the side, or are we genuinely an academic discipline in our own right? I think that answer is clear. We are and have been academics for at least 60 or 70 years. But, unlike every other discipline, we haven't done any of that kind of self-inspection or retrospection on who we are and what we do and why we do it.

So, these great methodological debates that go on in other disciplines really don't happen in law. Many will look to other disciplines to set their standards, and still others write wihout a great deal of attention to method. And there are those who come from practice for whom these grand debates hold little interest.

I cannot imagine ever that law will be like the other disciplines, where everybody would have to have a Ph.D. in Law in order to be on the faculty. Law Schools will also be a mix of professional and academic and that is how it should be. So I can’t imagine that it would make sense for every faculty member to have a PhD in Law. But I can imagine a time when every law school would want to have one, or two or three faculty members who have a PhD in Law – to ask these questions and spark a real conversation about law. I think that would be a very, very valuable thing.

Q. Let’s switch over to the job market and the mentoring that the Ph.D. in law students receive as they head into the job market. Basically, everyone who goes through the program, is anticipating going onto the law teaching market. Is that right?

A. Yes

Q. And what type of mentoring generally do they receive?

A. Well, I think they're getting a lot. They're kind of getting a double bonus from Yale. Yale is already so small that they can’t help but have frequent contact with their Committee, but also with a wide range of faculty who may not be directly in their field, but offer real insight and useful challenges. It sometimes took me six months to get an appointment with one of my own PhD Committee members but here you're going to run into these people every day. I mean we're the size of a small high school. So, I think that that's a big factor. Beyond that though, we have a pretty extensive and well-developed program to help students, JDs, JSDs and Ph.D.s alike, who are interested in academic jobs and moving into the academy. It includes an extensive law teaching seminar series, including speakers from recent graduates and faculty. We offer mock interviews, mock job talks and expose them to the art of workshopping.

When they are ready to go on the market, we have a faculty committee that will help them from AALS strategy , to job talks to contract negotiations. We will help them polish abstracts and critique cv’s. The Ph.D.s are sharing in what is available to any Yale graduate. But beyond that, they're also getting, I think, the much bigger bang for their buck, because they work closely with a faculty team, not only on their exams, but on their papers.

What we all know is, it's not enough to have a letter of recommendation. It's got to say something. And to say something, it's got to be a faculty member who really knows your work and can actually comment on it. That's a useful recommendation to other committees. And I think this is one of the hardest things for students to understand, is that having a two line letter recommendation from Bill Clinton is not nearly as useful as a four page letter from an assistant professor who knows your work upside down. And can really help the committee to understand what it is that you do and what your contribution is. So, the fact that they've got this committee built in that they've been working with them, these are people that really can comment on the quality of their minds, the quality of their arguments, the quality of their writing and all the rest of that.

Q. So, thinking about that and how it's actually played out over the last couple of years, how long has the Ph.D. in Law program been in existence?

A. The first cohort got here in 2013 and graduated in 2016.

Q. Of the students who have graduated, do you know what percentage has landed in tenure track law jobs?

A. 96% of the PhD in Law students who went on the market have gotten tenure-track law jobs. One person didn't go on the market, and one person went on the market, but then decided to get some real world experience. I except that person to return to the market and to place well.

Q. Is there a list of the graduates online somewhere that I might be able to link to?

A. We have profiles of all the current candidates. [Here’s the link.]

Q. Does the program support candidates who may have to go on the teaching market more than once?

A. You know, the year this program was conceived and approved by the faculty, that was the high point of academic hiring. By the unofficial count first maintained by Larry Solum and now by Sarah Lawsky, there were 166 tenure track jobs in the market that year. The year that that first cohort graduated (2016), I think that was the year that we had 69 new jobs in the market.

So we are in a totally new world in law teaching. In 2009, 2010, if you didn't get a job, then there must be something wrong with you. In 2016 if you DID get a job, there must be something wrong with you.

Q. So, does that mean that students can stay on for, let's say, a fourth year if they need to, to go on the market a second time?

A. We are open to the possibility of fourth year. But, so far we haven’t needed that because people didn’t place, instead we’ve offered it for student’s whose research and writing proved more complicated, or perhaps there was a personal health issue or family issue. Would we consider a fourth year for someone who didn’t land a job their first time out? We certainly would consider it but, as I said, we have been fortunate in not having to face that decision.

Q. That’s a nice problem to not have faced.

A. Agreed. As I said, we’ve placed 96% so far … but this is a very small program. And it is a program that helps them produce the coins of the realm – original compelling research and writing, Our student fo on the market with two or three well placed articles and a third one well underway, which would be their job talk paper, possibly even already accepted.

They can really hit the ground running. They come out with extensive experience presenting to faculty and to peers. Some of them have coauthored with faculty. I think it's been refreshing that, we have both Yale JDs, but also people from other schools, which brings some fresh insight into the building. I think that's very useful.

I think it's really more a question of people making choices about what it is they want to spend their time doing. I think that there are people that will be very successful law professors that don't necessarily have that kind of deep, deep intellectual, passionate curiosity. And that's fine. But, as I said before, I think that you want both. You want people in a law school that are doing and training people for practice, for public policy, for every possible career out there, including legal academics.

Q. That’s actually a perfect transition into some of the broader questions.

A. Sure.

Q. I'd love to get your thought on about the rise of Ph.D. programs and VAPs and fellowships. What do you think are the benefits of the rise of these programs as an entry point into legal academia and what do you think of the cost?

A. I would put Ph.D.s and advanced degrees in a separate category from the VAPs and fellowships. I think the real leg up of the PhD and other advanced degrees is just the time and resources to write. Some of the fellowships do that as well. I think it can be enormously helpful intellectually, but it can also have the unintended consequence of leaving you in no-man’s-land between a cognate discipline and the field of law. But I think students who pursue a PhD now for purely instrumental reasons will be disappointed. The credential alone is no longer so unusual, and it is a long hard road to get a PhD and that’s an investment you have to want deeply in your soul and not just as a surface, instrumental factor.

On the demand side, I think in the go-go years before the great crash of 2008, there was a growing interest in interdisciplinarity, and a desire to build law schools on an ever-more academic and theoretical foundation. Schools were growing and a PhD was a luxury they were eager to obtain. But with the slashing of new jobs, the emphasis is really on what you have and can produce. If I PhD helps you produce, that’s great – but it’s not clear to me that a hiring committee much cares whether your productivity was due to the time and support you had as a PhD, or just your hyper efficiency in your down time. What matters is what you’ve produced which is also thought to be evidence of what you are likely to produce in the future.

Back to the supply side, I think more and more students who have the deep academic instincts began have a real hunger to read, to study to answer (and pose) hard questions. More and more people headed for an academic career were hungry for what a PhD had to offer. So it's unclear to me whether committees are saying we want somebody with a Ph.D. or it's just more people who are interested in academic law get themselves a Ph.D.. and they constitute a growing segment of the pool.

Q. Do you think there are costs to this approach? It’s obviously stretching out the timeline to try to become an entry level law professor.

A. Right. Here I would put in another pitch for our program. How much the PhD stretches out the timeline, I think, turns on how closely related the PhD is (and the writing in the dissertation) to law and to what a Law Faculty is looking to hire. If you wrote about some deeply interesting topic in Economics or Physics for that matter, can you immediately translate that into legal publications? If you can, the time line isn’t stretched at all. If it is a long hard connection to establish between your two halves, then you have the stretching you mention perhaps. If you're a legal historian, then going off and writing a legal history book as a Ph.D. program, is perfectly keeping you on track in a sense. And if you are doing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and your academic work is in contract law, I'm not sure that there's an instrumental connection there. Though of course there may well be an intellectual connection.

So, I think if students are getting the message that gee, my odds are better if I have a Ph.D., so I'm now going to go off and invest five years in a Ph.D., I think that would be a very, very bad outcome. That's just not the reason to go and do a Ph.D. That's a reason to do a one year program. It's not any reason to do a five or six year program.

So, if students are misinterpreting that, I think that would be a real cost. As far as the institutions are concerned, I think you always have to be a little bit careful that there's always a little bit of a risk that what you really have is somebody who really wanted to be a philosophy professor, but there were more jobs in law, so they went off and became a law professor. That can work out, but it can also lead to frustration and a lot of other less attractive outcomes. And you can’t really sustain a five- or six-year PhD program on purely instrument motives. If you don’t love the material or have some burning need to be there, it’s going to be a pretty rough time

Q. Do you think that these Ph.D. programs have a responsibility to try to open up law faculty positions to people from diverse or nontraditional backgrounds?

A. I think all of our programs have that responsibility – from JD admissions to clerkships, from JSD and PhD programs and fellowships alike. Although our program wasn’t explicitly designed with that in mind it has worked out remarkably well on that score. Here is a new pathway to law teaching which well serves those who have planned this career their whole life, and those who never even imagined it as a possibility in the 1L or 2L year. It levels the field and makes the process turn on the quality of argument and idea and not simply hitting the marks of the traditional route – top grades in 1L, law review, RA for famous professor, clerkship, write your “tenure” piece and disappear for 50 years which tied so much to knowing how and who and went to push the right buttons.

The PhD in Law can help those students of course, but it can also help the student who needs some structure – they have a three person faculty committee, they are invited to participate in workshops, they take additional courses, they write, they teach all in an incredibly supportive environment. It makes sense that we have attracted some outstanding First Generation and traditionally underrepresented minorities as well as top-notch more traditional students.

Q. I don't know if you've heard this criticism, but there's a lot of fear out there among hiring committees that it can be hard when you have candidates who are working so closely with mentors, either in Ph.D. programs or fellowship programs, to tell how much of the work and ideas come from the candidates themselves and how much come from their committee or other mentors.

A. This is true in all fields. And one thing we definitely advise all the students, JDs and Ph.D.s alike is, that they've got to be very careful, particularly about co-authoring with a big-name faculty member, because, of course the assumption tends to be, "Well, the famous professor did the big idea and and you did the footnotes."

Q. Right.

A. So, there's a couple of things that you can do with that. I mean, what we recommend is, for one thing if you do co-author, make sure the big name professor writes an explicit letter that specifically states what was your contribution and what was hers. “Sections two and three are mine and sections one and three are the students.”
That's one way to deal with it. But, we have made it very clear to people that they've got to have something in their file that is not coauthored. I mean this is becoming a bigger problem particularly in the more empirical areas of law where co-authorship and multiple authors are common. As you said, you've got to have something where the committee can feel this really is the voice of the candidate and not their advisor.

Q. How about stuff that isn't coauthored? In other words, I'm just trying to write a dissertation and I sit down and talk with my advisor and the advisor over several meetings says, "Whoa, Whoa, your direction isn’t the right one? How about this other direction?" Then it’s hard for hiring committees to know how good the candidate is.

A. That is a perennial problem, but far from limited to a PhD … it would be as true for a JD co-authoring with (or serving as an RA to, or writing a paper under the supervision of a big-name professor. The only way to truly end any debate is to write a piece that confronts, challenges or disproves the Big Professor’s central thesis. But then again, many of us study with someone precisely because we are excited by the research path they have blazed. In that case you might write on a clearly distinct application of the famous thesis in a new place or new way. In short, you need to demonstrate your own independent capacity even if you are building along the same lines, or using the same theory in your foundation. And again. you might encourage the big name to write a clear letter as part of your file which is explicit about how or why teh student is not just the big name’s ‘mini-me’

In the end, having at least one paper that is unequivocally distinct and original would be the best way to confront this problem. Ultimately, the student who merely tills the field that was plowed by another is going to show very poorly. This might have generated a good paper that was well published, but when it comes time for Q&A at the job talk, they are very vulnerable. I was teaching at the University of Minnesota years ago and a student of a big, big name faculty member at Stanford came and gave a talk and the talk was fine. It was very impressive. Then the questions came and this person just couldn't answer anything that was even 3 degrees off the particulars of the paper. It was just obvious that, you know, they have no original idea, they are merely a workhorse for the big name. (Needless to say this candidate did not get the job).

Q. Last question for you.

A. Sure.

Q. Given that life is zero sum in so many ways, time spent in a Ph.D. program is obviously time not spent in practice. What do you think about that trade off given that we're in the business of educating lawyers?

A. Well, you know, I think as with many things, it's not just those two things, right? So I think that law schools are still in the business, of training practicing lawyers, but also training public policy people and nonprofit people and consultants and business people and so much more. Toss a rubber ball in the U.S> Senate and you can’t avoid hitting a few JDs A PhD is a big commitment, and opening that door may close some others. Law has the advantage that it is thought to be great preparation for a huge number of careers. In this sense all of our students, JD and PhD alike, have so many options at ever point in their careers, that almost none of the PhDs in cognate fields have. So choices are choices. Do we need PhDs training the next generation of lawyers? Again – we don’t need them to be trained exclusively by PhDs, but I do think every law school would benefit from having a few on their faculty. As to tradeoffs, this just gives me a chance to repeat – if you are doing a PhD for purely instrumental reasons, I'm not sure that's the best idea.

If you have a passion for the kinds of questions. If you want to dig into those kinds of things, whether it's in a traditional discipline or in law itself, then by all means. Because, you will build a storehouse of questions and ideas and insights that you'll draw on for the rest of your career. And that's a pretty valuable thing. Also, I mean at this point, in a buyer's market, having published pieces of work that can demonstrate that you can and will be productive and a real contributor, is a huge asset on the market. And so, you know, if the way you can get those papers written, is because you're doing a fellowship, great. And if the way you can get those papers written, is by being in a Ph.D. program, that's great.

Writing is the coin of the realm in doctrinal teaching positions. As far as the practice goes, you know, I think again, it's going to really vary law school by law school. I see no reason why advanced degrees and practice need to be unrelated. The ideas, theories and arguments made in academic work can and does translate to inventive (and effective) theories of a case … or open doors to new contracts, new models of remedy and relief.

But the key is to find the means best suited to you that will allow you to think, and write and engage in original research. That writing will get you the job. It will get you the promotion. And, if this career is right for you, it will give you the satisfaction and the opportunity to make a difference.

Q. Yeah, I agree. I don't think the credential itself matters as much. Right? I think what matters is the quality of the papers when you come on the market.

A. Yep.

Q. Anything else you want to add either for the benefit of hiring committees or potential applicants about the Ph.D. in Law program?

A. Well, I think, as I said, two things. One is, I think that legal academia could profit from a richer debate about what it means to study the law. And I think that that's been lacking. And I think that the Ph.D. program is one route to trying to do that. There's a depth and a richness of work that needs to be seasoned and I think a Ph.D. program provides that seasoning and that time and that support. So, I think that's another big plus about it. I think that you want people that can engage deeply and across a wide range and so, thinking not just about their own sub specialty, but also thinking about how it relates into a bigger story of writing and thinking about and researching law and law's impact on society.

Q. Yeah. Thank you so much, Gordon. I really appreciate your time today.

A. Happy to do it.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 16, 2019 at 01:04 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (22)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Law School Hiring Spreadsheet and Clearinghouse for Questions, 2019-2020

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, and 2018-2019. 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 15, 2019 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (883)

Friday, August 09, 2019

Interview with Adam Feibelman about the Academic Fellowships at Tulane Law School

I’m excited to announce the next latest interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  This interview is with Adam Feibelman, the Sumter Davis Marks Professor of Law at Tulane Law School and Director of the Program in Regulation and Coordination at Tulane’s Murphy Institute.  Adam has historically helped manage Tulane’s academic fellowships, although he is quick to note that Kristin Johnson, Tulane’s incoming Associate Dean for Faculty Research, will have a significant role with these fellowships going forward.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Adam to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Adam, for participating in this series!

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here

Q:  Can you tell me about the different fellowship programs at Tulane?

A:  Until this year we've had two programs. One is the Forrester fellowship, which is a long-standing part of our legal research and writing program.  A  few years ago, we created a visiting assistant professorship, which is funded by the Murphy Institute’s program in regulation but dedicated to the law school.  This year, we created a Yongxiong fellowship, which is a component of our new Yongxiong-Tulane Center for International Credit Law, a partnership with Xiangtan University in Hunan Province, China.

Q:  You mentioned that the Forrester fellow teaches in the legal research and writing program.  Can I ask you to briefly describe the other two fellowships, starting with the VAP with the Murphy Institute.  Does the VAP have teaching responsibilities?

A:  Yes, it's designed to be a two year position but it's formally structured as one year position with renewal. The person in that position teaches three of their four semesters in residence and has one semester off, which is generally their first semester that they're here.  That's how we envision it, and what we advise, and what people have done, but it's not technically a requirement.  People can pick which three semesters they teach while here.

Q:  What do those VAPs teach?

A: What they teach is determined through discussion between that person, the vice dean, and whoever is advising the VAP. That has tended to be me, both in my capacity as (outgoing) associate dean for faculty research and as the director of the Murphy program.

Q:  Tell me about the new fellowship -- the Yongxiong Fellowship.

A:  That's a very exciting new position. It’s a hybrid of those two others, so the fellow will teach in our LLM legal research and writing program in the fall semester, and then in the spring they'll teach a substantive course that is associated with our new center on international law and finance.

We're going to be relying on our initial fellows in the program to participate in discussions about developing this center, our partnership with Xiangtan University and a new related LLM.  I think the first few of these fellows will have a very interesting window into these institutional developments, which are increasingly common around the country as lots of U.S. schools are partnering abroad with other institutions.

Q:  Let's take these three programs and essentially move through them chronologically, starting with the application process and moving to the fellowship itself. When do these programs start accepting applications?

A:  This tends to be a little bit different each year, but generally we have posted the positions sometime in mid to late December or early January.  We generally wait to begin reviewing them for about a month, a month and a half.  There's a committee for each of these positions that then reviews applications and schedules interviews, generally Skype Interviews.   And we tend to make our offers in mid to late spring.

Q:  What materials do candidates need to submit to apply to these positions?

A:  We generally request a cv, a list of at least three references, post-graduate transcripts, copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining their teaching interests and their research agenda.

Q:  I should've clarified this earlier, but obviously there's one Murphy Institute fellow at a time, one for the new fellowship program, how many Forrester fellows are there at a time?

A:  We have two at a time, and we have tried to stagger them.

Q:  How many applications do you typically receive in a given year?

A:  That fluctuates, but I would say between 20 and 30 in recent years.

Q:  Who selects the fellows?

A:  Yep, so we have a committee assigned by the dean for each position.  Each committee generally includes three or four people, has a chair, and functions roughly like an appointment committee.

Q:  If you're looking at teaching at the teaching side of a fellows responsibilities, how do you gauge teaching ability during the interview process?

A:  That's tricky. In some cases candidates will have had teaching experience, especially people who are coming from PhD programs.  Other candidates will have done some adjunct teaching during their time in practice. Those are obviously the easiest cases to evaluate someone's potential as a classroom teacher. We'll have student evaluations. We'll have evaluations or comments in reference letters that talk about their teaching.

When people don't have teaching experience, we rely fairly heavily on their recommenders’ estimations about their capacity and potential as classroom teachers.  And then, in any event, trying to assess teaching ability is an important component of our interviews.  I think the things that are most important in an interview for this purpose are someone's ability to communicate their teaching and research interests very clearly and succinctly, especially the substance of their past and current research and their research agendas.

Q:  Let’s turn to scholarship.  Do successful candidates tend to have a published paper when they're applying, a draft of a paper, more than one published paper? What's the norm for candidates who are successful?

A:  I'd say that, increasingly, candidates will have published work, but that is definitely not a requirement. I know that we've hired a few people who have had work in progress that had not yet been published, like a draft article or a dissertation. Whether we are considering work in progress or something published or something that is on an agenda, our committees focus on evaluating the work or the ideas as an indication of someone's scholarly potential.

Q:  How about their research agenda? How fully developed do you expect that to be?

A:  That's also a hard question to answer generally.  I think it's important to us that someone has a research agenda and an idea of work that they would do with the time and resources allowed to them in a fellowship or VAP.  But I've found that many people adjust their actual research agendas in the course of their fellowship or VAP, so that really it's not so much that we're looking at this as an actual roadmap for what they're going to do, but as an indication that they have an idea of what kinds of things would be interesting and valuable contributions to make in their fields of inquiry.   

Q:  How about practice experience? How much does practice experience matter in the hiring process? And how much practice experience are you looking for?

A:  That is something that differs across the positions. With the Forrester, we’ll really only consider applicants who have at least two or three years of practice, including clerkship experience.  We've made the institutional decision that we want people who are part of the first-year legal writing and research program to be able to draw upon some meaningful experience in the practice of law as a baseline requirement.

For the VAP, experience in the practice law is a factor that we weigh with others, and many of the people who've had that position have had substantial experience. I don't think we've discussed a policy in that regard with respect to the new fellowship, but I’m confident that, at the least, experience in the practice of law will be weighed heavily in assessing candidates for that position.

Q:  Do you give a preference for candidates from particular curricular areas or candidates with a PhD?

A:  Definitely not for the Forrester fellowship.  The new Yongxiong fellowship is designed to fill some curricular needs within the broad category of law and finance.  The VAP is again, part of our program on regulation, which defines the scope of the position and the kinds of research and teaching interests that we are drawn to, but we've historically defined regulation very broadly for this purpose.

Q:  As I've announced this interview series, I've gotten a number of comments asking, essentially, what if a candidate does not have the traditional markers that you might think of for prospective law faculty— they didn't graduate from one of the top 5 or 10 law schools, they didn't do an elite clerkship. What advice would you have for them in terms of standing out in the application process?

A:  First of all, I would strongly encourage people in that position to apply.  We look at every application on its merits and some of our strongest candidates have been people who fall outside of the conventional checklists of credentials in one or more ways.

With that in mind, the first thing I would encourage people to do is contact law faculty members who they know -- perhaps who were their professors in law school or who they may have gotten to know in other contexts -- to get advice about the process but also to get a sense of whether they might be advocates for them. Even the briefest note from a faculty member here or at another law school encouraging us to look at an application weighs very heavily in our process.

Q:  Do you make any special efforts to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A:  Yes and in a number of ways, both through formal and informal networks.  That has been a deliberate part of every search here I can recall.

Q:  Let’s move more into the terms and conditions of employment.  Are each of the fellowships one year and then renewable for a second year?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Are you comfortable sharing how much the fellows are paid per year?

A:  No, sorry.

Q:  Do you fellows receive health insurance?

A:  Yes.

Q:  How about access to university or subsidized housing?

A:  No.

Q:  Do you fellows receive travel funding or other professional development funding?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Do you mind sharing that amount?

A:  No, but in any event, when the amount is exhausted it can be supplemented upon request for particular opportunities.

Q:  Do they receive funding to hire research assistants?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Do they receive reimbursement for market related expenses when they're on the job market?

A:  Yes, up to a certain amount, generally to reimburse expenses related to attending the AALS faculty recruitment conference.

Q:  Are fellows expected to live in New Orleans? Obviously there are teaching obligations, but could somebody live in Miami or New York and commute?

A:  Well, to begin with, as with other faculty, we certainly expect that the fellows and VAPs need to be in residence at least enough to satisfy their responsibilities as faculty, which generally entails being in town during the week during the terms.  But we’ve had people in these positions who, like other colleagues, have traveled regularly over the weekends and who have spent a good deal of holidays and summers with family or partners elsewhere.  We definitely have tried to be as accommodating and supportive in that regard as possible while making our baseline expectations clear, that we think the value of these positions ultimately derives from being a full and present member of our academic community.

Q:  Let's talk about how to make the most of the fellowship and the extent to which fellows are incorporated into the intellectual life of the school. How often do the fellows themselves get together? Do they have their own workshop series, anything like that?

A:  The degree of interaction among the fellows and VAPs has differed a bit over time and is somewhat a function of the people who are in these positions, their substantive interests, and their schedules.  But they have all consistently been very much included in the intellectual life of the school and, generally, treated as faculty alongside everyone else.  The fellows and VAPs participate along with all the faculty in our regular faculty workshops, including as presenters.  We also have another workshop series that is part of our Murphy program that is a bit smaller and designed in large part to be a node of interaction among the fellows and VAPs as well as students and alums who are interested in the possibility of an academic career.  I'd say that these workshops are the main formal opportunities for the fellows and VAPs to interact with each other and with other faculty, but there are countless other informal opportunities as well, both professional and social.

Q:  Are all the fellows invited to the Murphy Institute Workshop Series?

A:  Oh yes, and they are encouraged to participate in programming the series as well by recommending people to invite.

Q:  Who actually supervises the fellows?

A:  That’s been something our associate dean for faculty research has coordinated, and there’s a core handful of tenured and tenure track faculty who are heavily involved in mentoring and supporting the fellows and VAPs.

Q:  Okay, and does that include people necessarily in their area of interest or are they given help in connecting with faculty in their area of interest?

A:  Both.

Q:  Are they given assistance in connecting with faculty outside of Tulane?

A:  Yeah, that's something that we spend a good deal of time doing. We try to do that in part through involving them in programming our faculty workshops, both the main series and our Murphy series.  We also try to help people get to know people in their own fields in other ways as well, especially by sending out drafts and attending conferences and similar events.

Q:  We’ve now talked about the workshop series and mentoring opportunities. What other assistance are fellows given related to their research?

A:  In addition to the development fund and research assistants that they get along with other faculty, I'd say the main thing that we do to help our fellows and VAPs is engage with them as they do their research and writing.  If people are at the stage where they're trying to decide what to write or shape an agenda, we have had lots of conversations, say over lunch or coffee, to help them decide among projects and help them frame their research queries or projects.  This also involves reading works in progress, something that our group of faculty here take very seriously, and identifying people in the building and outside the building to read their drafts.  Then I'm fairly certain that everyone who's been through as a fellow or VAPs has had the opportunity to present their work in one of our workshops, in addition to any moot talks they’ve done in preparing for the faculty recruitment process.

Q:  I want to ask a question that keeps coming up on the blogs.  People have wondered if VAPs or fellows receive assistance placing their work. In other words, is there any assistance with the actual placements itself?

A:  The assistance that we provide in that regard is the same assistance that we provide each other as colleagues, which is just advice on how to try to navigate the confusing system that we have for submitting articles to journals.  But beyond that, I don't know what people may have in mind.

Q:  I think they think we call up law reviews and say you should really accept X and Y piece.

A:  No, the extent of the help that we give is just the general advice that we provide on strategic aspects of submitting work to journals.

Q:  Let's turn over to the teaching side.  What training, feedback, or mentoring do fellows receive related to their teaching?

A:  We do a variety of things in that regard, much of it informal.  And most of what we've done has been, frankly, is the same kind of advice and help that we give to our incoming  tenure track faculty. To begin with, we provide a good deal of help and feedback at the preliminary stage when people are preparing to teach a course for the first time and, especially, when they are designing substantive courses. They get help with things like preparing a syllabus, selecting a casebook or materials, and thinking about what kind of teaching style or various teaching approaches they may want to take.

Then we attend classes that the fellows and VAPs are teaching, and provide feedback and assistance as we think might be useful, and certainly in response to any questions that arise.

Some people who've come through have also sought advice from people we've identified to them as especially successful classroom teachers, and we generally advise everyone to sit in on other classes taught by other permanent faculty who are successful in different approaches.

Q:  Let’s talk more specifically about the teaching responsibilities in the three fellowship programs. The Forrester Fellows, do they just teach in the legal writing program? Do they have the opportunity to teach outside of that program?

A:  Yes, they teach exclusively in that program.

Q:  How many students do they tend to have in their section?

A:  They have approximately 25 students in two different sections.

Q:  Just to clarify, 25 in each section?

A:  That’s right. We’re aiming to reduce the number of students or sections per fellow when we have resources to do so.

Q:  Okay, so a total of say 40 to 60? 

A.: Yes. That number is higher than we’d like ideally and we hope to reduce it over time when resources allow.  But our experience is also that our Forrester Fellows have been successful in managing the teaching responsibilities and launching successfully onto the tenure-track market.

Q:  How do they manage the grading and the teaching for those two sections along with trying to develop their own research agenda and manage their writing?

A:  As with most legal research and writing programs, there's a predictable schedule of spikes in the work in both the fall and spring semesters, as opposed to other courses where the work is spread more evenly across the term. We help the fellows plan their research and writing activities in between the spikes in grading and having student meetings, and we encourage all of the fellows and VAPs to have enough of a running start towards the end of summer so that, over the course of the term, it's easier for them to pick up where they left off.

Q:  Are the Forrester fellows coming up with the assignments and curriculum?

A:  No, that's a key feature of the program that is very important for the fellows. The most time-consuming aspects of substance of the course are consistent across the sections, so the fellows are not coming up with the topics for the memos and so forth.

Q:  How about the VAP program? You mentioned that they teach in three semesters, how many courses do they teach in each semester?

A: They teach one course in each of three semesters.

Q:  Do they repeat at all? How many total preps?

A:  We have encouraged, and I think it has consistently been the case, that the VAPs tend to repeat one of their courses. So they'll generally teach a new prep their first spring, then another prep the next fall, and then teach the course they taught the previous spring a second time.

Q:  You mentioned that the fellow in the new Yongxiong fellowship will be teaching two courses. Is that, like the Murphy fellowship, one course a semester?

A:  Yes, the course in the fall will be the legal research and writing course with LLMs and then a substantive course in the spring.

Q:  Do the fellows have any other responsibilities? We've talked about the teaching side, the scholarly side, is there anything else that's on their plate?

A:  No.

Q:  Stepping back, if you were talking to a candidate with multiple options between different fellowship programs, what do you think makes Tulane programs stand out?

A:  I think the thing that makes us stand out is that we have a critical mass of faculty in the building who are very invested in helping our fellows and VAPs be successful while here and in landing tenure-track positions.  Over the years, I think our fellows and VAPs have really benefitted from a lot of hands on advice and counsel.

As an institution, I think we have fully appreciated that the successes of the program and the benefits that we get from having fellows and VAPs is largely a function of their success, both while here but especially in obtaining tenure track position.  So, pretty much every decision that we've made institutionally regarding those positions has been designed to do whatever we can to help with both goals.

Q:  Do you happen to know off the top of your head, what percentage of the fellows over the last say 5 or 10 years have landed?

A: We're at roughly 90%, and that’s been mostly during a difficult period for law faculty hiring.

Q:  Yeah, and what types of mentoring do they receive related to the hiring process?

A:  Very hands on. Different people have different appetites for input, but basically we provide as much as people can take, and at every stage of the process. This start with strategizing in the first year on things like their job-talks and reaching out to faculty at other schools in their fields to try to build a group of formal and informal recommenders. And then, in the run-up to actual process itself, we spend a ton of time with people on their FAR forms.

Q:  Who are the people who are doing this? Who are the faculty, not necessarily by name but in terms of position, who are responsible for helping with this type of mentoring?

A:  There's tended to be a core group that includes our associate dean for faculty research and often our own recent tenure track hires, who are very eager to share all of the advice and counsel they got along the way. We also have a number of other colleagues who are very active mentors to whom we steer people for advice on all sorts of questions, and who generally participate in moots for interviews and job talks.  Many of those colleagues are people who have served on our appointments committees over the years and who have lots of good experience and insights that they're able and willing to share with our fellows and VAPs.

Q:  Do fellows have the opportunity to do a new job talk or a new screening interview in front of the faculty?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Does the school support fellows who may need to go on the teaching market more than once? Is the fellowship renewable ever for a third year?

A:  Well, in any event, we are committed to continuing to provide support for our fellows and VAPs until they get tenure-track offers.  But we’re pretty firm in our expectation that these positions are for two years.  We have made a rare exceptions to this once or twice over the years, but frankly, that has been because of particular needs we’ve had or in benefits to us in extending the position. 

Q:  Let’s step back and look at the rise of fellowships and VAPs 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:  Yeah, that's an interesting question. I definitely think there are benefits for the people who are in these positions and for the schools. It's very difficult to get a sense of what is expected of a candidate for a faculty position unless you've observed what faculty do, and you really can't do that as a student, not in any meaningful way, I don't think. So, it's very valuable to have that sustained exposure to a law faculty from the inside, and then extremely valuable to get all of the insights from people within the school about how to prepare to be a candidate and then how to navigate the system. And the opportunity to get a lot of feedback on one’s scholarship and on one’s research agenda and one’s teaching is, I think, quite valuable for fellows and VAPs who are at programs where they get that kind of feedback.

From the school's perspective, our fellows and VAPs tend to be in some of the most dynamic faculty in the building at any given point in time. They tend to be extremely focused and driven and haven't been part of a faculty long enough to get a little jaded.  I think schools really, really benefit from having people in the building who are fresh to the profession and very focused and driven and ambitious.

Q:  What about the costs?

A:  I think the main costs is that it may create a divide between and among candidates who do these positions and those who do not.  But I have to say that, over the years, I've definitely participated in appointment committees that have identified very strong candidates who did not come up through this process although as your data indicates, maybe that's increasingly less common.

Q:  There's always the outliers, right?

A:  Yeah.

Q:  Do you think that the fellowship or VAP programs have any responsibility to try to open up law teaching positions to people from diverse or nontraditional background?

A:  Absolutely, yes. I think that especially as they’ve become a more common pathway into the profession, the responsibility that law schools have in that regard in general is now shifting heavily to these positions.

Q:  You may have heard the concern that VAPs and fellows receive so much help on their papers and developing their ideas when they're in the fellowship programs, that it can be hard for hiring committees to know how many of the ideas comes from the fellows themselves.  What do you think about this concern?

A:  Yes, that's interesting. I saw that as one of the questions in your preview and I really don't recall any one having articulated that before.

Q:  Interesting.

A:  Yeah. Sometimes it's come up where a candidate, for a fellow, or a VAP, or a tenure track position has a good deal of coauthored work, and sometimes there’s been a question about what the candidate’s contribution to the work has been, but there are ways to delve into that and get a pretty good idea.  You’re asking about something slightly different, about whether work attributable to a candidate is really their own.

At least in my experience, fellows and VAPs get essentially the same kind of advice and feedback on their research and scholarship that many entry level of tenure track colleagues do, if perhaps a bit more of it at an earlier stage.  In general, I think a significant part of the scholarly project is collaborative, and oftentimes good ideas emerge out of conversations or interactions that you have with faculty colleagues or, if you're in practice, with partners, or with your judge if you're clerking.  And those influences inevitably help shape one’s scholarship.

I certainly always felt that the core ideas and analysis in our fellows and VAPs work were entirely their own.  Beyond that, I think that the input they get on their work is a main part of the benefit of the program and hopefully has contributed to their development as scholars.

Q:  Last question.  Given that life is zero sum, obviously years that people spend in a fellowship are years that people are not spending, for example in practice. What do you think about that trade off, especially given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A:  Well, on a personal level, having done a fellowship myself and having known a lot of people who've done them, I've found that there's a great deal of heterogeneity in how people do these trade-offs, so I find it hard to generalize. The one thing that I feel confident about, at least at this stage, after all of the time that I've spent both as a fellow and with the other fellows, is that these positions, if they are well designed and well-functioning and involve meaningful faculty participation, do provide a benefit and are generally very enjoyable professional experiences.

Q:  But to the extent that we have an increasing number of people who have done a Ph.D. or a fellowship or both, that may well mean that people don't have as much practice experience when they start an entry-level position.  Do you think that is a concern?

A:  My sense of the way our profession is developing is that there's a strong interest in having faculty members, not necessarily every single faculty members, but in general, having faculty members who have significant experience in the practice of law, and I don't think that's ever going to change.

My sense is that the market for tenure and tenure track positions in going to, at least to some significant extent, expect or demand that candidates by and large have some experience in the practice of law. Again, not necessarily every candidate, and but my assumption is that it is going to continue to be an important component in the factors that many or most schools will assess. And so, I think that people who are interested in getting into teaching are going to have a motivation, in addition to their own interest in practicing law, to gain that experience.

I guess I'm not worried that the proliferation of these positions is going to reduce the overall amount of practical experience among law faculties in general.

Q:  Anything else you want to add? Obviously you've been in the trenches on the fellowship side for a while, anything you want to pass along to the hiring committees about the state of law faculty hiring? Or about the fellowships at Tulane?

A: I guess one thing I would re-emphasize is that people who don't have all of the conventional credentials should not be deterred from thinking of this as a potential career path. I think that faculty hiring committees are getting better at evaluating the quality of a candidate’s work, the promise of future work, and their capacity for effective instruction.  So, increasingly, candidates’ actual scholarly work and promise and their professional experience after law school can outweigh credentials or lack thereof.

There is one very specific and practical piece of advice that I've found myself giving people who I think could be strong candidates for a tenure track position, which is to avoid a rush to publish articles in preparation for applying for academic jobs.  I think this strikes some people as rather counter-intuitive, since they’ve heard that they need some scholarly work to land a job, which is largely true.  I’ve found, though, that some people are very eager to publish as much as they can right out of school, so they’ll beef up seminar papers or write up things that emerge from their experience in practice and get them published.  Sometimes that's valuable, but it has its own perils, especially if they're not getting much feedback on the work their doing from scholars in the relevant field for example or even from other colleagues or scholars in other fields.  Once they are being considered by hiring committees, their recent work will get read very carefully and assessed in ways that they may not yet appreciate; it will likely be their calling card when they go on the market for academic positions.

So, my advice to someone who is thinking about an academic job and who is thinking about publishing something they have in progress is to be sure, as much as possible, to reach out to people, ideally to scholars in the field, and get as much feedback as possible.  And they should particularly seek feedback about whether their work is best publishable in its current form or something they might want to develop over a longer period of time to make a stronger impression when they candidates for academic jobs.

Q:  I could not agree with that last part more. I think the focus should be quality over quantity every day of the week.

A:  Yeah, now there are so many journals and there are so many opportunities for publishing, which I happen to think is a good thing, but it makes it a bit dangerous for people who have something that is solid and publishable, but not necessarily what they would want as their calling card as a candidate for a fellowship or VAP or a tenure track position.

Q:  I completely agree. Thank you so much Adam I know this one has been a long, but we had the three programs to talk about so, I appreciate that you took the extra time with me today.


Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 9, 2019 at 06:39 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time - 2019

The first distribution of the FAR AALS forms came out this week. Here are the number of FAR forms in the first distribution for each year since 2009.

FAR Forms Over Time.20190808
(All information obtained from various blog posts, blog comments, Tweets, and Facebook postings over the years and not independently verified. If you have more accurate information, please post it in the comments and I will update accordingly.)

First posted August 8, 2019.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 8, 2019 at 02:09 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (8)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Hiring Announcement: Suffolk University Law School Transactional Clinic Director

My school is undertaking a search for an entry level assistant clinical professor to launch and direct a Transactional Law Clinic.  From the job description: 

We seek candidates with strong academic records and a commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship. Prior experience in clinical education is preferred, and at least three years of transactional law experience is required. Applicants must be admitted or eligible for admission to the Massachusetts bar.
The Transactional Law Clinic will provide students with the hands-on, practical experience they need to navigate the rapidly evolving field of transactional law. At a minimum, the Clinic will provide free legal services to underserved clients on transactional issues and collaborate with several existing clinics at the Law School on transaction-related issues.
The ideal candidate will be a self-motivated individual who can launch and grow the Clinic by developing relationships within the greater Boston community, the University community, and the academy and Bar.
In addition to directing the Clinic, the faculty member will be expected to teach one non-clinical course in a related field, contribute to the Law School and community, and produce scholarship.
The Transactional Law Clinic, once launched, will be one of Suffolk’s 12 in-house clinics, adding depth and breadth to Suffolk Law’s nationally regarded Clinical Programs. Suffolk Law’s Clinics have been ranked among the top 20 such programs in U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade. The Clinic also will be a part of Suffolk Law’s successful Business and Financial Services concentration.
Applicants should submit a curriculum vitae, a list of references, and a cover letter addressed to Professor Sarah Boonin, Co-Chair of the Clinical Committee, Suffolk University Law School.

I can add that we have a "unified" tenure track that includes clinical and legal practice skills professors.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 6, 2019 at 03:10 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 02, 2019

Interview with Calvin Morrill about the Jurisprudence & Social Policy Ph.D. Program at Berkeley Law

For those of you who have been following my interview series, you know that it generally focuses on VAPs and fellowship.  This interview, however, focuses on a related, but slightly different, trend in law faculty hiring—the increase in the number of entry-level hires with Ph.D.’s.  I spoke with Professor Calvin Morrill, who is the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Professor of Law and Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley, about Berkeley’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Ph.D. Program.  Cal has served as the Associate Dean for the JSP Program, although he is rotating out of that position this summer.  Thanks, Cal, for participating in this series!  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited him to respond to any questions in the comments. 

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here.

Q. Can you give me a brief overview of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at Berkeley?

A. Sure. JSP is a multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that's focused on the study of law and legal institutions. It’s housed within Berkeley Law, but is a relatively autonomous unit like a department. The program has about 60 Ph.D. students and 17 core faculty members, all of whom hold primary appointments in Berkeley Law, and also typically hold a secondary appointment in a disciplinary department at Berkeley. The goal of our program is to train academics for positions in law schools, interdisciplinary programs, and disciplinary programs. Students come to JSP either with only a BA, or with a JD, an MA or an equivalent graduate degree, and they spend about five to six years studying toward the Ph.D.

