December 11, 2014

What do you need to find out now that you've gotten a tenure-track offer?

MOVING TO FRONT(ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 24, 2009)

With luck (and luck will help more than usual in what is a very tight year on the academic job market), some of you seeking law teaching jobs will get offers of tenure-track positions in the next couple of months.  What then?  Here's roughly what I tell my Texas and Chicago advisees they need to find out, and in the interest of having it written down in one place and for the benefit of others too, here it is (not in order of importance):

1.  You will want to get (in writing eventually) the basic salary information, obviously, and the nature of summer research support and the criteria for its award (is it automatic for junior faculty?  contingent on prior publication [if so, how much?]?  awarded competitively (if so, based on what criteria/process)?).   You should also find out how salary raises are determined.  Are they, for example, lock-step for junior faculty?  Fixed by union contract?  (Rutgers faculty, for example, are unionized, a huge advantage and why they are among the best-paid faculty, not just in law, in the country.)  Is it a 'merit' system, and if so is it decanal discretion or is their a faculty committee that reviews your teaching and work each year?

2.  You should ask for a copy of the school's tenure standards and get clear about the expectations and the timeline.  Does any work you have already published count towards meeting the tenure standard?

3.  What research leave policy, if any, does the school have?  A term off after every three full years of teaching is a very good leave policy; some schools have even better policies, most have less generous leave policies.  (If there is a norm, it is a term off after every six years.)  Many schools have a special leave policy for junior faculty, designed to give them some time off prior to the tenure decision.  Find out if the school has such a policy.

4.  One of the most important things to be clear about is not just your teaching load, but what courses you will be teaching precisely.  You should ask whether the school can guarantee a stable set of courses until after the tenure decision.  Preparing new courses is hugely time-consuming, and you also get better at teaching the course the more times you do it.  As a tenure-track faculty member, having a stable package of, say, three courses (plus a seminar) will make a huge difference in terms of your ability to conduct research and write.   In my experience, most schools will commit in writing to a set of courses for the tenure-track years (and do ask for this in writing), but some schools either won't or can't.   In my view, it's a good reason to prefer one school to another that one will give you the courses you want and promise them that they're yours, while another won't--a consideration that overrides lots of other factors, including salary. 

5.  You should ask for the school's materials on benefits:  retirement, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and so on.  The biggest, and certainly the most easily discernible differences, are often in the retirement and life insurance categories (sometimes longterm disability insurance too, though unlike life insurance, you're hopefully less likely to utilize this!).  What is the university's contribution to retirement?  At the low end are schools contributing only 5-6% of your base salary to retirement; the more competitive schools will be in the 8% range, and some will be higher.  The big issue on life insurance concerns the amount you are guaranteed irrespective of your health history.  500-600K increasingly seem to be the norm.  And, of course, if your health is perfect, this doesn't matter, but I've worked with plenty of candidates where this was a serious issue.  (Life insurance companies have no incentives to insure faculty beyond the base amount they have to provide, so even health matters that strike you as trivial may disqualify you from more coverage.)  A final benefits issue concerns education/tuition benefits for children.  State schools don't offer these; the wealthier private schools do, and if you have kids or expect to have kids, this is worth looking into.  At the high end is Chicago, which pays up to 75% of Chicago tuition anywhere for each child.  Most of the wealthier private schools will pay 30-50% of the home school tuition for faculty children, wherever they go.  Some will offer a larger benefit if your kids go to that school.  But there are differences, and they don't track your ordinary expectations about prestige (e.g., last time I looked, the Wash U/St. Louis benefit was much better than the benefit at Penn or Cornell).  In any case, get the information.  But remember, university-wide benefits are rarely a subject for negotiation--the law school can't give you a higher benefit.  Of course, if you have a competitive offer, they may be able to compensate for a significant benefits differential.

