After last weeke's "faculty recruitment conference" for new law teachers (otherwise known as the "meat market"), there has been much talk about a new recruitment tactic by Northwestern, described to me by colleagues at Illinois and Texas as follows: Northwestern offers to fly back a "hot" candidate prior to the "meat market" on the condition that if Northwestern makes the candidate an offer, the candidate commits to accept that offer against any others, except for two or three super elite schools on a pre-agreed list (e.g., Yale or Stanford).
The disadvantages for the candidate are obvious: he or she is forced to commit to accepting an offer without the chance to evaluate how it compares to other options. The disadvantages for Northwestern are also obvious: it may end up with junior faculty who feel strong-armed into having accepted an offer, when they might have done "better" along various dimensions. The advantage, though, for Northwestern is also clear: the top law schools are like lemmings, all chasing the same handful of "top" candidates off the cliff together. That means that an offer from Illinois or Minnesota often turns into offers from Northwestern and Texas and Michigan, which then turns into offers from Columbia and Chicago and Harvard. To some extent, this new hiring strategy is meant to reduce the amount of wasted recruitment time, on the theory that the only candidates who are going to accept this sort of conditional fly-back are those who are pretty seriously interested in Northwestern.
I'd be curious to hear from faculty or job seekers their views about this practice. Non-anonymous postings will be very strongly preferred, though if the content of the posting makes clear reasons for anonymity, anonymous postings may be allowed. Comments may take awhile to appear; only post your comment once please!