Rather than organize the program by traditional law school curricular areas such as torts, or contracts, or intellectual property, for example, JSP is organized by research disciplines and their intersections. Our hubs of organization within JSP are law and society/sociology of law, criminology and punishment in society, law and economics, law and political economy, legal history, law and political science/public law, law and political theory/philosophy, and law and psychology. Multiple members of our core and affiliated faculty also draw on critical perspectives of law, including feminist theory and critical race theory. Our faculty embraces methodological pluralism that ranges from advanced quantitative methods to advanced qualitative, historical, and critical methodologies.

Let me also note that JSP is responsible for an undergraduate major, Legal Studies, which is an interdisciplinary liberal arts program housed in Berkeley Law, but officially a part of the Berkeley College of Letters and Science.

This year, we’re especially excited about two new faculty members we hired at JSP as part of a spectacular faculty recruiting class of nine new hires at Berkeley Law. One is David Grewal, who was Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale Law. He studies law and political economy, international law, law and political theory, and social inequality. A second is Rebecca Goldstein, who just received her Ph.D. in Government (political science) from Harvard, and studies the politics of criminal justice and inequality (especially policing) using advanced quantitative and mixed-methods.

Q. I had no idea the program was that large. When you said 60 students, that surprised me. How many of those students hope to become academics at law school some day?

A. About 80% of our students go into academia. It used to be about one-third of our students who go into academia teach in law schools, but over the past decade or, approximately two-thirds ultimately teach in law schools. Parallel to this pattern, about two-thirds of our graduates also ultimately earn both JD’s and PhD’s. So they're joining an increasing hiring trend, especially in top-14 law schools, but even beyond the top-14, to hire JD/PhD’s.

The vast range of dissertation topics that JSP students pursue underscore and help shape the diversity of scholarly interests in the program, including works on law and social inequality, immigration law, business law, law and markets, human rights and comparative law, policing, mass incarceration, law and bioethics, law and religion, law and education, law and technology and intellectual property.

Q. What's your role with the program?

A. I’m the Associate Dean for JSP and the undergraduate Legal Studies program. Together with a small administrative staff, I'm responsible for the day-to-day management of the program plus strategic planning, faculty and student recruitment, budgeting, etc. I should mention that after six years – I've served two consecutive terms as associate dean – I’ll be rotating out of the role, as planned, and back to the faculty as a civilian, so to speak. My JSP colleague, Professor Taeku Lee, will be rotating in as Associate Dean this summer. He's the former chair of Berkeley Political Science and a specialist in law and racial and ethnic politics, as well as survey methodology.

Q. I’d love to move through the Ph.D. program chronologically. Starting with the application process, moving to the Ph.D. itself, and then the hiring market.

A. Great.

Q. When does the program start accepting application for the following academic year?

A. December 15th is our deadline for applications each year, and students apply through what's called the graduate portal at the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. Information on applying is available on our website at Berkeley Law where we have an information page.
There's also information available through the main UC Berkeley website as well. People interested in applying can also contact JSP directly through [email protected] or at 510-642-3771.

Q. What materials does a candidate need to submit as part of that process?

A. Applicants need to have official transcripts sent from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions where they've been enrolled. They need to take the GRE, but they do not need to take the LSAT. If they have taken the LSAT that's great, but it is not required. They need three letters of recommendations. There are two short essays as part of the application. One is called the “statement of purpose” in which applicants should lay out their goals for graduate study and beyond, why they want to be at JSP, what they hope to get out of our Ph.D. program. The second essay is the “personal statement,” which is a brief biographical essay about how the applicant’s experiences have led them to be interested in applying and pursuing a doctoral degree with JSP.

A. And then, finally, applicants can also submit samples of their written work from coursework or publications that they have. Publications are not necessary, but a sample of written academic work is.

Q. What's the typical educational background of a successful applicant to the program? Did I hear you say earlier, that two thirds of the students in the program have JDs?

A. Most students don't come into JSP with JDs. About one-fifth or a bit more who enter the program already have a JD, an MA or an LLM. About a third of our students come right from a bachelor's program into the Ph.D. program. Another third of our entering students don’t have degrees beyond their undergraduate degree, but have work experience of some sort before entering graduate school. So there are a lot of different pathways into JSP. Many of the students who do not have a JD when they enter JSP will earn one either at Berkeley Law or at another law school while they're completing their Ph.D. Ultimately about two-thirds of our graduates have a JD along with their Ph.D.

A. JSP graduates who don’t earn a JD are typically interested in going into an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program for which a JD is not necessary. But, just to underscore, a JD is not necessary to apply for the JSP program.

Q. Does JSP interview applicants?

A. No. There are no interviews to be admitted to JSP, although prospective applicants can visit Berkeley, and we're happy to set up meetings with faculty and students, if they like. Once students are admitted to JSP, we do have an admit day for JSP admits in March each year. And we provide travel and lodging support for each admit to come to Berkeley, to check out the program, to check out their cohort, to meet other students and faculty, and so on.

Q. How many applications does JSP typically receive?

A. We receive between 80 and 110 applications per year, and our admit rate is somewhere between 8 and 12%, depending upon the number of applications we get. We're looking for cohorts between 8 and 10 each year, and our yield rate is about 70 to 80% of those admitted. So, if people get into JSP, they generally come.

Q. Let's talk about what you're looking for, then, to select that cohort. What matters the most? If you were to look at somebody's application materials, what do you go to first?

A. We do a holistic review of each application, but what we're really looking for are clues about the applicant’s promise of being an outstanding academic, whether as a faculty member in a law school, or in an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program. An applicant’s grades and the kinds of courses that they’ve taken in their previous academic programs matter. A JD or an MA may help signal an applicant’s promise, but it's not determinative in terms of the admissions process. More important are how an applicant signals they are interested in committing themselves to the theoretical, substantive, and methodological training offered at JSP that will enable them to do cutting-edge research and teach at the highest levels of academia.

We gather clues about a student’s promise from different parts of the application. The statement of purpose, for example, can tell us how students frame what they're interested in, what they're committed to. They don't have to have a fully developed research agenda.
They don't have to have their dissertation plan all worked out. That's what they're going to figure out while they're in the Ph.D. program. Letters of recommendation can tell us how others view the applicant. And samples of academic writing tell us how students actually set up scholarly questions they're interested in and the way they try to answer them given their prior levels of training.

We also try to gauge how their background experiences, whether it’s in law or another field, inform their professional goals. We have a number of students who come to us with professional experience, but a number who don't. Whatever an applicant’s background experiences, we’re interested in how that has shaped an applicant’s orientation, and their excitement and promise for doing exciting graduate work at JSP.

Q. And you said they don't have to have their dissertation topic picked out when they apply?

A. Not at all. In fact, we actually prefer that they don't. Going through a Ph.D. program is importantly about learning how to ask significant research questions that are important theoretically and, especially in JSP, are relevant to policy and law in the deepest possible ways. Almost every dissertation out of JSP seeks to push underneath the assumptions that inform a law, a policy, or a popular conception about law, policy, or social problems. What students learn at JSP is how to answer research questions regarding law, policy, and society in a cutting-edge way, in an innovative and illuminating way, and in a manner that might matter for social and institutional change.

A. This is an important value-added aspect of coming to JSP. This is what we help and facilitate students to form -- a research agenda and to gain research tools in order to execute that agenda.

Q. And, how do you gauge their ability to do that type of high level research? I'm just thinking about your yield rate. Obviously, you're only taking a small percentage of the total applicants. You mentioned the statement of purpose, you mentioned the letters of recommendations. Just wondering, what types of things are you looking for to say to you, "This is the extraordinary candidate, who will thrive in this program."

A. It’s a tall order to gauge an applicant’s promise. We use everything in the application – the academic record to date, the letters of rec, statement of purpose and personal statement, any sample academic work they provide, the test scores. Again, it’s a holistic assessment. We don't do interviews, although sometimes students do visit us, and we do get to know them. Based on all the evidence we have through the application, we try to put together a picture. A sense of who the student is right now, and who they might become. The admissions committee is looking for certain clues that their experience tells them will translate into success in the JSP program and importantly beyond the program in a career.

We’re constantly asking questions about the applicants, as represented in their application materials. One of the important questions is how do people write? How do they express themselves? Even though they may not have an advanced degree, how sophisticated are they given where they're at in their personal and academic development? How have they negotiated the academic experiences they have had? How do they frame the issues that they're interested in?

The other thing that we look for are applicants who are quite committed to an academic experience. Again, we're looking for applicants’ promise in terms of how they put together the kinds of issues and questions they're interested in. How they write, how they express themselves. The kinds of academic experiences they've had. The letters of recommendation are really important because we're looking for recommenders who can actually comment on an applicant’s academic promise. One of the things that I always tell potential applicants is, "It may be better to get a letter of recommendation from somebody who really knows your academic potential, with whom you’ve had meaningful professional engagement, and has really seen your academic performances, rather than going for the most famous person who may not you as well."

Sometimes a prospective applicant will say to me, "I know an important judge on the federal bench." Or, "I know a Supreme Court Justice. Could I get a letter of recommendation from them?" My answer is, "That would be wonderful to receive a letter from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but does she really know your academic record? Does she really know what you've done in your academic career thus far? And, can she really comment in a substantive way about your promise as an academic? If she can, awesome! But don’t get the letter unless that super high-status can write a meaningful letter about you.”

Q. On the academic/scholarly side, how much do the successful candidates tend to have already when they come in? Are these candidates who have already been doing academic writing? And, I'm thinking here beyond what they wrote in their college classes, obviously. Have they done really sophisticated legal writing already?

A. Some applicants have and some haven't. I would say most have not. We do get some applicants who have already published a paper or two in a law review, but I would say the vast majority, 80%, 90% of our students have really not yet done that kind of work. So, in that regard this is very different from a fellowship program where people might be returning to academia from practice having perhaps published something in a law journal or another academic venue.

Speaking of practicing law, we do have applicants who have considerable experience as attorneys, but they generally haven't done high-level scholarly research prior to applying to JSP. This is why they're coming to a Ph.D. program, to get that training and to get immersed into that world. Now you might say, "Well, how do they know if they want to commit to academia?" How does anyone truly know about committing to a career until one is in the middle of it? It's tough to know. And again, this is where we try to discern clues from the application materials, such as letters of recommendation, where the recommenders speak to evidence of applicants’ commitment and interest in coming to JSP and academia.

I also think that applicants who have been out of school for a while, who have had practical experience, be it in law or another field, have had a chance to reflect on what their strengths are, what their sustained interests are, what their passions are. They may be better able to express those kinds of aspects of their identity than younger students. Although, again, we have a mix of students, as I said before, students coming right out of undergraduate programs, students coming in with JDs, students coming in with practice experience. This is another interesting and exciting part of the program. All these kinds of students meet and exchange their experiences and their interests within and across their cohorts.

Q. Does the program have a preference for applicants in particular curricular or research areas?

A. No, we're interested in all the areas of inquiry we have represented on the faculty. As much as possible, the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee tries to balance the areas that we accept students in. I think this is also one of the strengths of JSP. When you enter the program, you’re going to encounter peers in your cohort, in other cohorts, who are interested in law and philosophy, legal history, law and economics, sociology of law, law and politics, critical perspectives, and more. They're interested in qualitative and quantitative empirical work. They're interested in work that is not empirical in nature.

That's one of the strengths of JSP – having this all under one roof. It also can be a bit unsettling, I think, for first year students to experience that kind of intellectual diversity. But over time this is what we think makes our program unique. JSP students learn to move and work across various boundaries and to think about how to ask research questions that might connect or address puzzles that span multiple areas of inquiry.

This aspect of JSP connects to another thing that we're looking for in applicants – students who are willing to experiment in their thinking. To not be confined and siloed in particular research areas, or particular fields, or particular areas of law. We're interested in students who are willing to try out different ways of looking at legal questions, legal problems, social issues, and social problems.

Q. Does work experience matter in the application process?

A. It really doesn't, except that sometimes students come in with background experiences that can help them with their research. If somebody, for example, has worked in international human rights and in their statement of purpose writes that they're interested in doing research in that area, that experience may help them in forming interesting questions. Background experiences can also help sometimes with access to particular settings if a student wants to do research, for example, in that field. Otherwise, what one has done in their background simply signals how an applicant has navigated the world.

Q. Do you make any special efforts to recruit applicants from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds?

A. Yes we do. We direct market JSP to about a thousand colleges, including historically black colleges and universities in the United States, and universities in Canada, Europe, and other regions. We reach out to scholars who are well positioned to identify and recommend diverse applicants to JSP. We make efforts to link diverse students with relevant affinity groups, both within the JSP student body, and Berkeley Law, and on the Berkeley campus more generally. We have a standing JSP Diversity Committee that is chaired by the Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee, and has a number of faculty and students on it. That committee is charged with working with the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee, as well as working with Berkeley Law, more generally, to recruit and retain diverse students.

Our efforts along these lines have paid off. Just taking the last five years, for example, we've admitted the most diverse cohorts in the 40-year history of JSP. Over these five years, the cohorts are over 50% women, and 40% self-identified, under-represented minorities. We also have a very low attrition rate from the program. Ultimately, we believe our efforts will lead to the placement of an ever more diverse set of JSP graduates into academia and increasingly into legal academia.

Q. Is that committee that you just referenced, is that the same committee that actually selects the Ph.D. candidates?

A. No, it's a different committee. The committee that selects applicants into JSP is the JSP Graduate Admissions committee. The faculty member who’s chaired that committee most recently is Professor Catherine Albiston, and she's rotating out of this position as well this year, after two consecutive two-year terms. Professor Rachel Stern will Chair the committee for 2019-2021. I addition to the Chair (who also acts as the Head Graduate Advisor), the JSP Admissions Committee comprises three other faculty members, plus a JSP graduate student representative -- an advanced student who is selected by their student peers to sit on the Committee. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO), Margo Rodriguez, provides administrative support. She is our chief liaison between JSP, the Berkeley Graduate Division, and the Berkeley Law Registrar.

Q. Let’s transition over to the financial aspect of a JSP PhD. This program is obviously very different from a VAP or fellowship program. Tell me how it works – tuition, stipends, etc.

A. Right. All JSP students are guaranteed a multi-year funding package in the same way that any of our usual Ph.D. program competitors might offer. Typically, we're competing for Ph.D. students with other top doctoral programs in political science/political theory, sociology, history, economics, and psychology at a lot of top universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, UCLA, Michigan, Yale, Columbia, Wisconsin, and Northwestern.

The JSP multi-year base funding package includes graduate tuition, health insurance, a living stipend, an annual travel allocation, and two years of summer funding. The initial package is five years, although students often times can get more than that, but the base package is five years. If they're studying for the JD/PhD, there's also some funding support for the JD, and Berkeley Law – with full support of our dean, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky – is committed to increasing the level of support for JD tuition and the funding support in the JSP Ph.D. program.

JSP students are also quite successful at applying for extramural sources of support for their dissertation research. They routinely receive grants from places such as the National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other private foundations.
So, funding is, I think, improving at JSP to support graduate education. It certainly could be better, given the cost of living here in the Bay Area, but it is improving.

Q. When you say JSP students receive a stipend, are you comfortable sharing the amount of that stipend, generally?

A. Our stipends for the incoming JSP cohort are in the lower thirty-thousand range plus additional stipends during the first two summers. Health insurance is included. It's very expensive to live in the Bay Area, as I mentioned, and we’re committed to increasing the stipends of every student in the program to keep up the cost of living. But it’s difficult to do so. In addition to the stipend, JSP students also receive graduate tuition support, and if they are in the Berkeley Law JD program, there is some additional support available for JD tuition.

Q. You mentioned that they get health insurance.

A. Yes.

Q. How about access to any subsidized or university housing?

A. All Berkeley graduate students have access to university housing. It is not subsidized, although it is less expensive than the market rate for this area. There is some priority given to students with families, and the housing is good. There's not enough of it, but we have many students who live in that housing, and I know they find it to be good.

Q. You mentioned travel funding, what's the amount of that funding?

A. It's $1,000 per year for the amount of time that you're in the JSP program. This amount allows students to go to at least one academic conference per year which is really important for professional development. And, there are other sources of funding on the Berkeley campus for academic travel funding, especially for international conferences.

Q. Let’s turn to the quid pro quo side of receiving this money. Are JSP students teaching while they're completing their PhD’s?

A. Yes they teaching, which is also part of professional development, but they typically don’t start until their second year in the PhD program. During the first year, JSP students are on fellowship because we consider that year a transition year into the Ph.D. program. In the second, third, and part of their fourth years, JSP student funding comes through a graduate student instructor (GSI) appointment, which are teaching assistantships in our undergraduate Legal Studies program. The summer funding for the first two summers is through a research apprenticeship in which students select from a number of potential projects to work with a JSP faculty member.

Towards the end of their careers, students also have other opportunities for campus fellowships so they don’t have to be teaching at all or as much while they're conducting research for or writing their dissertations.

Q. So, I should have followed up earlier on the summer stipend amount. How much is that amount? And, when you say that they're working on particular research projects with professors over the summers, does that mean that they can't work on their own projects related to their PhD?

A. The summer stipend for the first two summers is three thousand per summer. After their first summer, some students combine the apprenticeship with teaching, another GSI or other work. What we found is that at least in the early parts of the program, students are really interested in getting involved in research with a faculty member. And one of the best ways to do this is to work with a professor on a project that the professor's got going. There are also publication opportunities there, depending upon the type of project it is and where the project is in terms of its development.

We put students with professors through matching process in which professors supply an abstract of the project they’re working on, their project goals for the summer, and the expected activities for the research apprentice. Students see the array of abstracts and rank their top two or three choices. Almost every student gets matched up with their first or second choices unless we have a shortage of projects compared to the number of students in the first or second-year cohorts. If that happens, sometimes we have multiple students working for the same professor.

Q. Let's go back to the teaching side. How many courses are they typically teaching?

A. As a GSI, a student will be attached to one lecture course per semester, teaching two smaller break-out sections of that course. They’re also obligated to attend the larger lecture, hold office hours, and participate in the grading of assignments and exams. There may be periodic meetings with the faculty member teaching the course. This is what we call a 50% appointment, which means that total number of hours that the GSI works is not more than 20 hours per week, which includes all the activities I mentioned and any prep time for the sections.

Q. Okay, and do they ever have the opportunity during their Ph.D. program to be the primary instructor for a course?

A. Yes, there are some opportunities. For more advanced students, there are smaller, writing-intensive freshman/sophomore seminars that they can teach. In the past, we've sometimes had opportunities for students who already have their JDs to teach some sort of JD seminar and we’re looking to see if we can make that a more general opportunity for JSP students with JD’s, although we’re not sure whether this can be done or not.

More generally, there are University of California policies that limit the opportunities that Ph.D. students have to teach standalone courses.

Even so, there are some unique GSI possibilities in JSP beyond teaching at the undergraduate level. Our introductory Ph.D. statistics course and our doctoral pedagogy course have GSIs assigned to them. Students who are interested in teaching statistics at the graduate level are often interested in being the GSI for the stat course.
The pedagogy course is really interesting. Every graduate student at Berkeley, before they teach, is required to take a semester-long pedagogy seminar in their home or another program on campus. We offer a pedagogy seminar in JSP and the course is really co-taught seminar by the GSI and a JSP faculty member.

Q. What topics are covered in the pedagogy seminar?

A. The course is geared to help a graduate student prepare to lead break-out discussion sections of larger lecture courses. But it covers all the foundational aspects of teaching, from how to structure a course, to how to lead course discussion, to questions of inclusions and diversity. The course covers evaluation and grading, formulating assignments, developing syllabi. Giving lectures, handling questions, troubleshooting in classes. Working with folks who require special accommodations. All of it. The JSP student who is selected to co-teach the course is generally an advanced JSP student who’s won a campus-level teaching award for their work as a GSI in Legal Studies courses. JSP always has a superb group of GSIs and every year we have two or three doctoral students win teaching awards.

In addition to discussions and presentations led by the instructors, the course is also organized around a series of panels for which we bring in advanced doctoral students who have been teaching for a while to talk about their experiences. We bring in undergraduates to talk about their experiences, as well. We also have a small panel with other faculty and doctoral students on work-life balance as it relates to professional careers and teaching in academia. That panel covers questions like how can one best managing commitments across teaching, across research, and across all the other responsibilities that adults have outside of the workplace.

The pedagogy seminar also sometimes has panels with award-winning instructors from the JD faculty who come and talk about best practices for teaching a 1L course. They also discuss the more general challenges of teaching JD courses in law schools and how they manage those challenges.

Q. I wish more law faculty had the opportunity to take a course like that. That sounds great.

A. Well, actually, the reason why Berkeley implemented this requirement at the Ph.D. level is because traditionally there was no training for doctoral students who were going to go out and spend a good portion of their academic careers teaching. They received a world-class education and experience in research, but training and education in teaching was hit and miss at best. I would think that almost every American university or college has programs that support teaching of some sort, but I still think that systematic training to teach at the doctoral level is relatively uncommon. And courses that teach law professors how to teach might be even rarer. Having a semester-long course on pedagogy and a requirement that students take it before they teach is really an advance along these lines.

Q. It feels like it should be more mainstream. I'm glad it is at Berkeley.

A. Yeah. That we have the requirement is a testament to folks at Berkeley wanting to take college teaching more seriously than in previous generations.

Q. It's not our norm for sure.

A. Yeah.

Q. Let’s skip over to the intellectual community in the JSP program. You mentioned that there's about 60 JSP students at Berkeley at a time. How do those students get together professionally, intellectually? Do they have, for example, a workshop series where they present their work to each other? Is there anything like that?

A. In any given year, there about 45 JSP students in residence with the rest perhaps out collecting data for their dissertations or on a fellowship somewhere else. In addition to a lot of social events, JSP students get together at all kinds of professional events.
There are student-led events that students organize through the JSP Law and Society Graduate Students Association (LSGSA). Even though the title of the organization contains the words, “law and society,” the association is more inclusive intellectually than that title might suggest. Through the LSGSA, students organize what they call the Friday Forum at which they present research to each other. The LSGSA also organizes what students call the Gateway Conference for first-year JSP students, which provides a chance for the first-year students to present their work and receive feedback from more advanced JSP students and faculty.

JSP funds and supports all these events. The annual conference travel funds provided to JSP students also means that they're getting out really early in their careers to present and learn about research at other schools, and they're developing professional networks.
They're also connecting to the global network of JSP students. There are about 150 graduates from the program, and they're on the faculties at law schools, interdisciplinary programs, and disciplinary departments throughout the U.S. and more than two-dozen countries around the world.

There are also many other ways that JSP students can participate in the intellectual life of JSP, Berkeley Law, and the Berkeley campus more broadly. There are multiple ongoing workshops at which students can fully participate, including the speaker series at the Center for the Study of Law and Society; the Law and Economics Workshop; the Law, Philosophy and Political Theory Workshop; and the Law and History Workshop. There are also vibrant topical workshop groups that include JSP faculty and students, and faculty and students from other programs at Berkeley. These include the Carceral Studies Group that focuses on research about punishment and society, criminal justice, and mass incarceration; the Berkeley Immigration and Migration Initiative (BIMI); or the Law, Text and Machine Learning Workshop. And then there are the countless speaker series that Berkeley disciplinary departments and other units hold on a regular basis that are all open to students. There are always opportunities to not only hear the presentations, but also meet the presenters in small groups or one-on-one, over a meal or coffee, or in other gatherings. Students also can receive academic credit for going to the first set of workshops I mentioned.

There’s also the Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) Fellowship, which is run through the Center for the Study of Law and Society, that JSP students can apply to. BELS is a competitively-awarded research fellowship that brings together Berkeley doctoral students conducting quantitative and/or qualitative empirical projects on law and legal institutions into a year-long workshop. Each cohort typically has about ten students, representing multiple programs around campus (including JSP). The BELS Fellowship comes with research money, as well, but not graduate tuition.

Berkeley, in general, is kind of an intellectual interdisciplinary cornucopia of talks and conferences, and they're all open to JSP students. JSP faculty and faculty in other programs are always interested to help JSP students connect with these talks and conferences. So, there's a lot of opportunity there.

Q. So, would that include, for example, the Berkeley Law faculty's regular colloquium or speaker series?

A. Yes, there is a regular Berkeley Law workshop, which I don’t believe is open to students and is organized by the JD faculty in the law school. However, JSP students and JD students are welcome to attend any of the faculty job talks that are given throughout the year as part of the Berkeley Law faculty workshop. Going to these talks is an interesting and valuable experience for students. As I mentioned earlier, this year we hired nine new faculty members to the Berkeley Law faculty, including two specifically in JSP. There were probably 25 or so job talks throughout the year in order to successfully pull off that scale of recruitment. I would say that there was a good half a dozen JSP students at every single job talk, and they weren't always the same students. Who attended depended upon the topic and student availability, but there were a lot of students at each of the talks and, of course, a lot of faculty members.

Q. Let’s talk about advising in the JSP program. As students are moving through the program, choosing dissertation topics, starting their own research agenda, what type of advising are they receiving through that process?

A. Every first-year JSP student is assigned a temporary advisor based on the student’s interests. We call these advisors temporary because we want to make sure that when students come in to the program they have at least one faculty member they can begin talking with about getting settled in the program academically and to begin thinking through their trajectory in the program. But we don't expect temporary advisors will necessarily be permanent advisors. I would say that in about half the cases the temporary advisor becomes the permanent advisor while in half the student's interests change, or what have you, and student shifts advisors.

In addition to temporary advisors, the Chair of the JSP Admissions Committee also acts as a general advisor to Ph.D. students. And then there are several milestones through a JSP student’s movement through the program at which they receive professional advice. There's a review at the end of the second year, for example, with two faculty members. This is not an opportunity to weed students out of the program. This is simply a chance to take stock of where the students have gone, what courses they've taken, what things they've done thus far, and how they might want to plan out their next few years in the program might look as they begin looking toward a dissertation or even toward eventual job markets that might be attractive to them.

In the second and third years, students also work closely with faculty members and peers to prepare for two written doctoral exams. One of those is in a discipline, such as law and economics, or legal history, or sociology of law. And then, one is in an interdisciplinary field which is chosen and formulated by the student. That disciplinary field is generally a topic that will be aligned with the dissertation topic, ultimately.

In the third and fourth years in the program the students select their primary dissertation advisor, and they form a Ph.D. dissertation committee that will have a core of JSP faculty members, but may often include a member from the JD program at Berkeley Law. And then, by Berkeley graduate division requirement, it also must have a so-called “external” member, who is a member of the Berkeley faculty, but not appointed on the Berkeley law faculty.

The composition of the doctoral dissertation committee tells you a little something about Berkeley. Berkeley, in general, is an interdisciplinary campus at every level, but especially with regard to Ph.D. education. The requirement of having someone on the dissertation committee outside one’s own program is over and above the interdisciplinarity within JSP, and adds yet another layer of interdisciplinarity to our program. And then, finally, in the fourth and fifth years, students write the dissertation.

So, at multiple points in the program, there are multiple mechanisms and sources of advising that students get. Temporary advisor, graduate studies admissions chair, second-year review, doctoral dissertation chair. You might think that such a structure would be a recipe for a lot of conflict or at least conflicting advice. Sometimes that’s the case. But mostly, it means that students are able to hear and try out ideas with multiple scholars, which we think strengthens students training. It also means that students have to find their own voice and who to rely on for what kind of advice. Mostly though, I find that advising in the JSP program is a collective effort. I find that students can always go to faculty members in the program who aren't on their committees, or who aren't helping them with their written exams, and get advice. This is a very open and advice-friendly kind of place. It doesn't always work perfectly, to be sure, and it doesn't work smoothly for every student, but in general, we strive to offer multiple kinds of mentoring and advice for students.

Q. What type of feedback is the Ph.D. advisor, or the Ph.D. advising committee providing on drafts of the dissertation throughout this process?

A. There’s multiple types of feedback. First of all, there's the substantive advice that students receive leading up to and during what we call the “qualifying exam” or simply the, QE. In JSP, the QE is really a 2-3 hour face-to-face discussion of the dissertation prospectus among the student and their committee. The dissertation prospectus is a proposal that advances the key research questions or research hypotheses that the student expects to address in their dissertation research. The prospectus lays out a plan for answering those questions, or for testing those hypotheses. The dissertation committee, by the time the student is formulating that prospectus, will have read multiple drafts, and given feedback, both oral and written, on that prospectus. They’ll provide feedback on the research questions/hypotheses themselves and the significance of it all to relevant literatures, theories, events in the world, and law or policy. They’ll provide a great deal of feedback on the methods used, whatever they might be. Another important aspect of the QE is to make sure that everyone involved – the student and their committee – is aligned in terms of the expectations for the dissertation. This doesn’t mean that the dissertation might not change as the student works on it. They almost always do in some way. The key thing is that the student comes out of the QE meeting with a clear path forward for doing their dissertation research and if they do change paths, they know where they’ve been so that they can chart a new path forward in communication with their committee.

For JSP students, the QE can and should be an exciting discussion to facilitate students setting sail, if you will, on the dissertation journey in best shape possible. Depending upon what the student and the dissertation committee agree to, the student might produce a dissertation that consists of three publishable articles or more like a research monograph, like a book. What form the dissertation takes depends upon the disciplinary audiences to which the student is trying to speak.

Students and dissertation committees will have different preferences on form and timing of feedback as the student writes the dissertation. Some dissertation committees want to see each paper or chapter as it's completed. Other dissertation committees will want the primary advisor to look at each paper or chapter as it's completed, approve it, and then look at an entire draft of the dissertation down the line to provide feedback. Different dissertation committees will work differently, but there's always an iterative process of feedback and advice, oral and written for the student, along the way.

Of course, the primary dissertation advisor is a key person in this process. They're the person who ultimately is responsible for facilitating the student writing the best dissertation they can. But they and the entire committee will be

A second kind of feedback that the student receives is more strategic about how to position their work for the various job markets their interested in entering or as a piece of scholarship in what the relevant field or audiences might be. Students receive this kind of advice throughout the program, but it’s especially intensive and important as they produce their dissertation, which is or should be their signature research up to that point in their career.

Q. And what types of formal training do JSP students receive in these interdisciplinary areas. So, to the extent that somebody wants to go into law and economics, or law and history, what type of methodological training are they receiving in these different areas?

A. There are courses and training in both social science methodology and in the substantive fields represented in the JSP program. In terms of methods, JSP students are required to take an introductory doctorate level statistics class. For some JSP students, this course may be more about gaining what you could call statistical literacy. For those students who are interested in doing advanced quantitative work, they will generally regard the intro course we offer as a foundation or gateway to more advanced courses. We also offer a more advanced statistics course that covers causal inference with special application to the study of law and legal institutions

Some JSP students are especially interested in learning quantitative methods in the context of particular disciplines to which they want their research to speak. These students may take the econometrics sequence in the Department of Economics, for example, or they may take advanced statistics courses in the Department of Political Science or in the Sociology Department. Some of our students take their quantitative training even further by earning a MA in Demography or Biostatistics. In terms of methods, however, it is not only quantitatively-oriented students who take additional methods courses in departments on campus. The Department of History, for example, now offers a course in historical methods and JSP students have taken that course. And Berkeley is renowned for the variety of qualitative field methods courses offered across multiple departments, including the qualitative field methods course offered in JSP that is jointly taught with the Department of Sociology.

Within JSP, we also offer an introductory-level research design course. This is not another statistics course. It's a course that teaches students how to formulate research questions and pair them to appropriate kinds of methodologies, be they quantitative, qualitative, or otherwise. This course helps students begin thinking about how to make the transition from being a student to being a scholar, and about how to ultimately formulate a dissertation topic and research questions.

In addition to the methods training, JSP has a number of distribution requirements in what we call foundations areas that represent the areas of inquiry that we cover in the program. You have to take courses in at least three foundations areas, such as in law and economics, sociology of law, legal history, or law and philosophy. And then, students build on those foundations courses by either taking additional courses in JSP in those areas, or taking additional courses in other departments.

We advise students to take courses in the disciplines that they're interested in and virtually every JSP students takes some proportion of their coursework in other disciplinary programs on the Berkeley campus. And, of course, JSP students can take courses in the JD program with many students earning their JD’s at Berkeley Law. What this all means is that in addition to the unique courses students take in JSP, they are taking courses in our excellent JD program and can take courses in any of the world-class Ph.D. programs that we have on the Berkeley campus. If a student is going to specialize in law and economics, for example, we urge them to take economics courses in Economics Department, the Goldman School (of Public Policy), the Haas School of Business, or other units on campus that offer courses in aspects of economics. And, the same thing with history, sociology, political science, psychology, etc. And if students are studying a particular topical area, such as punishment and society, they might knit together a series of courses in the topic that cuts across JSP, Berkeley Law, and multiple programs on the Berkeley campus, which happens to be really strong in this area.

So, students are taking courses in JSP, and they're taking courses in the JD program, and they're taking courses in other Berkeley doctoral programs.

Q. Would it be right, as I listen to you talk about this, is it right to say that students have a tremendous amount of flexibility in choosing their specific course work within the JSP program?

A. Yes, absolutely. Unlike a program that has a unit minimum or maximum, JSP has distribution requirements. Students must take three foundations courses in different fields; then two additional seminars, one of which can be outside the program, and then can take additional seminars on top of all of that.

In a doctoral program, there is always debate about what the right amount of coursework is, about whether there’s too much or not enough and which courses are absolutely necessary. Doctoral programs go through cycles that lead to them review and change their requirements about every decade or so to introduce more or less “structure” or more or less “flexibility.” Some of these changes are informed by cycles in styles of research that wax and wane, some of this results from broader fads and fashions in graduate education, and some of this results from changes in the world that demand attention or new methodologies and technologies. Think about how much changes in computing technology has changed education and research over the past few decades. I think in JSP we’re in a good position to take advantage of all these changes, to keep at the vanguard of graduate training in the interdisciplinary study of law and legal institutions.

One thing I should also mention, too, is that the JSP program offers financial support for students to take additional offsite methods training, such as at the Institute for Social Research at Michigan or the Institute for Qualitative and Multimethod Research at Syracuse.
We also provide support for additional training for students pursuing work oriented toward the humanities, such as special training in languages or other research tools. So, students might go to a summer language institute, statistics workshops, or data science workshops offsite.

Q. In terms of the number of years, how many years does the JSP program typically take, and how many of those years are course work, and how many are exclusively working on their dissertation?

A. It's generally six years to finish the Ph.D. or seven if a student earns their JD at Berkeley Law with the JSP PhD. JSP courses are law courses and can double count for both the Ph.D. and JD programs. If a student does their JD at another law school – taking a leave from JSP to do so – it may add 2-3 years on to the total time to early the JD/Ph.D., depending upon how and whether that other law school counts any of the coursework completed at JSP. Focusing just on the JSP Ph.D. program, it's about two and half years of coursework, about a year of independent and small group study related to the written disciplinary and the topical exams, and two and half years or more devoted to the dissertation.

Q. We've gone through a lot of the details of the program. Let's step back. What do you think makes JSP standout from other law-related Ph.D. degree programs, or interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs, or even law school fellowships around the country?

A. JSP is unique in providing the rigor of a top-flight Ph.D. training, but in an elite law school setting, all embedded in one of the world's great academic research institutions. There isn't another interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in law and legal institutions like JSP in the world. There are pieces of our program all over the world, partly because of our graduates start and lead different graduate programs at the universities where they work. In terms of being in a top-flight law school, being at a top-flight research university, and then being a well-structured and successful Ph.D. program, JSP is unique.

I think a second issue is that, because we're in a law school, JSP students receive training that's more integrated with law, rather than siloed in a discipline. So, if you think about JSP versus a disciplinary Ph.D. program, what typically happens is that you get your Ph.D. in the discipline where you put on your disciplinary hat. Then you go over to do your JD and you put on your law school hat. It's up to the student, basically, to figure out how to bridge the two fields in their research and teaching. In JSP we're structured to try to bridge the two. We provide training in the disciplines and we provide training to integrate, and to be interdisciplinary. And then we're housed in a law school, so we're very, very close to the law.

This means that JSP students learn different ways of formulating and answering research questions about law and legal institutions, and importantly learn how to navigate across law school, disciplinary, and interdisciplinary fields of research. We like to say that people learn how to “speak law,” they learn how to “speak JSP,” and how to “speak discipline.” Their ability to speak these different languages enables them to navigate across and thrive in different academic worlds, and understand the perspectives of diverse scholars and students.

Q. So, once they've received this training, obviously the goal for most of them, I assume is to get an academic position. Focusing on those students who want to get an academic position in a law school, what type of mentoring do they receive related to the job market?
JSP students receive both one-on-one mentorship from their advisors and through ongoing professional development workshops. JSP holds workshops that cover such topics as the job market, publishing, getting the most out of one’s advising relationships and so on. We urge students to begin attending these workshops in their second or third years, and to begin thinking ahead about job markets rather than waiting until the last moment. In addition to these sources of information and mentoring, there is also the Berkeley Law placement committee that is responsible for facilitating Berkeley JD student success on the academic law market, and the chair of that committee coordinates closely with the chair of the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee, and the chairs of individual JSP dissertation committees in positioning students on the market.

Not to be too clichéd, but it’s true, in addition to excellent credentials and potential as a scholar and teacher, it takes a village and active networks to get someone a job in academia. The real advice is that students after their first couple of years need to begin to think proactively and look forward at the market that's coming up. They need to be attending conferences and meeting relevant scholars in their field; they need to be begin thinking strategically about Berkeley faculty with whom they’ve taken classes and who might interested in being on their dissertation committee and who might eventually write letters of rec or call someone on a hiring committee on their behalf. Students can't wait until you're getting ready to go on the market to position themselves for it if they want to be successful.

Q. Do the students have an opportunity to do a mock job talk?

A. Yes, they do. They can do multiple talks if necessary. Those talks are generally attended by members of the student’s dissertation committee and JSP student peers. There may be other faculty present who are on the dissertation committee, but have been deemed by the student or the dissertation advisor to be really important to be in the room so that they can replicate some of the questions that the student may receive in a job talk setting.

Mock job talks are really interesting in that in addition to the formal presentation by the student they typically have two kinds of Q&A sessions. The first replicates the front stage questions that the student may receive wherever they’re going to interview and the second goes backstage to presentation and Q&A response styles and strategies or the visuals, if any, that are used.

Different academic job markets, as you might suspect, have different norms in terms of job talks. They also require really different kinds of framings for one’s research, and somewhat different presentational styles. To begin with, in political science or in sociology, the job talk is typically 40 to 45 minutes, plus about 30 minutes of questions. Whereas in law, the job talk may be 15 to 20 minutes plus 55 minutes of Q and A. So, that difference in and of itself requires a very different way of framing one’s research in order to be successful in communicating what is interesting and important about one’s research. The key thing we try to communicate to JSP students is that in whatever market one is trying to get a job, it’s important, in addition to doing excellent research, to signal what one’s valued-added is as a JSP graduate. What does one bring to the table as a graduate of an interdisciplinary doctoral program focused on law and legal institutions?

Q. Do the JSP students receive feedback on the application materials themselves?

A. Absolutely. Again, they’ll receive multiple layers of advice from their dissertation advisor, from the members of their dissertation committee, and the Berkeley Law placement committee, and other JSP and Berkeley Law faculty. JSP faculty members may be differently positioned in different academic markets. Some may be more familiar with the history market, or the political science market, or the sociology market, whatever it may be. This is where it's really important for the primary academic advisor and the student to strategize about who they need to connect with in order to get their application materials to the appropriate framing, and in the right hands.

This is where peers can play important roles, as well. Especially peers who have just been on the market. The network of JSP alumni also can play a role. They’re not only important in perhaps getting a hiring committee to take a look at a JSP student’s application materials, but also and perhaps even more importantly in giving feedback on a student’s application materials.

Q. If you had to look back on the JSP students who wanted to go into a tenure-track, law teaching job, what percentage of those students do you think succeeded in landing in one of those jobs?

A. Well, over the 40 years of the program, we’ve graduated over 150 students, and about three quarters have gone into academia. Of those students, about three quarters have tenured or tenure track positions. So, JSP is a good bet if you want to go into legal academia or a law-related area in an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program.

Let me be more specific. Over the past five years, JSP has graduated 30 students, and 17 or 57% currently hold tenure-track positions, seven have postdoctoral or VAP positions, and six are not working in academia. Of the JSP graduates in academia, both those in tenure-track and those in temporary positions, 16 are in law schools. By contrast, in the most current survey of Berkeley doctoral alumni over the past five years, about 44% of Berkeley doctoral graduates hold tenure track positions. So, we're doing well in terms of placement even when compared to other world-class doctoral programs at Berkeley, most of which are ranked at number one or at least in the top 5 in their respective fields. We also do well comparatively in terms of being one of the top sources for law faculty in the country. We had an especially robust placement record this year, including a student who accepted a tenure-track position at Stanford Law, another student who accepted a tenure-track position at the London School of Economics, and another who accepted a prestigious UC Presidents postdoc at UCLA Law. We had still another JSP graduate accept a clerkship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (with great support and thanks to the very effective Berkeley Law Faculty Clerkship Committee).

Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that all of these placement statistics should be calibrated in light of the fiscal recession in 2008-09, which really constrained academic hiring and especially law school hiring for several years, and I think continues to reverberate even to the present.

Q. Let's turn to just a few broader policy questions.

A. Sure.

Q. Increasingly today, candidates on the law teaching market have Ph.D.’s, and often many of them also have completed VAPs or fellowships.

A. Right.

Q. Focusing just on those with Ph.D.’s, I'm wondering what you think are the benefits of the rise of Ph.D.’s on the law teaching market, and what do you think are the costs?

A. A benefit to law schools is that you can hire an entry-level faculty member who has a more defined research agenda than a candidate who did not go through a Ph.D. program. What you get of a Ph.D. program is the ability to formulate a research agenda and to pursue it – the research tools, the theory, and all that it takes to do that. It’s not that entry-level law school candidates with Ph.D.’s are smarter than those without a Ph.D. It’s that they are further along in developing their research agendas and how to pursue their agendas.

One cost is at the level of the candidate. It takes a lot longer to secure a law professorship. It used to be that a Ph.D. might substitute for some other experience, but what we're seeing now are JD/Ph.D.’s who have been a VAP, who have had a fellowship, who have clerked, and who may have practice experience of some kind. Securing a law faculty position is beginning to look like getting a faculty position at a medical school. In the medical school context, one might not secure an entry-level position at an elite institution until one is their mid-30s because of all of the internships and externships that one has to complete prior to becoming a full member of a medical faculty. The process through which has to go and the milestones that one has to achieve is prolonged in legal academia as it has been for decades in the field of academic medicine.

Another cost is institutional. There has been a sea change in law school hiring over the past several years with more JD/Ph.D.’s than ever being hired into top law schools, especially, but increasingly in non-elite many law schools. These hiring changes have led to a growing tension on law school faculties between hiring candidates with and without Ph.D.’s. Some law faculties frame these two trajectories as a trade-off. These arguments go something like this. Those who have PhD’s will not have practice or clerkship experience, and these experiential differences create differences not only in how legal research is conducted or defined, but how law is taught. There are trade-offs. JD/Ph.D.’s, so the argument goes, teach law courses in less practical ways. Yet the currency of a Ph.D. becomes more valuable as law schools, especially at the elite levels, want to up their research capacities. So there’s a tension between having entry-level folks come in with Ph.D.’s who have better developed research agendas than entry-level folks without Ph.D.’s.
As I said earlier, having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you smarter, but it may enable you to hit the ground running faster and perhaps to look more polished as you come through the door.

Does a Ph.D. trained law professor approach their 1L courses differently, for example, than a non-Ph.D. trained faculty member? Perhaps. I know that I can certainly see some differences here on the Berkeley Law faculty among my colleagues with and without Ph.D.’s who teach in our 1L curriculum. But the differences don’t always play out as one might expect. Faculty members sometimes compartmentalize how they're teaching a 1L contracts course, for example, or a 1L crim law course, compared to how they approach their research. They also shift how they teach a more advanced seminar where they might bring in work from law and society, or criminology, or sociology, or whatever it might be, or economics, to look at that topic. On the other hand, some of my colleagues who have it all – a Ph.D., a JD, and practice experience – and who teach in the 1L curriculum are some of the best instructors we have precisely because they offer practical perspectives and stretch the boundaries of conventional legal teaching to offer insights from their research or other interdisciplinary sources.

Q. I want to circle back to the discussion about practice experience, because one of the things that's interesting about a Ph.D. program versus a VAP or fellowship, is that at least for students who aren't entering the JSP program with a JD, it's impossible for them to have practice experience as a lawyer before they enter the program.

A. Right, sure.

Q. So, what does that mean for them when they go onto the job market? Does that mean that typically the student coming out of the JSP program does not have any practice experience?

A. There are trade-offs, as I just noted. I would say that if anything's going to drop off for a JSP student it's probably the practice experience. But we have a number of students who come into the program with JD’s and have substantial prior practice experience. We also have students, for example, who have earned their JD, but haven't finished their JSP Ph.D., and take time off to practice law. They then come back to finish their Ph.D. and go on the academic law market. For students who interrupt their Ph.D. to practice law, one always wonders if they’ll return to finish their Ph.D. But we have multiple examples where that has occurred and the students have succeeded quite well on the academic law market.

More typical would be students who finish both the JD and the JSP Ph.D., and then go into a clerkship or a VAP. That’s not practice experience, but it is experience apart from their Ph.D. program prior to going on the academic law job market. Again, I'm seeing more and more candidates who seem to have it all, which means that they've gained practice experience either prior to coming to JSP or interrupted their doctoral studies to practice.

Q. So, obviously for the students who have checked all the boxes, they would probably be very attractive candidates on the law faculty hiring market.

A. Sure.

Q. As for the candidate who, perhaps, has just completed the JSP program straight through, who doesn't have that practice experience, what do you think about that trade off, given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A. Well, law schools are in the business of educating lawyers. But as I said, especially for many law schools, they're trying to up their research game. I also don’t think that practice experience guarantees hiring a dynamic instructor or an instructor who can quite capably prepare a law student for legal practice. My sense is that law schools need to think about their faculties not as monolithic, but, as an integrated team on which different faculty members with different backgrounds bring different strengths. So, it may be that some faculty members will have JD/PhD’s and less practice experience, and they bring that formal research training with them. Other faculty members who may not have PhD’s or who may have Ph.D.’s, but also have practice experience, bring that experience with them. It’s also unclear to me how having Ph.D. influences the long-term research career that one has. Having a Ph.D. can certainly alter one’s style of research or where one wants to publish – only in law journals, for example, or in both law and peer-reviewed journals. Again, background is not always destiny. I have colleagues at Berkeley Law who have Ph.D.’s and who publish almost exclusively in law journals. There are colleagues with JD’s without Ph.D.’s who publish in peer-reviewed and law journals. Maybe it’s just situation at Berkeley Law, but it’s not clear how these changes in the academic preparation of law faculty will shake out in terms of where the field is going. It will be interesting to see!

I hope that one of the things that our interdisciplinary training in JSP does for our students is facilitate them being more conscious and sensitive to these changes and tensions, and to be respectful of future colleagues with very different backgrounds from their own.

Q. Last question for you, Cal.

A. Sounds good.

Q. So, as there's been this rise in PhD’s, VAPs, and fellowships on the law faculty hiring market, I think a lot of hiring committees have struggled when it comes to evaluating candidates’ work, because it's hard to tell how much of the work and ideas come from the candidates themselves, and how much comes from their mentors, advisors, and faculty at the school where they were fellows or Ph.D. students. How should we be thinking about that criticism?

A. This issue can be a challenge in any academic field. In any Ph.D. program, there's a lot of mentoring. Questions can be raised about whether the ideas that one sees from an entry-level candidate are the candidate’s or the mentor’s. I think that one of the key things that we teach students in JSP is to signal what are their signature ideas. Students have to stand and deliver, so to speak, in the job interview situation and in their application materials. In those contexts, it is important for candidates to compellingly signal their own potential for sustaining the level of research accomplishment they've demonstrated in their Ph.D. program. If a student can’t do this effectively, they’ll have a difficult time being hired.

Q. Any last comments on either the JSP program, or the state of law hiring more generally?

A. JSP offers law schools incredible opportunities in terms of its graduates. Students who graduate from JSP come with world-class research training, training in teaching, and well-formulated research agendas. They can move across the boundaries of legal and disciplinary scholarship. They can teach traditional law school courses, such as in the 1L curriculum, and more advanced or interdisciplinary seminars. We've also found over time that a JSP education also equips our graduates for successful, longer-term careers. As law schools become more interdisciplinary in their research aspirations, my sense is that JSP graduates will become even more attractive on the law school market than they have in the past – and they’ve done quite well in the past.


Posted by Jessica Erickson on August 2, 2019 at 07:09 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

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, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, July 26, 2019

Interview with Miriam Seifter on the William H. Hastie Fellowship Program at the University of Wisconsin Law School

Next up in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors is Miriam Seifter, an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School.  For the past two years, she has chaired the committee that oversees the William H. Hastie Fellowship Program at Wisconsin.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Miriam to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Miriam, for participating in this series!

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

Q. Tell me a little bit about the Hastie Fellowship Program, including its history.

A. The Hastie Fellowship is an academic fellowship program aimed to help prepare candidates for the law teaching market. The program is named in honor of William H. Hastie, who was a renowned lawyer, teacher, judge, and civil rights advocate who, among other things, championed the value of legal education. The Fellowship was founded in large part by Professor James E. Jones, who was a labor law expert and one of our celebrated professors here at Wisconsin. The program has been around for over 40 years, and it reflects a commitment to foster diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Q. That's great. Tell me your role with the program.

A. I have been on the Hastie Fellowship Committee for the past three years and was the chair of it for two years, although I am not on the committee this coming year.

Q. I'd love to move chronologically through the fellowship starting with the application process and moving to the fellowship itself and then the job market. Turning first to the application process, when does the committee start to accept applications?

A. We accept applications beginning October 1st each year, and the deadline is February 1st. I should note that we are currently hiring every other year and just hired a new fellow, so we will next open applications in October 2020.

Q. Are you reviewing those applications on a rolling basis?

A. We take a look periodically, but we do not make any decisions until the deadline actually passes.

Q. What materials does a candidate who wants to apply need to submit?

A. This information is on our website. It is a personal statement, a resume or CV, a research proposal, two or three letters of reference, and official transcripts from relevant higher education institutions.

Q. Can I just follow up, you said a personal statement?

A. Yes.

Q. Yes. Tell me, what do you want from that personal statement? What's the purpose of that?

A. We ask candidates to explain their interest in the legal academic field and legal scholarship and law teaching. We also ask them to explain how their involvement would contribute to the program's goal of increasing diversity and inclusion in the legal academy.

Q. What's the timeline for interviews? How many interviews do you typically conduct, and when do they start?

A. We don't have a set number of interviews that we conduct. We aim to conduct those interviews sometime around March, depending on the volume of applications.

Q. Is there only one set of interview, or are there first-round interviews and then second-round interviews?

A. Typically there is just one round.

Q. And are those done over Skype, or do the candidates come to the University of Wisconsin?

A. We have done them by Skype. If someone was local, we would be happy to speak to them in person, but we don’t ask applicants to incur the cost of a trip to Madison; Skype is perfectly adequate.

Q. By when has the fellowship typically filled all of the positions?

A. We generally hope to have responses out by March-April, depending again on volume and how the interview process goes.

Q. Is it one fellow per year?

A. We currently have one fellow per year. For many years we had two. I'm not sure whether the number will be one or two in the future.

Q. How long is the fellowship?

A. The fellowship is two years.

Q. How many applications do you typically receive in a given year?

A. This has varied over the years, but last year we received 23 applications for the one fellow position.

Q. Who actually selects the fellows? Is it that committee that you mentioned earlier?

A. Yes. We have a committee of faculty members and staff who review the applications and make the decisions. The committee sometimes consults with subject matter experts on our faculty if the research proposal is not in the field of the committee members.

Q. Does the Hastie Fellow have teaching responsibilities?

A. The Hastie Fellow has teaching opportunities, but not responsibilities. We really want to allow the fellow to focus on their research agenda and their scholarship, and for that reason they do not have ongoing teaching obligations. That gives them protected time to research and write.

We do offer the opportunity to teach, typically in the second semester of the second year, when hopefully the market process is mostly wrapped up. We offer that as an opportunity to get practice teaching before they start a teaching job. We invite the fellow to pick what they teach, which might be an existing course of ours or a seminar they design. We're not hiring them to fill a curricular need.

Q. Are you trying to gauge teaching ability during the application process? Is that one of the factors that you're looking at?

A. Not really. I think if there were red flags in the application or in the interview, we would take those seriously because we want our fellows to be contributing members of the legal academy. But we do not, for example, require the submission of teaching evaluations, primarily because most of our candidates have not taught before.

Q. How about practice experience, is that something that you're looking for? If so, how many years of practice experience do you typically look for?

A. We do not require practice experience and do not have any set number of years of practice or other experience that would be useful. Generally speaking, the program is looking for academic promise and a strong research agenda. Some of our fellows have helped establish that through years in practice that gave them great ideas for things they wanted to write about. But people could apply to the program with no practice experience and still be very successful.

Q. Let's turn then to the academic promise, the scholarly side of the fellowship. The successful candidate, how much scholarship do they typically have before they start? Is it one paper, a draft, more than one published paper? What's typical, recognizing that of course it varies?

A. We have had a very wide range. We have had people who are in the midst of or have completed a PhD program and have done extensive writing, though often not in legal publications. We have had people who have been in practice and have published maybe one article on the side while they were in practice plus a student publication, if they had one. We do not have a set number of publications that we require, and we definitely do not require people to be basically tenure-able at the time that they apply. We focus more on trying to help people develop their scholarly work.

Q. How do you compare a candidate who maybe has a PhD or is pretty far along in the PhD process and therefore has a pretty significant body of scholarly work with a candidate who's coming out of practice who may not have had that opportunity? It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, so I'm just wondering how as a committee you try to sort through that?

A. Other features of the application can help to shed some light on these dilemmas. The research proposal in particular can be very helpful. If that research proposal sounds interesting and novel and doable in the time that they have as a fellow, then that can work strongly in their favor even if they don't have a lot of existing publications.

We also consider letters of reference to get a sense of how diligent and productive and resourceful someone is likely to be. We consider the personal statement. We consider other things on their resume. We look at their transcripts. We try to the best of our ability to get a full picture of the candidate's academic potential, even though, as you said, it's never an apples-to-apples comparison.

Q. Sure. Let's circle back around to PhDs. Does the program have any preference for candidates with PhDs, or how do you weigh that in the application process?

A. We do not have a preference. I think it's just one of the possible markers of showing someone's academic interests and potential to generate scholarly work.

Q. Does the candidate's curricular area ever come into the mix on the hiring side? For example, are you saying, well gee, this is a candidate who's in a curricular area that's heavily in demand on the entry-level market; this candidate not so much?

A. We do pay some attention to curricular area in making sure that we can provide good mentorship and support for the fellow. It’s a plus factor if we have faculty members who will be knowledgeable about and engaged with the candidate's areas of interest. Curricular area might, at the margins, also distinguish a research agenda, if the area appears to be under-written.

Q. On the Hastie Fellowship website, it says that the fellowship reflects a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and I'm wondering how you interpret that in the hiring process and the role that diversity and inclusion specifically plays in the hiring process?

A. Sure. The program is aimed at giving an opportunity to people who are underrepresented in the legal academy. A desire to create a more inclusive legal profession was important when our program was started, and we think it’s still crucial today. We invite people to explain in their personal statements why they would contribute to greater diversity and inclusion in the profession. We let people tell us why it is that they would advance those aims rather than imposing our own pre-set definitions. A list of our past fellows is available on our program website.

Q. As I've talked about this interview series on prawfsblawg, I've had many people reach out to me and say, "Can you ask, what about candidates from more nontraditional backgrounds?" In other words, candidates who may not have the traditional markers that law professors have often had. Maybe they didn't go to Harvard, Yale or Stanford. They didn't do an elite clerkship. What advice would you have for those candidates?

A. I'm glad you're hearing from those candidates. Our fellowship is targeted in part at candidates like that; part of what we hope to do is to provide a platform for people who have not already had a chance to prepare themselves for the law teaching market.

In terms of how to stand out if you are looking for ways to distinguish your application, we place a lot of emphasis on the research agenda because the timeline for a two-year fellowship is actually pretty tight. Particularly if you're trying to produce two works of scholarship, that requires you to come in and pretty much know what you're going to be doing from day one. Seeing a really coherent, well-thought-out research agenda and having the confidence that that candidate is going to be able to start and on their first day really dive in is part of what helps distinguish a successful application from one that isn't going to work.

Q. We’ve talked about scholarly potential, the research agenda, practice experience, and the personal statement. Is there any additional criteria that the committee uses to select the fellow? Anything else that might help an applicant stand out in the application process?

A. I think we discussed this, but we also ask for letters of reference.

Q. Okay, perfect. Let's turn to some of the nuts and bolts of the fellowship itself. You mentioned that it lasts two years. Does that mean essentially you're hiring every two years in general?

A. As I said, right now that's what we're doing. Having one fellow at a time has allowed us to really pour the institution's resources into one individual, which I think has its benefits. We just hired a new fellow, so we expect to hire again in 2020-21.

Q. Is that fellowship ever renewable for a third year?

A. I don't believe so.

Q. Are you comfortable sharing how much the fellows are paid?

A. Sure. I believe this is on our website, but the current stipend is $40,000 a year. We do say that it's increased from time to time to reflect the local cost of living, and there's a research support fund that the fellow gets, which is currently 4,000 per year for each year of the fellowship.

Q. Is that research fund meant to pay for both travel and research assistants?

A. Exactly.

Q. How about benefits? Do the fellows receive health benefits?

A. Yes. They are eligible for health benefits, including medical insurance, dental care and life insurance.

Q. Do they receive access to university or subsidized housing? This may be less of an issue in Madison, but I'm asking everybody.

A. Yes. We connect them with our extensive housing resources. Because they are technically enrolling as an LL.M. student, they are eligible for university housing, although many of them choose to live in grad student neighborhoods, which are not part of that program. Madison does boast very affordable housing compared to many other cities.

Q. Do the fellows receive any additional reimbursement for market-related expenses, for example, the costs of the AALS registration fee and attending the AALS bar conference, or does that come out of the $4,000?

A. I believe that that comes out of the $4,000 per year allotment, though fellows can apply for additional funds if they run out.

Q. Are they required to live in Madison? Or could somebody live in Chicago or New York and commute?

A. We ask them to reside primarily in Madison. We have had people who have spouses elsewhere and have done some traveling, but it's really helpful and important for the person to be part of the life and community of the law school.

Q. Let's turn to how somebody might make the most of the fellowship year. Are the fellows integrated into the intellectual life of the law school? Do they, for example, attend the faculty workshop series?

A. Absolutely. We think that that is really helpful to the fellows. They are invited to basically all law school events. They come to faculty workshops. They come to symposia and colloquia to the extent that they're available for those. They participate in an event we have that's called Big Ideas Café where people present often early-stage ideas of what they think they might work on next, and they're invited to workshop their own work at a faculty workshop whenever they are ready to do so.

Q. Do the fellows have any connections with other fellows at the University of Wisconsin? They are the only fellow at the law school, is that right?

A. Wisconsin is a great place for making connections across the university, if the fellow is interested in doing so. Recent fellows have participated in our Institute for Legal Studies Law and Society Graduate Fellows Program, which provides a community of fellows and graduate students who meet regularly, workshop their papers, receive mentoring on topics of interest, and host presentations by professors.

Q. You mentioned earlier that the fellows receive an LL.M. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? What do they have to do to get that LL.M., and what is it an LL.M. in?

A. Good question. It’s a general LLM (Master of Laws), not subject-specific, and the work product they would ordinarily do as part of the fellowship is typically sufficient for conferral of the degree, subject to approval by faculty members. The details are all in the LLM/SJD handbook on our Graduate Programs website – I can send you the link.

Q. Who actually supervises the fellows? Is it the committee? Is it the dean? Who's in charge of their overall experience at the law school?

A. The way that we envision it working in a typical year is that the committee provides general purpose mentorship, legal market support, and logistical guidance (like when articles should be submitted, when first drafts should ideally be done, etc.), and can provide another set of eyes on drafts. We also involve a subject matter advisor, someone who is knowledgeable about the fellow's area of work, who provides more substantive feedback on drafts.

Q. The subject matter expert, is that an assigned mentor, or is that a relationship that tends to develop more informally?

A. It's an assigned mentor. We ask someone to do that at the same time that we are making final decisions about the application process.

Q. Are they given any assistance in making connections with law faculty in their area of interest outside of the Wisconsin Law School?

A. Absolutely. That's one of the things that their subject matter advisor can help with, but it's also something that the committee or our faculty colleagues can help with. All of us feel a commitment to helping this person get their start in academia, and so to the extent that we know people who are working on things that are of interest to them, we'll try to make those connections.

Q. I assume that they have multiple faculty members sitting down with them reading their drafts, giving them feedback on their articles?

A. Yes.

Q. I know some fellowships differ on this, but I’d love to get your thoughts on the expectations around the scholarly timeline during the fellowship. You said that it is a tight timeline, those two-year fellowships. How do you recommend to your fellows that they use that timeline? In other words, are they coming in with a draft that they're trying to polish? Are they typically starting from scratch in that first summer? What's the norm and how do the two years work scholarship-wise?

A. I think it really depends on the candidate. I apologize for saying that over and over, but it is true. If someone is coming with an early stage draft, then of course that candidate is going to come in and pull out that draft and start to develop it. If someone’s research agenda said, "I've been in practice and I haven't had time to implement this, but here's my inquiry and here's how I want to pursue it," then they would begin doing that. Either way, it's really important that they be ready to get started on the first day of the fellowship and to adhere as best they can to the goals in terms of drafting that we set for them.

Q. Are they given any other support related to their research agenda? Obviously people are looking at their drafts, but how about on the overall research agenda?

A. We talk about with the research agenda from the beginning of the fellowship. We encourage the fellow to reflect on what they envision their scholarly profile looking like, and how they think their papers fit together. That conversation continues and evolves as the year goes on..

Q. Do you have any specific advice for fellows who come in with PhDs in terms of transitioning from their PhD program back to the norms of legal scholarship?

A. If fellows have or are completing a PhD, we connect with members of our faculty who have made that same transition. They can provide the best advice on how to make that transition, how to reach different publication outlets, how to change gears a little bit, and how to build on what they've already done.

Q. Let's go back to the teaching opportunity that you mentioned earlier. Is that something that most fellows take advantage of? Do most fellows teach a class in the spring of their second year?

A. Yes.

Q. How is the determination made of what course they might teach?

A. We let the fellow choose, though we are happy to provide input. Some fellows have wanted to teach an existing class that we offer, and others, like our most recent fellow, have wanted to create a seminar in their area of research. We're flexible on that choice.
The teaching opportunity is meant to provide the fellow with useful and relevant teaching experience rather than to serve a particular need that we have.

Q. Do they receive training or feedback on their teaching during that spring semester?

A. We welcome them to sit in, if they would like to, on other people's classes to get ideas, and we as a committee talk with them about teaching. We would be happy to provide additional feedback if the fellow wants it.

Q. Does the fellow have any other responsibilities other than their scholarship and teaching that course if they decide to do so?

A. No.

Q. We’ve now gone through a lot of the details of the program, but stepping back for a minute, imagine that you had a candidate who had several different fellowship options and they were trying to decide between them. What do you think makes the Hastie Fellowship particularly valuable, and how would you try to sell the candidate on that program?

A. I think that we are distinctly attractive in our commitment to allowing the fellow to focus on their scholarship and supporting them as they do so. We don't give them institutional responsibilities, and we provide extensive support as they prepare for the job market. We also have a really warm and welcoming community here at the law school. And Madison is a glorious place to work and live, so I think most of our fellows find it to be a really pleasant two years.

Q. That's great. What other advice do you have more broadly for fellows when it comes to making the most of a VAP or a fellowship? It could be the Hastie Fellowship or another one, just in terms of thinking about successful candidates and what they've done?

A. There are so many ways to succeed that it's sort of hard to answer that question, but I think that a willingness to share work early with lots of different people is a really useful practice for people who are in VAPs or in early stages of breaking into legal academia. It's so tempting to want to hang on to that draft until you think it's perfect, but talking about ideas at an early stage will help you figure out what you want to say while also giving you practice framing and conveying arguments.

Q. I could not agree with that more. I think the more people can share ideas early, the better. It was certainly transformational in my early years here at Richmond, so I always tell people, "Share as much as you can."

A. Yep.

Q. Let's turn to the job market. What type of mentoring does the Hastie Fellow receive related to the hiring process?

A. The first thing that we do early on in the fellowship is just describe that process to them--because again, many of our fellows are not on a legal academic track that gives them inside knowledge about the process. We describe the AALS conference, the timing of applications, and so on. We talk to them about the market documents, what does a FAR form look like, what does a research agenda look like.

As the market gets a bit closer, we have a variety of people give feedback on their application materials. Then as the market gets even closer, we do mock hiring conference interviews and mock job talks for them.

Q. Who's actually responsible for providing this advice and doing these mock interviews?

A. The core responsibility is with the Hastie Fellowship Committee, but for the interviews we involve broader members of our faculty, who are usually happy to volunteer.

Q. Do you happen to know the percentage of fellows, let's say, over the last 10 years who have received a tenure-track job offer at a US law school?

A. We have been at 100% in the three years I have been participating, and I know we’ve had a lot of success in prior years. I am not sure we have kept consistently formal records to allow for long-term percentage calculations, but a list of many past fellows is on our website, and you can see where they are now. It’s a very distinguished group.

Q. I'd love to link to that if you don't mind. [Here’s the link. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the list.]

A. Oh, absolutely.

Q. Perfect. What about fellows who may not get a job in that second year of the fellowship, how do you support those fellows?

A. That is not a situation that I've encountered.

Q. I'd love now to turn to VAPs and fellowships more generally and just get your thoughts on them if you're willing to share them.

A. Sure.

Q. I'm wondering what you think are the benefits of the rise of fellowship and VAP programs as an entry point into law teaching, and what do you think are the costs?

A. I don’t really have a long enough memory and experience in the academy to give an answer to that because I don't have direct experience with the pre-VAP world. Certainly a downside of the reliance on VAPs and fellowships is that it requires people to press on for years without job security or any certainty whether academia will work out for them. I can’t speak from experience about whether the alternative, prior system was truly easier or more of an equal playing field, or whether it actually had its own costs.

I do think that to the extent that the VAPs are selecting only people who are already totally ready for the market, then the status quo is insufficiently open and inclusive to people who actually would be wonderful law professors. I think that that's a gap that we hope to fill by hiring people who do not have traditional legal academic backgrounds but who have great academic promise.

Q. On a slightly different note, one of the criticisms that you often hear if you hang around with hiring committees a lot is a concern that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship from the schools where they are serving as a VAP and that therefore it's hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work and ideas come from the VAPs and fellows themselves. Have you heard this criticism, and what do you think about it?

A. I haven't heard that criticism. That's interesting. There's a sense in which all legal scholarship is a collective enterprise. If you do 10 workshops, you're always going to be drawing on some ideas that didn't start with you. Certainly we as a fellowship program and the market generally want to make sure that it's the candidate who's driving the train, and I think we do that.

Again, just to come back to something I've emphasized, one of the ways we do that is by taking a really close look at the research agenda at the outset and making sure that the candidate has a set of ideas that they want to pursue that are theirs. Once that is in place, to the extent that we can help with polishing, workshopping, and network building, I think those are all to the good.

Q. Anything else you want to add either about the Hastie Fellowship specifically or any messages to pass along to hiring committees about the state of law faculty hiring more generally?

A. You've been really thorough in your questions, so I don't think I have anything to add, but I'll let you know if I think of anything.

Q. Great. Thanks so much, Miriam. Take care.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 26, 2019 at 08:18 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, July 19, 2019

Interview with Andrew Williams from NYU Law on NYU's Lawyering Program

Next up in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors is Andrew Williams, who is the Director of the Lawyering Program at New York University School of Law.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Andy to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Andy, for participating in this series!

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

Q. Can you tell me your role with the NYU Lawyering Program?

A. I am the director of the program.

Q. I’d love to take the fellowship program chronologically, starting with the application and then moving into the fellowship process itself and then the job market. When does the program start accepting applications?

A. We accept on a rolling basis. Our website job announcement says candidates are strongly encouraged to apply before October 1st. We actually have two different avenues.

First, we accept direct applications through our website, through Interfolio. Our website lays it out: the applications have to have a resume, a transcript, a writing sample, references, a cover letter. A research agenda is suggested but not required. Those applications come in directly, and again, we recommend them coming in before October 1st, but we accept applications after that depending on our hiring needs and how our interview process is going.

Second, we interview through AALS. We reach out to some people for applications based on FAR forms, so we go down to AALS every fall and do interviews there as well.
Those are the two ways that folks get in the door.

Q. I’d love to follow up on the AALS path. Are these candidates who are also simultaneously applying for entry-level positions? Or are these candidates who were in the AALS process solely or perhaps primarily to apply for a fellowship program?

A. Both. And I would say historically, we would often be interviewing people at AALS who were primarily not applying to other fellowships, but they weren't necessarily ready for the full teaching market yet.

Q. Do you reach out to them? Have they reached out to you? Obviously they applied through AALS, but have they also reached out to you directly?

A. Again, both. We go through the FAR forms and reach out to folks who may not know about our program and encourage them to submit materials, and then we review those materials and do interviews at AALS. Some applicants know about us and apply but through the AALS process. More and more, folks are aware of fellowships and the various opportunities, so I would say the number of people that we interview that are primarily looking for tenure-track positions at AALS has probably decreased. But we're still interviewing people who are applying for a range of positions.

Q. How are the interviews structured? Are there first round interviews? Second round interviews?

A. If we interview someone at AALS, that is a first round interview. It tends to be more informal. We're usually not doing a “summarize your job talk” interview. We're asking them why they're interested in the program, we're talking about what we do in Lawyering, we're asking them about their practice experience and teaching experience, and we ask questions about their scholarly work.

Then some of those applications from AALS join the direct applications, and a committee reviews all of those materials. The committee decides who's coming onto campus for an on-campus interview.

Our on-campus interviews typically last half of a day, and it's a series of interviews with two or three people in each interview. The interviewers are made up of the hiring committee, current Lawyering faculty, and students. Those interviews sort of take on the personality of the interviewers. Some interviews are more about scholarship, some are about experience teaching, and some are about practice. It depends on the makeup of any one of those particular interviews. But over the course of the time, candidates will need to be able to speak to all of those things.

Q. There's not a job talk as part of that, is there?

A. Not a formal job talk, no. It’s a half-day of short interviews. So we're generally looking for three things. Teaching experience and or potential as a teacher, which often means can you speak to working with junior attorneys or other mentoring experiences or actual teaching? We're looking at practice. Can you speak thoughtfully about practice? Do you have some rich practice experience? And scholarship, or potential for using this experience to build to something new, either specifically academic scholarship or it could be something else. And I can talk more about that later.

And so if a person comes in for a series of interviews in the morning, one of those interviews will be someone asking a series of questions about a scholarly piece. That's going to feel more like a job talk, but it's not going to be a formal job talk.

Q. Okay. Great. Let's take each one of those three things that you talked about one at a time, starting with teaching. What are you looking for on the teaching side? How are you gauging somebody's teaching ability?

A. I mean, that's the hardest of the three, frankly. But we're asking questions about work in a teaching/supervisory capacity. And so some folks do have some experience teaching, and that comes in a range of forms. Some people can really speak to the type of feedback or mentorship they gave in practice to more junior attorneys. Others can speak to the types of things that interest them about teaching and can articulate what they want to do but haven't had the opportunity to do before. So we ask questions in that world, and there's no one thing that we're looking for. There's a wide range of answers that people can give.

Q. How about on the practice side? How much practice experience are you looking for? I'm sure it varies, but in general.

A. Historically, we have a minimum of two years plus clerkship or three years. Our course is a simulation-based course. It's pretty teaching intensive, and it really is about thinking about practice and teaching the students to think about what it means to be a lawyer. And so we want to hire people who can talk about not just how do you write a brief, but also why does one write a brief this way, and what are you trying to achieve and what are your client's goals? We want someone who can talk about working with clients, and who can talk about those dynamics.

And we want someone who can speak to what it was like, what the pros and cons of being a lawyer were, what were the great things and the hard things? Someone who really shows some self-reflection about practice experience. Not everyone we hire will have done all of the things that we teach, but we want people who can really be thoughtful about what it means to actually be a lawyer.

Q. On the scholarly side, if we were to step back and think about your successful candidates, the candidates who make it into the Lawyering Program, how much scholarship do they tend to have before they start in the Lawyering Program? Do they have a published paper, more than published paper, just a draft? What's the norm, if there is one?

A. I don't know that there is a norm. If you can tell, we try to look pretty holistically at our candidates. Sometimes it has to do with where are they coming from and what is it that they want to do. And so it really is a wide range. We want folks who come in to be able to articulate what their interest is and what they're going to do with their time here. And often, that means, “I wrote a piece while in practice and I'm working on this other piece, and I've got this research agenda.” Sometimes it means, “I really just started thinking about what it means to do scholarship relatively recently. I want to do clinical teaching, and I've done some strong practice-oriented writing, but law review articles are new to me.”

Certainly, for any of those three things that we're looking at, the more the person can put forward, the better they're going to be as a candidate. But we've hired folks with a number of published pieces of scholarship, and we've hired people with no scholarship at all coming in.

Q. And do you have a preference for candidates with Ph.Ds.? How do you think about Ph.Ds. in the hiring process?

A. Again, it's going to be part of a package, right? Does the person have a Ph.D. but also have pretty rich practice experience? If they've been able to do both, that's a really strong candidate. But if they have a Ph.D. but they don't have any practice experience, then that's not someone that we're going to be in a position to hire. It's a good thing for a candidate to have, and we've hired plenty of people with Ph.D.s, but we've certainly hired significantly more without them.

Q. Does the program have any preferences for candidates in particular curricular areas? I've been a hiring chair for a long time. People often say that candidates in the corporate area or the criminal law area are in demand on the entry-level market. Do you take that into account when you're selecting candidates?

A. No. We do like to have a faculty with a range of practice experiences. We work as a faculty a lot. It's a very collegial faculty generally, but we also work together on curricular development. And so the more different areas of practice experience we have, the better. But I'm not sure I would say that necessarily plays a role in why any particular candidate gets hired.

Q. Okay. And do you make any special efforts to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. Absolutely.

Q. In what way?

A. We try to do as much outreach as we can. We reach out through listservs and organizations and alumni organizations. One of the reasons that we go through FAR forms and interview at AALS is to find candidates that might not know about us as a program, and who come from a wide range of backgrounds. Those are probably the two primary ways, but it’s definitely a priority for us.

Q. As I talk about this interview series on the blogs, one of the questions I keep getting is from candidates who say, "What if I don't have the traditional markers of being a law professor? Maybe I didn't go to Harvard, Yale, NYU, et cetera. I didn't do an elite clerkship. How can I stand out in the application process?" What advice would you have for those candidates?

A. We have absolutely hired from a range of experiences and a range of law schools. We're certainly looking for people who bring something, who are going to bring a richness to our program. And so if someone has some really interesting ideas and has done some really interesting practice, that is going to weigh really heavily for us. It’s not the most helpful advice, but I want to say that the way you stand out is by standing out, by having something about you that is interesting and compelling. That could come from any number of places. We certainly have hired candidates who haven't necessarily followed the most traditional path to academia, and we've then placed those candidates well on the other side. But to try to articulate what's the one thing or two things someone can do, that's a little bit harder.

Q. So we've talked about a variety of criteria that you and your committee use. Is there anything else? Any other criteria that candidates should keep in mind as they're submitting an application?

A. I think narrative matters. The committee wants a strong sense of who this person is, why this is what they want to do, and where they want to go from here, and a story that makes sense. It's a temporary position. It's a position that's practice-focused and teaching-intensive. And so someone who is able to articulate, this is what I've done and this is where I'm headed, and this is how this program really fits in that journey for me. I think that matters to our committee.

Q. Let's go back to some of the nuts and bolts. How many applications do you typically receive and how many candidates do you typically bring to campus to interview?

A. After reviewing the FAR forms and receiving materials for AALS, we usually end up doing initial interviews with about 8-10 people there. And then we receive, generally, 100-150 direct applications each year. We ultimately interview probably around 15 people on campus each year.

Q. How many fellowships are available total, and how many positions are available each year?

A. So it varies. We have 15 positions, 15 members of Lawyering faculty. And they stay two to three years, with a maximum of three years. So we hire roughly five every year. But it varies. We’ve had years where we've hired two and years where we've hired seven.

Q. And by when in the calendar year do you typically fill the positions? When would you say you're done?

A. We try to be done at the start of the spring semester. The reality is that, again, because we're a transitional program, we try to be flexible with our faculty as things come up. So if I have someone who is in the second year of the program and it's February and the perfect clinical job opens up, then we may end up with an opening that we didn't expect.
Typically we try to be finished hiring at the start of the spring, but we don't always get there.

Q. When you said that the fellowship lasts two to three years, what does that depend on? Is that at the fellow's discretion?

A. I've never had to make it not at the fellow's discretion. It's a series of up to three one-year contracts. I have not yet had to be in the position to not offer a contract for another year, so it has been at the fellow's discretion.

Q. Are you comfortable sharing how much the fellows are paid?

A. It’s $66,000 in the first year. And each renewal historically includes an annual merit increase, so a small percentage increase each year after the first full year.

Q. And do they receive health benefits?

A. Yes. They are eligible for the standard benefits of the law school, including health benefits.

Q. How about access to university or subsidized housing?

A. No. Occasionally we get lucky and an apartment opens up, but it's certainly not a guaranteed.

Q. How about travel funding or other professional development funding?

A. Yes. Conference funding. We try to fund as many conferences as we can.

Q. Is there a standard budget that they have for that?

A. Yes and no. The first conference for everyone is no questions. And then after that we look at how our collective conference budget is working and whether someone is presenting at the conference. That said, ultimately I think we are able to accommodate all conference requests. We try to make sure folks can go to any conferences they need to.

Q. And are they allowed to hire research assistants?

A. Yes. They are encouraged to.

Q. Obviously we know that going on the market is expensive. Are they reimbursed for AALS-related expenses?

A. Absolutely. AALS is treated like a conference. So it would be like going to any other conference.

Q. Okay. Now that was a lot of the nuts and bolts. Now let's turn to how to make the most of a fellowship year. How often do the fellows themselves get together, and in what capacity? Do they have their own workshop series or something like that?

A. So I'll start in June, because the position starts June 1st every year. We do a couple of weeks of introduction and curricular training and other workshops. The first week would be just the new people, and we go through the curriculum, and the second week, adding in the returning people. And then throughout the year, starting in mid-August and then as we approach each simulation throughout the year, we have Lawyering faculty meetings to talk about issues in the classroom, pedagogy, curricular decisions for the next unit, walking through it, different approaches different people have taken in the past, et cetera.

So that's sort of on the teaching side. During our June workshops, we also have sessions on making the most of your time in Lawyering: producing scholarship, getting to publication, and navigating the job market process. We also have a weekly Lawyering Scholarship Colloquium that happens all year. We invite other fellows from around the law school to participate in that as well, and the scholarship colloquium can be anything from “Hi, I'm brand new and I've got three ideas that I've got in abstract form and I want to talk them through with some people” to “I've got a job talk next week.” Most sessions fall somewhere in between, with a fellow circulating a draft or detailed outline before the session and getting detailed feedback during the session.

We also all work together in a Lawyering suite. It's a collaborative and collegial environment, so there's a lot of interaction. Stopping by each other's offices with questions and ideas for class or “I'm working on this paper, can I draw something out on the whiteboard and you let me know what you're thinking?”

Q. Do the other fellows from NYU participate in that scholarly workshop?

A. They do.

Q. Do the fellows participate in the broader intellectual life of the school? For example, NYU's broader faculty workshop?

A. Yes. So everything that is happening at the law school is open to Lawyering faculty, as with anywhere else. Informal faculty lunches and faculty workshops happen every week, and Lawyering faculty members are encouraged to attend. And, for example, the criminal law community here has the Goldstock Seminar every Tuesday and the Hoffinger Criminal Justice colloquium, and our faculty members are always really well integrated into that process.
How many different activities our folks are involved with in terms of the intellectual life of the law school sort of depends on how active that particular part of the life of the law school is. But everything is available, and it’s a very active place.

Q. Who actually supervises the fellows? Are you their direct supervisor? Is there a committee, someone else?

A. I am.

Q. Are they matched with a mentor or otherwise guided towards faculty in their area of interest? And if so, how? How does that matching happen?

A. There's not a formal mentorship. The guiding happens in a few ways, either through me and making connections with people in their practice area, or the practice area group itself if it's a particularly active one, or it could be a member of our hiring committee connecting them up with someone that they know. So we try to find different ways to connect people up to people here who will be helpful contacts for them to develop organic relationships with, but how that connection gets made sort of varies from person to person on both sides.

Q. And are they also given assistance making connections outside of the law school with faculty in their area?

A. For people who were not students at NYU Law, of course they are able to go back and reach out to the people from their former institutions. We also have an active network of former Lawyering faculty. I try to bring former Lawyering faculty in for our general workshops or during the year or set up opportunities at conferences.

Q. Okay. And how about assistance with their specific papers? You talked about the workshops where they can present their papers. Do they have people who will sit down, read their drafts, give them comments?

A. Yeah. And I think a lot of that does come through relationships developed here over time. Some of it is through these connections that we talked about, whether with former Lawyering folks or people here on the faculty. And then also our Academic Careers Program here at the law school has a number of different events that vary every year, including at least two opportunities each year specifically dedicated to being paired with a faculty member for detailed draft feedback.

Q. Let's transition over to the teaching side. You mention that they teach in the legal writing program. Tell me about those teaching responsibilities. How many students do they have? How many hours does that class meet?

