Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Monday, October 21, 2013

How Long After "Meat Market" Before Candidates Hear from Schools?

MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--AND MORE COMMENTS WELCOME--ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 2007)

A rookie job seeker writes:

A question about the law teaching market, which I suspect will be of interest to a number of candidates who read your Law School Reports blog:  When can we expect to hear from hiring committees we spoke with at AALS?  Do the better schools tend to wait longer to make their calls?  And do schools tend to notify candidates that they *won't* be inviting them for a job talk, or do you only hear from them if they're interested?

If you think this is a worthwhile topic, perhaps you could open a post for comments so that hiring committee members could say what their procedure is.

My impression is that schools will contact the candidates they are most interested in within the first two weeks after the AALS hiring convention, and, more ofthen than not, within the first week.  Schools will often have some candidates "on hold" beyond this period of time:  e.g., because they are reading more work by the candidate, or collecting references, or waiting to see how they fare with their top choices.  So it is quite possible to get call-backs beyond the two-week window.  Schools tend to be much slower in notifying candidates they are no longer in contention (you might not hear for a month or more). 

Schools higher in the "food chain" in general do move at a somewhat more, shall we say, "leisurely" pace, and schools lower in the "food chain" are more likely to have tiers of candidates they remain interested in, on the theory that they are likely to lose their first-round choices.

Those, to repeat, are my impressions, based on a decent amount of anecdotal evidence.  But I invite others to post their impressions and/or information about their school's practices.  No anonymous postings.  Post only once, comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2013/10/how-long-after-.html

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Comments

My experience (and general impression) is that it is a heavily front loaded curve. Brian's observation that you COULD get a call late is accurate, but the likelihood is low. Here's a guess: 20% before the weekend is over; 70% by the end of the first week after the conference; 90% in two weeks.

Since I have written on this (Memo to Lawyers: How Not to Retire and Teach, http://ssrn.com/abstract=992489), my experience in 2005 and 2006 is a matter of public record. In 2005, I had complete radio silence, and it only really dawned on me around Christmas that all that was left was wishful thinking. In 2006, I had callbacks from a substantial percentage of the AALS interviews within seven days.

I know that is hard to swallow if the phone hasn't rung in the last couple weeks, but ask the man who, on several occasions, has had to stare reality in the face. It's not entirely hopeless, but the likelihood is dropping substantially every day.

BL COMMENT: I think the idea that 20% of call-backs are made before the weekend is over is way, way off.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Nov 5, 2007 6:19:38 AM

My experience was substantially the same as Jeff's, except that in my first go-round, it took my a bit longer to cotton on to the reality that nobody was going to call.

Posted by: eric | Nov 5, 2007 10:12:35 AM

I went through this misery for a second time well into my academic career last year. I had several callbacks within a couple of weeks, consistent with Brian's and Jeff's observations. I was flying back well within a month of the conference, but the call that ultimately produced the great job I have now came in mid-January. Go figure. Yes, the odds are exactly as Brian and Jeff describe them, but don't give up hope if the New Year comes and goes with radio silence. Going on the academic job market is a low-percentage long shot for most of us in any event, so when the low-percentage long shot months of January and February roll around, don't give up hope!

Posted by: Jason Kilborn | Nov 5, 2007 2:01:30 PM

I would say that you should force the appointments chair to give you a sense of where you stand. Most schools only talk to about 30 entry-level candidates; after a week or two post-AALS, they should know where you stand and I think they owe you the courtesy to tell you. It is a quick e-mail. We're all very busy but we're not that busy. Too often, schools don't have the decency to tell you that they are not moving forward with your candidacy, a flux which causes needless anxiety and leads to wastes of time checking your messages a hundred times a day and playing institutional deathmatch in your head.

Of course, don't be rude about it. You may not hear anything because you are on the "second-string" list for when the top candidates get better offers. But there is no shame in that (many of us got our jobs that way!) -- and there is no reason not to have an honest exchange with the person in charge of appointments.

