A law professor writes:
I am a regular and enthusiastic reader of your blog. One topic I would welcome your addressing at some point, if you have the opportunity, is the relative demand for various specialties on the academic job market. My sense is that quite a few promising students and recent graduates have multiple serious interests and get little helpful advice about which would offer them the best prospects of landing a teaching job. By the time they learn that a field is glutted, their sunk costs are substantial.
I fear that the hiring being done at the top schools and that in the rest of the market, where most entry-level applicants end up, differs quite substantially. Students at top schools, for example, see their faculty adding several international law specialists and assume that is a growing field in the academy. Yet for the great majority of schools, who send few if any graduates to the firms practicing international law, I am not at all sure that is the case. Conversely, I think students at top schools may not give much thought to specializing in areas where scholarship is so weak that their faculty may not have a single exemplar (e.g., health).
My informal sense is that tax and health are in unusually strong demand, relative to the supply of candidates, and that constitutional law, international law, and federal courts are quite glutted, but that is based on a very limited supply of information. (I suppose a third category would be fields in which schools may not have specialists but also often do not feel a strong need to have them.) Apart from con law and tax, however, I am not sure how much of this is widely known or conveyed to potential academic candidates early enough to help them. It would be great if you had the chance to kick off a serious discussion of this.
My own sense is that the following areas are almost always in demand: tax, trusts & estates, commercial law, and corporate law. The demand for intellectual property and Cyberlaw is still substantial, though perhaps not as great as it was a few years ago. I do not have the sense that health law is "in demand," but I may have just missed this.
Bear in mind that while the top 15-20 law schools, plus a few others (e.g., George Mason, San Diego etc.), generally do "best athlete" hiring (sometimes with an eye, of course, to curricular needs), the vast majority of law schools do curricular-driven hiring. And that means, of course, that in any given year, a school you're particularly interested in may have zero needs in tax or corporate, but be desperate for environmental law or criminal procedure.
Comments are open; signed comments only. It would be interesting to hear the perspective of others with experience in the hiring process in recent years. Post only once; comments may take awhile to appear.