A. It’s a yearlong course. It's 28 students, the same 28 students all year. And it's built around a series of simulations. So it starts with drafting an argument, and then interviewing a witness and drafting an affidavit, and then interviewing a client, doing the research memo for the client and counseling that client, often with a small mediation component. In the spring there is a transactional negotiation and then the traditional brief and oral argument. So there are a lot of writing components to it but also a number of non-writing components, other experiential components.

The course meets typically three times a week. There are certain times of year when we have, for example, student conferences on the writing, and we provide detailed feedback trying to get the students to reflect on their writing choices on both initial and revised submissions. So, especially in the fall, there may be conferences stacked up at different times of the day as well. We teach from essentially mid-August to just before Thanksgiving, and then we teach from mid-January until mid-April. There's no final exam. It's a for-credit class, not for a grade. And so when our work is done for the semester, we're done.
But certainly at the beginning of the fall, it's a pretty teaching intensive course, which is why we try to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about teaching.

Q. And are they the ones coming up with the assignments or the curriculum for those classes? Or are there other resources that they draw on for that?

A. It's a mix. We have a pretty hefty set of materials, both in the global sense of “These are the large simulations” and also “Here are some ideas of what you might want to do in your classes leading up to the simulations.” It is a course that you could come in and teach entirely from pre-existing materials.

That said, we have a lot of flexibility for coming up with new approaches and new ideas. It could be someone coming to one of our faculty meetings and saying, "I really don't love this third class that a lot of us do on how to counsel a client, and I've come up with this new idea.” Or it could be like today we were discussing as a group how to revamp our negotiation exercise and maybe come up with something new. So there is an expectation of civic participation, but also I try not to put the expectation on our folks that they're going to have to be doing a lot of curricular development on their own. I want them to be a part of the conversation, but I don't want that to become the focus of their time. Between the scholarship and the teaching, there are enough other responsibilities.

Q. Yeah. Do people ever sit in on their classes and give them feedback on their teaching?

A. I do. And we do informal, prose-based feedback from students in the fall that's not really meant to be a course evaluation, but more a series of questions that professor wants to ask their student about the semester. I go over those with our folks at the end of the fall, and then at the spring, at the end of our actual formal course evaluations, I sit down with folks and talk through those evaluations as well. And unless our schedules conflict, I try to sit in and observe the teaching, usually folks who are on the market first, so that I can get a last snapshot of their teaching before they go on the market, and then new folks, and then folks in the middle.

Q. And are they ever allowed to teach a class outside of the legal writing program? A course, for example, in their doctrinal area of specialty?

A. It happens. It's not a guarantee. But a range of opportunities along those lines have occurred, from supervising a team of students within a clinic or teaching a unit in a clinical course, to co-teaching an externship with a member of our faculty, to co-teaching a doctrinal law course with a member of the faculty. So yes, there are a range of opportunities that have come up, and as with any new opportunity, I always try to stay open to how we can make those things work, but there's not a formal process in play for making it happen.

Q. Do you have a sense of the percentage of time that they should spend, or they tend to spend on their scholarship versus their teaching versus any other responsibilities that they have?

A. I don't. And in part because I think it varies a great deal. It varies a great deal based on the interest of the person. It varies from year to year. It varies based on time of year. We have some people who every Tuesday is the day that they really focus on scholarship all year long, and other folks who make it a point to do it a little bit every day, and some folks who say all I'm going to do this summer and over winter break is write, but during the heart of the semester I'm going to focus on teaching. It does vary from year to year as well, where they are in the program. So yeah, it's a tough thing to figure out how to average out. Over the course of the year, however, Lawyering faculty have almost 4 months in the summer and another 7-8 weeks between semesters when they aren’t teaching at all; so that gives folks a lot of independent time as well.

Q. I've noticed a couple times you've talked about clinical faculty teaching the program. What's the breakdown between Lawyering professors who are interested in the doctrinal path and those interested in the clinical path?

A. So historically, I would say probably 40% doctrinal, 40% clinical, and 20% a wide range of other choices, which might mean shifting from being a public defender to doing criminal justice policy, or going into working in law school administration or legal research and writing or going back to practice. So it's probably 40, 40, 20, sounds about right.

Q. We’ve gone through a lot of the details of the program. Let's step back for a moment. What do you think makes the NYU Lawyering Program stand out from other VAPs or fellowship programs? Imagine you were talking to a candidate with lots of fellowship options, how would you try to sell the Lawyering Program?

A. Our community is really outstanding. I think we've done a really nice job of hiring over the years. The result of that is, I think, it's a really strong group of people, and it's a pretty large group of people because we have 15 folks at any time who are here full-time. And they really are an incredible resource for each other. Again, whether that's an issue in the classroom or a thought about teaching or scholarship or the market or how do I pitch this piece to journals, or whatever it is. Once folks have left to go on to tenure-track positions and go elsewhere, they usually miss the colleagues the most. I think is one of the biggest strengths that we have.

I think the second is really teaching. For folks who really are focused on being in a place where there's a conversation about what actually works in a classroom and how do we teach, and how do we think about pedagogy, and really want that experience of doing a lot of teaching in the classroom, I think it's a really great opportunity.

Q. And do you have any other advice for fellows when it comes to making the most of their time in a fellowship or a VAP? What have you seen the people who have been really successful on the entry-level market do?

A. I mean there's just so many ... and I know I keep coming back to this, but there's just so many different journeys. Obviously putting in the time and doing the scholarship matters a lot. Being engaged and having an entrepreneurial spirit and really doing the outreach to get to know people in your area, and frankly people outside of your area, to just talk about ideas for scholarship helps a great deal. But other than that, I really do think there are a lot of ways to do this well and do it in an interesting way. And we've placed people who have taken a lot of different approaches. And it's been really interesting, frankly, to see how that plays out, that there isn't necessarily only one right or one best way.

Q. That provides a good transition over to the job market process. What type of mentoring do the fellows receive related to the hiring process?

A. I think it's drawn from the sources that we've talked about. It's going to be a mix of people here and at the institution you came from if you were somewhere before, the Academic Careers Program, current faculty, and Lawyering alum. ACP pairs people going on the market with people who were recently on the market. During our Lawyering workshops this last week, we brought in former Lawyering folks, some who have been on hiring committees or are on hiring committees at different schools to talk about their experiences and the process and what they've learned since then. We send candidate materials out to our former Lawyering faculty. So it's going to be drawing from all of those different resources.

Q. And are they given an opportunity to moot their job talk? You talked about an opportunity within the fellows workshop. How about in front of faculty or others?

A. Absolutely. And that's all arranged through our academic careers program. ACP puts on a Job Camp in early fall where Lawyering fellows going on the market that year do a mock job talk, they have faculty member specifically assigned to them to moot the job talk and give them feedback, and often there are other fellows and sometimes other faculty in the room participating as well.

Q. Okay. And does that include opportunities to do moot mock screening interviews as well?

A. Yes, ACP arranges mock screening interviews with a faculty member as part of Job Camp.

Q. Do they receive feedback on their application materials, on their FAR form, etc.?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Yeah. Do you happen to know the percentage of Lawyering fellows, let's say over the last 10 years, who have ended up in entry-level tenure track positions?

A. We’ve been lucky, and as the market has changed we’ve continued to be able to place well. Almost all, and maybe all, of our people that have gone on the market have ended up in either tenure-track or long-term contract positions, (given that a particular school may not have, say, tenure-track clinical positions.) For example, in 2016 we hired an unusually large group. After two years, two took teaching positions and a third found a great appellate practice opportunity. This year, three more went on the market and took full-time faculty positions while one chose to apply for (and received) a more specialized fellowship. Every year looks a little bit different because we encourage people to find the right opportunities for them, but looking back over the 50 or so people who have come through over last ten years, we’ve placed roughly 20 doctrinal faculty, 20 clinical faculty, and then a handful of people who have chosen to continue on with skills positions, move into law school administration, or return to practice. Whatever path they choose, we’ve been very fortunate that our people are able to use their time here to transition into the next step they want.

Q. I would love, if you're willing, to ask a couple of questions related more broadly to the rise of VAPs and fellowship. I don't know if you saw the data from this past hiring year, but 96% of people hired for entry level doctrinal positions have either a VAP, a fellowship, a Ph.D. What do you think are the benefits of this process, and what do you think are the costs?

A. It's interesting. I don't know if I've thought of it in terms of benefits and costs as much as the fact of watching it happen. I think there's a real benefit to having some space and time to work on scholarship and on teaching. The legal profession, when done right, and especially because we're hiring people from practice, takes an incredible amount of work. I mean, to do the job well, it can be consuming. And so having, at least on this fellowship side, having these transitional programs makes a lot of sense to me for people to reflect on and reframe how they're thinking about things.

I feel like the Ph.D. question is a different question. One of the really interesting things about legal hiring right now is that law schools seem to be hiring for a range of positions that require a range of backgrounds and skillsets. And so I think it makes sense to have people who are taking a number of different paths and taking the time to develop expertise in a range of areas. So you would have clinical fellowships, Lawyering, Ph.Ds., a combination, et cetera. It makes sense to me.

Q. Have you heard the criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship from people on the faculty wherever they're doing their VAP or fellowship, and therefore it's hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work and ideas come from the VAPs or fellows themselves?

A. I have not heard that before.

Q. Okay. So it's one of the things you often hear when you're on the hiring side, is people wondering, essentially, how much of these ideas really come from the fellow, and how much of this is being fed to them from the faculty at the school where they are? Do you have a sense on that?

A. I mean, I may be speaking naively here, but I don't know. I would be surprised. I guess I can put it this way. When we're interviewing folks, whether directly or through AALS, we tend to see people who don't just have interesting ideas, but who are also really invested in those ideas. They're pursuing these scholarly interests that they've often had for quite some time and have been working on. And the pieces of scholarship that those ideas develop into, that become their published pieces and the things they take on the market, tend to follow ... obviously there are tweaks and developments and people change course, but they tend to follow who we thought they were. In a good way. So I don't know. I would say that has not been my experience.

Q. Last question for you. Given that life is zero sum in so many ways, obviously time spent in a fellowship is not spent in, for example, in practice. What do you think about that trade off, especially given that we're in the business of educating lawyers?

A. I mean, because I am specifically in a program that is all about thinking about practice, and we really hire for folks who we feel like can be thoughtful about practice … my bias is toward hiring people who can be thoughtful about practice in order to educate people on how to be lawyers. That said, as is probably not surprising from the rest of this conversation, I do think there are any number of approaches. I don't think it's a terrible trade-off that some folks are going to have more practice than others, and people are going to approach legal education and legal theory and legal practice in different ways. I think that is part of what makes a law school really interesting, the mix of ways of approaching the ideas, some that are more practice-oriented and some that are more theory-oriented. I think that's part of the genius of law school. I think one of the real benefits of the Lawyering program is in encouraging people to really emphasize pedagogy and becoming thoughtful, skilled teachers as well as understand their own scholarship and the scholarly community generally. So that when the Lawyering faculty members go on to permanent academic positions they are prepared to incorporate both.

Q. Anything else that you want people to know about the NYU Lawyering Program or about the state of law faculty hiring more generally?

A. I don't think so, but anyone thinking about applying or who wants to know more should feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to answer any questions that come up.

Q. Okay, that's great. Thanks, Andy. Take care.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 19, 2019 at 06:39 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Hiring Committees 2019-2020

Please share in the comments the following information related to the 2019-2020 law school faculty hiring season:

(a) your school;
(b) the chair of your hiring committee (please note if you have different chairs for entry level and lateral candidates--we hope that this information will be useful for both entry level and lateral candidates);
(c) other members of your hiring committee (again, please note if there is a distinction between entry level and lateral committees); and
(d) any particular subject areas in which your school is looking to hire.

Additionally, if you would like to share the following information, candidates might find it helpful to know:

(e) your committee's feeling about packets/individualized expressions of interest (affirmatively want to receive them, affirmatively don't want to receive them, or don't care one way or the other); 
(f) your committee's preferred way to be contacted (email, snail-mail, or phone); 
(g) the website, if any, that candidates should use to obtain information about the position or to apply;
(h) the number of available faculty positions at your school; and
(i) whether you are interested in hiring entry-level candidates, lateral candidates, or both.

I will gather all this information in a downloadable, sortable spreadsheet. (Click on that link to access the spreadsheet and download it; you can also scroll through the embedded version below.)

If you would like to reach me for some reason (e.g., you would prefer not to post your committee information in the comments but would rather email me directly), my email address is sarah dot lawsky (at) law dot northwestern dot edu.

Remember, you cannot edit the spreadsheet directly. The only way to add something to the spreadsheet is to put the information in the comments or email me directly, and I will edit the spreadsheet.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on July 16, 2019 at 07:41 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (54)

Monday, July 15, 2019

Faculty Hiring at Richmond Law

Richmond Law is hiring! We are in the market for up to six new faculty members this year--3 tenure-track positions in a variety of areas, an endowed joint position with our leadership school, and directorships for new programs in professional identity formation and legal innovation.  The full ad is below the break:

The University of Richmond School of Law seeks top-notch scholars who are passionate about their teaching and research, who will thrive in an environment of engaged faculty, and who view the success of their colleagues and students as their own success.  This year we have openings for as many as three entry-level tenure-track professors.  We are open to a range of areas of interest but are especially looking for expertise in criminal law and procedure, critical legal studies, immigration, legislation and regulation, corporate law, cybersecurity, and data analytics/empirical legal studies.

We are also working with the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond to fill the Tyler Haynes Interdisciplinary Professorship.  For this endowed professorship, we seek candidates with a distinguished record of scholarship and teaching who would be appointed as a tenured faculty member and would teach in both schools.  We are especially interested in candidates whose research addresses areas of applied law and leadership, including criminal justice, housing, immigration, educational policy, health care, and institutional design and analysis.  While we are open to candidates with either a J.D. or Ph.D., the ideal candidate will be a full professor with both.

Finally, we are looking to hire directors for two new signature programs—one in the area of professional identity formation and one in the area of legal innovation and entrepreneurship.  These directors will oversee the design and implementation of each program, as well as teach courses and direct co-curricular opportunities related to the program.

The University of Richmond, an equal opportunity employer, is committed to developing a diverse workforce and student body and to supporting an inclusive campus community.  Applications from candidates who will contribute to these goals are strongly encouraged. 

Inquiries regarding entry-level hiring should be directed to Professor Jim Gibson at [email protected].  Inquiries regarding the Haynes Professorship should be directed to [email protected]. Inquiries regarding the professional identity formation and legal innovation positions should be directed to Professor Jessica Erickson at [email protected].


Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 15, 2019 at 11:02 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Interview with Michael Heller from Columbia Law School on the Associates-in-Law Program

Below is the latest interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  This interview is with Michael Heller, the Lawrence A. Wien Professor of Real Estate Law at Columbia Law School.  Michael oversees the Associates-in-Law Program at Columbia.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Michael to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Michael, for participating in this series!

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

I. Introduction

Q. Tell me your role with the Associates-in-Law program.

A. I chaired the Associates committee last year and am chairing it again this coming year.

Q. What does the committee do?

A. We select the Associates, support them while at Columbia, and help guide them to tenure-track faculty positions. The committee includes four to six faculty, the dean of graduate legal studies, and the director of legal writing programs.

Q. Columbia has a lot of post-graduate fellowships. Where does the Associates program fit in?

A. The Associates program is Columbia’s chief post-graduate teaching fellowship for promising scholars preparing for entry-level legal academic careers. Columbia also offers a range of specialized fellowships, such as fellowships associated with our research centers and programs, and these too can serve as a transition to a career in legal academia.

We designed the Associates program to have a light teaching load (fall only) so Associates can focus their time producing academic scholarship, connecting with faculty, going on the job market, and participating in the Fellows Workshop, which all post-graduate fellows attend. The Fellows Workshop is the core of the Associates community. It’s part of what sets the Associates program apart from the other top fellowships, and helps makes Columbia, I believe, the strongest and most collegial launch pad for people entering law teaching. The Workshop is a weekly boot camp for presenting early ideas and polished drafts, reviewing research agendas, mooting interviews and job talks—in short, for inculcating the academic norms and intellectual habits of mind that aspiring law faculty will need throughout their careers. The Associates also attend, and are active participants in, our twice-weekly faculty workshops. We believe Columbia’s intense workshop culture is what sets our program apart from others.

II. Application Process

Q. Let’s start with the Associates application process. Then we can move into the fellowship itself. When does the program start accepting applications?

A. We’ll start accepting applications in early September for the following academic year.

Q. What materials does a candidate need to submit?

A. Detailed instructions are on the application website.  Materials include: cover letter, academic CV, research agenda (usually three to five pages detailing upcoming writing projects and academic trajectory), scholarly writing samples, a brief teaching statement, and law school transcript. We also ask for up to three recommenders to send us letters separately.

Q. So candidates can start applying in September. What does the timeline look like from there? How many interviews are there and when do they tend to occur?

A. We review applications on a rolling basis. The current Associates are heavily involved in this initial screening process, along with the committee. Usually, we begin inviting candidates for preliminary interviews in the late fall, start holding on-campus interviews in late-January, and begin making offers in mid-February. The process can run later – we don’t know how many slots we can fill until the current Associates finalize their plans. For example, this past spring, one Associate elected to return for a third year on the way to a Supreme Court clerkship for 2020-21.

Q. And staying for a third-year is an option Associates can exercise at their discretion?

A. Yes. The Associates Program is a two-year fellowship. However, we guarantee Associates the option to stay for a third year, if necessary. In other years, Associates have availed themselves of the option in cases of parental leave or if they have needed a second year on the entry-level market.

Q. That’s unusual. That’s great. Can you give some more detail on the hiring timeline?

A. We aim to hire approximately three Associates each year. We start looking at files once they are complete, including recommendation letters. The preliminary interviews include several members of the committee and at least one current Associate, and are usually done on Skype, or in-person if the candidate is in the New York area. For the second round, we bring candidates to New York for an intensive day of on-campus interviews, similar to the process for entry-level candidates.

Q. For the second round of interviews, can you walk me through what that day looks like for candidates who come to Columbia?

A. They usually arrive on campus around 10 am. During the day, the candidate meets in small groups with the committee members and current Associates, and with at least one faculty member close to the candidate’s field. Even at the interview stage, we want to ensure that Columbia will be able to connect the candidate with strong mentors. Interviews are usually scheduled in 40-45 minute blocks. At lunch, instead of giving a job talk, the candidate attends a workshop – either the Fellows Workshop (on Wednesday) or a Faculty Workshop (on Tuesday or Thursday). After lunch, there’s usually one or two more rounds of interviews, and the day wraps up around 3-4 pm.

Q. And then who are actually the decision makers at the end of the day?

A. Everyone who interviews the candidates provides their evaluation and is involved in the decision, but the committee has the final say. It’s similar to regular entry-level hiring decisions, in that there are multiple vetoes. We do not make an offer unless there is a consensus of enthusiastic support among the committee members, the current Associates, and faculty in the candidate’s field.

Q. How many applications do you typically receive?

A. We typically receive between 70-100, mostly in the early fall, with a second wave in late-January.

Q. Do you make any special effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. Absolutely, yes. Entry level slots are scarce and precious. Part of our responsibility is to imagine what the profession can look like in a generation. We aim to ensure that diverse and non-traditional voices are a robust part of the entry hiring pool. We actively reach out to faculty at Columbia and elsewhere to encourage a diverse applicant pool for the program and to help us evaluate candidates whose work is outside our areas of expertise. Ensuring diversity is a focus at every stage of our process, from initial screening to final offers.

Q. Any additional criteria? Anything else that helps an applicant stand out in the application process, other than the things that we’ve talked about already?

A. The core of what we are all looking for is a certain quality of mind, a spark that’s likely to lead to a distinctive and productive scholarly voice. Second, we want to make sure that the applicant will be a major contributor to the intellectual community here at Columbia, including at the Fellows Workshop, skilled both at giving and receiving feedback across a range of substantive areas and methodologies – e.g., someone who we believe will make for a wonderful colleague. Finally, we only hire people if we are confident that we have Columbia faculty who will be deeply invested in mentoring them.

III. Scholarship

Q. You say the Associate’s program has three components – scholarship, teaching, and community. Let’s start with scholarship. Describe that component.

A. Scholarly potential is our single most important criterion for hiring. We will not hire unless we are confident the candidate will be ready to succeed on the academic job market after the fellowship.

Q. How are you gauging that on the scholarly side?

A. Exactly the same way entry-level hiring committees gauge potential. We are looking for people for whom two years at Columbia will be jet fuel for their intellectual development. We are looking for candidates poised to be major scholars. More concretely, we put the writing samples and the research agenda at the center of our evaluation in screening candidates and at the interviews. Do the published articles and draft pieces make important contributions? Can we see an original, exciting, and feasible trajectory in the candidate’s writing and agenda?

Q. How much do people tend to have in terms of writing already? Do most successful candidates have a full paper, more than one full paper?

A. More than one full paper, usually. Not always, but usually. We often see applicants today who have as much published writing as faculty had a generation ago when they got tenure. There’s been a steady ratcheting up in credentials on the entry market, and that has translated to the fellowship market as well. We are much less concerned with the quantity of papers, however, than with the quality. One powerful, creative, and original paper carries a lot of weight. Sometimes, we have even hired people just with a smart paper in draft and an inspiring agenda. But, the more writing we can read, the easier it is to make an offer.

Q. Obviously some of these people are coming from PhD programs where they’ve had the time to write a lot. People who are not coming from PhD programs, do you have a sense of how they are finding the time to write that many articles?

A. People who are determined to be scholars make the time to write, even if they come from practice. It’s difficult, yes, but that’s part of what makes it so much more impressive when we get a candidate who has been able to produce exciting scholarship on nights and weekends while working full-time. Yes, PhDs have a stream of articles in hand and a coherent scholarly trajectory mapped out. That’s why they do so well on the market. But we work hard to ensure that we are selecting the best future scholars, and that regularly includes candidates from practice who have that scholarly spark. Often, their research will be directly related to their practice experience, and so their research will reflect a high level of subject-matter expertise.

Q. When you talk about practice experience, how much are you typically looking for?

A. More than a year or two is great, but difficult to find these days. Ideally, candidates from practice bring some real mastery of, and insight about, their legal practice area.

Q. How do you evaluate the tradeoff between legal practice and PhD routes? The PhDs seem to have a built-in benefit.

A. Yes, in part because PhDs have a structured path to write and to develop methodological expertise. In that sense, it’s not surprising they do well in entry-level hiring. But PhD candidates can sometimes lack a deeply textured understanding of the law itself, and that’s where applicants from legal practice can shine. Because practice experience is often generative for rich and nuanced scholarship, we definitely value practice experience in our hiring. Indeed, this year, two of our four non-PhD incoming Associates had significant practice experience. And “practice experience” need not be only at law firms or clerkships, by the way—one of our incoming associates brings significant work experience at the highest levels of the federal government relevant to their field.

Q. But out of curiosity, just because I know people would want me to ask this question, given that hiring committees often want more practice experience, why not put less weight on the PhD, require less scholarship coming into a fellowship program, and give even more preference to practice experience?

A. We have some discretion to shape the pool of entry-level applicants, and we do use that to expand the pipeline in ways we believe matter, including giving more weight to practice experience. But Columbia is an unusual position. With a collegial workshop culture, ample time for the Associates’ own writing, and strong mentorship of candidates, Columbia offers what we believe is the best fellowship in the country to prepare people for the entry market. So realistically, we are choosing among outstanding candidates, and we don’t generally feel we face tradeoffs in who we are considering.

Q. What advice do you have for applicants who do not have PhDs?

A. Write seminar papers during law school that you can develop later and write drafts while clerking and practicing so you have a pipeline of material. People coming out of practice are often poorly advised before they apply. They do not realize they have a short clock between when the fellowship starts and when they have to be ready to go on the job market – just a year. Yet they often submit fellowship agendas that will require more time than that. Those applications generally aren’t credible. For people coming from practice, we usually look for, at a minimum, advanced drafts. But ideally, candidates from practice should probably aim to have a law review publication (an article or a note) before applying. If your experience was particularly substantive, or otherwise allows you to write law review articles that could only be written by someone with the deep practice knowledge you bring, so much the better.

Q. How about people coming off Supreme Court clerkships?

A. That’s definitely a plus, and we have had several clerks in the past few years, but it’s a shrinking pool. That was a traditional route to entry hiring, but now there are few Supreme Court clerks among our applicants or who go on the entry market. Perhaps they have too many other great options – though it’s hard to see what’s better than a life as a legal scholar. We’d love to see more Supreme Court clerks back in the mix.

Q. Any advice for PhD applicants?

A. People coming out of PhD programs have a story. They have an agenda that says, “I’m the person who does this, I’m at the cutting edge of this particular methodology, here’s three articles I’ve written, and here are the next five that I will be doing between now and tenure. Together, my agenda adds up to this major scholarly contribution.” Hiring committees know more or less what they’re getting.

However, PhD applicants sometimes trip up in making the pivot to legal scholarship. Many have been immersed in their dissertation world and have strayed from core concerns of current legal scholarship. These candidates can have a hard time understanding what questions matter in law schools, to law faculty, and with law students. And they don’t realize how short a time they have to reframe their research —just that one year from their start date to when the FAR forms are due.

My strong advice to applicants coming from PhD programs is to think hard, before they apply to us (or anywhere else), about how their research agenda connects to the law and to prevailing legal scholarship. It’s too late to begin this process only once a fellowship starts. They should already have started translating their dissertation work for law audiences and have received detailed feedback on their research agendas from their law faculty recommenders. If possible, they should begin the fellowship with an advanced draft of their job talk paper and legal research agenda already in hand.

Q. Let’s turn to people without these traditional markers, people without a PhD, perhaps who didn’t go to one of the top law schools, didn’t do an elite clerkship, what advice would you have for them in terms of trying to break into the law teaching world?

A. All the traditional elite markers of success are proxies for writing specifically and for scholarly potential more generally. So, you can get there directly by doing the writing. We read everything. And the writing comes first.

Q. In the application process, in the hiring process, do you give any preference, however slight, to different curricular areas? Do you ever give a thumb on the scale to candidates in curricular areas where there is more demand on the entry-level market?

A. No, not at all. True, there’s more demand for people in certain areas, and the fields vary a bit from year to year. But we have the luxury of hiring the very top candidates on the market – so we are looking for people who we expect to be academic stars, who will contribute to legal scholarship at the highest level, whatever field they teach.

Q. A last point on scholarship. If you look on the blogs, there’s criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship, so hard for hiring committees to tease out what’s original to the VAPs and fellows themselves. What do you think about that criticism?

A. I don’t agree at all, at least as that statement applies to Columbia’s process. We hire Associates because we are confident in their ideas and in their potential. We would be doing our Associates a disservice by importing our own ideas into their work. I can maybe understand the potential issue for candidates who have written co-authored articles, but even then committees look at the piece as part of a larger mosaic with other articles, drafts, the research agenda, recommendation letters and calls, and multiple interviews. Nobody is getting bamboozled.

IV. Teaching

Q. Let’s move on to teaching. What does the teaching load look like at Columbia?

A. By design, the Associates have a light teaching load – our intention is to give Associates time to write and to prepare for the job market. In the fall, the Associates teach two sections of legal writing and research; each section has about 22 students. Six Associates teach LLMs; one teaches JDs. For the LLM sections, there’s two intense weeks in August, when they introduce students to American law and the class meets every day. After that, Associates teach each section once a week and hold individual meetings with students to review their writing. All teaching for the year is done before Thanksgiving.

Q: How important is teaching in your hiring decisions? And how do you try to determine if you think someone will be a good teacher?

A. We expect the Associates to be superb classroom teachers and we make that a priority in hiring: we won’t hire people unless we are confident in their teaching ability. Many candidates already have teaching experience, and some have won teaching awards or even worked as a full-time teacher at some point in their career. Additionally, in our experience, time spent mentoring younger lawyers while in practice translates well to the classroom. We look at candidates’ teaching statements in their applications and how they handle themselves during the interviews. In short, we are looking for people who are skilled, passionate, and thoughtful about teaching.

Q. Do Associates have the opportunity to teach other types of courses?

A. Yes, although we encourage a cautious approach. We deliberately protect the Associates from too much teaching so they can turbo-charge their writing. At this crucial and delicate moment in their careers, there is a much higher payoff from having more and better papers than from having prepped and taught one more course or seminar. In my view, every extra minute should be spent writing and engaging with scholars and scholarship. That said, Associates who are excited to develop new course offerings related to their scholarly passions have had the opportunity to do so. We are proud of the teaching component of our program and, combined with the sort of Associates we hire, are confident of the quality of teacher that we produce.

Q. What mentoring or feedback do they receive on their teaching?

A. Columbia offers a range of resources to improve teaching. If you want, specialists will come and do focus groups with your students, videotape your class and give you feedback. That’s available, but we hire Associates who are already, by and large, great classroom teachers. We’ve been successful in hiring an outgoing, student-oriented, passionate fellows, and that’s reflected in their typically strong student evaluations.

V. Fellows Workshop and Community

Q. Let’s go into the Fellows Workshop series, and then we can talk more broadly about Columbia’s workshop series. But the fellows only workshop, tell me about that.

A. The Associates run the Fellows Workshop, at lunch each Wednesday year-round, sometimes with an extra session during peak hiring season. This Workshop is at the core of the Associates program. The expectation is that all the fellows will attend, be prepared, and contribute to the discussion. The fellows use the lunches for varied purposes at different points in the year. Often, they present early stage work. Sometimes more polished papers. They moot interviews and job talks. Our Associates community is incredibly intellectually vibrant, and Associates regularly report that the Workshop is one of the most important parts of being at Columbia; it’s an experience that grounds the community, and offers a home base for the Associates to compare notes as they extend their networks throughout the law school and the wider legal academic world.

When we hire Associates, we think a lot about how they will contribute to this community. We look for people who are broadly curious, who will be interested in engaging with all the other fellows. As a young scholar, it’s important to be able to comment on one another’s work from an external perspective, to offer your methodological expertise. And it’s equally important to be skilled as a sympathetic reader, to be able to offer internal critiques from within the framework where your colleague is operating. The Workshop is intended to help Associates develop both those skills, to learn how to engage intensely, productively, and sensitively as a scholar.

Q. We’ve hired a couple of people out of the Associates program, and I’ll say, they excel at that. I do think it’s great training for being active members of an intellectual community.

A. It is, absolutely. Being acculturated into the workshop environment is a skill people don’t get in law school and often miss in PhD programs. But workshop skills are, I believe, crucial to success as an academic. It’s central to being a sought-after and respected colleague. You have to know how to ask a question and to offer constructive comments. And just as tricky, you have to be skilled in being able to hear criticism and revise your own work in response. You have to learn what counts as a good legal academic argument. This workshop is the place where that happens.

Q. Do Associates participate in the broader intellectual community at the school? So, for example, Columbia’s standard faculty workshop.

A. Yes. They are full participants in our two main faculty workshops. Usually, at Thursday lunch, Columbia faculty workshop fairly polished papers; at Tuesday lunch, faculty present early stage ideas, just a few pages with open discussion. Associates are active and valuable contributors to both.

In addition, Columbia has a huge range of specialized faculty workshops – there’s the legal history workshop, legal theory workshop, law and economics workshop, blue sky securities law workshop, critical thought, courts and legal process, tax, and several more. All told, there are more workshops than days in the week – so I encourage Associates to be mindful of how they divvy up their time and attention. Associates are welcome and active participants in these field-specific workshops, and regularly serve as commenters, discussants, and agenda-setters, in collaboration with faculty colleagues. Also, across the street, the University is full of on-point events. And Columbia is part of the greater New York legal academic community, with NYU, Fordham, Cardozo, and other area schools within easy reach. There are a number of cross-school workshops – which are a bonanza for Associates in particular fields. After two years, Associates can leave Columbia deeply enmeshed already in the academic networks that define their field(s).

Q. All this activity makes a two-year fellowship seem so short.

A. Yes. You arrive in July and start teaching in August. During that fall, you also have to write, revise, and polish your job talk article so it’s ready to submit, ideally in the February cycle. And in the late spring you have to complete your full FAR package, so it’s ready by August. This is why I encourage Associates to draft their job talk paper before they start the fellowship, if at all possible – the timeline is so compressed. In the fall of their second year, Associates are on the market, flying around giving job talks in the fall and winter while completing their teaching. We hope Associates use the spring of the second year, after they have accepted a tenure-track offer, to get more paper drafts in the pipeline, so they start the tenure clock primed for success. Every day during these fellowships should be a writing day. Every day is precious.

VI. Nuts and Bolts

Q. Let’s shift over to some of the terms and conditions of employment. Salary, benefits, and the like.

A. The Associates’ salary is competitive with the other top fellowship programs. We also offer subsidized housing and benefits. Our goal is to ensure that Columbia remains the top choice for the strongest candidates on the market.

Q. Tell me about that subsidized housing. What does that mean? Is that guaranteed?

A. Yes, we guarantee subsidized Columbia housing. We offer a wide range of options, depending on the person’s family situation, and ranging from studios to larger apartments, including Morningside Heights three-bedroom apartments. They are all within an easy short walk to the law school. You get to live comfortably in a great part of New York City – it’s quite a good deal. We aim to make the transition to Columbia hassle-free, so Associates can focus on their scholarship.

Q. Do the fellows receive health benefits?

A. Yes. Columbia provides generous health insurance plan options, on par with what our faculty receive. Also, miscellaneous benefits, like inexpensive gym membership, and the like.

Q. How about travel funding or other professional development funding?

A. Yes. We cover reasonable conference and research travel. Additionally, we cover expenses and fees for the AALS hiring convention in the fall, and for the regular AALS convention in January, reimbursed on the same terms as regular faculty.

Q. How about funding to hire research assistants?

A. We don’t have separate funding for RAs, but we do have some funding available for other research related expenses, like specialized computer access, data sets, or survey research.

Q. Tell me about library support.

A. That’s a huge strength at Columbia. Associates have full access to one of the best law libraries in the world. And they can rely on our incredible law librarians. In recent years, we’ve been able to get library access for Associates even before they start the fellowship. This has helped a few Associates who need access, for example, to specialized archives or expensive databases. And it’s meant they can advance the work on their job talk paper in the months before they take up residence in July.

Q. Are fellows required to live in New York City?

A. Yes, we generally require Associates to be in residence in the New York City area. The core of our program is the Associates community – not just the Workshop, but the informal back and forth with the law school’s scholarly community. And for that to work, people have to be around the building. There is no requirement that Associates spend particular hours here, but folks are usually around, in and out of each other’s offices. It’s a hard-working group, as it should be.

VII. Mentoring and Placement

Q. In terms of engaging with faculty, how do the fellows find mentors? Are they assigned a mentor? Are they given assistance there?

A. We haven’t assigned formal mentors. However, we build mentorship into the program right from the start, with the hiring process. We identify who are likely to be the crucial people for that candidate’s scholarly development and bring them into the on-campus interview process. After the interview, we ask the potential mentors, "Is it someone you want to work with?" We won’t hire an Associate unless we are confident they will have faculty to mentor them.

Q. Then what assistance are they given once they arrive?

A. The committee members and I always stand ready to make introductions and smooth the way to faculty here at Columbia and elsewhere. That said, we choose Associates whom we know will succeed: self-starters with articles and research agendas that excite current faculty members. This ensures a strong base of organic support for our Associates, and means that Associates go on the market with Columbia recommenders who authentically believe in their potential and are committed to their success. Additionally, the existing Associates are a great source of information for each other. They know who likes to see early ideas, who prefers more polished papers; who will read multiple drafts, and who wants to see just one; who prefers to read just an intro, who reads whole drafts, and who likely won’t respond at all—you know, the same dynamics we experience as regular faculty with our own colleagues!

Q. Are you the one who’s directly supervising them? Not necessarily in an employment capacity, but in terms of day to day life, or is there someone else on the faculty?

A. Yes, that’s me for day to day life, like help with getting extra research funds, or early access to library databases.

Q. And on the job market?

A. For the job market, we have an Academic Placement committee that helps make phone calls for Associates, get in touch with recommenders, and reach out to entry-level hiring committees at other schools. They also run Columbia’s “Moot Camp” each fall. At Moot Camp, each fellow gets to present their job talk as if it were a regular entry-level talk, with a 20-minute presentation followed by faculty questions. Usually, one faculty member asks questions from within the candidate’s field, another from outside, so it mimics the entry-level talk. After the Q&A, the faculty then give feedback to the fellow.

VIII. Why Columbia?

Q. We’ve gone through a lot of the details. Let’s step back for a moment. If you had a candidate who was choosing between the Columbia program and some of the other top programs out there, how would you sell them on Columbia’s? What do you think makes it stand apart?

A. First, the most exceptional part of the Columbia program is the Fellows Workshop, along with our broader faculty workshop culture. The Fellows Workshop, in particular, turbocharges the Associates’ teaching skills, presenting skills, and workshop skills. It hones their intellectual development, their papers, and their readiness to be tenure-track faculty. Finally, it facilitates a collaborative, collegial community among the Associates, one that carries on even after they leave the program for tenure-track positions. Many former Associates who are now tenured law professors themselves remain very fond of the program and are eager to mentor our current Associates.

Second, I think we offer the right balance between teaching and writing – which is to say, less teaching, more writing. Since we are able to hire the very top candidates on the market, they are, by and large, already great teachers. By limiting teaching to a short burst in the fall, we make space for the Associates to hone their writing. Scholarship comes first.

Third, we offer wide-ranging support for Associates as they go on the market. As a large faculty, Columbia usually has several people who are expert in each Associate’s field. So, Associates are not dependent on any one relationship, and can usually get varied feedback. Also, by being in New York, Associates have access to the leading faculty in their area, all within lunch or workshop distance. Being known by the core people in your field matters not just in the hiring process, but in your life as a scholar.

Fourth, and perhaps more mundane, we try to make being at Columbia seamless and frictionless. You don’t have to waste time house hunting. Everything is walking distance, the gym is across the street, the park a block away, the library gets you anything you need. We work hard to strip away irritations so Associates can focus on their scholarly development.

Q. Do you happen to know off the top of your head the percentage of fellows over, say, the last five years, who have landed in tenure track positions at law schools?

A. All of them, I think, with the caveat that one or two took parental leave, which shifted back their entry-level hiring timeline. Here’s the link to recent Associate placements.  The four Associates who went on the market this past year accepted great tenure-track law academic jobs.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 12, 2019 at 07:55 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, July 05, 2019

Interview with Jeanne Merino on the Thomas C. Grey Fellowship Program at Stanford Law School

Here is the next interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  Thanks to Jeanne Merino, the Director of the First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program at Stanford Law School, for participating in this series!  She oversees the fellows in Stanford’s Thomas C. Grey Fellowship for Legal Research and Writing (LRW).   An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Jeanne to respond to any questions in the comments. 

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here. For more information about law faculty hiring generally, check out the section of the AALS's website devoted to this topic at  Full interview below the break. 

Q. Tell me about your role with the Thomas Grey C. Fellowship program.

A. I direct the legal research and writing program and supervise the Grey Fellows, who teach in the LRW program. I hire the fellows with the LRW faculty committee, train them, and supervise their teaching.

Q. I would love to take the fellowship program chronologically, starting with the application process, then moving through the fellowship itself and how to make the most of it. When do you start accepting applications?

A. We start accepting applications in August of each year for the following year. This August 2019, we'll start receiving applications for 2020-2021.

Q. And if somebody wanted to apply, what materials do they need to submit?

A. There are two different ways to submit materials. Applicants who are attending the AALS hiring conference should send us a letter of interest by September 15. We will review the materials hosted on the AALS Faculty Appointments Register and ask for interviews the weekend before the hiring conference. In some years if there aren’t a lot of candidates for AALS and I will skip the trip and funnel those candidates into the direct application system.

Applicants who are not attending AALS can apply directly to our program. We have a job announcement on our website. Applicants submit materials to [email protected]. Required materials are a cover letter describing the candidate’s interest in the program, a CV or resume, publications, a writing sample from law practice, a law school transcript, letters of recommendation (preferred) or the names of references, and a research agenda. We don’t expect the research agenda to be as sophisticated an agenda as produced by people who are going on the tenure-track market. But we want a sense of the scholarly interests of the applicants, the connection between those interests and their law practice, if any, what methodological approaches they are considering, and a little bit about what the trajectory of their work is going to be. Fellows don't stick 100% to their research agendas. We just want them to start thinking about the arc of their career as law scholars.

We don’t have openings every year. We have five fellows, and since the fellows decide if they will stay for two years or three years we don’t consistently hire every year. Our unpredictable timeline can be frustrating to applicants, but it pays off in flexibility for fellows. We are hiring this year.

This year I will start reviewing the direct applications around mid-October. I summarize the applications and the LRW faculty committee and I decide whom to interview. The committee is chaired by Larry Marshall, and current members are Shirin Sinnar and George Fisher, all of whom are tenured professors. I first schedule a phone interview with candidates. Occasionally if an applicant shares academic interests with the chair of our legal research and writing committee they might also have a phone interview with him, but usually that call is with me.