Posted by: Ethan Leib | Nov 5, 2007 2:14:37 PM

I like Ethan's suggestion and it would be a great way to reduce anxiety (even if it also means some disappointment when you hear the answer). Unfortunately, many schools will not give a straight answer, but will hedge (e.g., "still figuring things out," etc.). You can read between the lines, but it hardly is an honest, meaningful, or anxiety-reducing exchange.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Nov 5, 2007 9:07:40 PM

Brian, I think you have it just right.

Also, a minor follow up to Ethan's comment: This memory is now 7 years old, but I vaguely recollect that I never heard from a significant chunk of the schools where I had AALS interviews. Some schools notified me that I was no longer in the running, but a number of schools didn't bother.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Nov 5, 2007 10:08:36 PM

I got all the calls I was going to within a week (and one rejection). I did receive inquiries from other schools in Dec./Jan. asking if I was still on the market (I wasn't). One of the late schools didn't hire anyone, and another hired a lateral for the open position, so reading too much into the late inquiries (other than don't give up all hope) is difficult.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Nov 6, 2007 3:58:07 AM

Ethan's comment is so based in common sense and common courtesy that the mere fact he made it says something. Here's my speculation, having spent far longer in corporate and law firm hiring settings, but never having yet been in a FAC meeting. From the FAC's standpoint, there is the A team, the B team, and the C team. The A team hears within two weeks about in the time sequence described above. The C team ought to get a brief "it was nice but no thanks" within a couple days, and more often than not it doesn't. The B team gets radio silence because it is the B team, which means it isn't the C team, and apparently somebody thinks it has a chance of moving up to the A team.

From the candidate's standpoint, the rationalization/self-deception progression goes as follows: (1) "I'm still on somebody's A team, but their committee is not going to do call backs until January;" (2) "I am still on somebody's B team," (3) "I am lower than dirt, and please call me in April when I have uncurled from the fetal position."

The A team fantasy will disappear on its own sometime between the conclusion of the Rose Bowl and the kickoff of the BCS Championship Game. The real issue is the "still on the B team fantasy." I'd bet dimes to dollars that if we looked at it in the macro, there actually is no pure B team person. Rather there are "Persons" and "Unpersons." (I can't remember: do I give credit to George Orwell for that?) That is to say, a real B teamer would be on SOMEBODY'S A team, and hence a Person. If you are on everybody's B team (and hence without callbacks), you are really an Unperson. I believe that was my experience in 2005.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Nov 6, 2007 8:45:01 AM

I can say, anecdotally, that I received callbacks within two days from two top 50 schools. I got emails from a top 5, a top 10 school, and a top 25 school within 2 weeks that I was on their "hold list", and they would let me know in January if their first round didn't fill up the slots they were filling this year. I got rejection notices from 2 top 50s, and have yet to hear anything from a dozen schools spanning the list. I hope any other candidates can share info, keeping things general of course, no sense in us not minimizing the anxiety if we can.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 15, 2007 10:53:53 AM

My experience to date (note that I am mainly an IP candidate, so I'm in something of a submarket):

My top school (which had told me pre-conference I was at the top of their list) decided they needed to go in another direction in probably the nicest rejection letter I've ever received. My impression is that I would have gotten a call back if there were any given out for IP, a more pressing need just developed. In fact, I got the link to this blog from a follow up communication with the author of that letter, so its sort of hard to think of this as a typical rejection.

Another school sent me a form ding relatively quickly. Three of the other six went silent, not even acknowleding courtesy e-mails. The final 3 said I'd hear soon, but then went silent.

So using the Person/Unperson schema, I was a Person heading into the conference, but morphed into an Unperson due to circumstances beyond my control.