The phone interview tends to be on the long side, like an hour or so. I cover all the territory, including what do you like about being a lawyer? Why do you want to make a transition to law teaching? What are your research interests? How do you want to study your areas of interest? Why do you want to teach? What do you love about writing? How did you learn to really write like a lawyer? I want to hire people who love to write, and not just in a scholarly voice. Some of our current and former fellows are poets, journalists, fiction writers, and photographers—people who think about how to communicate complicated ideas in nuanced and sophisticated ways. I want to hire people who are enthusiastic about being lawyers, because I want that enthusiasm to come through to our students. And I want people who have a real appreciation for what lawyers do.

We schedule callbacks usually starting around the end of November or beginning of December. Depending on the number of positions we have to fill, we might have callbacks in January and February as well. How late we interview depends a bit on how our own fellows are doing on the market.

We schedule a lot of meetings for the callbacks. We schedule meetings with a group of current fellows, so they can get a sense of how the applicant would work together with the team, and how the interests of the applicant would complement the interests of the current fellows. We have individual meetings with some members of the legal research and writing committee and with members of our faculty who are in the same discipline as the candidate.

The purpose of those meetings is two-fold. First, we need feedback from scholars who can tell us if the applicant’s scholarship fills a gap in the body of work, is well-researched and considered, and whether there are likely to be openings in that area when fellows complete their fellowship. Second, we want to know if those faculty members are interested in working with the applicant. We need faculty to support our fellows’ research interests. We expect fellows to be working hard on teaching, and the quid pro quo for that hard work is to give them access to faculty who can comment on their scholarship.

Q. As for the final decision, is that made by the committee or by you?

A. The committee. In the past the chair and I would write a memo recommending hires and the committee would usually endorse our recommendation. The current committee is more involved in all aspects of the fellowship, so now it will be a committee decision.

Q. How many applications do you receive in a typical year?

A. The number of applications has gone down. I'm doing more outreach and PR this year, and I hope this interview gets an audience, and I’ll see if the number of applications goes up. We used to get about 75 applications. This last year, we got like 26 applications.

Q. Oh, wow. That is a big difference.

A. Yes, the number has gone down a lot. I indicated on our website last year that we might not have an opening, and in fact we did not have an opening this year. If we hired more consistently we might have more applicants. It’s also been awhile since I did outreach, so I'm doing that again this summer.

Q. During the application process, how do you gauge who will make a good teacher?

A. Moving forward, we will ask people to teach a class when they come in for the callback. We don’t expect perfection at the outset, and honestly, I think LRW is a really hard class to teach to a group of students. But I do want to know if candidates can reflect about how to analyze the law and connect with students.

As teachers, our primary job is to teach students how to think like a lawyer, strategize like a lawyer, use authority the way that lawyers do, and communicate concisely and precisely. The most successful teachers convey a real enthusiasm for lawyering as a process and thoughtfulness about what it means to be a lawyer in the world today, which is complicated and multifaceted and has lots of pros and cons. And LRW teachers should appreciate the work that lawyers do.

In terms of connecting with an audience, a good law professor has to listen hard, probe students' comments, be open to lots of different points of view, and be able to facilitate a conversation where students feel comfortable putting their points of view in.

We also have to shape students' thinking when they say something that's off the mark. How can we interrupt wrong thinking without dissuading students from participating in the conversation?

We also make better teachers if we're thinking hard about how indispensible communication is to our profession. We communicate orally. We communicate in writing. And if we can't do that, our ideas stay in our brains doing no good for anyone. So, we look for people who can be really thoughtful about the work of the law and the skills of writing and speaking, and teach that clearly, but also in nuanced and interesting ways.

Q. How much does practice experience matter in the hiring process? Relatedly, how much practice experience are you looking for?

A. It weighs a lot. I think it weighs more in our program than most other fellowship programs because our courses are taught as simulations where students are acting in the role of lawyers. Part of the process in the simulation is to think strategically about the lawyering context and litigation process. What does the client want? What are the lawyers' options, including litigation and other lawyering choices? What does the law say, and what is the room to play in the joints of the law?

We hire fellows who have had experience with that legal process. We require fellows who have at least two years of lawyering experience. Clerkship counts as part of that lawyering experience. I'm really looking for candidates who are advanced enough in their career to think strategically and not an assignment at a time. They're looking at the lawyering process as a whole; they're thinking about how lawyers help clients make decisions when the law is uncertain and the facts are in flux. Frankly, that’s a big part of the fun of our classes. It's pretty common for us to have applicants and to hire applicants who have a tremendous amount of experience, like eight, nine years of lawyering experience or more.

We hire fellows with diverse experience. We have fellows with criminal law backgrounds, civil law backgrounds, public interest, public service, private law firm, transactional backgrounds. Although we do emphasize litigation in class, so some exposure to litigation is pretty important. But a lot of our students go into transactional law and fellows with a background in transactions have helped us “translate” our litigation simulations so students see the benefit of learning the basics of analyzing law, writing, and oral communication. Also, since we work collaboratively, I rely on others’ experience to help fill in the gaps of my knowledge. I’ve never worked for a law firm, for example, so it’s important to have faculty who know what the expectations are in that practice area.

Q. Now let’s turn to the scholarly side. What are they typically expected to have scholarship-wise when they apply? In other words, is it a full paper, more than one full paper, just an idea?

A. Because there are so many different factors we consider, there is no fixed requirement. But strong candidates might have a substantial paper in production and a few other ideas, and many have much more. An applicant might have a student note, but since our applicants have some work experience, some of the student notes are a little bit dated and may not reflect what they're thinking about and what they're capable of. That said, since our program welcomes fellows who plan to stay for three years, it’s okay to have somewhat less scholarship as long as there’s enough to show the fellow is able and sincerely interested in producing scholarship.

The tenure-track teaching market has changed a lot in the last ten years, and successful candidates on the tenure-track teaching market must have more publications than they used to have.

Q. Yeah, absolutely. And does that go for the research agenda, too? Are you looking for a pretty well-developed research agenda?

A. No, I would say, I'm looking to understand who candidates want to be as scholars, but that’s a process and I know that will change over the course of the fellowship. I also use the agenda to try to figure out which faculty I should loop in on the hiring process.

Q. One of the comments that keeps coming up on the blogs is people expressing frustration that so many law faculty and so many law fellows have the same or similar backgrounds. They went to Harvard, Yale or Stanford. They had an elite clerkship. If you were an advising a candidate, perhaps without those traditional markers, how would you advise them to try to stand out in the application process?

A. Yes, I’ve seen that question raised. And I will say, we’ve had fellows who have gone to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, but we also have a fair number of very successful fellows who are now in tenure-track positions, who did not go to those 3 schools, or top 15 schools.
We've had fellows from UCLA and Northwestern and UC Hastings and GW. And I'm not going to say, because it would be a damned lie for me to say that the law school doesn't matter on the tenure-track teaching market. It does. If you didn't go to one of the elite schools, you have a lot more that you need to show.

But if you were a standout at one of those schools and you have mentors who know you as smart and curious and interested in ideas and teaching, then I think you could be a really great candidate for our program. If you've done great work as a lawyer, if you've demonstrated a real commitment and interest to writing, not just doing a fellowship to escape litigation but taking what you learned and developing ideas from your lawyering experience that are real, deep interesting things that lawyers should be thinking and reading about, I hope you’ll consider us. If you're open to the idea of joining an intellectual community and participating in how other people develop their ideas, then we're interested in you.

And so far this approach has worked for us. Nearly all of our fellows have gone on to tenure-track teaching. But I do have to keep an eye on the market, and fewer of our fellows are getting the many multiple offers that they were before the crash.

At some point if we have a hard time placing people from our program, then we will have to consider a change. It doesn’t make sense to have people leave their well-paying, satisfying jobs for a comparatively low-paying job if chances are low that they will achieve what they hope to achieve. We pay more than most—maybe all?—fellowships, but everyone takes a cut when they take this job.

Q. Do you make any effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. Yes. We hire women and people of color, and they are successful here as teachers and on the market. Ten years ago we renewed our efforts to hire fellows who are dedicated to tenure-track law teaching after the fellowship. Since then nineteen fellows have graduated from our program and gone on the tenure-track teaching market. All but one got a tenure-track teaching job. Of those nineteen, eleven are women and eight are people of color.

Q. That's great.

A. Currently, our five fellows are all women, but that is rarely true.

Q. I saw that.

A. Women are still underrepresented in the legal academy, and I’m proud of the role we’ve played in promoting them professionally. Three of our current fellows are women of color. Considering the twenty-four former and current fellows together, sixteen are women and eleven are people of color. Two of those fellows or former fellows are Latinx and two are of African descent, ethnic groups that are particularly underrepresented in the academy. And in addition to ethnic diversity, two of our former fellows are gay men. We’ve had plenty of straight white men, or course. I’m Latina so I have a personal commitment to diversity. But it’s also a part of my professional obligation, as a lawyer and someone who cares about justice. We’ve got to diversify our law faculties so they reflect the communities we serve. And that takes a conscious effort.

Q. That's fabulous. Let me turn over to some of the terms and conditions of employment. I saw on the website, it said fellows for this last year were paid $72,000 a year. Is that still the right number?

A. That's the right number. Our salary goes up $2,000 in the second year and another $2000 in the third year. So, salary ranges from 72k to 76k.

Q. Okay. And do fellows receive health benefits?

A. Yes.

Q. And how about access to the university or subsidized housing? I imagine that could be a big deal in Palo Alto.

A. It's a big deal. It's a huge problem.

Q. I bet.

A. It's a huge problem all over Stanford University for absolutely every job. There is access to housing, but not all those who apply get it. Several of our fellows have lived in subsidized housing now and in the past. It's still not cheap, but it is cheaper than market-rate housing. The on-campus housing for staff and faculty is actually very nice.

Q. And how about travel funding or other professional development funding?

A. Fellows get a total of $3,800. $800 from the university for professional development but there are a lot of constraints on how we can use that money. The other $3,000 can be used for conferences, books, hiring a research assistant. And everyone uses that money up.

Q. Does that include, in their second year or possibly in the third year, market-related expenses?

A. Yes, and frankly, the whole 3,000 bucks is sucked up by AALS.

Q. Are fellows expected to live in or around Palo Alto? Obviously, there are teaching obligations, so it is tough to live too far away, but if someone wanted to commute, could they?

A. I wish I could lie and say they had to live here, but that's not the case. A number of our fellows commute from the East Bay. It's super difficult, because I do think it's important, for both the teaching goals and the scholarship goals, to be on campus regularly. And I do require that they come to campus regularly, but that doesn't mean five days a week. That usually means something more like three days a week.

But we can't expect fellows to live close to Stanford, or we would be closing the fellowship to all but those who are independently wealthy or who owned a software company before they went to law school, or something. Housing prices are too high in the Bay area right now.

Q. Let’s turn to the fellowship itself and how to make the most of the fellowship year. I'm going to start with the intellectual life of the fellowship. How often do the fellows get together and in what capacity? For example, is there a fellows' workshop at Stanford?

A. The Grey fellows are a pretty collaborative group, working together on both teaching and also gathering informally to discuss their scholarship. In addition, there is a fellows' workshop that includes not just the Grey fellows, but also Stanford Law School’s fellows in the centers for constitutional law, law and biosciences, law and history, CodeX, the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and the like. In addition, our Dean just appointed an Associate Dean for Research and Intellectual Life who will organize informal workshops with fellows, junior faculty, and JD/PhDs.

Fellows are encouraged to attend our weekly faculty lunches where faculty, visitors and sometimes folks from outside the legal academy give a talk and Q&A. Faculty lunches provide a key opportunity to ask questions of faculty and observe how professors give feedback to shape and refine the presenter’s thinking.

In addition, for the last five years the law school has sponsored the Grey Fellows’ Forum, a meeting for current and former Fellows to share their work and create an opportunity for the former fellows to get to know the current fellows, who will soon be on the market for a teaching job.

Q. Okay, that's great. Who supervisors the fellows? Who's their direct supervisor?

A. I am.

Q. And when it comes to support for their research, you talked about the assignment of a mentor. Who sits down and talks through their papers with them?

A. Two members of the faculty LRW committee advise fellows about their research and help match fellows with faculty who share interests. Fellows are encouraged to reach out to other faculty members. It’s good to have two or three faculty who are familiar with the fellow’s work to provide guidance and feedback and possibly be a recommender on the market. Of course, producing scholarship is mostly not a super-collegial endeavor. It takes a lot of sitting down and mulling over your own ideas and putting them down on paper and writing and revising and thinking.

We don’t really assign mentors, other than the LRW committee members. Some marriages don't work all that great so we have to be flexible and persistent to find the right fit.

Q. Mentoring has to be organic, in some ways, at least, right?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you have any special advice for candidates who come in with a PhD in terms of transitioning to legal writing and the norms of legal scholarship?

A. Boy, that’s a good question. Two of our current fellows have PhDs and I will ask them. I usually consider the more difficult transition to be from thinking like an advocate to thinking like a scholar. That is a huge transition and one that fellowship programs help with immeasurably. I will have to think more about the transition that PhDs make.

Q. That's fair. Let's switch over to the teaching side. Obviously, the fellows are teaching in your legal research and writing program. How many students do they typically have at a time?

A. In the fall, they have 30 students. In the winter and spring, they have 18 students. And the fall is hard, because 30 students is a fair number of students.

Q. What is their role, in terms of coming up with the assignments or coming up with the plans for the quarters?

A. I come up with the assignments, which are uniform across the program, and draft a syllabus. We share an electronic work site, where I, former fellows, and current fellows post class notes. I share in-class exercises and teaching ideas, but fellows have a fair amount of discretion about how they teach particular topics. I also give guidance about the kind and amount of feedback we give to students.

Written feedback is our opportunity to shape how students express themselves in a way that lawyers recognize as legal analysis. We provide a lot of formative feedback to students. We also meet with students individually for an hour of individual conferences with in the fall and a half-hour in the winter. No required individual conferences in the spring, but we have to be available for our students and that usually means we meet one-on-one with almost all the students.

Q. And how does that calendar work with the job market calendar?

A. The early October date has been on my calendar since the AALS published it. We might be able to cancel the class scheduled at the end of the week. But we must minimize rescheduling classes, so I hope prospective employers are flexible.

Q. Do they have opportunities to teach classes outside of the legal writing program?

A. Not really. An occasional exception is made, but for the most part, no. Our workload is heavy and the only time that it really makes sense is after the fellow has a job. But beforehand given the demanding nature of the teaching aspect of the work, nearly all other time should be spent on scholarship.

Q. Do you have a sense of the breakdown in time for fellows--what percentage of their time they tend to spend on teaching, on their own research, on other things, if there are any in the fellowship?

A. Yes. It's super lumpy. The summer is mostly available for fellows’ scholarly work, other than roughly two weeks of time devoted for getting ready for the fall quarter. In the nine weeks of the fall quarter, teaching is pretty nearly a full-time job. If someone already has a research project that's going, there might be some time when fellows can research and write. In other words, teaching in the fall is a full-time job and to attend to the scholarly agenda as well takes more than full-time effort.

Grading for the fall quarter is over by the middle of November, so fellows can focus on scholarship from then until the first full week in January—about 7 weeks. Fellows will need to spend about a week preparing for the winter quarter, and most everyone will take a week or so of vacation time then, but that leaves 4-5 weeks for scholarship. And then, because we have smaller classes in the winter and spring, I do think that it's possible to spend an average of 25-30 hours a week on teaching in the winter and spring, leaving quite a bit of time for research.

We have a long spring break, because we stop teaching after about seven weeks in the quarter. In sum, fellows have about 12 weeks in the summer, 4-5 weeks over winter break, and 3-4 weeks over spring break, for scholarly activities.

It's possible to get some work done during the term, especially during the winter and spring. But that’s very different from a fellowship where there's no teaching obligation.

Q. Circling back to teaching, what type of training or feedback do fellows receive on their teaching?

A. We have a teaching workshop over the summer. The workshop is different each year. Last year our focus was on looking at interventions to help deal with stereotype threat and how to promote diversity and inclusion in the classroom. This year, we'll focus on how to use classroom time to accomplish our course goals, with a focus on using in-class teaching techniques like how to facilitate a class conversation, how to use interactive exercises in class, how to use a Socratic dialogue, and how to lecture most effectively

I work other university programs to organize these workshops. The university has a robust Center on Teaching and Learning, and teaching is valued and respected, not just at the law school but in other parts of the University. I also often work with folks at the Hume Center—the writing tutorial center—and the Program on Writing and Rhetoric.

Then we each teach an example class, debrief it and talk about what worked well, what didn't work well, how can we improve it. We will also all mark up the same paper and pass it around to make sure we are all looking for roughly the same thing, and get ideas about how to identify analytical and writing problems and suggest improvements.

The length of the workshop varies. It's usually about two weeks or parts of two weeks. This year, we have no new teachers. So, our workshop will be just four days.

When classes are in session we meet about once a week to talk about our curriculum, pedagogy, what classes we are teaching, what problems are people having, that sort of thing.

And then, during the quarter, fellows' classes will be observed by faculty, who then review the class with the fellow.

Q. So, let's take a step back for a moment. If you were talking to a candidate with lots of different options in the fellowship market, how would you try to sell them on the Grey fellowship? Or to ask it another way, what do you think sets the Grey fellowship program apart?

A. Several things set us apart. First, and perhaps most importantly, Stanford's a really, great warm place with a fantastic group of law scholars and a vibrant intellectual life. Fellows' ideas are taken seriously.

Second, if you're interested in writing, not just to communicate your ideas to other faculty members but to write to persuade and to write for a lay audience, you should consider our fellowship. Our program teaches not just the conventions of legal writing, but how to communicate our ideas to different audiences generally.

Third, ours is a more teaching-focused fellowship. If you're not interested in teaching, and there are some law scholars who aren't that interested in teaching, this isn't the fellowship for you. But legal writing is one of the hardest things to teach in the law school. If you can teach legal writing, you can teach anything.

Quite a large number of our recent fellows have won teaching awards in their new academic institutions. Of those 18 fellows who graduated from our program and went on to tenure track positions, seven that I know of have received teaching awards at their law schools. Andrea Roth who's at Berkeley, just got the All-University Teaching Award. Beth Colgan at UCLA got the teaching award for UCLA Law School. Shirin Sinnar, who’s here at Stanford, received the faculty teaching award. Kaipo Matsumura, who's at the Arizona State University College of Law, got a teaching award. Thea Johnson, who's at the University of Maine, got a teaching award. Hillel Levin at the University of Georgia and Brooke Coleman at Seattle University received teaching awards – Brooke three times.

We hire fellows who will be good teachers and who value teaching, and we have a deserved reputation for producing fellows who will be good teachers. I know that's not the coin of the realm, but teaching is increasingly important at law schools. Most law schools care about teaching more now than they did 10 years ago.

Q. Yeah, that's fabulous. So, let's talk about the job market. Who mentors these fellows through the job market process?

A. Mentoring fellows through the job market process starts with those faculty members who have already been in touch with fellows about their scholarship generally, but we also have instituted processes to support fellows in the six months before the AALS hiring conference. Fellows should review their FAR forms, CVs, and research agendas with a couple of different people. One person who is familiar with the FAR forms and knows how to get the right information in a small space, how to make strategic decisions about what you highlight, what boxes you check about geographic preferences, all of that stuff. And then, someone in the fellow's area who knows something about the market. We have an academic prospects committee that can help review those forms.

Like some other schools, Stanford also has a Moot Fest—days set aside to moot job talks, AALS interviews, and callback interviews

Q. So, do they have an opportunity, then, to do a moot job talk?

A. Yes.

Q. Who would attend that – other fellows? faculty?

A. Faculty are designated to attend and fellows can go as they choose. And most fellows do choose, because it's really useful to watch other folks’ job talks.

Q. And do they have the opportunity to do a mock screening interview?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. Do you support fellows who have to go on the market more than once? You mentioned earlier that the fellowship can be renewed for a third year. How does that work?

A. The third year is nearly automatic if performance is good. We don't necessarily extend the fellowship past three years. Occasionally, we've given folks a fourth year if a fellow has had a baby in the middle of the fellowship, or because they’ve been truly exceptional teachers and things just haven’t quite come together to go on the market.

We've had fellows who have gone on the market more than once. It's not optimal. And I say this some from my perspective as the person in charge of the legal writing program. It's not optimal, because going on the market is a distraction from teaching. One of the things I like about the three-year fellowship is it gives fellows a second year teaching, which is usually people's most successful year. The first year teaching is really hard. People don't know the ins and outs of the assignments, the ins and outs of what students know and what students don't know. The last year teaching is also hard, because that's when you're on the job market. So, we don't necessarily support, but in circumstances, we might support someone going on the job market a second time.

Q. Okay. Now, I'd love to talk with you less about Stanford's program and more about the rise of VAPs and fellowships more generally. Obviously, there's a lot of debate about this development. What do you think are the benefits to VAPs and fellowships and what do you think are the costs?

A. The benefit is that we prepare prospective law teachers for the work they will have to do when they get a tenure-track job. As one of my colleagues says, the fellowship—like a tenure-track teaching position—is a both/and job. You have to teach. You have to do scholarship. That's a heavy lift for anybody, and our fellows have demonstrated they can do it.

We also do a great job of getting fellows who haven't been imbued in a scholarly environment to think and write like an academic: what legal academia looks like and how professors and others create an intellectually stimulating environment. Closely related to that, for our fellows who’ve come out of law practice, particularly a social change law practice, fellowships help fellows develop an academic voice and an academic approach to legal questions that is quite different from the lawyerly advocacy voice and approach.

But there are downsides. I worry that the availability of fellowships has made them nearly a requirement and has made obtaining a tenure-track teaching job more costly. Have we just created another obstacle that makes it more difficult for law students to repay their loans? Have we created a market where law schools can pretty much insist that candidates have many publications before hiring? And does this make it harder for low- and moderate-income lawyers to become law teachers? I wonder if we are reinforcing that you have to be a member of a privileged class before you even go to law school, if you're going to be a law professor.

Q. Can VAPs and fellowships help address those costs by opening up the program to candidates from nontraditional backgrounds, or other diverse backgrounds?

A. Yeah, but I think you have to make that decision self-consciously, because it's not going to happen naturally. We have a couple of fellows with PhDs, and I am thrilled to have them. But it’s problematic if fellowships only or mostly hire fellows with both law degrees and PhDs. Then you’ve created a huge barrier to entry into legal academe, because law schools will insist on it.

Q. You may have seen on the blogs that there’s a perception VAPs and fellows receive so much help on their scholarships, that it can be hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work and ideas come from the VAPs themselves and how much comes from the school.

A. Yes, I’ve heard that’s a concern, but I don't think it's a problem, at least not at Stanford. I just don't think a faculty member who would ever take that kind of responsibility for somebody else's work.

Q. Last question. Given that time is a zero sum, time spent in a fellowship is time that's not spent, for example, in practice. What do you think about that trade-off, especially given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A. We've resolved that problem by hiring people who have substantial law practice experience. Lawyers with practice bring so much to our students. I'm not a big fan of the trend of hiring exclusively PhD's on law faculties. That will increase the divide between law practice and legal scholarship, entrench a certain disdain that some law professors have for law practice, and make it less likely that students will learn the skills and ways of thinking that they will need to be excellent advocates.

We've successfully hired and promoted fellows with law practice experience whose scholarship is informed by that experience and who are in conversation with law as it's practiced and as it affects peoples’ lives.

But I don’t mean to say that a PhD doesn’t have a place in a law school. I’ve heard lawyers and judges say derogatory things about legal scholarship that misses the point of the academic enterprise and is blind to the kind of impact that legal scholarship can have, even if it doesn’t touch most lawyer’s day-to-day practice much.

Q. Is there anything else you want to add? For example, anything you want hiring committees or prospective candidates to know about the fellowship? Or anything you just want to pass along about the state of hiring in the legal academy?

A. I want to send a message to hiring law schools that our fellows are really working hard. They have a lot of obligations on their plates in addition to legal scholarship, so they are already accustomed to balancing teaching and scholarship.

Q. Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it.

Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 5, 2019 at 08:47 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (11)

Monday, July 01, 2019

Hiring Posts 2020 - Schedule

An approximate schedule of law school hiring posts follows, based off the dates of the release of the first FAR distribution and the AALS conference . 

Wednesday, July 10: Hiring committee post. (Last year's post here.)

Thursday, August 8: FAR distribution 1 released.

Thursday, August 15: Law School Hiring and Clearinghouse for Questions post (reporting interviews and callbacks on a spreadsheet, and collecting questions and answers in the comments; last year's post here).

Thursday, October 3, through Saturday, October 5: Hiring Conference.

Monday, October 21: VAP post (last year's post here).

Late February/early March: Begin entry level hiring report data collection.

Originally published on July 1, 2019. 

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on July 1, 2019 at 10:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (2)

Interview with Daniel Markovits on the Fellowship with the Yale Center for the Study of Private Law

I am excited for the next post in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  This interview is with Daniel Markovits, the Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School and the Founding Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Private Law.  The Center typically has one fellow at a time who plans to go on the law teaching market.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Daniel to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Daniel, for participating in this series!

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

Q. Do you mind telling me your role with the program?

A. Yes, I'm the director of the Center and founded it a couple years ago. I’m involved in effectively everything that the Center does.

Q. And how many fellows does the Center typically have at a time?

A. We have one stipendiary fellow at a time. And that's a full time post. We have on occasion had nonresident associates or fellows of one sort or another, but that's very informal. We may be expanding that, but that's not a way for someone to fund a year or even spend full time for a year at Yale. It's rather a way for someone to come through Yale for a couple weeks, engage in some activities, some research, and then move on.

Q. The full time fellow position, is that a yearlong position, or two years?

A. The appointment is for a year. It's renewable by agreement of me and the fellow. Our first fellow, Sadie Blanchard stayed for three years and is now a professor at Notre Dame. Our second fellow, Przemyslaw Palka is finishing his first year this year and will stay on next year.

Q. Is it fair to say that it's somewhat the norm to stay for longer than the year?

A. Yes, I suppose that's right. The idea behind the fellowship is to take people and get them in a position that if they want to go on the US-American law teaching market, they will succeed. I take people from a wide variety of backgrounds, who are not always the most traditional candidates for academic jobs. So often it takes a little bit of time for people to develop their research in the way needed to succeed.

Q. Before we get into the application process and how you actually select the fellows, I'm wondering if you can tell me just a little bit more about the Center itself. Obviously, it focuses on private law, but what do you mean by that? And what does the Center itself do?

A. The Center focuses on private law broadly understood: contracts, torts, property (including intellectual property), commercial law, and alternative dispute resolution. The idea behind the Center is that there's been really a massive growth in broad-ranging, methodologically diverse engagement with those subjects in the past ten years in the US-American Legal Academy. Where law and economics dominated those subjects for many years, now law and sociology is becoming more prominent, as are law and philosophy and legal history. The Center is meant to be a big tent place where people who favor a wide range of methods can come together and discuss shared interests.

We have, every year, a variety of events ranging from academic seminars to conferences. We also every spring host a seminar in private law, which is both a class and a speaker series around a theme. This year's theme was the way in which information technology—especially big data and algorithmic processing—are changing the basic formal structure of legal relationships. Next year we'll focus on private law and inequality, so we jump around. That's the idea.

Q. I'd love to take the fellowship and basically go through it chronologically from the application through the job market. When does the program start accepting applications for the fellowship, assuming that it is a year in which you want to hire someone for the next year?

A. In years in which we want to hire, and we've done this only twice, we tend to post something around November/December of the previous year. So we then get applications and we don't actually have a particularly formal schedule. In the past, we’ve set an early spring deadline for receiving applications. The applications themselves usually consist of a letter, a CV, a law school transcript, samples of writings, and names of references. Reference letters are fine, but they are not required at that stage.

Q. And what does the timeline look like from there? How many rounds of interviews are there?

A. Typically, the existing fellow and I will filter through the applications, interview some number of people, perhaps five. Those interviews can be on campus in person if it's convenient, but we cast our net globally. So for example, the person who is now the fellow has a Polish law degree and was, before being here, a PhD candidate in Italy. So those interviews were conducted via Skype.

Q. And are the fellows typically people you knew before this, or these are people who come in vis-à-vis the application process?

A. I knew neither of the two people I've hired before this. I don't think I'd ever had a conversation with either.

Q. And when you interviewed them either in person or on the phone, how long were those interviews? What did they tend to focus on?

A. The interviews can be up to an hour. It depends a little bit on how the conversation goes. Part of the interview is a chance for me to describe what the fellowship involves to make sure that the fellows actually want the job that's being offered. Part of it is for me to get a sense for them, and then part of it also, the largest part, tends to be a discussion of their work and their research. So before interviewing people, I will have read effectively all of their scholarship, and we'll have a conversation about their papers.

Q. How many applications have you received in the past for the fellowship?

A. I can't remember. I think more than 10 and fewer than 100.

Q. Okay.

A. So that's not very helpful, maybe 30, but I'm not really sure is the truth of the matter.

Q. And when you're looking at their scholarship, how much scholarship do they tend to have? In other words, are these people coming in with full papers that you're reading? Are they coming in with ideas for papers? How far along are they typically?

A. They tend to have full papers. Some of them have a lot of papers.

Q. Is that because they're coming out of a PhD program?

A. They're coming out of a PhD program sometimes. Sometimes they're coming out of a law degree and maybe another fellowship. But those sorts of credentials, and the quantity of writing that they produce, are not required to get the job. I'm looking for people who are talented rather than traditionally credentialed.

Q. What do you mean by that, not traditional?

A. Well, I would like the fellowship to be a pipeline into university professor jobs for people who maybe didn't go to Harvard or Yale College and Harvard or Yale Law School. And I'd like to get people who have broad ranging interdisciplinary interests of a sort that maybe means it takes them a little longer to get going as scholars. It's not that I have a fixed set of rules about whom I'll look at. Every year I interview a couple people who have completely conventional credentials: three articles already finished, an elite law degree, and maybe a PhD from some affiliated discipline. But it's not that that's a requirement for getting a serious look at for the fellowship, and both of the people I've hired so far don't quite fit that profile.

Q. Are you looking for people who have international law backgrounds?

A. That’s not essential at all. But it is true that there is a conversation around private law subjects that's going on both in the Commonwealth legal community and in the European legal community (and therefore also to a significant degree in Latin America and parts of Asia, which have adopted either the Napoleonic code or the German civil code). I would like that conversation to have a bigger footprint in the US. So it's attractive to me if people have the expertise to engage globally. But it's also the case that I could easily imagine appointing as a fellow somebody who has a purely US-American scholarly profile.

Q. What are you expecting in terms of a research agenda? How developed do you want that to be or do you expect that to be?

A. I'm a little dubious of formally developed research agendas in applications because even if people think they know what they're going to do, they're not going to do that thing once they start doing it.

Q. Right.

A. I’m looking for people with ideas, and I'm looking for people who I think have the ambition and the discipline required really to work at those ideas. It's fine if those ideas are in conversation and come out in bits and pieces slowly and in an inchoate form. That's great. Those can be some of the best candidates.

Q. Are you looking for practice experience? Does that matter in the application process?

A. Along every dimension, more is better than less and better is better than worse. So practice experience is a plus just as scholarly production is a plus just as creativity is a plus. But it's not that I have a distinctive category that needs to be checked off or ignored.

Q. And would you say the same about PhDs? Do you have a preference in the process for people with PhDs?

A. Certainly not for the credential itself. People who have PhDs often but not always have learned certain things that make them likely to be effective scholars. But the credential itself doesn't matter to me. The first person I hired did not have a PhD.

Q. Do you make any special efforts to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A. Yes. I think it's important that the fellowship be a way for all people to get into legal academia, and it's important to look for promise. Also, I'm always on the lookout for somebody who for some reason or other I think has a brighter future than the market has recognized.

Q. You talked a lot about looking for candidates without necessarily those traditional markers we might expect law professors to have, Harvard, Yale, Stanford degree and the like. How can somebody without those qualifications stand out in the application process? What advice would you have for someone who didn't go to those top three or five law schools, who didn't have an elite clerkship et cetera?

A. I think it depends on the kind of job you're applying for, but if you're applying for what is effectively an academic fellowship, which this mostly is, I think the best advice is to identify your best idea or two. Do it in conversation with teachers that you've had, and get a very crisp statement of that idea. It can be a page or more. Get that into the application so that you emphasize that you're a live wire and that you're creative. That's actually pretty rare, and if someone is paying attention can easily outweigh mountains of traditional credentials.

Q. Yeah, I agree. I think the same thing on the hiring side of the entry level market. So am I right that the fellow does not have any teaching responsibilities?

A. Basically you're right. The fellow helps me to design and administer the seminar in private law each year. It meets every week over the spring term. It has a class component which people enroll in for credit. And then it has a speaker series. If it meets, let's say 14 times over the course of the semester, maybe seven of those sessions are outside speakers, and seven are taught internally. The fellow helps pick the theme. And I try to pick a theme that the fellow will be interested in. The fellow has substantial say over what the themes are.

When Sadie Blanchard was my fellow, she was very interested in arbitration and so we had, for example, a theme on dispute resolution outside the state. Przemek right now is interested in both technology and inequality, and so the themes this year and next reflect his interests. The fellow will help to identify who the speakers should be, help to identify what texts we should teach, and help to manage the invitations et cetera for the seminar. Finally, the fellow helps to run the actual visits. There's always a dinner when the speaker comes, for example, at which faculty and students continue to engage the speaker and her paper. That takes some running.

But the fellow is not required formally to teach any of the sessions, although on some occasions the fellow might take over a class if she or he really wants to.

Q. In the application process, are you trying to identify people who might be good at helping you with the seminar?

A. Yes. The nature of the fellowship is that the fellow spends between a third or a half of her or his time running the Center, and running the seminar is part of that. And then the fellow spends between a half and two-thirds of her or his time on the fellow's own research. So I'm looking for people who I think have the administrative capacity to do the ministerial part of the job and also the intellectual convening part of the job. For the purely administrative stuff (hotel rooms and travel arrangements and so on), I have an assistant and the other planners at the law school who can help.

But there's a part of the job that involves getting scholars and other intellectuals together, making sure that they have a common theme to talk about, being sensitive to their interests and picking texts that they will find interesting, those sorts of things, which requires a kind of intelligentsia hosting capacity. So I'm looking for that also.
And then on the scholarly side, I'm closely engaged with the fellow's work all throughout the fellow's time. So we meet, I read drafts of the fellow's work. I comment on them. We have a back and forth. I’m therefore also intensely interested in scholarly engagement.

Q. So far, we have talked about the ability to help you with the seminar, their ability on the scholarly side, are there any other criteria that come into the application process for you?

A. I suppose maybe one other is that the fellow also works to connect the students at Yale Law School to the current state of the discussion in private law both among scholars and in the profession. And so it's helpful for the fellow to be the kind of person who can pretty quickly get a sense for what will be interesting to the students and how to frame things so that the students will engage them.

That makes it easier for someone who has a U.S. J.D. to do the job because non-U.S. law schools are very different from U.S. law schools. But Przemek, who does not have a U.S. J.D., has been very quick at figuring out how the students work. Also there's an active group of fellows and others around Yale Law School across disciplines and Centers and programs. They talk to each other, and so there's a way to very quickly get embedded in the community, which also helps the fellow to understand what people in that community are interested in.

Q. Let’s shift away from the application process and talk about some of the more nitty gritty details, some of the terms and conditions of employment. Are you comfortable sharing how much fellows are paid per year?

A. Probably not because that's a law school wide matter, and I don't know that I have the jurisdiction as it were.

Q. Fair enough.

A. I can tell you that they are paid competitively and more than enough to live comfortably in New Haven. It's not graduate student life. It's a living wage as a young professional in New Haven.

Q. And do they receive health insurance?

A. They get full benefits, yes.

Q. Okay, and is there university or subsidized housing at all in New Haven?

A. There is university housing. I don't think they get preference, but I'm sure that if they wanted to get into some kind of university housing, they might be able to. But the New Haven housing market is dominated by non-university housing.

It's not hard to get perfectly, in fact, quite nice housing at rents that the fellow's salary makes it easy to pay.

Q. That question may matter more for New York fellows, I think.

A. New York, San Francisco, Boston, that may be a different matter.

Q. Exactly.

A. And the healthcare by the way, I assume, they get the healthcare that the university offers. It may be you have to pay for some of that. I don't know if there's a subsidy. I can't tell you exactly what the arrangement is.

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

A. The Center has a budget, which includes a budget for travel and professional development for people associated with the Center. Effectively at my discretion, the fellows can use some of that funding. Both Sadie and Przemyslaw have used it, and I anticipate future fellows could also use it. But it's not that they get an independent discretionary budget that they can simply allocate however they want.

Q. And do they have the ability to hire research assistants?

A. It hasn't come up.

Q. Okay.

A. I don't think it would be impossible. Certainly the Center hires research assistants. And some of the Center's work is related to the fellow's work. I don't know if they would be able to hire JD RAs just for their own work. We'd have to talk about what the project was and why. I should say that if I can’t give firm answers to all of these questions, it’s because this fellowship is less formal or bureaucratic than some others. It's a collaborative arrangement in which the idea is to create circumstances in which the fellow can do their work effectively. My ambition is that no intellectually or academically reasonable request will be refused. It's not that I have a set of bureaucratic rules and institutions in place that can identify exactly what those requests might be or what categories are in or what categories are out.

Q. I think that's important for fellows to recognize. You go to a larger fellowship program, there might be more of those formal rules because there might be 15 fellows.

A. Right, exactly. And those can serve to the fellow's advantage and to the fellow's disadvantage. It goes both ways.

Q. And how about when they actually go on the law teaching market? Are they reimbursed for expenses related to that?

A. I don't think Sadie was. I think probably not. It's not that I couldn't imagine it in an appropriate case. My sense is that the expenses were not that large because we're close to Washington. And if you get fly outs, the host universities reimburse you. But I imagine if a fellow had a family, and the fellow's salary were less ample given her or his costs, it's not inconceivable that I would try to do something. I don't know what the law school's rules would be. But it's not that they have a formal line for that.

Q. Okay. And do they have to live in New Haven, or would it be possible for a fellow to live elsewhere and commute in for say the seminar?

A. I don't want to make a rule either way. But for the fellow to succeed both for the Center and for her own agenda, it's essential that she is a full member of the intellectual community of Yale Law School. It's not that that's impossible if you commute, but it's hard. We have lots of evening events. We have lots of weekend events. And it undermines the point of the thing if you can't go to those.

Q. Let's talk about how to make the most of that fellowship year, which in some ways you were leading into. I'm wondering about the broader community of fellows and perhaps law PhD students at Yale. Is the fellow in your Center connected with those other fellows, and if so how?

A. Yes, the fellow has always been connected. There are various ways and it depends a little bit on the fellow's particular interests. I'd say that there are at least four communities that the fellow might be connected to.

Q. What are those?

A. There's the community of fellows, which ranges from the Center for Private Law, the Center for Corporate Law, the Health Law Center, there's a Global Challenges Center, there's a law and philosophy fellow sometimes, there's the Information Society Project, which has a lot of fellows. And that community is quite lively and organized, although informally, and pretty easy to get into and connected to lots of intellectual and social events.

Then there's the LLM, JSD, and PhD community, which is the non-JD students. The fellows have been pretty connected to that community also. There's some overlap between that community and the fellowship, but it's only a partial overlap. And the degree to which the fellows are connected to that community depends a little bit also on the fellow. That tends to be a very international group.

And if the fellows themselves are international, then they often make connections there.

Then there's the JD student community. Our JDs are probably older than average, so we have a lot of JDs who are over 25, and many with work experience or PhDs. So it's pretty natural for the fellows to connect to some parts of the JD community also. We also have a lot of JDs who want to be law professors, so if the fellows want to be law professors, that's another set of shared interests.

And then there's the faculty. The fellows also work with faculty members other than me in various ways and also come to faculty seminars.

I think it takes work to integrate to any of those groups. The paths of connection tend to be informal and require some initiative, rather than being formal or mandatory. But I think all four groups are pretty open and pretty easy to get plugged into if you want.

Q. And following up on the faculty workshops, are the fellows allowed to go to Yale's other faculty workshops other than the one that the Center runs?

A. I think the answer to that is yes.

Q. Do they typically?

A. I think yes. I see Przemek at the lunchtime workshop that the Faculty holds on Mondays. The Law School also convenes several other regular workshops: the Legal Theory Workshop;. the Law Economics and Organizations Workshop; the Legal History Workshop; the Human Rights Workshop. When I go to those, I obviously don't go to every one of them every time, I see Przemek at those also. So the answer is sure they're welcome to come. But those are all read-ahead workshops. So there's a trade-off between how many you go to and other things in your life.

Q. Would it be normal for fellows to ask questions at those?

A. More normal at some than at others. It would not be impermissible at any of them. But it would be common and frequent at some and infrequent at others.

Q. And you're obviously the supervisor for the fellows, do the fellows have any other supervisors, assigned mentors, anything else?

A. One thing to clarify, I am the supervisor in the intellectual sense. I think formally I'm not sure I'm the supervisor in the employment sense.

Q. Oh, interesting. Who is?

A. I'm not sure who in the law school's managerial hierarchy it is actually. I don't know the answer to that question. But I've taken the view that it's not a good idea for me to be the boss of the fellow in that formal sense.

Q. That makes sense.

A. Because I want a relationship that's intellectual and academic. Other supervisory matters haven’t really come up much, but partly that’s because we structured it this way. In terms of the academic life, I'm probably the fellow's main supervisor. We meet as often as the fellow wants, and I will read many drafts of as much writing as the fellow wants, and give whatever other intellectual help and advice I can with basically no time-budget constraint. In that sense, I’m available to the fellow.

Q. Are they guided toward other mentors at Yale?

A. There's no formal process.

Q. How about informally?

A. If they have work that interacts with some of my colleagues then they're welcome to go contact those colleagues. And in general they have done, but that's up to them and depends on what their interests are. I'm always happy to help make the introduction. It hasn't always been necessary. If they have ideas and are productive... My colleagues will want to talk to them.

Q. Are they given assistance making connections outside of Yale?

A. Yes. One thing that I generally offer the fellows is that if they would like to convene, through the Center, a young scholar's conference on some subject that they're interested in, I will fund it and help put it together and attend or not attend as they wish.

Q. I hope they take you up on that. That's a great offer.

A. This is a way they can become conveners and have power of invitation, get to know people that they want to get to know. And they generally have taken me up on that.

Q. Are they given any other support related to their research? As we have discussed, they have you, the seminar, and these other connections. Is there anything else that somebody who is weighing this particular fellowship should keep in mind?

A. This sounds boastful, but I think our library and our library staff is the best academic library in the world. The staff are incredibly helpful and able and it's generously staffed. It's a huge research law library, and they'll get you other things also. We have things like data librarians and foreign librarians and so on. Most universities have something like this, but we have a lot of it, and they're really good. Not everybody's research depends on that. I’ve known philosophers whose motto is read well, not often. And so for them it's irrelevant. But if you're the kind of person who would like to figure out, I don't know, what's the median sold home price by census tract in Iowa, our library can really help you with that. Or if you want to know what are the privacy terms and conditions that Facebook deploys in every OECD county, our library can really help you with that. That's the kind of thing in my experience if you have to do it yourself can be a month of your life. But if you can get the right expert research librarian to help you with, it can be an afternoon.

Q. I think all of us have made that mistake of trying to go on our own and regretting it.

A. Yeah, exactly. I think that's a big deal. There's also a huge amount going on in the law school. It's open and available to the fellows.

Q. You talked a lot about the help that you provide in terms of individual papers, how about in their research agenda more broadly? What assistance do they get in thinking about their trajectory as a young scholar?

A. Again, that's informal. They get a lot from me talking about it.

Q. How do you approach that task? I ask with a mind toward those of us advising young scholars.

A. I think the critical thing is to figure out what is both an interesting and an answerable question. And then how to formulate a statement of the problem and the way of going about addressing it so that it will be interesting to other people. I spend a lot of time not only with the fellows, but also with JD students or PhD students, with any number of people, who come to me with some set of ideas that they would like to pursue. We talk through what is it in this set of ideas that can be put together in the form of an article that will be satisfying in itself and engage others. I think that's important. I think the other thing that's really important when advising people is that it's their article, not your article.

Q. Always hard to remember sometimes.

A. So they're going to have ways of going about things or beliefs that are not yours. And so you what you need to do is you need to get yourself into the position where, if you thought the way they thought, how would you make it better? That’s what an adviser should aim for, rather than trying to get them to think the way that you think.

Q. Do you have any special advice for fellows who have PhDs in terms of adjusting to the law world, the law publishing world?

A. If they have PhDs not in law, they need to figure out how to simultaneously hold on to the rigor and expertise they've acquired in their PhDs while setting aside the purely sociology of knowledge, professionalized disciplinary preoccupations of those fields.

Q. Is that hard for a lot of candidates?

A. I think it can be hard, yeah. One of the reasons we started the PhD in law was that we felt as though law schools in general are at risk of losing people to other disciplines. Even if they come back into law school, they end up being economists who happen to be interested in some questions that relate to law or where legal knowledge is relevant, or philosophers who happen to be interested in general or specific jurisprudence. But their basic methodology, intellectual style, and way of thinking comes from the other discipline.

Then, if that happens too much, law schools can get Balkanized. The sense of one conversation structured by the world rather than by an academic discipline can slip away. Many of the best things about law schools might disappear.

It's important for legal academics as a group to find a way to hold on to the things that have been really good about legal scholarship while being open to the ways in which getting more tech-ed up and getting better at other disciplines can make the scholarship more rigorous and more substantial. That's not something one wants to lose.

Q. If you had a candidate who had multiple options in terms of fellowships, how would you sell the fellowship in your Center? Why do you think this one has certain advantages over others?

A. I wouldn't try to do that.

Q. Okay.

A. I would think that I would be effectively the fiduciary of the candidate and try to figure out what was best for the candidate. For example, if this were a candidate that I already knew well and was a supporter of, that would be a good reason for them to go elsewhere.

There are lots of applicants. I can fill this post with excellent people. And what I want is for anybody who comes into contact with the Center to feel like whether they became a fellow or not, the interaction was beneficial to them. And that may involve my advising them that I'd love for them to come, but they would be better off elsewhere. I think that's the first and most important thought.

If this was a candidate with substantial strengths intellectually in fields or methods that I'm strong in and weaknesses in places where I'm weak, this would be a good reason for them to go elsewhere. On the other hand, if this were a candidate who had strong reasons to engage not just me and my work, but other traditions or people at Yale Law School, that would be a good reason for them to come to Yale. I think I probably have a comparative advantage over other people who run these fellowships in taking people who are very talented, but not yet formally trained, and helping them get trained and get their ideas into a shape that will make them successful articles. That might be a good reason to come to this Center.

Q. And do you have advice more generally on how to make the most of someone's time in the fellowship whether in your Center or elsewhere? What have you seen candidates do who have really made the most of that time?

A. I think these are basically banal thoughts, but write every day. Structure your day in such a way that you have time that you reserve for scholarship, and resist the urge to treat things that aren't really intellectual work as writing. Blue booking an article you've already written should not count as that time. Reading a book that's interesting and relevant should not count as that time. You should write every day, even if it's just two hours. I think that's one piece of advice.

Another piece of advice is don't be shy about talking to people, particularly people who know things that you want to know. And when you do talk to them, before you begin the conversation, learn about their ideas and be as clear as you can about your ideas and how they connect, because people like to talk about their ideas. They're happy to talk about yours too if they see the connection, but you have to help them see the connection. I think that's another piece of advice.

Also, be thoughtful always about what you're doing to try to get better at whatever you're doing, particularly scholarship. Some sports coach once said, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." And so obviously be flexible and willing to change, but have a view about how what you're doing is connected to getting better at what you want to get better at. It's often the case that the best thing in the long run is not to try to do the final product at once. Sometimes if you're writing an article, it's helpful to write five or ten short essays about some of the things that the article will eventually address without ever aiming to publish any of them, just for yourself so you can get clear on things. And then once you've written those, you might write the article.

I think none of this is surprising.

Q. But it's good advice for people who may not have the mentoring.

A. I think that's probably right. The last thing I think is don't be afraid to find things difficult. Wittgenstein said somewhere, "Finding things difficult is a sign of grace." If there's a defect in legal academia I think it's that law professors can tend to make things seem easier than they are, even to the point of being glib. Probably this is because legal scholarship is connected to lawyers whose job it is to appear smooth and confident. But scholarship is really hard, and most of the time you're not going to understand what you're writing about. And even when you make some progress, you're still not going to understand it as well as you want and it will be full of confusions an obscurities and conflations. And that's okay. So accept that and don't run from it and try to disguise it.

Q. I love that advice. I'm the associate dean for faculty development here at Richmond, so I may steal some of that. I like that a lot.

A. Offered for what it's worth.

Q. Let's move over to essentially the end of the fellowship when the fellow is on the job market. What type of mentoring do they receive related to the job market?

A. Yale has a job market regime, which the fellows can plug into in various ways.

Q. Tell me about that.

A. We have something every fall called Moot Camp in which our graduates who are on the market come back to New Haven to give practice job talks in front of multiple faculty members. Now there's not always enough space for everybody to give a job talk. I don't know how it's decided who gives what job talks, but fellows can go to that in various ways. They can also get mooted inside the law school more informally by the fellows community and by me. And I can help arrange colleagues to moot them, I've done that in the past. So there's that kind of advice, that kind of support.
I obviously spend as much time as the fellow would like discussing their application and their strategy and so on and so forth. I'd say those are the main forms of support. I also obviously do all the thing you do to support a candidate when they're on the market, and insofar as the fellows get to know colleagues of mine, my colleagues will do that in the way in which they do it.

Q. Is there a Yale staff member or perhaps a faculty member who oversees the fellows generally who are on the market?

A. I don't believe we have somebody who is specifically focused on the fellows. We do have somebody who is on the sell side of academic hiring.

Q. And what do they do?

A. They give advice to people who seek advice. They help coordinate. Yale puts out a resume book in addition to the FAR form. They gather information from hiring committees, help make connections, help academic referees from inside Yale connect to people who are looking for candidates. We're pretty organized about this. And as you know, we put a lot of people into teaching every year. That's something we're very engaged about in general and the fellow is sort of plugged into that.

Q. Do you personally go over their application materials with them, their CV, their FAR form?

A. Insofar as they want, as much as they want. Yes, but it's not like... I don't demand it. My view of this is that they're adults, and they will make their decisions, but I want them to know that I stand ready to help in any way they want.

Q. I wonder now if you'll just talk to me more broadly about the rise of these VAP and fellowship programs. I'm wondering what you think are the benefits of these kind of programs and then what you think are the costs.

A. I think the reason that they've arisen is a confluence of two things. The first is that law school faculties and legal academia has become both more intellectually serious and much more professionalized. In fact, law faculties now increasingly resemble faculties in the arts and sciences. They're overwhelmingly full of serious scholars who produce scholarship that looks like scholarship in other fields. At the same time, although law school itself has become more interdisciplinary, and probably less doctrinal and black letter, it's still in fact, at least in comparison to graduate school, predominantly a professional education.

If you go through any US-American law school, you come out with knowledge of the basic doctrines of the core areas of law. You know a large set of the canonical cases across law. But you don't come out with a systematic education in the traditions, methods, styles of academic thought about law. You haven't read the canonical scholarly texts in any field. And so there's now a mismatch between the training a JD gives and the form of academic production that a law faculty requires. Something has to fill that gap. A PhD in an allied discipline can fill the gap, or PhD in law, or a fellowship, or a visiting assistant professorship can also fill the gap.

I think that's what's happened. And on balance I think it's salutary. I think the main costs for all the people involved in this setup is that it delays hiring and tenure until people are older. As somebody who has three children and was the primary caregiver of infant twins before tenure, I know that the delay can be stressful. And so anything that pushes people back, if you get your first job at 30, you probably will have your children before you're tenured, and that's just a hard few years.

Q. And obviously we're asking people to move somewhere for some number of years at lower salaries than they'll make as a professor, and that creates its own barriers of entry.

A. That's right. Although, I guess I am more sympathetic to the child and family parts of this particularly because of the gender effects than I am to the financial parts. My sense is that most of these fellowships and visiting assistant professorships, although you don't get rich on them, pay a perfectly adequate wage. I looked into a lot of the fellowships a few years ago when I was chairing a committee. I think most law professor fellows get paid as much as associate professors of history at the universities that they're at. Yes, it would be nice for them if they got paid more sooner. But I wouldn’t emphasize financial hardship.

Q. It is a challenge, moving somewhere for a few years

A. Yeah, and trying to get tenure and have kids at the same time.

Q. Yep, yep. I did that, and I know... that very much resonates. Do you think these programs have any responsibility to try to open up the profession to people from diverse or nontraditional backgrounds?

A. I think that academia has long been much too exclusive along many dimensions. So it is important to create a fairer and more open path into law teaching, and a more diverse and excellent professoriate. Fellowships naturally have a role to play in this. At the same time, there exist reasonable disagreements both about the shape of the problem and about what solutions are best; and people who run fellowships should not simply indulge their personal views, even if they are views about justice.

Q. This is a more mundane question, but if you've been on the blogs, I'm sure you have seen the criticism from hiring committees and law faculties that it is hard to tell, given how much help fellows receive during the fellowship, how much of the ideas and the polishing come from the fellows themselves or how much comes from all of their mentors. How would you respond to that? How should law faculty think about that?

A. I think this is a question of re-equilibrating. For example, it's well known among philosophers that a philosophy professor's work gets worse in the first few years after their PhD for precisely this reason. If you do a PhD under a really world class person who's also a good supervisor, your PhD will benefit enormously from the intense engagement that person gives. And then you go out into the world and you get a little less of that engagement. And it's not that you're totally on your own, but you're more on your own, and so it takes a while. I think that's okay.
One of the things that distinguishes a really good young scholar from a not so good one is the ability to appreciate it when they're getting excellent advice and to take it and implement it successfully. I don't think that there are lots of people going on the market with essays that basically are the work product of their mentors. I don't think that's happening. I think there are a lot of people going on the market with essays that have benefited enormously from serious engagement. But again, part of the skill is to be able to draw that out of somebody else and then know what to do with it.

Q. And then hopefully continue to find those people through your career?

A. You need to find those people and to become increasingly independent as you go along.

Q. The goal is that you will eventually become one of those people, hopefully.

A. Yeah, exactly. Exactly, so it's a longer career arc. But I'm not so worried about that. That's why you talk to people and it's a skill to be able to assess people, that's right, but that's part of the job of the hiring committees. I remember thinking this very clearly my first few years on the faculty here that I spent a lot of time getting trained in how to read a text and assess its quality, but that this is a different exercise from reading a text and assessing the quality of its author. That required a different set of skills. Hiring committees need to cultivate those skills.

Q. Given that life is zero sum in so many ways, time spent in a fellowship is by definition time not spent in practice. What do you think about that trade off, especially when given that we are educating lawyers?

A. I believe that the intellectual virtues of the academic are powerfully valuable to practicing lawyers. I understand that reasonable people could have a different view. But given that I believe that, and I'll say a little bit in a minute about why I believe that, the comparative advantage of time in law school is actually not to get practice ready professional skills, but rather to get the imaginative, analytic, and reflective skills that academics and scholars have. And so what that means is that the best way to train practicing lawyers is not in fact to aim at training lawyers who will be least bad on their first day on their job. That's not the comparative advantage of law schools, and it's not the thing actually that the best lawyers need.

Instead, and this is the thing that I said I'd talk about in a minute, the thing that really good lawyers are good at is, first, understanding the whole situation, figuring out in an orderly way, not in a disorganized and informal way, what everybody's interests are and how they interact and what everybody's entitlements are and how they interact. And second of all, rearranging the categories of the dispute in a way that makes a resolution possible and makes a resolution favorable to the client possible. You get those skills by being more theoretical and more reflective.

For that reason, I tend to think that it's not a bad thing that law professors are increasingly academic and scholarly. And it's not a bad thing for the practice of law.

Q. Anything else you'd want hiring committees or law faculty to know about the state of law faculty hiring? Any other last thoughts there?

A. I don't think so. It's a really hard thing to do. I guess I'd say insofar as possible, we should try to reward creativity and have the guts to do something unconventional. Sometimes it's easier in a risk averse way to hire somebody who's done a highly competent, but conventional piece of work. Hiring committees should resist the temptation. But I don't know if that's actionable advice.

Q. Right. It's something for all of us to keep in mind. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I really appreciate it.

A. I hope this was helpful.



Posted by Jessica Erickson on July 1, 2019 at 07:47 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 21, 2019

Interview with Robert Lawless from the University of Illinois College of Law on Illinois's Academic Fellowship Program

I’m excited to announce the latest interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  This interview is with Bob Lawless, the Max L. Rowe Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law.  Bob has historically overseen Illinois’s Academic Fellowship Program.  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Bob to respond to any questions in the comments.  Thanks, Bob, for participating in this series!

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

Q:  Tell me your role with Illinois’s VAP program.

A:  I was in charge of it, for lack of a better word, first as the associate dean for research. After I stopped being the associate dean for research, the work for overseeing the VAP program was transferred to a committee that I chaired. I actually stepped back from that role last year, but given my history with the program, it seemed like I was the best person to talk about it.

Q:  I appreciate that. I do think it's best to talk to somebody who's had that experience with it going back a few years, so that's very helpful. What I'd love to do is get some basic information about the fellowship and then go chronologically starting with the application process and then into the fellowship itself.

A:  Sure.

Q:  How many fellows do you typically have, and how long is the fellowship?

A:  Let me answer the second question first. It's a two-year program. At any given time, we have had one, two, or three persons in the program. In more recent years it's been one person at a time with hiring every other year. The main reason for that has been because of the market for entry level jobs, but we have had as many as two or three persons at a time in different stages of the program.

Q:  Great. Do they teach in the legal writing program, or do they teach more traditional doctrinal courses?

A:  They teach in the doctrinal program. They teach one class a semester, which is a light teaching load compared to the rest of the faculty. Our fellows are not only fellows, but they are also a visiting assistant professor of law. In terms of what classes they teach, that gets worked out with the associate dean for academic affairs like any other faculty member.

One of the things we've always tried to emphasize is getting what I call a “bread and butter” law school class for the VAP to teach. Which class varies based on the VAP's interest. We've had VAPs teach in the first-year curriculum with contracts and civil procedure.  We've had a VAP teach professional responsibility. We've had a VAP teach corporations. We've had a VAP teach income tax. It all depended upon the VAP's area of interest. It really helps when the VAP is going on the market to not only just talk about what they might do in a doctrinal class, they can actually say, "Here is what I did."

Q:  Now let's go to the application process itself. We'll go back to the fellowship, but I just want to move through the VAP process starting with the application. When do you start accepting applications for the VAP for the following year?

A:  In the past, we've typically done that early in the fall. That may change in the future just because it seems that people tend to apply later in the fall semester.

Q:  What materials do candidates need to submit?

A:  A CV, a research agenda, and if they would like, letters of reference. I should say some candidates submit a work in progress, but that is not required. Candidates always can find more specific and current information on our web site by Googling “Illinois Academic Fellows Program.”  [Here’s the link.]

Q:  Okay. Is there one round of interviews, two rounds?

A:  It's varied depending upon the year, the number of applicants, and the process. We've typically done the interviews either late in the fall semester right before the winter break or right after we get back. We've done a second round of interviews in most instances. None of the interviews are on campus. We do everything telephonically.

Q:  How do long do those telephone interviews usually last?

A:  Well, the screening interview is 30 minutes. The longer interview, it varies.

Q:  Okay.

A:  I said “telephone.” In today's world, these are Skype interviews where everybody has got a video hookup.

Q:  What is the substance of those interviews? What are you looking for in those interviews? It's a big question, I know.

A:  Yeah, it is a big question. There are the usual things that I think you would look for with any faculty member, which is the scholarly spark – that they're wanting to go into teaching, they're going to have things to say, and they are very driven and interested to do it. I think most candidates today show that pretty readily.

One thing that gets overlooked and is especially important in the fellowship process is showing some flexibility in talking with the committee. Take a candidate who says, "Here is exactly the paper I'm going to write when I get there" and doesn't really show that they're probably going to take mentoring very well, that candidate is probably not going to do well in the interview process.

A second thing is to have really thought a little bit about the teaching side of it – what courses one might be interested in, how one might conduct a class. It's not so much that we're looking for particular answers on those sorts of questions, but just that the person's thought about it. Teaching is a big part of what we do, of course. Candidates should display that they're taking that part seriously. It shows that the person understands what they're getting into in terms of selecting this career.

Q:  How do you try to gauge teaching ability? It's obviously one of the most challenging parts, I think, of the screening process.

A:  Yes. I guess I would go even further in terms of “it's challenging.” I don't even know how well we can do it in a screening process. Obviously, part of it is just the interview and how they conduct themselves in the interview. Some people have some classroom experience. For example, if they've been in a Ph.D. program, maybe have done some adjunct work or something like that, then obviously you can get some teaching evaluations or teaching references. Of course, many candidates don't have that. One of the most difficult things to assess in the interview process is what kind of a teacher is this person going to be?

I think that's a problem. Well, a “problem” is not the right word, but a challenge in any faculty hiring process whether it's the VAP process or entry level or even a lateral. It's hard to judge how the person is going to be in the classroom, yet we do it.

Q:  Going over to the scholarly side, the successful candidate, how much scholarship do they tend to have during the application process? Do they have a full paper, a published paper, more than one paper? What do you find is the norm for candidates who are successful in your process?

A:  I don't think there is a norm. It's varied widely. We've had successful candidates come in really with no papers, or maybe a student note, but nothing post-graduation. We've had candidates come out of a Ph.D. program with maybe a few publications in hand. At least in our program, I wouldn't say there is a norm in terms of the number of pieces that they've had before they come to us.

Q:  And if they don't have significant scholarly writing before they start the fellowship, how is it that you're judging their scholarly potential?

A:  That's part of the research agenda and the interview. The interviews for the VAP positions are just like any other faculty interview where a committee asks questions. You get a sense of what the person is going to be like as a scholar by the way they answered and how they answer – much more than the substance of their answer. Another thing that's been important is thinking about topic selection. That's in the research agenda. Of course, sometimes you see people who are all over the map with topic selection. That can be bad. You want someone that's focused but also not so focused that the research topics will only appeal to a very narrow set of people.

I think in a few pages in a research agenda you get a good sense of how that person is going to think, and how that person is going to write, what they're going to write on, and what methods they're going to use. You get a good sense of whether that's going to make that person stand out when they go to apply for the entry level market.

Q:  Do the programs have any preference for candidates in particular curricular areas? Are you watching, for example, the areas where a lot of law schools seem to be hiring? Any preferences there?

A:  There's two parts to that question. First, we do not have curricular preferences. We've been very adamant about that. We don't use the VAP program to fill any teaching needs we have. In fact, the selection process occurs outside the purview of the people making course-scheduling decisions for that exact reason. We don't have any needs when we go into the fellowship market and say, "You know, we really need somebody to teach this class, so let's find a fellow in that area." We don't do that.

In terms of the market’s preferences, yes, we certainly do pay attention to that. We do think about whether the person's profile is going to be in demand at other law schools in terms of the substance of what they're teaching and what they're likely to be writing.

We also have thought a little bit about the supply side of that equation. Not only is it demand, but we have asked whether the candidate is in area where there's already dozens of people doing the same thing who are going to be the entry level market, or is the candidate presenting a fairly special and different profile?

Similar points can be made about your research agenda question. How do you tell whether a person will be a good scholar? I think is a big part of it is similar to the curricular preferences. From just the research agenda, and the methods they propose, and what they propose to write about, are they going to be writing in a very crowded field and make it hard to distinguish themselves? Or is this somebody that's writing in a way – or using a method even in a crowded field – that's going to make them stand out and be noticed?

Q:  How does the program view candidates with PhDs? Do they have any preference in the hiring process?

A:  No preference for or against.

Q:  Okay. How about practice experience? How much does that matter? And if it does matter, how much experience are you typically looking for?

A:  I definitely think the answer to that has changed over the years. In the broader law school market, I think practice experience is starting to matter a little bit more. We care on the fellowship market to the extent that it's going to be indicative of ultimate success in the entry level market. How much practice experience? More than some. I couldn't put a number on it.

Q:  Right. Do you make any special effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A:  Sure. That is always a priority. We've taken steps in the process to make sure that we are considering people from diverse backgrounds, and not only considering them, but doing our best to try to get those people into the applicant pool to begin with.

Q:  Any other criteria that comes into the process? Anything I'm missing?

A:  No. The main thing we've been talking about is this person going to stand out and be successful at the entry level market? I'd say that's the most important thing for us when we're looking for a VAP. We're not looking for somebody who's already finished and ready to go on the entry level market. The question is, with appropriate mentoring and spending a couple of years with our law faculty, is this someone who's likely to be successful on the entry-level market?

Q:  When I announced this interview series, there were many comments on the blog from people saying, "Please ask how candidates without the traditional markers of being a law professor, so perhaps they didn't go to Harvard, Yale or Stanford, and they didn't have an elite clerkship. Ask how those people can stand out in the application process." What advice do you have for those people?

A:  I have a University of Illinois degree. I'm teaching back at my alma mater after having taught at a number of different schools. I'm very sympathetic to that question. The reason I'm having a hard time coming up with an answer is the answer is so varied. Again, I think it depends. What we're looking for is are you going to be successful on the entry level market? I know quite a number of scholars who have been quite successful law professors and therefore were successful on the entry level market without those elite credentials.

They do the sort of things we've been talking about. They do work that's not just another. "Same with me. I'm going to do the same thing everyone else is doing." Here's a good way to say it. If your pitch is “I'm doing what a lot of other people are doing, I'm just doing it better,” that's a very hard case to make. I think if you come to us with a profile that says, "Here's an area that nobody is looking at." Now, it has to be an area in demand, "But here's an area that nobody is really working on. Here's a method that nobody is using. Here I'm going to be able to stand out from the rest of the entry level market." I think you could be successful.  Having an elite law degree or having elite credentials are not going to really matter if you've done that.

Q:  Let's talk about the nuts and bolts of the hiring process. Who actually makes the decision at Illinois whether to hire a fellow?

A:  There's a committee. The committee makes a recommendation to the dean. It puts together a memorandum describing the potentially successful candidate or candidates. The memorandum is sent to the dean, and then it's the dean's decision at the end.

Q:  How many applications do you receive typically in a year? It may vary but in general.

A:  I looked. The last round we had almost 100.

Q:  Is the fellowship renewable? And if so, under what circumstances?

A:  We haven't had that arise. Everybody who's gone through our fellowship has landed an entry level teaching job with two exceptions. One chose to pursue a Ph.D. program, although that person actually had an entry level offer and turned it down in favor of a Ph.D. program. He is now a law faculty member. Another person decided that academia was not for that person and went back into law practice, which I actually kind of view as one of our big successes because that was much better than a world where he would have landed an entry-level teaching job only to find out he did not like it. We've never had that issue of what we would do if it needed to be renewed. Our expectation is it's going to be two years, but I can't speak to what we would do if somebody took more than two years.

Q:  How much are the fellows paid per year?

A:  It's in the mid-60s.

Q:  Do fellows receive health benefits?

A:  Yes, they're full-time employees at the University of Illinois.

Q:  Do they receive access to university or subsidized housing? This may not be as big of an issue in Champaign, but it's on my list of questions.

A:  I realize that. This is Champaign, Illinois, so no. There actually isn't university or subsidized housing for faculty here.

Q:  Do fellows receive travel funding or other professional development funding?

A:  Yes.

Q:  How much if you don't mind me asking?

A:  I don't mind you asking. I don't know off the top of my head. It's thousands of dollars. On a few occasions in the past, when the accounts run out we have been able to support the fellow with other funds at the law school.

Q:  Do they ever receive funding to hire research assistants?

A:  Yes, there's a research account like any other faculty member that they can use in their discretion for travel or research assistance, whatever they want to prioritize.

Q:  Does the school reimburse them for any of the expenses relating to going on the law teaching market, the AALS registration fees or anything there?

A:  I don't believe we've done that, but I can't remember for sure.

Q:  Are they expected to live in Champaign, or could somebody commute from Chicago or New York if they wanted to?

A:  I think somebody who had that as their plan would have a very hard time getting through the interviewing process. Basically yes, a fellow should expect to live in Champaign, but it's not written into the job description. Going back to the interview process, part of the interview is do you want to do this fellowship? In other words, do you want to come here? Do you want to spend time with us learning how to be a law professor? If the answer is “I want to spend most of my time somewhere else,” then our program is probably not a very good fit for you.

Q:  That's a good segue way into my next set of questions around making the most of a fellowship. You were saying it ranges between one to three fellows at a time. Are there any other fellows at the University of Illinois that they might interact with?

A:  The answer is sort of. There are certainly other departments that have fellowships and these other programs. The University of Illinois is a huge place. There's obviously lots of places where our fellows can interact with other persons at their career stage. I think it largely depends upon the fellow whether that's something that's going to be useful to them. It depends upon their research interest and their methods and whether that's something they want to be doing. We're a very, very large state research university. There are all sorts of opportunities around campus to interact with people. When fellows want those sorts of opportunities, we make introductions and get the fellows in front of those other folks.

Q:  How do the fellows participate in the intellectual life of the law school? Do they attend, for example, the faculty workshops there?

A:  Yes. A fellow is appointed as a visiting assistant professor of law, so they're a faculty member. They do everything except they don't have committee work. I always tell the fellows it will be one of their best two years of teaching They get do the fun stuff of teaching and writing without having to do the committee work.


Yes, they attend all the faculty workshops. They're strongly encouraged to attend the faculty workshops. I strongly encourage them to attend the job talks because I think that's something really useful to see, especially your first year as you're starting and seeing people come through and present.

I always tell the fellows to come to the first faculty meeting of the year and then don't come to any others unless you want to because who likes going to faculty meetings? They completely participate in the life of the law school, workshops, again whatever is going on. They're a full-time faculty member, so whatever every other full-time faculty member does, they can do.

Q:  I was going to ask the question who supervises the VAPs, but am I right it's just the dean if they're a typical faculty member, or do they have a more particular supervisor?

A:  There's again two parts to that. They are faculty members, so in one sense they report to the dean and the associate dean for academic affairs like all the other faculty members do. If they didn't turn in their exam grades on time or something like that, they will be talking with the associate dean for academic affairs.

The second part is mentoring. Again, when I was research dean, part of the role of the research dean was to serve as the mentor for all of the fellows. There was a committee who helped me.  When I stepped down being research dean, the mentoring role got transferred entirely to the committee. The chair of the committee sits down with the VAPs, talk to them, makes themselves available whenever the VAPs have a question or anything like that. For example, I would always take the VAP out to lunch the very first thing when they got to campus, and I would talk about different things that they wanted to be thinking about in terms of the fellowship. We would have a talk about laying out a schedule for the entire fellowship, goals to meet in terms of getting work done, and so forth.

You asked who supervises them. Well, I would not call it “supervision,” but there's lots of mentoring opportunities.

Q:  Tell me what that mentoring looks like when it comes to the VAP's papers. Do they have people sitting down reading drafts talking over their ideas with them?

A:  Yes. We've done a lot of different things. One of the things we’ve done – and it might look fairly trivial but I actually think it's really important – Is we have an office that I call the “VAP office,” It's right across from the coffee machine.

Q:  That’s a smart location to put that office.

A:  I think a lot of informal interactions happen with the faculty that way, but there's more formal things. One of the things we've often done with the VAPs – and again, everyone is different, so there's not a one-size-fits-all approach that we've taken – but one thing we've done often is sit down with the VAPs early in their program, and I mean like the first few weeks, and we ask them, "If you have three ideas, write half a page on each of them, or if you have five ideas, write half a page on each of them."

And then we get about eight faculty to sit around a table over just a brown-bag lunch kind of thing and to talk through these different ideas:. Which are more likely to be successful? Which are most likely to appeal to law schools? Which are most likely to do well in a job talk? We try to think about the pros and cons of all the different ideas and help the fellow try to prioritize their work over the next couple of years.

And then in terms of reading drafts, yes absolutely. All sorts of reading occur, and drafts get exchanged. Again, it depends upon the fellow and what their research interest is, but I don't think we've ever had a problem with getting feedback from the subject matter experts in the faculty for the particular subject matter areas in which our VAPs have worked.

Q:  Are they given any assistance in making connections with law faculty at other law schools?

A:  Yes. The VAPs participate as part of our junior faculty workshop exchange. Again, this continues the theme of they're a faculty member like everyone else, so whatever we do for all the other faculty, that's what we do for them. There has been in the past a Big Ten Juniors Scholars Conference that we've had them go to, although I think this last year it didn't get held.  If I'm at a conference, and the VAP is also at the conference, I'll try to introduce the VAP to as many people as I can. I think most of my colleagues do the same.

Yes, there's an effort to try to introduce the VAP to people at different universities. For a lot of these questions the answers it just depends a lot on who is in the VAP. If an individual connection needs to be made, I know my colleagues can pick up the phone and say, "You know, we got a new person here. I think they'd like to talk to you," make the connection, and let the fellow take it from there.

Q:  Good. Do you have any special advice for candidates who come in with PhDs in terms of transitioning back to legal scholarship and then the norm of the legal discipline?

A:  I'm worried about being too candid.

Q:  Feel free to be candid.

A:  My answer would be don't fall for the norms of legal scholarship.

Q:  In what way? 

A:  Look, I have a JD only, but I'm also co-director of our Program in Law, Behavior and Social Science here. I do almost exclusively empirical work. I feel like I can kind of speak to this question as a non-Ph.D.

I think in a lot of other disciplines there's a strong emphasis on making sure that you're right before you have an opinion – make sure that you're right about the facts before you have an opinion. I despair sometimes that the legal discipline is placing an emphasis on being clever versus finding things out and getting facts right.

Fellows who come out of a Ph.D. program where that's been the emphasis – make sure you get your facts right – should not lose that ethic and should not fall into the temptations of trying to be clever and trying to impress student law review editors.

That being said, one of the things that my standard kind of first- or second-day talk with the new VAP included was always that you've got to show that you appeal to all sorts of law faculty because all sorts of law faculty are going to make decisions upon your application.

For somebody who has a Ph.D., what I think that means is to have something that's more traditional and have something that's more in your discipline when you go into market. We encourage the VAPs after the end of the two years to have at least one piece placed and somewhere in the publication process, not necessarily in print. I don't think hiring committees care too much about something being in print as long as it has been accepted. We encourage the fellow also to have an entire draft of the next piece that can serve as a job talk.

For somebody who's got a Ph.D., I think they're wise to take those two pieces and have one be more appealing more to a law audience and then the other appealing to the disciplinary audience of your Ph.D. That way, you show that you can do both.

Q:  I think that's good advice. Let's segue way back over to teaching. You mentioned that they teach two courses. How are those courses spread out over the two years? Do they teach both courses both years?

A:  Yes. We try to keep them doing the same course. We've had a few VAPs who didn't want to keep teaching the same course. We definitely don't want them to be taking up lots of time with new preps.

It is two courses a year, and it is one in the fall and one in the spring. Then that fall of your second year you hopefully have lots of interviews. We try to think about staging teaching obligations in a way that makes it easier to do those interviews, maybe a seminar in that semester that you taught in the first year.

I think a lot of people like to teach seminars, especially when they're first starting out. They actually can be a lot of work because you got to put the materials together. I often talk about the idea that when you're first starting out what you want to get is a “course in a box.” You want a good textbook with a good teachers manual that people have used. You assign the textbook to the students and take off from there. That actually is a lot less work than putting together a seminar.

We usually suggest getting one “bread and butter” course and then something more specialized, which could be a seminar. I don't want to be heard to discourage seminars. They're very valuable. But I think also that if you come out onto the entry-level market having taught two seminars or two just very specialized courses, you're putting yourself at a disadvantage from somebody who's maybe taught one of the more core courses that will be in demand at other law schools.

Q:  What training, feedback, or mentoring do the VAPs receive related to their teaching?

A:  Again, it varies. It's kind of like the article mentoring process. It depends upon the person. We've had people go sit in on classes at the request of the fellow and give advice. We have just had conversations about how to teach. That might be a lunch conversation or even a lunch-time workshop on teaching that includes several law faculty, including the VAP. Sharing of materials is certainly something I know that has happened when somebody comes in and is teaching one of those “bread and butter” classes. One of the other faculty will share syllabi, and notes and stuff like that. Again, the teaching advice really just varies depending on the situation and sort of what teaching experience the person had.

Some people have teaching experience. Other people this is their first time in a classroom. I still vividly remember my first day as a visiting assistant professor in the very first class. I had never taught a class before and was terrified. Somebody like me probably is spending a little bit more time thinking about and needing advice about the mechanics of actually conducting the class, but other people don't need that. It just depends.

Q:  We talked about the research side. We talked about the teaching side. Do the VAPs have any other responsibilities or duties?

A:  No.

Q:  All right, now let's step back for a second. Let's imagine you were talking to a candidate who had perhaps a lot of options on the VAP or fellowship market. How would you try to sell them on the Illinois VAP program? What do you think makes it distinctive or stand out?

A:  I think a lot of the things that we've been talking about. It's not a huge program. In fact, it's very small. You've been asking me questions about what we do for teaching. The answer is again it depends. There's not a huge cohort of people that we've got to just give cookie-cutter advice. The mentoring that the person gets is very tailored and very specific to the person. We're a small enough place that the person will get to know every single faculty member here. I think the faculty are very invested in the success of the VAP program here at Illinois.

We've been quite successful with the program in terms of placing people. I think the faculty is very proud of it. It's been great for the law school. We have alumni of our VAP program all around the country. It's been very successful for the people who've come through as well. I guess I don't know what else I would add. It's a very tailored mentoring environment. I think we're able to do some things here because we're smaller. We're a little bit more flexible.

Champaign–Urbana is a strength and a weakness. Obviously, we're out in the middle of the corn fields, and that's not everyone's cup of tea, but, at the same time, it's a small enough community that people are around. They're going to have lots of interaction with lots of different faculty who are going to have lots of different perspectives. That's an important thing, especially for a VAP, to be having that interaction and not just with people who already think the way you do. Here I'm thinking about methods, the traditional doctrinal law professor, for example, should interact with the social science law professors and vice versa. I tell the VAPs again that you need to get to know and persuade all sorts of different faculty about your application when you go on the entry level market. The more you interact with lots of different faculty, the better off you're going to be.

Q:  Yeah, I agree. Let's turn to the job market. What type of mentoring do the VAPs receive related to the job market in the hiring process?

A:  There is lots of back and forth with their AALS materials in terms of research agenda and FAR form and like that. Obviously, we do mock interviews both the screening interviews and then more of the call back interview. We do job talks.

Q:  Who's doing those? Who's in charge of putting them through that process?

A:  The committee chair. Or, when I was research dean, that was me. The faculty here I think is very invested in the program, and I never had a problem getting together a group of people by saying, "Our visiting assistant professor is going on the job market, and we need some people to listen to their moot job talk." Usually, we do more than one. I think there's a fine line between being overly rehearsed and knowing your stuff. In most cases, I would say well more than half of the faculty listen to a new job talk of the VAP candidate at some point.

We try to get about 8 to 10 people because you don't want too many people in there, and you want to be able to give the person some feedback without it taking the entire afternoon. We usually do at least two moot job talks. We usually do one to give the person some advice and then have them do another one. Whether we need to do another? Again, it depends upon where the person is at, how much time the person has, et cetera.

Q:  That's great. Let's go to some of the broader policy questions around the rise of VAPs and fellowship. What do you think are the benefits of these programs as an entry point to the vast majority of law faculty positions today, and what do you think are the costs?

A:  I think most of the benefits go to the law schools. It's probably a little bit less risky for the law schools to hire someone who has a track record as a VAP. I think there are benefits to the entry level faculty member, but I think most of the benefits go to the law schools. The mentoring that is happening now in the VAP programs used to happen in the early years of a tenure-stream position.

Q:  The hiring law schools?

A:  Right, the hiring law schools on the entry-level markets, but it is not just that. We've been very circumspect about not using the VAP to fill teaching needs. I'm not sure that's happening everywhere. I think some schools might be using VAPs to fill teaching needs, and that's obviously a benefit to the law school.

Back to the entry-level market, you see similar things all across academia. I am on a number of committees that get me out and about around the university. Many fields are going to hiring people who've had more fellowships, and VAPS, and post docs. It's a lot of risk aversion from academics, and law schools are no different.

I don't want to completely ignore the idea that there aren't benefits to the VAP. I think spending two years as a fellow in a law school really helps you a lot as a scholar and as a teacher. If you're coming straight out of a practice background, you have no clue about any of those things. If you're coming out of a Ph.D. program you get acculturated in what's going in the legal discipline, but I still think the majority of the benefits are going to law schools. It's two more years of somebody's life before they get on a tenure stream, and again a lot of this mentoring used to happen after getting hired on a tenure stream.

For a VAP you have to have people who are able to move, and I don't think that's spread across the population equally. Some groups are more able to do a two-year VAP and then move again for a tenure-stream position. It can be harder on people with families. It can be harder on people who perhaps are not as financially well-off. You may get paid a fairly decent salary by comparison to many parts of the university but not certainly by comparison to what many VAPs could be earning elsewhere in the legal profession. I think all of those are the costs.

Q:  Do you think that the fellowships and VAP programs have any responsibility to open up law faculty positions to people from diverse or non-traditional background? And if so, how can they do a better job there?

A:  Yes. Absolutely, law schools have responsibility for that. Law schools should be using their VAP programs to try to increase diversity in all of the ways that you're talking about.

Q:  As you may know, there's a lot of criticism around the VAP and fellowship programs with the idea that the people in these programs obviously get a lot of help from the law faculty at these schools. Therefore, it can be hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work, how many of the ideas come from the VAPs or fellows themselves. What do you think about that criticism?