Posted by: Andrew Dzeguze | Dec 4, 2007 10:04:55 AM

I think we're bimodal: we jump all over a few of the best candidates (probably the same ones that everyone else is jumping over) and everyone else waits until later in the process. It's a little bit like dating. If you think strategically, and ask out the Homecoming Queen's best friend instead of the Homecoming Queen, you'll probably both wind up much happier. But it takes many years to learn this lesson, and some people never do.

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 9, 2009 9:59:18 AM

One also has to factor in the number of open positions. We have five openings for the next academic year and are calling the top 8 candidates today (the Monday after the conference). One candidate I called had 4 call-backs one day after the conference (Sunday).

If we don't fill our positions then we continue down our list. We found an exceptionally strong pool of candidates this year, so our second tier of candidates would also make great faculty.

Posted by: Beau Baez | Nov 9, 2009 11:09:52 AM

Much of what the comments say about front-loading is accurate, but it's not always that way. We hired three people last year, when I was chair of our appointments committee. I've just reviewed my record of email with a particular candidate. I wrote to him on November 9 (along with every other candidate we interviewed in Washington) to talk about our decision timing; I explained that we'd interview some candidates reasonably soon, and others not until later in the season. I wrote to him on January 1 to tell him that we were still in process. I called him on February 11 to schedule an on-campus interview. We extended him an offer in March; he's a member of the faculty now, and we're delighted.

Posted by: Jon Weinberg | Nov 2, 2010 12:56:40 PM

All I will say, in response to Jeff's comment that 20% of callbacks are made during the weekend, is that this was NEVER the norm in the past but seems to be much more in vogue than the past. It is a small sample size, but of the 12 different law schools I spoke to (considered to be at various "tiers") 10 had made at least one call during the weekend. Worth no more than a grain of salt that...but it was a surprise at the time.

BL COMMENT: Notice that Professor Sylvester's little poll could, in fact, be quite representative, and it could still be false that anywhere close to 20% of all callbacks are extended before the 'meat market' weekend is over.

Posted by: Doug Sylvester | Nov 2, 2010 2:26:01 PM

I was chair of our appointments committee for the past three years (not this year). I agree that you should get in touch with the committee chair if you haven't heard where you stand. I also think it is worth checking again in January or February, if you haven't yet landed a position and are still interested. At that point, you might want to ask whether there might be an interest in having you as a visitor.
As chair, I wasn't always as good as I should have been about communicating with candidates, I was always glad when they took the initiative, which happened very rarely.

Posted by: Joan Shaughnessy | Oct 17, 2011 11:45:20 AM

I think that it is generally true that candidates should hear something back by the first couple of weeks. However, I agree with Beau that it may depend on how many positions you are trying to fill and how they are prioritized within the school (that is where your needs are most urgent). I think most of us are trying to juggle internal priorities with perceptions of what options the candidate has and the likelihood that the candidate's interest is serious. Obviously, if you are a top 10 school your hiring is probably not driven very much (or at least not as urgently) by subject matter and you can take the candidate's interest in you for granted. Under these circumstances I wouldn't be surprised to know that top schools might be slower to act than those lower in the rankings. Tulsa also has 5 positions to fill. And, as someone else mentioned, we felt like the field of candidates we interviewed was exceptionally strong. I think we would be very happy indeed to get any 5 of about half of the 33 people we interviewed and I suspect that we might well be very happy in the end with almost any of the remainder; but you simply can't see everyone at once. I hope our candidates both don't lose heart if they don't hear right away and keep us posted if they have offers, because trying to organize on-campus interviews for the number of people that you need to bring back to campus if you are to make offers that will result in 5 acceptances is logistically really difficult. Therefore, we started making calls yesterday. As a point of reference, most of the people we contacted had also heard back from others. But in truth the group was so good that it isn't really easy to sort them into "A" and "B" teams (let alone "C"). When you have so many good people you end up having to prioritize calls by virtue of small indicators about who you think you can really get and who you guess is really interested. Those guesses may or may not be correct.

Posted by: Tamara Piety | Oct 15, 2012 2:16:21 PM

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