A:  Well, my facetious answer is that I am not that smart. Anybody that thinks that I was particularly helpful to a VAP must not know me very well.  More seriously, I saw this question on your list of possible questions. That was the first time I had seen that concern.

Q:  Oh, interesting.

A:  You could say that about a lot of junior faculty as well – did someone help them with their work?  If somebody is writing somebody else's law review article or basically telling them what to write, that is academic dishonesty. It's academic dishonesty to basically do someone else's work and let that person put his or her name on it and represent it as that person’s work. It's just academic dishonesty.

We all should presume that the person has done the work that they represent that they have done unless we have evidence to the contrary. Again, it was the first time I'd ever heard that concern. Certainly, when I've served on hiring committees, I've never heard that concern. I have a hard time responding to the question other than to say, well, people shouldn't cheat, so don't cheat.

Q:  What about something softer than cheating? In other words, I don't think that anybody would be writing a VAP or a fellow's article for them. I agree. I think that would be well beyond the pale, but to the extent that fellows or VAPs are in people's offices talking about ideas, and they get faculty members who are saying, "Gee, I wouldn't go with that idea. I'd go with this idea. I think your normative solution doesn't work. You might try this instead." Then it’s harder to tell how many of the ideas in a VAP's papers they came up with.

A:  That is part of being a community of scholars. That's scholarship. That's why we're at universities, and we talk. But I don't see that as ... Who would ever worry about that? Almost all my papers are co-authored and as much social-science as law. Perhaps that experience is affecting my answer. Earlier you asked me what VAPs with a Ph.D. should learn about doing legal scholarship, and my answer was don't fall for the norms of legal scholarship. A better way to say it is not to fall into many of the bad habits of legal scholarship. This question is perhaps reflective of one of legal scholarship’s bad habits. This idea that what makes you a great scholar is that you've been sitting in your office by yourself stroking your chin and you've had this great idea is ridiculous.

If somebody has developed a great paper by talking with people, and discussing ideas and getting feedback, that's what scholars do. I don't even see that as problematic. What I see is the question is problematic because the question makes an assumption about what good scholarship is and it’s the wrong idea of what good scholarship is.

Q:  Yeah. Last question. Given that life is zero-sum in so many ways, time spent in a VAP or fellowship is obviously time not spent, for example, in practice. What do you think about that trade-off, especially given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?

A:  Well, I don't think much of it. I hope life is longer than that. You're talking about a very short amount of time compared to the length of a career. You already asked me about the costs and benefits. I do think most of the benefits are going to the law schools. In a perfect world, I would probably not have as many VAPs and fellowships as we have, but given that we do have them, then the trade-off doesn't concern me very much at all.

At the beginning of your career when you're looking to break into teaching and say, "I've been practicing for a few years, and now I've got to do a few more years of a fellowship!" Yeah, that seems like a lot of time when are you starting, but I think looking back on a career when you've been teaching for decades, the couple of years you did as a VAP or a fellow are beneficial and will have helped you. I don't think there's much of a trade-off versus a couple more years in practice. I don't think over the long-run you're really trading anything off.

Q:  Well, thank you so much, Bob. Is there anything else you want to add about the VAP at Illinois, about the state of law faculty hiring more generally?

A:  No, I've probably gotten myself in enough trouble.


Posted by Jessica Erickson on June 21, 2019 at 05:11 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, June 14, 2019

Interview with Susannah Barton Tobin from Harvard Law School on the Climenko Fellowship Program

Here is the second interview in my series interviewing VAP and fellowship directors.  Thanks to Susannah Barton Tobin, the Managing Director of the Climenko Fellowship Program and Assistant Dean for Academic Career Advising at Harvard Law School, for participating in this series!  An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited Susannah to respond to any questions in the comments. 

You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here.   For more information about law faculty hiring generally, check out the section of the AALS's website devoted to this topic at  The interview itself is after the break.

Q: Hi Susannah.  Can you start by telling me about your role with the Climenko program?

A: I am the managing director of the program.

Q: What does that mean?

A: I run the legal research and writing program, and I work with the fellows in order to help them get ready for the market.

Q: Great. I'm going to basically move through the fellowship program chronologically starting with the application process and then moving to the fellowship years themselves. When does the Climenko program start to accept applications for the following year?

A: September 1st -- we have a rolling application process.

Q.  What do people need to submit with their application?

A.  A cover letter, CV, research agenda, writing sample, and 2-3 letters of recommendation.

Q: When do you typically start conducting interviews?

A: Usually in October, but it varies depending on the availability of the committee members and other factors.

Q: Do you do a screening interview? How do the interviews work?

A: We have one round of interviews with the committee, which is myself and two faculty members. Right now, it's Tom Brennan and Ruth Okediji. The interview is similar to AALS-style interviews with the bulk of the questions on the candidate’s research agenda and the projects they’d like to work on during the fellowship. 

Q: How many people do you typically invite to interview?

A: I would say about 20-25.

Q: How many fellows do you ultimately select in a given year? I'm sure it varies but in general.

A: It varies but it's usually six or seven.

Q: When does that application process typically end? When would you say in the year, "Okay. We're done."

A: That varies a ton. Ideally we'd like to be done early in the new year, sometimes it stretches into the second semester.

Q: You said you typically hire six to seven a year. What does that depend on and how many years do the fellows stay?

A: There are 13 fellows, which is related to the number of sections of legal research and writing at the law school.  We have a total of fourteen sections, and I teach one.  The fellowship lasts two years, so in any given year, six or seven will be leaving. We have some flexibility in the length of the fellowship, if someone takes a leave or is coming back from a clerkship.

Q: How many applications do you typically receive for those six to seven positions?

A: About a hundred.

Q: When it comes to fellows' teaching responsibilities, how do you try to gauge their teaching ability in the application process?

A: Similar to the way it happens in the entry-level process, we assess a candidate’s ability to explain legal concepts clearly, to respond effectively to questions. If someone in their application has had prior teaching experience, we'll look at the teaching evaluations or other information from their recommenders about that teaching background.

Q: When you say you try to gauge how they answer questions, is there a job talk? What does that half day or day of interviews look like?

A: It's generally a morning interview. It varies a little bit in length, and it’s not a job talk, but there's a series of questions about whatever paper idea the candidate has proposed to work on during the course of the fellowship.

Q: Is that with the three committee members or do other people participate in that interview process?

A: It's with three committee members and then after the interview, the candidates also go for coffee with some of the current fellows, which is not a formal evaluative part of the process, but it’s an additional touch point.  The Dean gives the final approval on all offers.

Q: How much does practice experience matter in the hiring process?

A: I think it's important. Depending on whom you ask there might different answers to that question but it's both valuable for our students in the legal writing class and also valuable for the fellows in the entry-level process. 

Q: How much practice experience are you typically looking for? Is there a sweet spot?

A: I don't think there's a sweet spot. I think my observation of the market over the past decade or so is that a little bit more is better from a market perspective. I don't know if you feel this way, but I think maybe 15 years ago 1-2 years was enough. It depends on what they're doing but I think we're seeing more of 3-4 years now.

Q: I'll just offer my own perspective here.  As a hiring committee member, I'd love to see the fellows have a bit more practice experience. I think four, five, even six years. It's hard to get, but that would be great. I just throw that out there for what it's worth.

A: That’s very helpful to hear, for sure.

Q: Let's turn to the research side. The successful candidate, what do they typically have in terms of research or a paper? Do they typically have a full draft of a paper, a published paper, an idea for a paper? How far along are they?

A: It varies.  We ask applicants to submit a research agenda and a writing sample.  I think as the market has become more competitive in general, we see more people applying who have one or sometimes two prior publications, although that’s not a requirement for us.  We’re interested in the quality of the writing sample, whether that’s a draft or a student note, they're showing us their ability to do scholarly writing. We're really interested in the research agenda and the proposed project or projects that would be completed during the course of the fellowship.  Some people have a draft in progress that they’ve been working away at on nights and weekends that they want to show us. 

Q: That was going to be my next question.  The people who come in with a paper other than a student note, do you have a sense as to how they're managing to write that? Is it while they're in practice, nights and weekends, or typically are they coming in from a PhD program or another fellowship program? How are people logistically getting that writing done?

A: Yes to all of those examples. We've definitely had fellows coming from practice who tell us that they have worked nights and weekends.

Q: That was me!

A: My hat is off to you. It's just an extraordinary time management accomplishment separate and apart from the law firm work, how do you do that with no sleep? Sometimes people have worked on a long paper in law school and kept it to expand on similarly around the edges of their practice experience. 

Certainly, people who are coming out of PhDs or are working on PhDs have dissertation chapters or other projects that they've been working on.  So we see a little bit of everything.

Q: You said you're looking at their research agenda. How developed is that research agenda for people coming into a fellowship? Are these people who can tell you, several papers out, what they'll be working on? Or is it something typically more modest than that?

A: I think it can be both. We're not really looking for something that is projected out over four to five years the way, I think, an entry-level candidate would have.  We really want to see fairly detailed proposals for one or two papers accompanied by some general statement of how they view their scholarly approach and a set of ideas that they seem interested in.  But we don’t view a research agenda as a contract; we certainly don’t expect that they should be coming in with six or seven ideas.

Q: I'm sure that'll be helpful to people. Thinking about preferences that you might have through the process, do you have a preference for particular curricular areas? Is that a thumb on the scale ever? Certainly, you see people saying, "Gee, every school wants corporate" or "Every school wants criminal law." Is that something that you take into account on the hiring side?

A: We don't go in with curricular needs in mind. I think as someone who advises people on the market, I'm quite sensitive to trends but I don't think they're dispositive at all for our decision-making process. It might be after we've hired someone, if someone was thinking about a couple of different strands of scholarship, we might have a conversation about which ones might be more marketable but the point of academia, I think, as Martha Minow has said, is getting to own your own mind.  I don't really want to urge people to teach something they don’t feel excited about.

Q: Right. Then, you'll have to teach it the rest of your life.

A: Exactly.

Q: Do you have a preference for candidates with PhDs? How does that factor into the decision-making?

A: We don't have a preference for candidates with PhDs. At least one of the reasons there's been a rise in PhDs in the market as a whole is that those candidates have been at work on scholarship for a while. Their files might “pop” more but I think we are just as interested in practice experience, and mindful that the program gives people time to write which people in PhD programs have already had.

Q: Do you make a special effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

A: We do our best to recruit a class that's diverse and excellent across all dimensions.

Q: Are there any other criteria that come into your decision-making? We've talked about practice experience, teaching experience, research agenda, other things. Is there anything I'm missing?

A: I do think that support from faculty recommenders is important to us to see because it helps us assess in areas outside our own expertise how scholars are looking at their work. It also anticipates their support on the market down the road.

Q: What role do faculty members have in the process? Do successful candidates typically have somebody at Harvard who's saying to you, "Hey, this person's good"?

A: Certainly, for the candidates who attended Harvard as law students, we take very seriously recommendations from faculty, but also, they don't need to have gone to Harvard. We take very seriously support and letters from whomever they asked to submit on their behalf.

Q: When I talk about this project on the blogs, I often hear from candidates who may not have the traditional markers of someone in law teaching. Maybe they didn't go to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or a similar school. Maybe they don't have an elite clerkship. And they want to know what they can do to stand out in the application process.  What advice do you have for them?

A: I think it's a really important question. I do think that the market, both the entry-level market and therefore the fellowship market, is looking for people who have interesting ideas.  When I'm looking at a file, I think that the research agenda is absolutely essential.  As we’ve discussed before, it doesn’t need to be super-long, it doesn't need to have a million projects, but it has to have an articulated sense of an idea that we can then have a conversation about in the interview.

Q: You think that can make up for a lack of some of the more traditional proxies?

A: I think they can make an application stand out, yes. If you flip the script and consider someone who has checked all the traditional boxes of top law school and fancy clerkship, but doesn’t have a strong research agenda and a well-developed idea, it would be hard for them to get through the process.

Q: All right, let's switch from the application over to some of the fellowship basics, some of the terms of employment. You said, the fellowship typically lasts two years. Are there times when it last longer than that? Is the fellowship renewable? If so, under what circumstances?

A: The fellowship is typically two years. There have been circumstances where it's been extended.

Q: Are you comfortable telling me how much fellows are paid per year?

A: Yes, it's a stipend of $70,000 a year.

Q: Do fellows receive health benefits?

A: They do.

Q: How about access to university or subsidized housing?

A: Yes.

Q: That's great. Tell me more about that -- what type of housing benefits are available?

A: They have access to the Harvard real estate lottery.  Basically, you get to prioritize certain kinds of Harvard-owned apartments and potentially get a good spot near campus with Harvard as your landlord.

And the timing of the lottery allows you to go through that process before the rest of the rental market really picks up so you get two bites at the apple.  Depending on the fellows, some people are thrilled to have university housing that they don't have to worry about. Other people would rather rent in Cambridge or Somerville. 

Q: Great. I was part of that lottery many moons ago. Do your fellows receive travel funding or other professional development funding?

A: Yes. They have a budget of $1,500 a year for conference travel, and then $1,500 a year for research assistance.

Then the year that someone is going on the market, they get an additional $1,000 that goes toward market-related expenses.

Q: Is it possible to get those amounts increased, if someone says, "Hey, I was just invited to this great conference at Richmond. Can I get additional money?" Is that ever possible?

A: We do our best to support opportunities like that.  Because there are 13 fellows, sometimes people are using all their budget for research assistants but not their travel budget, so sometimes there’s some trading that goes on.  We try to do the things that are helpful to them and their work.

Q: Do fellows have to live in Cambridge or Boston? Obviously, there's the teaching responsibilities, but if somebody wanted to commute in, is that possible?

A: Yes, it is.

Q: Is that common?

A: It's not common but it happens. I would say there are at least one or two fellows a year who commute from either DC or New York.

Q: Now let's turn to the fellowship year itself and how to make the most of it. Tell me about the culture of the fellows. How often do they get together among themselves and in what capacity? Do they have a regular workshop series or anything like that?

A: They have a regular workshop series, which, depending on the time of year, is weekly or every other week, depending on how busy that section of the semester is. We call it the half-baked workshop. The idea is to have a half-baked paper topic. You can pitch it to your colleagues and get really good feedback, make sure that you’ve clarified the idea before you devote a ton of time to actually writing the piece.  And in exchange for sharing your half-baked idea, you get a fully-baked dessert. 

Q: That's great. Who participates in that workshop?

A: It's all the Climenkos, and I attend as well.

Q: How many fellows does Harvard have roughly? Obviously, you said there's 13 Climenkos. Just overall in the whole school, though, how many fellows who hope to go on the law teaching market are there at any given time?

A: That number is a little hard to pin down, but there are a number of fellowships, including the Reginald Lewis Fellowship, the Berger Howe Legal History Fellowship, the Corporate Governance Fellowship, and the Private Law Fellowship. There’s a full list here. Not all those people are going on the market at the same time in a given year, but I would say there's somewhere between 7 to 12 additional fellows not affiliated with our program in a given year.

Q: They all participate or have the option to participate in this workshop series, the half-baked?

A: The half-baked workshop is primarily for Climenkos, though if the topic relates to the work of a fellow from another program, she or he may join.

Q: Do the Climenkos participate (or how do they participate) in the broader intellectual life of the law school? Are they allowed to go to other faculty workshops?

A: Yes. They are welcome and encouraged to go to the standing faculty workshop which is weekly and then also welcomed and encouraged to attend the specialty workshops, which if you attended all of them you wouldn't have time to do anything else.  We have a Legal History workshop, a Law and Economics workshop, an International Law workshop, Public Law workshop, a Private Law workshop, and a Criminal Law and Policy workshop, among others.  So one of the things I do with the fellows when they come is sit down and say “what are the conversations you want to be joining while you are here?” and make sure they are plugged into those.

Q: Are you the fellows' direct supervisor?

A: Yes.

Q: What does that mean? What is your role day-to-day with them?

A: I work with them on teaching and I also read their work and talk with them about the logistics of the market, suggest that they go to conferences, connect them to fellows who have left the program over the years who are in their area.

Q: Are fellows matched with an assigned mentor at Harvard, or are they guided towards people in their area? In other words, how do they meet people in their area of interest at the law school?

A: We ask incoming fellows to identify faculty with whom they are interested in working, and we can match up with formal mentors who are in no way meant to be the limit of their engagement but the entry point to the rest of the faculty.  So mentors will read work and talk to fellows and also help connect them to different opportunities here and with faculty who are relevant.

Q: How about meeting faculty at other law schools? Are they given assistance with that?

A: Yes, in an informal way. I think as the fellowship program has gotten older, we have a number of alumni at schools around the country, so a lot are connected that way and then either keep those points of contact or through people that faculty here know are doing work related with fellows’ areas of interest.

Q: If a fellow is working on a particular paper, what type of feedback might they get? Obviously, they're doing the half-baked workshop, they're getting feedback from you. What else might they expect on a particular paper or idea?

A: I think our real priority is emphasizing and honing the idea before getting too far along. I think, as I'm sure you've experienced, you'll get a range of feedback when you ask for it, sometimes people will have coffee and talk about ideas. Sometimes people will read drafts and give comments. Sometimes they'll read a draft and not give comments but they say you should talk to so-and-so about this idea. It depends.

Q: Is the same true when it comes to fellows' research agendas that they plan to use on the job market? What type of feedback are they getting there?

A: It's the same. I read it. The mentors will usually read it and give feedback. I encourage the fellows to share it with colleagues at other law schools and get feedback.

Q: Do fellows get any help in terms of placing their work in the law review submission process? There is always this lore that fellows have some help there. Have you seen any of that?

A: I don't. I saw the question when you sent it along and it made me chuckle because I haven't seen that. I've seen it on the blogs, and I know it's a deeply-held myth but I haven't seen it. I will say if I had to imagine the source of it, it’s the observation that there's been an increase of top-tier law reviews publishing fellows’ papers.

I think that is not about their papers being placed by faculty but, rather, that I think the students perceive the significance of placement to people interested in the entry-level market. Law review editors might be more interested in taking fellows’ work because they feel as if they are making contributions to academic placement.

Q: That makes sense. I'm hard-pressed to imagine what that help placing would look like but, again, it showed up on the blogs enough that I thought, "I have to ask."

A: I think it's important to ask. I'm happy to say my view which is, truly, it's not happening here.

Q: Are fellows given assistance finding recommenders? This may go back to some of the connections we were talking about earlier. Just wonder if there's any other assistance if somebody comes in without a natural list of recommenders?

A: We certainly talk about that throughout the course of the fellowship, making sure that people are in conversation with scholars in their field and, if they don't have people that they're coming in with or if they're switching from a different area into a new area, connecting them with people here and also connecting them with people at other law schools. 

Q: That's great. What is the paper schedule of the fellows? You said you want them to know what they're going to be working on at the fellowship. Is the idea that they'll send something out that first spring of their first year?

A: That's our hope. Our hope is that there'll be a paper draft that goes out in the February cycle of the first year. That sometimes happens and sometimes it doesn't. I think different faculty have different views about the optimal time it takes to write an excellent paper. Sometimes people think, "It'd be great to get one paper done, and then, start on a new paper right away." That's a pretty tight turn-around.  Maybe someone comes in with something that's pretty far along and they can finish it up and then start a new paper. That might happen but more, I think, what we see is people working on a draft, hopefully getting it out in the February cycle, but continuing to hone it after that.

Q: Candidates who come in with a PhD, do you have any special advice for them, anything they should particularly keep in mind?

A: I think my first piece of advice would be to answer for yourself: why law, as opposed to the Ph.D. department from which you might be coming. That's a question that will, I think, be asked either implicitly or explicitly when you’re on the market, and to imagine the different audience for your work as you're trying to transition to legal scholarship. What is the value-add of the methodological training you received as a Ph.D. for being a legal scholar? I think that that evolution from being a Ph.D. student into being a law professor is an ongoing one but it's important to think about before going into the process.

Q: Let's switch over to teaching. What precisely are the Climenkos’ teaching responsibilities?

A: Each Climenko teaches a section of first year legal research & writing which is a class of 40 students. That's a year-long course they teach both years of the fellowship. Then they have the option in the spring of the second year of the fellowship to propose to teach an additional course, either a reading group or a seminar on a topic of their own choosing, which some fellows do and some don't. There are schools of thought, pros and cons, for what the right thing is to do. Some people are very excited to do it; other people may choose to work on their next paper.

Q: You said they have 40 students in their legal writing class?

A: That's right.

Q: What are their grading responsibilities? That's a lot of memos or briefs to grade. What does that look like during the year?

A: There are two memo assignments in the fall for which the students write a draft and a revision and conference with fellows. So four rounds of marking in the fall and two rounds of conferencing. Then in the spring semester they pair up and do the Ames appellate brief, which I’m sure you remember.

Q: I remember it! Yes.

A: For that, they do a draft and revision of the brief and one round of conferencing.

Q: If you were looking at their time, how do you think their time breaks down between teaching, spending time of their scholarship, and whatever other responsibilities they have. Do you have percentages that you try to keep in mind with the fellowship?

A: I think we try to keep everything at 50/50, although not 50/50 every day or every week. There are periods like any academic schedule, there are periods of time in the year where they're very, very focused on their research and writing, in the summer and late December, January.  Then there are really intense periods of teaching and conferencing and marking their papers during the semesters.

Q: Do you try to schedule those around job market time periods? How does the legal research class line up with the job market time line?

A: We are attentive to it but I wouldn’t say that it's possible to fully schedule around it.

Q: It's a pretty long process. It would be hard to schedule around it entirely. What about training, feedback, or mentoring related to teaching?

A: We do a teaching orientation for the new fellows when they arrive. We have teaching meetings with the group throughout the year. I review their student evaluations and talk to them about the feedback, any trends we might see in the evaluations. We’ll have faculty come in and talk with the fellows about different approaches to teaching over the course of the year.

Q: You mentioned an orientation. What does that involve?

A: They do a mock class and also give mock feedback on writing assignment and a mock conference, in addition to a lot of “Here’s how HLS works.  Here are the other courses that the students are taking and how this course fits in their schedule.” Meetings with the librarians, etc.

Q: Okay. When it comes to the assignments themselves, are the Climenkos drafting the assignments or they are given these assignments?

A: They're given a variety of assignments from which to choose, but they are also welcome to make variations, adjustments as they wish that incorporate their own interests and experiences.

Q: Is the same true, for example, about what they are going to do in class on a given Wednesday? Is there a course plan that would take them through the semester, or are they coming up with that?

A: There's a course plan that takes them through the semester.

Q.  Do Climenkos have any other responsibilities during their fellowship?

A.  I think I would say informal ones because it's the smaller class for the students, they get to know their students very well and do a great deal of academic and professional advising with their students. They also write recommendation letters, but there's no formal administrative service component to the fellowship.

Q: Let's step back for a moment. If you were talking to a candidate who perhaps had multiple options when it came to fellowships, what would you say to try to sell them on the Climenko? Why do you think this is where a new law teacher should start their career?

A: I have two answers. One is my biased answer and one is my attempt at being a little less biased.

Q: I appreciate both of those.

A: The biased answer, of course, is that we have a great program. I think that the two main advantages to it are, first, the opportunity to come to HLS and work with the phenomenal faculty which through its size and depth affords lots of opportunities to learn and grow as a scholar.  We have really outstanding scholars and teachers.  We also have terrific faculty from other departments participating in the intellectual life of the law school, and the research librarians here are unsung heroes.

Then, the size of the program allows for a real community of fellows to grow and support each other through what is undoubtedly a stressful process, but to have the group working together, reading each other's work, supporting each other through the process is, I think, really special. We see that year over year. We had a Climenko reunion in March where about 50 professors came back to Cambridge and were reminiscing about that component of the program, particularly the friendship and the collegial support that they got from each other. Those are the two things I would say as a bias.

Here’s my non-biased advice, which I give to alumni of the law school because I serve as the Assistant Dean for Academic Career Advising. I work with our alums who are considering other offers. Sometimes they don't apply to the Climenko because of geography or some other reason, and they're considering other offers. My general advice is you should choose the fellowship program that makes sense for your work and your life.

I would love it if the best option is the Climenko program but sometimes it's not, whether because there's this particular scholar you want to work with at another school or the structure of a program that works better for the way you work. Some people thrive on the balance of teaching and scholarship. Still other people would prefer to have more uninterrupted time without teaching obligations before they go on the market. Other people want to be in a small program. Some people like having a big program. I think it has to be an individual decision, really, really focused on how your approach to your academic career would be best supported.

Q: That's good advice. Same thing is true when picking a law school to eventually join long-term, I think.  Do you have any advice for fellows when it comes to really making the most of the fellowship? When you think back on fellows who have been really successful in how they've used those two years, what have they done?

A: Great. I think the main reason one would do a fellowship is to be immersed in the academic world and the conversations because it should be what is drawing you to academia, and also, allows you to be part of that conversation and understand how it works before you go on the market. So really taking advantage of the opportunity to engage with faculty, both one-on-one and in the workshops, is incredibly important to having a good experience.  It's a little bit of modeling what your life is going to be like when you're a professor. The sooner you can start doing that, the better.

The other thing is- it comes to my bias again - I think doing a teaching fellowship is incredibly valuable because that's what you're going to do as a law professor. Students are amazing and figuring out how you're going to balance teaching, scholarship, and supporting your students is something you need to do. Having the opportunity to do it in a fellowship program with a smaller class is a real privilege. I think people who have thrived in this role have thought about the fellowship as a cohesive combination of teaching and scholarship. They have been really successful.

Q: Let's turn to the job market itself and when candidates actually go on the market. Do they receive mentoring related to the hiring process and if so what type?

A: We have a market calendar, which we use to walk through the major deadlines, when ideally the fellows should have a draft research agenda, when they should have a draft of a paper to share with their recommenders.  We also talk about filling out the FAR form.

Later on in the summer, we’ll do practice AALS-style interviews, through a combination first internally with the fellows asking each other questions and then working with faculty advisers for a second round of practice interviews. We do practice job talks at the start of the fall, so it's an ongoing conversation of hitting those different benchmarks in the process.

Q: When you say that they get a chance to do their job talk, who's offering them feedback there? How many faculty members?

A: Similar to the mock AALS screening interviews, we do an internal round with just the fellows, then an external round with faculty mentors and for the faculty in the field who may not be formally assigned mentors but who have expertise related to the topic of the paper. So depending on the paper, it'll be six or seven faculty members in the room

Q: Are the other Climenkos present for that as well or just the faculty?

A: The other Climenkos are there too.

Q: Are you the person who is basically responsible for shepherding them through this process?

A: I spend a lot of time on it, but the faculty mentors also are really helpful in working with the fellows through the process. 

Q: Do fellows have the opportunity to receive feedback on their application materials from faculty and from you?

A: Yes, both.

Q.  If you wanted to look at the Climenko track record, do you happen to know off the top of your head the percentage of Climenkos over, say the last 5 or years, however far back you want to go, that has landed in tenure track positions at U.S. law schools?

A: Since the start of the program, 91% of fellows who have gone on the job market have landed tenure track positions.  All of the positions are on our website by year.

Q: Do you mind if I link to that in the transcript here?

A: Totally fine. [Here’s the link! Scroll down under the map for the full list.]

Q: Perfect and how does the program support fellows who may need to go on the teaching market more than once if they don't land somewhere in the second year of their fellowship?

A: My view is that, as a Climenko, you have the support of the program regardless of whether you make it the first time or not, but sometimes people will go back to practice or take a year to do something else.  We still support them in that process when they go on the market.

Q: The fellowship itself is not renewable for the third year, typically?

A: It's not presumptively renewable, right.

Q: All right, let's talk about some of those broader policy questions because obviously, the law teaching market has changed a lot, certainly since I was on the market. What do you think about the rise of fellowships and VAPs as an entry point into this profession? What do you think are the benefits? What do you think are the costs?

A: The benefits are ideally making another entry point. If we go way back to the classic model of law teaching 40 years ago, if you did really well at law school and you clerked, then you were called back to the mother ship. Having more entry points that are not that, I think, is incredibly important. Fellowships are one of those additional entry points that recognize the need to have time to research and write before you go on the market.  Through a fellowship, you are immersed in the academic life and the conversation about scholarship, which is just a great benefit for young scholars learning how to do the work of being a scholar.

What are the drawbacks? I think, perhaps unintentionally, the result has been that while trying to have more paths into academia, we’ve created an appearance that there is a primary path or that having a fellowship or having a PhD is effectively a prerequisite, and that may be unintentionally narrowing access. 

Q: What do you think about the fact that it's obviously hard for a lot of people to do a fellowship? To uproot their life, to move to a particular city, which may end up closing the profession to some groups of people.

A: I think that's a really serious consideration. Part of the reason why we don't have a residency requirement is a recognition of the fact that it is a hurdle for people, and of course the finances are a huge consideration as well. I think the hope is-- I guess our argument is it's hard to get into the academy full stop. Ways that we can make that easier are a help but not a full solution.

Q: Do you think that the VAP and fellowship programs have a responsibility to help open up law faculty positions to people from diverse backgrounds, non-traditional backgrounds? How do you think the Climenko program hopes to do that?

A: I think everyone involved in the legal academy has the responsibility to do precisely that, including fellowships and VAP programs. There are lots of ways we have to think about diversifying the academy.  And one of the ways is your interview series that is so helpfully providing insights to make this process more transparent.  My view--I talk to candidates all the time on the phone and over email--is I want to make it as easy as possible for people to apply and to understand exactly what a successful application looks like. I think aggregating that information for the programs can be helpful.

Q: Yes, hopefully.  That's the goal. We'll see how it works in the end.

I'm sure you've heard the criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship and that therefore, it's hard for hiring committees to know how much of the work comes from the VAP or fellow themselves and how much comes from, say, Harvard Law School faculty? How do you respond to that criticism?

A: It's a little bit analogous to our discussion of placement in law reviews.  I don't buy it. I think the entry-level process itself does an excellent job through interviews and conversations and certainly the job talks of assessing the candidates' originality and ownership of their own scholarship. To the extent that there are candidates who have been overly influenced by advisers, which I'm not convinced is a serious issue to begin with, the entry-level market is good at sussing out  candidates’ weaknesses so that it’s not an issue.

Q: Anything else you want to pass along about the state of law faculty hiring more generally?

A: Good question. I'm being redundant now but I do think more transparency in the process is better and having some of these assumptions either unsettled or at least bought up to the surface is important so that people understand on both sides what's happening.

Q.  Yes, who knows, maybe next I'll do the same type of interview series but with hiring chairs. We'll see. Thanks so much. I really appreciate it!


Posted by Jessica Erickson on June 14, 2019 at 09:16 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (16)

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

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, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (25)

Thanks and Caveats for My Interview Series with VAP and Fellowship Directors

I will soon post the first interview of my interview series with VAP and fellowship directors.  My goal is to post one a week over the summer.  I have now conducted several interviews, however, and I wanted to take a few moments before the series officially starts to reflect on it more broadly.

First, a huge thank you to the faculty who have spoken with me over the past few weeks about their schools’ VAP and fellowship programs.  I have to imagine that it is a bit intimidating to sit for a lengthy interview, knowing that the transcript will be picked apart by Internet commenters.  And yet almost every school that I have contacted has agreed to participate, and no one has objected (at least much!) to my pages of questions.

Second, the interviews were long.  Like, really long.  Most lasted over an hour, and the transcripts are typically 15 or more typed pages.  This format has costs and benefits.  The costs are obvious­—it’s a lot to read!  And the transcripts reflect normal conversations­—sometimes the speaker goes off topic, sometimes they don’t answer the exact question that I asked, and sometimes they aren’t as clear as they might be if they were writing out their answers.  In other words, they talk like any of us would likely talk in these circumstances.  Indeed, this whole process has made me acutely aware of my own verbal tics.  On the flip side, it’s easier to get helpful details through a conversation.  People share more when they are talking more informally, and this format also allowed me to ask follow-up questions where appropriate.  So forgive the length of these transcripts.  I do recognize that not everyone will want to read the whole interviews, so I am working on putting together a chart that will include more stripped down information about these and other programs.

Third, full disclosure about the transcripts themselves -- these are edited transcripts, not exact transcripts.  My goal is to provide information to prospective fellows that is as helpful as possible, so if the interviewees wanted to add or edit information after our conversation, that was fine with me.  And if the details of particular programs change down the road, I have told them that I have no problem if they want to edit the transcript. 

Fourth, I want to be transparent about my goal with respect to this series.  I know there are people who think our whole system of hiring is crazy and want to burn it down (so to speak), and these people may well be frustrated that I am not using this series to more aggressively challenge the status quo.  I understand those critiques, as I have mixed feelings about the system myself.  But the fact is that this is the current on-ramp for nearly all law faculty today, and yet we have almost no systematic information about how these programs work and how people can be successful in them.  Maybe those of us already in the profession should build additional on-ramps, but in the meantime, I think we have an obligation to make the current system more transparent. 

Finally, if there is a particular program you want to learn about, let me know, either in the comments or by email!  I can’t interview faculty from every program, so I am trying to do a mix of different types of programs.  I want big name programs, as well as ones you may not have heard about.  I want programs where fellows teach in legal writing programs, programs where they teach doctrinal classes, and programs where the responsibilities relate more to running a center. So far, I have reached out to faculty connected with Harvard’s Climenko program and Reginald F. Lewis Fellowship for Law Teaching, Chicago’s Bigelow program, Stanford’s Thomas C. Grey program, Columbia’s Associates-in-Law program, NYU’s Lawyering Program, Yale’s Center for Private Law, Wisconsin’s Hastie fellowship, Tulane’s fellowship program, and a few others.  I likely have room for three or four more, and I am willing to take suggestions!

With those caveats out of the way, stay tuned for the first interview transcript soon!

Posted by Jessica Erickson on June 7, 2019 at 08:32 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, May 20, 2019

Interviewing Fellowship and VAP Directors: What Do You Want to Know?

In an earlier post, I explained my plan to interview as many VAP and fellowship directors as I can this summer, with the goal of improving transparency into how these programs work and how to make the most of them.  The series itself will start in June, but first I want your input.  What do you want to know about these programs?  For those who have done a VAP or fellowship recently, what do you wish you had known before you started?  For those of you who are contemplating these programs, what are you wondering about?  I have included a draft list of questions below, but I am open to editing them or adding more.  My goal is to make this series as helpful as possible, so let me know what you want to know!  You should also feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected] if you want to share additional questions or thoughts.

Let me also acknowledge the elephant in the room.  I know a lot of people don’t like the gatekeeping nature of VAPs and fellowships or the exclusionary nature of the law teaching market more generally.  I get it.  I have very mixed views on it myself.  Following up on Paul’s very helpful post, I have included a few questions related to the broader policy implications of VAPs and fellowships, and I also hope Paul’s post sparks a broader discussion about these programs and law faculty hiring more generally.  My series of interviews feeds into this debate, to be sure, but I also recognize that, like it or not, this is the market reality for aspiring law faculty and we are all better off if people know as much as possible about how the system works now.  It doesn’t do anyone any good to debate the system among ourselves, while keeping information about how it works now under wraps.  And I am very open to expanding this series to include law faculty who have been on hiring committees, non-traditional candidates, etc. after the original round of interviews.  So let’s get more information out there, while also working to improve things as much as we can. 

Draft Questions:

Application Process

  1. When does the program start accepting applications?
  2. What is the timeline for conducting interviews?
  3. How are the interviews structured? Are there first-round and second-round interviews?
  4. When has the fellowship typically filled all of the positions?
  5. How many fellowships are available? Is there flexibility in the number of fellows each year, and if so, how does that affect future years?
  6. How many applications are typically received?
  7. Who selects the fellows? Is there a committee? Is there a chair?
  8. If the fellows have teaching responsibilities, how does the application process gauge their teaching ability?
  9. What additional criteria is used to select the fellows? What helps an applicant stand out in the application process?
  10. Which of the following do successful applicants typically have when they apply­— A research agenda? A draft of a paper?  One or more published papers (other than a student note)?
  11. Does the program have a preference for candidates in particular curricular areas?
  12. Does the program have a preference for candidates with PhDs?
  13. Do you make any special effort to hire candidates from diverse backgrounds?

Fellowship Basics

  1. How long does the fellowship last?
  2. Is the fellowship renewable? If so, under what circumstances?
  3. How much are fellows paid per year?
  4. Do fellows receive health benefits?
  5. Do fellows receive access to university or university-subsidized housing?
  6. Do fellows receive travel funding and/or other professional development funding?
  7. Do fellows receive funding to hire research assistants?
  8. Do fellows receive reimbursement for any law teaching market-related expenses?
  9. Are fellows expected to live in the same city as the law school?

Making the Most of a Fellowship

  1. Approximately how many fellows are at the law school in a given year?
  2. How often do the fellows get together and in what capacity (i.e., a regular workshop series)?
  3. Do fellows participate in the broader intellectual life of the law school (i.e., faculty workshops), and if so, how?
  4. Who supervises the fellows?
  5. Are fellows matched with an assigned mentor or guided towards faculty in their area of interest at the law school, and if so, how?
  6. Are fellows given assistance in making connections with law faculty in their area of interest at other law schools, and if so, how?
  7. Are fellows given other support related to their research?
  8. Are fellows given assistance in developing a research agenda?
  9. What role do fellowship directors or faculty at the school play in helping VAPs or fellows place their work?
  10. Are fellows given assistance in finding recommenders?
  11. Do you have any special advice for candidates with PhDs doing a VAP or fellowship? Are there special considerations they should keep in mind?
  12. Does the fellow have teaching responsibilities?
  13. If so, what courses do they teach? Do they have any input in what courses they teach?  Do they have the opportunity to teach one or more courses in their area of interest?
  14. What percentage of time should they expect to spend on teaching vs. scholarship vs. other administrative responsibilities?
  15. What training and/or mentoring do fellows receive related to their teaching?
  16. What other duties do the fellows have?
  17. What other advice do you have for fellows when it comes to making the most of the VAP or fellowship?

The Job Market

  1. What type of mentoring do fellows receive related to the hiring process?
  2. Do you have faculty or staff who are responsible for shepherding fellows through the market?
  3. Do fellows have an opportunity to do a mock screening interview?
  4. Do fellows have an opportunity to moot their job talk in front of faculty and/or other fellows?
  5. Does the school run a moot camp for fellows and alums?
  6. Do fellows have the opportunity to receive feedback on their application materials from faculty or others at the school?
  7. What percentage of your fellows over the past 5 or 10 years have landed in tenure-track positions at law schools? Is there a list of these fellows and their positions available online?
  8. Do you support fellows who need to go on the teaching market more than once? If so, how? Is the fellowship renewable for another year?

Broader Questions

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. How do you respond to the criticism that VAPs and fellows may get too much help on their scholarship from you or others on the 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?
  4. What do you want hiring committees to know about your fellowship? Any other thoughts you’d like to pass on to them about the state of law faculty hiring?

Posted by Jessica Erickson on May 20, 2019 at 04:12 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (5)

Friday, May 17, 2019

New Summer Series: Interviewing Fellowship and VAP Directors

Thanks, Howard, for introducing this new series!  As Howard mentioned, I am the Chair of the AALS Committee on Becoming a Law Teacher.  The Committee’s goal is to improve the available resources regarding how to become a law professor.  There is information out there already, to be sure, but it is pretty scattered and if you were new to the law professor world and didn’t have many connections, it could feel pretty puzzling.  What is a job talk anyway?  And how about a research agenda?  And why is everyone terrified about the Wardman Park Hotel?  Our goal is to demystify the process as much as we can.

That’s the big project, but we are partnering with prawfsblawg on one specific part of it.  As we started to dig into the data, it become clear to us that VAPs and fellowships are the de facto gateway into the profession.  We all know that to some extent, but the stats that Sarah Lawsky has put together are even more striking than we would have guessed. Almost everyone (literally, almost everyone!) who is hired for a tenure-track law professor job today has either done a fellowship or VAP or has gotten a PhD.  And yet, while there is some information available on the tenure-track market, there is surprisingly little information about these programs.  How do you get a fellowship?  How does one fellowship differ from another in terms of mentoring, teaching and research time, and basic employment terms?  And how can you make the best use of your fellowship time to prepare for the entry-level market?  If you have stayed in touch with your law school professors or have friends who have done VAPs or fellowships, they might be able to give you some information about specific programs.  Otherwise, though, you are on your own. 

Our hope is to change that.  Over the summer, I will interview the directors of as many VAPs and fellowships as I can.  I will ask them all of the questions I would have had when I was new on the market, along with additional questions I crowdsource here from all of you.  Then I will post edited transcripts of the interviews here on prawfsblawg and on AALS’s website.  My goal is to post one interview per week starting in June and continuing through most of the summer.  I will also maintain a spreadsheet of basic information about each program for easy comparison. 

I’ll be back in a few days with a draft list of questions for the interviews, and I would love your feedback!

Posted by Jessica Erickson on May 17, 2019 at 09:53 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, VAPS & Fellowships | Permalink | Comments (24)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tulane Law School Fellowships

Posted for Tulane Law School:

Tulane Law School invites applications for three positions: a Forrester Fellowship, a visiting assistant professorship, and a Yongxiong Fellowship.

All three positions are designed for promising scholars who plan to apply for tenure-track law school positions. All three positions are full-time faculty in the law school and are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the intellectual life of the school. The law school provides significant support, both formal and informal, including faculty mentors, a professional travel budget, and opportunities to present works-in-progress in various settings.

Tulane’s Forrester Fellows teach legal writing in the first-year curriculum to two sections of 25 to 30 first-year law students in a program coordinated by the Director of Legal Writing. Fellows are appointed to a one-year term with the possibility of a single one-year renewal. Applicants must have a JD from an ABA-accredited law school, outstanding academic credentials, and significant law-related practice and/or clerkship experience. Candidates should apply through Interfolio, at If you have any questions, please contact Erin Donelon at [email protected].

Tulane’s visiting assistant professor (VAP), a two-year position, is supported by the Murphy Institute at Tulane (, an interdisciplinary unit specializing in political economy and ethics that draws faculty from the university’s departments of economics, philosophy, history, and political science. The position entails teaching a law school course or seminar in three of the four semesters of the professorship (presumably the last three semesters). It is designed for scholars focusing on regulation of economic activity very broadly construed (including, for example, research with a methodological or analytical focus relevant to scholars of regulation). In addition to participating in the intellectual life of the law school, the VAP will be expected to participate in scholarly activities at the Murphy Institute. Candidates should apply through Interfolio, at, providing a CV identifying at least three references, post-graduate transcripts, electronic copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining their teaching interests and their research agenda. If you have any questions, please contact Adam Feibelman at [email protected].

Tulane’s Yongxiong Fellow will teach a required course in U.S. legal research and writing to a cohort of LLM students at Tulane Law School under the auspices of the Yongxiong-Tulane Center for International Credit Law. The Fellow will also teach one upper-level course in a topic relating to financial markets, banking or credit law. The Fellow will be appointed to a two-year term with the possibility of renewal. Applicants must have a JD or graduate degree in law from an ABA-accredited law school, outstanding academic credentials, excellent research and writing skills, and scholarly interests related to financial regulation. Applicants proficient in Mandarin Chinese are especially encouraged to apply, although there is no language requirement for the position. Candidates should apply through Interfolio, at, providing a CV identifying at least three references, post-graduate transcripts, electronic copies of any scholarship completed or in-progress, and a letter explaining their teaching interests and their research agenda. If you have any questions, please contact Adam Feibelman at [email protected].

The law school aims to fill all three positions by March 2019. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and encourages women and members of minority communities to apply.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on February 12, 2019 at 10:40 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance Post-Graduate Academic Fellows

Posted for the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance:

The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance invites applications for Post-Graduate Academic Fellows in the areas of corporate governance and law & finance. Qualified candidates who are interested in working with the Program as Post-Graduate Academic Fellows may apply at any time and the start date is flexible.

Candidates should be interested in spending two to three years at Harvard Law School (longer periods may be possible). Candidates should have a J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D. from a U.S. law school, or a Ph.D. in economics, finance, or related areas by the time they commence their fellowship. Candidates still pursuing an S.J.D. or Ph.D. are eligible so long as they will have completed their program’s coursework requirements by the time they start. During the term of their appointment, Post-Graduate Academic Fellows work on research and corporate governance activities of the Program, depending on their skills, interests, and Program needs. Fellows may also work on their own research and publishing in preparation for a career in academia or policy research. Former Fellows of the Program now teach in leading law schools in the U.S. and abroad.

Interested candidates should submit a CV, transcripts, writing sample, list of references, and cover letter to the coordinator of the Program, Ms. Jordan Figueroa, at [email protected]. The cover letter should describe the candidate’s experience, reasons for seeking the position, career plans, and the kinds of projects and activities in which he or she would like to be involved at the Program. The position includes Harvard University benefits and a competitive fellowship salary.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on February 12, 2019 at 10:38 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hastie Fellowship Call for Applications

From the University of Wisconsin Law School:

The University of Wisconsin Law School seeks applications for the William H. Hastie Fellowship. The application deadline is February 1, 2019.  
For over forty years, the Hastie Fellowship has helped aspiring scholars from underrepresented communities in the legal academy prepare for a career in law teaching. Hastie Fellows devote the majority of their time to their own research agenda, researching and writing scholarly articles with support from a faculty advisor and the Hastie Fellowship Committee. During their residence, Hastie Fellows become part of the rich intellectual community at the University of Wisconsin, participating in workshops, symposia, and colloquia at the law school and broader campus community. Hastie Fellows participate in the entry-level law teaching market during the fellowship’s second year, and receive support and mentoring from the faculty. Most fellows also elect to teach or co-teach a course in an area of their interest during their second year in residence. Upon the successful completion of their work, typically involving the preparation of two publishable articles, fellows may elect to receive an LL.M.
Since the program was founded in 1973, over thirty Hastie Fellows have completed the program and secured academic appointments. They are a distinguished presence across American legal education, and three have gone on to serve as law school deans. The Hastie Fellowship continues to play a remarkable role in encouraging and developing scholars from underrepresented communities and in preparing them to succeed in the legal academic market and in the academy. 
For more information about the program and the application process, please visit

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on November 14, 2018 at 02:16 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2018

VAPs and Fellowships: Open Thread, 2018-2019

On this thread, comments can be shared regarding news of appointments to VAPs or similar fellowships (for example, the Climenko and Bigelow).  Here is last year's thread.

You may also add information to the spreadsheet.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on October 29, 2018 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (197)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Federal Judicial Center Job Posting

From Timothy Lau at the Federal Judicial Center:

For those who are on the law faculty market with both a J.D. and a Ph.D., you may be interested to know that the Research Division of the Federal Judicial Center is currently seeking a Research Associate. The Federal Judicial Center is the research and education agency of the United States federal courts, and, unlike chamber law clerks, the research associates provide research for the federal courts on a systemic level. The research work is similar to that of law professors, and, while the position does not require any teaching, there may be opportunities to participate in education of federal as well as foreign judges. In addition, the research of the Federal Judicial Center can have real impact. Projects are often developed around specific requests of the policy-makers within the federal courts, including its Advisory Committees on Federal Rules, and are sometimes based on Congressional statutory mandate. The pay is competitive with starting law faculty salaries. The precise job listing can be found at:

It should be noted that, notwithstanding the language of the job announcement, any Ph.D. will be considered. Interested persons can contact me with questions at tlau at fjc dot gov.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on October 11, 2018 at 11:42 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 03, 2018

A Personal Law Review Article Submission Narrative

0dc3c821-583e-4983-87ce-a89c1b7bef6b-originalBefore the end of the month, I mentioned to Howard the possibility I would have one more thing to say about what has become a theme this summer: the folkways of career advancement in legal academia and, in particular, the angst around law review submissions.  I recognize that my circumstances may not match anybody else's - I have a job, tenure, and I'm too old and sedentary to be thinking about lateral moves.  But, for what it's worth and with the consent of the editor of the journal in which I've just agreed to publish an article, I'm going to offer here a narrative about the submission process. 

My project this summer was a thought experiment that looked at the current embodiments of "smart contracts" - crypto-currencies as well as systems of legal documentation that can operate on blockchain technology - and considered what it would take for a traditionally negotiated complex and bespoke agreement to be "smart" in the same way.  (The title is a clue to the conclusion:  The Persistence of "Dumb" Contracts.).  I finished it to the point of public consumption and posted it on SSRN on June 25.  All things considered, it did pretty well there.  It's up to 222 downloads as of this morning, and made a bunch of the SSRN "Top Ten" lists.

In terms of hiring or tenure, it doesn't matter where I publish. I am pretty sophisticated about what is meaningful and what is not in a linear ranking like the US News list. But I'm as susceptible as the next person to the allure of glitzy branding, even if for no reason other than pure ego.  I am not on the faculty at a school whose letterhead sends student law review editors into spasms of fawning sycophancy.  Nor do I think my stuff is easy for student law review editors to assess.  (Dan Markel, of blessed memory, once told me I am "orthogonal" to most debates, something I took as a compliment even though I'm quite sure he didn't mean it that way. I think of it as "anything you can do, I can do meta.") Indeed, I've already noted that I've been asked to "peer review" articles for multiple super-elite flagship law reviews.  Each time I've done it, bitching all the while to my contact articles editors about the fact that my own submissions to their journals don't make it out of the submission inbox.

So, after the break, a short narrative about Persistence's submission odyssey.

As of June 25, I was suffering from the usual self-delusions, sitting on a completed 25,000 word article and thinking that it really did deserve to appear in a very "top" law review (see above).  I knew that submission season didn't begin until August 1 and that the peak for submissions would be roughly mid-August.

I had acted as a peer reviewer for an article in the flagship journal of a very highly ranked law school in the spring (the "XLR").  I contacted directly the XLR senior articles editor with whom I had dealt.  The editor encouraged me to submit when the journal opened on August 1, and said that if I gave a two week exclusive, the journal would guarantee a read of the piece.  That seemed to me a no-lose proposition because it would still allow me to submit in the Scholastica shotgun as of August 15 (by which date, I knew in those brief moments of being tethered to some fashion of cognitive lucidity, XLR would have rejected it).  

In early July, Northwestern announced an early submission period for those willing to give exclusives between July 15 and the end of the month.  Again, that struck me as a no-lose proposition, as upon its inevitable rejection at Northwestern, I could submit it to XLR as of August 1.  The inevitable Northwestern rejection came (a day early), and the piece duly went off to the XLR.  I related the story of its sojourn at the XLR here.  Suffice it to say that, as of the evening of August 14, I was ready to do the Scholastica thing.

Off it went in the wee hours of August 15 with a CV and a cover letter (including the classic sentences: "Let me put this bluntly.  Please put aside the usual heuristics based upon the letterhead of the submitting author.").  As I've noted, my peeve is submitting to journals and not being prepared to accept offers if they are the only ones you get.  On the first pass, I decided to do flagship journals of USNWR top 50 schools and two "specialties," the Columbia Business Law Review and the NYU Journal of Law & Business.  When I woke up in the morning, I had a few minutes of post-Nespresso clarity, after which I added submissions to the flagship journals of top 100 USNWR schools. I also decided, since I had submitted to specialty journals at Columbia and NYU, I'd submit to one "elite school" specialty journal that I had never seen before but which seemed appropriate for my topic: the Stanford Journal of Blockchain Law and Policy.  

That was it for the next couple weeks, except that I decided to submit directly to a couple flagships (you know who they are) that don't do the full Scholastica shotgun thing.  One of them (for whom I had done a peer review several years ago) rejected the piece within a couple days, but were thoughtful enough to look forward to my next submission.  Other than that, I lurked on the angsting post and contributed to the betterment of the world by recording my rejections on Sarah Lawsky's spreadsheet.  Based on what I was seeing in the comments, and knowing how little any of the tea leaves meant, I wrote something about my view of the realities of article placement.

I then experienced what I thought, at the time, was the corollary to my pet peeve about submissions, which I sometimes characterize as another one of Lipshaw's Laws.  It goes like this:  "If you submit only to law reviews you are prepared to accept, you can be sure that your only offer will come from the very last review you decided you were willing to put on the list."  As sure as the earth orbits the sun in an ellipse, I received a message last week through Scholastica from the very last review I had decided I was willing to put on the list, the Stanford Journal of Blockchain Law & Policy, that my article had received a favorable "peer review" and would be coming up for a vote of the board of editors.

What I am about to say may well be the epitome of rationalization or cognitive dissonance.  I did something I probably should have done at the outset, which is that I went to the SJBLP website.  There I discovered that the journal is not student-edited, that articles (i.e. pieces over 10,000 words) are sent out for peer review, and that the journal is affiliated with the MIT Media Lab and Stanford's Code-X (its Legal Informatics program).   Many people who are prominent in the "artificial intelligence and the law" community are affiliated with Code-X.

So we go back to the issue of substance, on one hand, versus heuristics and ego, on the other.  My piece got very granular about the nature of computer code and its relation to logic.  I said a lot of things about how computers work.  Even though I'm pretty good at math, I'm not a computer expert.  To have the piece accepted by a peer-reviewed journal in the academic "law and computation" community was, to me, a significant professional validation.  At that point, I realized that I would rather have it published there than in almost any other journal.  I say almost any other because the allure of publishing in a T14 or T17 journal, particularly when it is so rare on my faculty, was still strong.

Yesterday, the SJBLP accepted the piece with a short deadline.  Last night, I withdrew it from all but nine journals, and expedited the rest.  This morning, again with the benefit of Nespresso clarity, I decided (a) it was highly unlikely any of the nine would abide the short expedite deadline; (b) it was highly unlikely that any of the nine would make an offer, but (c) most importantly, I really did come to believe the best home for the piece was where it was likely to be read by people who care about and understand the issues.  Ego and heuristics be damned!  Shortly thereafter, I clicked the "accept" button on Scholastica and withdrew it from the remaining journals.

Were I "on the market" would I have thought this through in the same way?  I don't know.  Fortunately, I don't have to test my self-honesty against that counter-factual.  I am quite sure, however, that, as someone who is obliged to consider scholarship by hiring and tenure candidates, this narrative would make sense to me if offered up by one of them.  Here, I'm simply putting it out to the community as one datum, for whatever it's worth.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on September 3, 2018 at 02:07 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Law Review Review, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (6)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Guide for the Perplexed - Law Professor Careers Edition

220px-Guide_for_the_Perplexed_by_MaimonidesWith sincere apologies to Maimonides, and having been a guest blogger through this year's fall article submission season, it seems like an opportune time for a short update to those classics, Memo to Lawyers: How Not to "Retire and Teach" and "Retire and Teach" Six Years On.  I wrote the former piece after getting a tenure-track law teaching job at the ripe old age of 52, reflecting on the idiosyncrasies of the hiring process, particularly for the superannuated aspirant, after having experienced the real world for most of a career. I wrote the latter piece shortly after I got tenure, reflecting mostly on what it really meant to do scholarship and teaching well.  

I now have the further experience of having participated on various career-related committees and the faculty meetings in which hiring and other career decisions get made.  (Disclaimer:  what follows are my views alone and do not represent views of my employer, any committee on which I sit, or any other member of our faculty.)  So, below the break, and for what it's worth, here are some random and personal thoughts about the role of scholarship in academic law careers and careerism, particularly for pre-tenured folks, from my particular perch at a respectable but certainly not an "elite" school.

  • Why are you writing?  Presumably it's because you like doing it and see it as a way of making a difference in the world.  But from a career advancement standpoint, you do it for one of three reasons:  to get hired, to get tenure, or to move laterally.  What I'm about to say is based on intuitions about data because the data is not readily available.  The first and the last of those career objectives are difficult; the middle one, at all but a handful of institutions, is relatively easy.  My suspicion is that the lateral market is far less important as a factor in career advancement than it might otherwise seem - again the availability heuristic at work.  The AALS reports that there are over 10,000 full-time tenured or tenure-track law professors (makes sense - about 200 schools at an average of 50 faculty members).  Maybe there are 100 lateral moves a year?  A very well-known senior law professor/scholar told me years ago not to expect to move laterally - this person had spent 17 years at a lower top 100 school before making a series of significant jumps up the food chain.  My intuition (which I could test if I didn't think it was undue navel-gazing) is that the farther you go down the rankings, the higher the percentage of faculty that have spent their entire career at the school.
  • CVs provide a gestalt.  My own experience is that I take it in as a whole and don't react to any particular item unless there is something truly exceptional about it.  For my money, the angst and mental energy I see reflected on this blog with respect to article placement is barely worth the effort.  The names of law reviews in which you've published are visceral heuristics that, in my experience, matter only when one is flipping through hundreds of FAR submissions.  Even then, it matters only to an extent and not at the level of granularity that people seem to think makes a difference.  Per the lumping of peer reputation scores I've highlighted before, if you've published in the elites it would cause me to notice, and it would probably cause me to notice if you published nowhere but specialty journals in the unranked USNWR category of law schools, but little else matters viscerally.  I don't keep a US News or Washington & Lee ranking in my head, and couldn't tell you where Tulane ranks in relation to Colorado to Temple.  And even noticing isn't the same thing as making an informed judgment that involves the subject matter of the writing, the apparent sophistication of the work (if one can tell from the title), or its originality, even if I make the judgment quickly.
  • Once you get past the visceral, here's what I think really happens.  As Paul Caron wrote in an article over ten years ago, legal scholarship has an exceedingly long tail.  Paul relied on research done by Tom Smith at San Diego.  The top half percent of articles get 18% of all citations, the top 5.2% get 50% of all citations, and the tail gets truncated quickly as 40% of all articles never get cited.  I'm assuming that there is a relationship between citation and articles even getting read.  The times you can be sure some or all of your work will be read is when you've made it through the callbacks and are into the final several people being considered for the spot, when you are being reviewed for promotion or tenure, and if and when you were ever in the final stages of the lateral process.  Generally speaking, people doing that reading aren't idiots, and know exactly how the system works.  If the piece sucks, but somehow you managed to get it through the editorial board at take-your-pick top 50 flagship, very few people who know the area in which you are writing are going to think to themselves, "Hmm, this person missed the really important work on this subject and skated over the hardest responses to the argument, but my gosh it was placed in the Big Ten Other Than Michigan Law Review, so it must be good."
  • While being perceived as a competent scholar is a but-for in the hiring, tenuring, and lateraling milieus, the make-or-break consideration is being perceived as a productive scholar.  If there is anything I find meaningful in visceral impressions, again it is the gestalt of a CV with a healthy list of publications the dates of which show consistency, all appropriately adjusted for the length of one's career.
  • In creating the gestalt, 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, as are the "essay" sections of traditional law reviews.  You read a piece and have 3,000 to 5,000 words (or fewer) to say about it.  Do it!
  • With the shorter pieces, take a shot at a peer reviewed journal.  I really like the courage it shows. (Most peer reviewed journals have a word limit - usually no more than 10,000.).  It takes longer to place them, but it really is a professional affirmation.  And since it's likely that they don't count as "tenure pieces" under many schools' tenure standards, the wait doesn't matter so much.  Steel yourself, however, for what academics in other disciplines experience:  evil reviewer #2 who hates your piece, your school, and you, "revise and resubmit," and Chicago Manual of Style footnotes. 
  • My thoughts on the substance of what gets written and the relationship of that substance to career advancement - issues of cross-disciplinarity, normativity, conformity, etc. - are at pages 71-80 of Retire and Teach: Six Years On, and I won't repeat them here.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Finally, a pet peeve. When you submit, you certainly can play the expedite game, but my personal view is that it’s inappropriate to submit to law reviews for which you would not accept an offer if it were the only one you got.  If somebody at my school were to tell me they were doing that, I would probably raise my eyebrows and look askance.

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 26, 2018 at 10:42 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Law School Hiring Spreadsheet and Clearinghouse for Questions, 2018-2019

In a radical departure from past practice, this year the Hiring Spreadsheet post and the Clearinghouse for Questions post will live together in one post (quel scandale! cats and dogs! etc.). This very post, to be specific. (Last year, there were zero comments on the Hiring Thread post, because everyone just put the information in the spreadsheet. So I figured, let's combine them in one action-packed post! Spreadsheet and comments! Woohoo!)

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. and 2017-2018. 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.

Update: Comments have been changed to appear in order of newest to oldest. So the most recent comments are on the first page.

Update, 1/15/19: Some people have requested a "soft open" for the placement information. If you would like information to be added to the spreadsheet, please send me the information or post it in the comments below, and I will add it to the spreadsheet (which I will post once I have a few entries). You cannot add the information yourself. I will publicize this spreadsheet in early March, as I usually do. 

The relevant information to send is, as always,

Basic Information: Name, Hiring School, JD Institution, JD Year of Graduation

Other Degrees: Type of Degree, Degree Granting Institution, Degree Subject

Fellowship, VAP, or Visiting Professorship: Institution and Type (e.g., VAP, name of fellowship, etc.)

Clerkship: Court (e.g., 9th Circuit, Texas Supreme Court, etc.)

Areas of Specialty (up to four) (if you are a clinical or LRW hire, please list this as your first Area of Specialty)

Type of Position: Tenure Track or Non-Tenure Track (if you are clinical or LRW and also tenure-track, please indicate this)

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 23, 2018 at 09:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (831)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time - 2018

The first distribution of the FAR AALS forms came out this week. Here are the number of FAR forms in the first distribution for each year since 2009.

FAR Forms Over Time.20180816

(All information obtained from various blog posts, blog comments, and Facebook postings over the years and not independently verified. If you have more accurate information, please post it in the comments and I will update accordingly.)

First posted August 16, 2018.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 16, 2018 at 12:30 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (28)

More Angsting about Angsting

So ... I entered a piece in the law review submission free-for-all.  It has caused me to reflect further on this system that generally causes academic jaws to drop in every other discipline when you describe it. Being at this stage of my career (see Further Reflections on the End of Ambition) where placements tend to be a matter of bucket list check-off and pure ego, my heart really does go out to those whose angst is related to getting or retaining a job. I thought "ctr" (the Appointments Chair at a T50 school) offered some wise counsel in the comments, consistent with the data, about not getting too hung up on the relative rankings of the schools in which you place your pieces.

I do not discount the angst.  I recently went through the five stages of law review submission grief.

Denial:  [Imagine thought balloon if this were a cartoon] "Oh wow, I've been called now by the fourth different Very Highly Ranked Flagship Law Review that Has Never Published Anything Written by Anybody Who Has Ever Been on Our Faculty to do a peer review of a submission.  I must be thought of as having scholarly chops well above the station otherwise indicated by the faculty letterhead on which I am obliged to submit my own work."

Bargaining:  "Dear Senior Articles Editor for Very Highly Ranked Flagship Law Review that Has Never Published Anything Written by Anybody Who Has Ever Been on Our Faculty:  I was flattered when you asked me several months ago to be an unpaid peer reviewer for the article submitted by [deleted] and was happy to turn around thoughtful comments in fewer than 24 hours because you were on an expedite deadline.  I did point out at the time the irony of your calling me for a review when all of my submissions to your journal have been rejected within hours, if not minutes, of their submission. Nevertheless, I did do it for you in the appointed time.  As you may recall, you commented on my comments as 'fascinating,' 'insightful,' and 'extremely helpful to our board's consideration.'  I now have a new piece ready for submission, and am willing to give it to you for an exclusive review for two weeks."

Depression:  "Dear Professor:  Thank you for submitting your article to the Very Highly Ranked Flagship Law Review.  Even though I found it fascinating and insightful, I am afraid that we will not be able to consider it for inclusion.  We wish you the best of luck in your placement of the article.  We hope, however, that you consider the Very Highly Ranked Flagship Law Review for future submissions."

Anger:  "Ungrateful little shits."

Acceptance:  American Samoa Journal of Bible Studies and Blockchain Technology.

[I promise more serious advice in a future post.]

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 16, 2018 at 10:45 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw, Teaching Law | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, August 13, 2018

Submission Angsting and the Availability Heuristic

Slide1I have not participated in the bi-annual feeding frenzy known as the student-edited law review submission season in several years.  I may this year, plus I'm blogging, so it's hard not to read the comments on "submission angsting" post (NB: autocorrect kept changing it to "submission ingesting" which I think is clever.)

This is a curmudgeonly but data-based contribution in aid of the reduction of angst. I vaguely recall posting something like this eleven or twelve years ago, no doubt when many young law professors or aspiring law professors were still in high school.  I direct it to those of you readers angsting significantly between, say, placements in law reviews at school ranked 65 versus school ranked 75.  Or some such similar consideration.

Paul Caron over at Tax Prof Blog does us the community service every year of re-ranking the schools by their "peer assessment" number, which ranges from 1.1 at the low end to 4.8 at the top.  I am assuming for this exercise that the peer assessment is meaningful even though I have my doubts.

My doubts stem largely from the likelihood that so much of this is determined by the availability heuristic, the term coined by Tversky and Kahneman for a mental strategy in which people make judgments about probability, frequency, or extremity based on the ease with which and the amount of information that can be brought to mind.  Hence, we bias our judgments based on available information.

Having said that, here goes.  One of the most available pieces of information is the linear ranking in US News.  It's really available.  It's available to the people who send in their votes for peer ranking and it's available to authors trying to place their articles.  What is not so available (thank you Paul) because you have to pay to get it isn't just the re-ranking by peer assessment but the actual peer score.

The histogram above shows the peer assessment scores from the 2019 US News law school ranking by the number of schools at each peer score from 1.1 to 4.8.  You can draw your own conclusions, but I think trying to thin-slice differences between scores close to each other is kind of silly.  It's pretty clear that whatever peer assessment means, the top 17 are in their own world.  As between 18 and 50, yeah, maybe there's difference between 18 and 50, but I wouldn't get too worked about about the difference between 30 and 40.  That effect is even more dramatic in the 50-100 range.  The point is that the rankings are linear, but the actual data sits on a curve.  So the differences between linear rankings mean different things at different levels.  (I'm pretty sure re-grouping the data in other significant categories like entering LSAT score would yield similar results.)

It's why I find it, what?, sad? odd? unthoughtful? when schools get lauded or dinged for moving eight or ten places one way or another between about 50 and 125.  Yes, the data are meaningful when you jump from 105 to 18 or vice versa.  But not when you "sank" from 50 to 62.

Okay, that's it.  Back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

UPDATE:  I'm going to close the comments here.  If this merits any discussion, it probably ought to occur at the angsting post.  

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on August 13, 2018 at 03:12 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Life of Law Schools, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, August 10, 2018

Reminder: Hiring Committees

A reminder that you can announce information regarding your hiring committee either in the comments to the hiring committee post, or by sending me an email directly, at sarah *dot* lawsky *at* law *dot* northwestern *dot* edu. The FAR forms have just been submitted and will be available to committees next week, so this is a good time to contribute information about your hiring committee.

Additionally, I've made two small tweaks on the spreadsheet.

First, there's now a column with links to websites that announce positions or websites that candidates must use to apply. (Enough posts were including this information that it made sense to include this on the spreadsheet as well.)

Second, there are now separate columns indicating whether committees are looking for entry-level candidates or lateral candidates. Providing the information in separate columns makes it easier for a candidate to focus on schools relevant to that particular candidate. Not all schools apply this information, but enough do that it makes sense to include it.

(I've closed comments on this post to drive comments to the hiring committee post.)

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on August 10, 2018 at 11:17 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Suffolk Hiring Announcement

SuffolkFrom my Appointments Committee colleagues:

Suffolk University Law School in Boston invites applications for up to three tenured or tenure-track faculty positions at the rank of assistant, associate, or full professor of law starting in the 2019-2020 academic year.  Candidates should have a strong academic background, a record or promise of significant scholarship, and a demonstrated commitment to excellence in teaching. Our primary curricular needs are Criminal Law and Contracts. We hope to hire candidates with combined expertise in one of those first-year subjects and one or more of our upper-level areas of need, which include Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Evidence, business law (especially Business Organizations, Securities Regulation, and Banking Law), Alternative Dispute Resolution, Health Law, and courses on race, gender, sexual orientation and the law. Consideration will be given to relevant practice experience.

Interested candidates should include in their application a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter addressed to Professors Joseph Glannon and Lorie Graham, Co-chairs of the Appointments Committee.  All materials must be uploaded to the Suffolk University website.

Suffolk Law is an equal opportunity employer and will give careful consideration to all qualified applicants regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.  Suffolk Law is committed to a diverse faculty and strongly encourages applicants from historically under-represented groups. For more information on Suffolk Law’s commitment to diversity, please see this.  

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw on July 31, 2018 at 01:19 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market, Lipshaw | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Hiring Committees 2018-2019

Please share in the comments the following information related to the 2018-2019 law school faculty hiring season:

(a) your school;
(b) the chair of your hiring committee (please note if you have different chairs for entry level and lateral candidates--we hope that this information will be useful for both entry level and lateral candidates);
(c) other members of your hiring committee (again, please note if there is a distinction between entry level and lateral committees); and
(d) any particular subject areas in which your school is looking to hire.

Additionally, if you would like to share the following information, candidates might find it helpful to know:

(e) your committee's feeling about packets/individualized expressions of interest (affirmatively want to receive them, affirmatively don't want to receive them, or don't care one way or the other); 
(f) your committee's preferred way to be contacted (email, snail-mail, or phone); 
(g) the website, if any, that candidates should use to obtain information about the position or to apply;
(h) the number of available faculty positions at your school; and
(i) whether you are interested in hiring entry-level candidates, lateral candidates, or both.

I will gather all this information in a downloadable, sortable spreadsheet. (Click on that link to access the spreadsheet and download it; you can also scroll through the embedded version below.)

If you would like to reach me for some reason (e.g., you would prefer not to post your committee information in the comments but would rather email me directly), my email address is sarah dot lawsky (at) law dot northwestern dot edu.

Remember, you cannot edit the spreadsheet directly. The only way to add something to the spreadsheet is to put the information in the comments or email me directly, and I will edit the spreadsheet.

Originally posted July 11, 2018; updated August 10, 2018, to reflect that the spreadsheet now includes (1) website links and (2) whether the committee is interested in entry level candidates, lateral candidates, or both. 

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on July 11, 2018 at 10:00 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (68)

Monday, July 02, 2018

Hiring Posts - Schedule

An approximate schedule of law school hiring posts follows, based off the dates of the release of the first FAR distribution and the AALS conference . Because the dates of the FAR distribution and AALS conference are approximately three weeks earlier than last year, all the below dates are similarly earlier. 

Wednesday, July 11: Hiring committee post. (Last year's post here.)

Thursday, August 16: FAR distribution 1 released.

Thursday, August 23: Law School Hiring post (reporting interviews and callbacks; last year's post here). (Because all the information is collected on a single spreadsheet, we don't need separate posts for interviews and callbacks, as in the olden days.) This year, the spreadsheet post will be combined with the Clearinghouse for Questions (last year's post here) in one post.

Thursday, August 23: Clearinghouse for Questions (last year's post here). 

Thursday, October 11, through Saturday, October 13: Hiring Conference.

Monday, October 29: VAP post (last year's post here).

Late February/early March: Begin entry level hiring report data collection.

Originally published on July 2, 2018; modifed August 16, 2018, to reflect that the Law School Hiring post and the Clearinghouse for Questions post will be combined into one post. 

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on July 2, 2018 at 01:00 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance Fellowship Announcement

From the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation: 

The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation is pleased to announce the availability of positions of Post-Graduate Academic Fellows in the areas of corporate governance and law and finance. Qualified candidates who are interested in working with the Program as Post-Graduate Academic Fellows may apply at any time and the start date is flexible.

Candidates should be interested in spending two to three years at Harvard Law School (longer periods may be possible). Candidates should have a J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D. from a U.S. law school, or a Ph.D. in economics, finance, or related areas by the time they commence their fellowship. Candidates still pursuing an S.J.D. or Ph.D. are eligible so long as they will have completed their program’s coursework requirements by the time they start. During the term of their appointment, Post-Graduate Academic Fellows work on research and corporate governance activities of the Program, depending on their skills, interests, and Program needs. Fellows may also work on their own research and publishing in preparation for a career in academia or policy research. Former Fellows of the Program now teach in leading law schools in the U.S. and abroad.

Interested candidates should submit a CV, transcripts, writing sample, list of references, and cover letter to the coordinator of the Program, Ms. Jordan Figueroa, at [email protected] The cover letter should describe the candidate’s experience, reasons for seeking the position, career plans, and the kinds of projects and activities in which he or she would like to be involved at the Program. The position includes Harvard University benefits and a competitive fellowship salary.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on April 12, 2018 at 06:56 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Want this job? Move five times in eight years

As usual, Professor Sarah Lawsky's tireless diligence here at Prawfs has yielded a treasure trove of information regarding entry-level hiring. Browsing this year's report, I can't help but notice the serial credentials that these impressive hires have: a fellowship (maybe two), an advanced degree (maybe two), a clerkship (maybe two), not to mention law firm, government, corporate, or public interest jobs wedged in between. (Most have some non-clerkship legal experience, and many have five or more years' experience.)

But, as I look at the litany of jobs, I can't help but wonder about a major barrier to entry into the legal academy: the flexibility to move several times in a short period of time early in one's career. Few of these hires stacked all their experiences in a single city. Many moved time after time after time for one- or two-year jobs, before heading off to grab the next credential.

I think about my own experience: South Bend to Saint Louis to Chicago to State College to Malibu (and it easily could have been more), one- and two-year stints along the way. Four children born in four different states. And others have far more experiences than I had. I was very fortunate to have an extraordinarily flexible spouse and the financial ability to handle these transitions (at least for as long as I needed to do so).

But it's also made me reflect that many do not have this flexibility. Those who secure a concentration of experiences in a single (usually very large) city; those who postpone family life; those with socioeconomic means to take low-paying clerkships and fellowships, and to move repeatedly; those with a mobile spouse or children not yet enmeshed in a social group--these are just a few of the groups that can enjoy what one might (uncharitably) call a kind of hazing: "Want this job? Move five times in eight years."

Candidly, I understand that there's a kind of arms race out there among schools and prospective law professors. The candidates get still more glowing credentials, and it becomes very easy to rely on those proxies (e.g., clerkships, advanced degrees, and fellowships). The market has grown ever tighter over the last decade, and with fewer openings comes tougher expectations. Candidates remain on the market for longer periods and cycle through additional fellowships. And that leads to candidates with ever-longer publication records, which in turn requires future prospective candidates to take the time (and a move or two) to improve their own publication records. (Indeed, some come to the market with tenure-worthy track records!)

I don't really have easy answers to this. Maybe today's entry-level law professors are simply better than they were a decade ago because of these many accomplishments. Maybe we can't de-escalate the arms race of credentials--and maybe the backlog of prospective law professors is not going away anytime soon. Maybe these proxies are simply a better way of measuring future quality (then again, maybe a clerkship is just a job). And existing publication records are, I think, better than guesses about future scholarly ability.

All the same, I wonder if the pendulum has swung too far to often demanding far too much of too many would-be law professors. And while I'm not sure what the right result is, or whether it's something law schools can even control, I do think we underestimate how much the present system may be shaping the market of prospective law professors, and perhaps in ways that are not only unanticipated but perhaps even undesirable. If that's the case, I hope it's something law schools (and hiring committees in particular) can begin thinking how to address.

Posted by Derek Muller on April 12, 2018 at 09:12 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (24)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Tulane Forrester Fellowship

From Tulane Law School:

Tulane Law School invites applicants for the Forrester Fellowship. Forrester Fellows are promising legal academics who teach in the first-year legal writing program. Fellows teach legal writing to two sections of 25 to 30 first-year law students in a program coordinated by the Director of Legal Writing. Fellows are invited to participate in all aspects of the intellectual life of the law school. Fellows are encouraged to present their work at faculty workshops and “brown bags,” and members of the full-time faculty serve as mentors to fellows. Fellows receive a stipend to support travel and research.

Fellows are appointed to a one-year term with the possibility of a single one-year renewal and are expected to enter the law-teaching market.

Applicants must have an outstanding record of academic and professional achievement, a J.D. from an ABA-accredited law school, and at least three years of law-related practice and/or clerkship experience. Tulane is an equal opportunity employer and encourages women and members of minority communities to apply.

Please apply at this link by April 2 and direct any queries to Erin Donelon, director of Tulane Law School’s legal research and writing program.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on March 19, 2018 at 05:20 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018 Research Scholar Position, Columbia Law and Economics of Capital Markets Program

The Columbia Law School/Columbia Business School Program in the Law and Economics of Capital Markets is seeking a full time Capital Markets Research Fellow. The appointment will run from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020.

This position is intended for a person who expects to begin a law school teaching career at the start of the 2020-21 academic year and who desires an interim position that would help the person prepare for such a career by offering the time and facilities needed to do serious research and to develop further expertise.

More information is available here.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on February 20, 2018 at 07:16 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 17, 2017

VAPs and Fellowships: Open Thread, 2017-2018

On this thread, comments can be shared regarding news of appointments to VAPs or similar fellowships (for example, the Climenko and Bigelow).  Here is last year's thread.

You may also add information to the spreadsheet.

Originally posted November 17, 2017.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on November 17, 2017 at 12:23 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (137)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance Fellowship Announcement

From the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation: 

The Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation is pleased to announce the availability of positions of Post-Graduate Academic Fellows in the areas of corporate governance and law and finance. Qualified candidates who are interested in working with the Program as Post-Graduate Academic Fellows may apply at any time and the start date is flexible.

Candidates should be interested in spending two to three years at Harvard Law School (longer periods may be possible). Candidates should have a J.D., LL.M., or S.J.D. from a U.S. law school, or a Ph.D. in economics, finance, or related areas by the time they commence their fellowship. Candidates still pursuing an S.J.D. or Ph.D. are eligible so long as they will have completed their program’s coursework requirements by the time they start. During the term of their appointment, Post-Graduate Academic Fellows work on research and corporate governance activities of the Program, depending on their skills, interests, and Program needs. Fellows may also work on their own research and publishing in preparation for a career in academia or policy research. Former Fellows of the Program now teach in leading law schools in the U.S. and abroad.

Interested candidates should submit a CV, transcripts, writing sample, list of references, and cover letter to the coordinator of the Program, Ms. Jordan Figueroa, at [email protected] The cover letter should describe the candidate’s experience, reasons for seeking the position, career plans, and the kinds of projects and activities in which he or she would like to be involved at the Program. The position includes Harvard University benefits and a competitive fellowship salary.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on November 7, 2017 at 10:46 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 06, 2017

Law School Hiring, 2017-2018, Reminder

Recall that you can post information about interviews, callbacks, etc. on the spreadsheet.

For general questions, comments, or discussion about the teaching market, see A Clearinghouse for Questions. Here is a link to a late-ish page of comments on that thread. (I can't put a link that auto-refers to the last page of comments--the trick I was using no longer works. If you know a way to do this, please email me.)

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on November 6, 2017 at 10:43 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity University of North Carolina School of Law

The University of North Carolina School of Law strongly encourages individuals interested in becoming law professors to apply for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity. This is a university-wide program aimed at helping scholars from underrepresented groups prepare for and secure tenure-track appointments. The University places postdoctoral fellows across departments at UNC-Chapel Hill. The School of Law seeks to participate in this program by hosting and mentoring a postdoctoral fellow who is interested in becoming a tenure-track law professor.

Interested applicants must have completed their JD and/or PhD degree no later than July 1, 2018 and no earlier than July 1, 2013. Fellows will be appointed for a period of two years, and they are expected to be in residence for both years. A fellow placed at the School of Law would be engaged full-time in research and would teach one course per year. The course to be taught would be determined based on the fellow’s interests as well as the needs of the school. The School of Law would provide mentorship to prepare the fellow for the tenure-track job market. The fellow would fully participate in faculty scholarship workshops and all other aspects of the school’s intellectual life. During the second year of the program, the fellow would be expected to apply for tenure-track positions through the Association of American Law Schools’ annual faculty recruitment process. Depending on the hiring needs of the law school, the fellow might also be considered as a possible tenure-track candidate at the UNC School of Law.

The stipend for fellows is $47,476 per calendar year. Additional funds are available for research expenses, including travel. Candidates must submit their application to the University’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs via the website provided below. The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will ask the School of Law to review materials submitted by applicants who express interest in spending their fellowship at the School of Law. Based on the submitted materials and interviews with candidates, the School of Law will nominate a candidate for further review. (The School of Law may also decline to nominate someone if no suitable applicant is identified). A selection committee, consisting of staff and faculty from different UNC-Chapel Hill units, will then review all materials associated with department nominations and make fellowship offers.

The primary criterion for selection is evidence of scholarship potentially competitive for tenure-track appointments at the University of North Carolina and other research universities. Preference will be given to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. The University strongly encourages applications from African American, Native American and Hispanic/Latinx American scholars. 

Interested applicants should apply online at

Directions for the electronic submission are provided at the application site.  For additional information, please visit the program website at Questions may be directed to Program Coordinator Jennifer Pruitt in the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at [email protected]. Questions about the School of Law may be directed to Holning Lau, Associate Dean for Faculty Development, at [email protected].

The application deadline is 5:00PM EST Tuesday, November 15, 2017, including three letters of recommendations due by November 15, 2017.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or status as a protected veteran.

Posted by Carissa Byrne Hessick on September 28, 2017 at 10:58 AM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Law School Hiring, 2017-2018, Thread One

Those on the market are invited to leave comments on this thread regarding whether they 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.  

Four miscellaneous things:

1. If you don't want your contact information displayed, enter [email protected] or something like that as an email address.

2. There is a separate thread, "A Clearinghouse for Questions," for general questions or comments about the teaching market. Please do not use the thread below for general questions or comments. (Such comments will be deleted, not out of hostility or in a judgy way, just to keep this thread focused.)

3. 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.

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


Originally posted September 14, 2017.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on September 14, 2017 at 01:56 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time - 2017

The first distribution of the FAR AALS forms came out this week. Here are the number of FAR forms in the first distribution for each year since 2009.

FAR Forms Over Time.20170907

(All information obtained from various blog posts, blog comments, and Facebook postings over the years and not independently verified. If you have more accurate information, please post it in the comments and I will update accordingly.)

First posted September 7, 2017.

Posted by Sarah Lawsky on September 7, 2017 at 12:22 PM in Getting a Job on the Law Teaching Market | Permalink | Comments (0)