6.  Finally, once you have an offer, this is a good time to raise issues about the employment prospects for a spouse or partner.  Sometimes you may just want help:  can the Dean help the significant other make relevant professional contacts in the area?  Sometimes you may be hoping for more:  e.g., a position in the law school, or in another university department, for the significant other.  It is certainly fair to explain the situation and ask.  Schools vary in their ability to response effectively to these situations, but many have formal universities policies pertaining at least to spouses who are academics.  Raise the issue, and see if the school can help.  But realize that the school made you the offer, and they may be able to hire you, and that's that.

The last point relates to a more general issue.  If you don't have other offers, you are not in a position to bargain.  Period.  You may certainly ask about things, raise concerns, etc.  But unless you're going to walk away from a tenure-track offer (not a wise thing to do in this market), don't make demands.  And even then, a collegial discussion about issues of concern is far better than demands.  Even if you have other offers, this advice applies:  proceed with caution and respect for the institution.  You can report that School Y is offering you a salary 20K higher, and ask whether the Dean of School X, to whom your talking, has any flexibility on this front.  But remember:  you may end up at School X (because of location, or colleagues in your field, or a better teaching load etc.) and living with that Dean and the other faculty for many years to come.  Don't poison the well by displaying a sense of entitlement and self-importance before you even get through the door.  Remember:  no matter how good you are, you're quite dispensable--in almost every instance, you need the job more than the school needs you.  Approach any 'bargaining' or discussion of the package in that spirit.  A good school has every reason to want you to succeed and to try to help fashion a package of professional duties and support in that spirit.  A good school doesn't need a prima donna.

I invite signed comments from faculty or deans on these issues.  A comment without a full name and e-mail address won't appear.  Post your comment only once; comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.

Good luck to all job seekers!

Posted by Brian Leiter on December 11, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

October 26, 2014

8.1% drop in LSAT takers in September from last year

LSAC data here.   Since the trend appears to be for applicants to apply later in the cycle, the final decline for this year is likely to be less than 8% (in the last few years, the September/October drop was always greater than the final total decline).   But a continued decline of any kind means that law schools uncertain about whether to hire new faculty will likely err on the side of not hiring.

Posted by Brian Leiter on October 26, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

October 20, 2014

How long after the hiring convention before teaching candidates hear from schools?

See last fall's discussion, which is still relevant.  Budgetary uncertainties last year did lead to more callbacks being extended beyond the two-week window it seemed to me, and that may be true again this year. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on October 20, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

October 15, 2014

Good luck to those heading to DC to interview for law teaching positions!

Here's a couple of words of advice I typically share with Chicago candidates, but others might appreciate:

First, although this can be stressful, it should also be fun:  lots of law faculty will want to talk about you and your ideas over the next couple of days!   You will form intellectual and professional relationships even from interviews that don't lead to callbacks.  Enjoy the scholarly dialogue and learn from it.

Second, remember that every hiring committee is a black box:  you don't know its internal priorities and squabbles, its biases and agendas.  So don't waste time speculating about how you did (candidates, in my experience, are uneven judges of their performance, in both directions), and remember you are bound to bomb an interview, but life will go on.  Forget about it.

Third, bear in mind that hiring committees come to the hiring convention with different charges from their home schools.  Some will be authorized to offer some callbacks even before the weekend is out; others will have to report back to the rest of the committee at home before doing anything.  Don't draw inferences from silence, or from the fact that someone you know got a callback before the weekend was over--even when hiring committees are allowed to make some quick callback offers, it's almost always the case that the full hiring committee back home will make decisions about other callbacks at a later date.

Best of luck to all the job seekers out there!

Posted by Brian Leiter on October 15, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

October 08, 2014

Why do hiring schools look for "signals" from other hiring schools?

Barry Friedman (NYU) writes with an excellent set of questions and observations:

Here’s a thought worth maybe tooting on your blog.  It never ceases to catch my attention how much school hiring is driven by signals from other schools.  School X will interview candidate Y and love him/her, or will love him/her on paper, but will never move forward for an interview absent a strong signal from some number of schools they consider competitive.  Yet, in this tight market, those signals get fewer – especially at the call back and offer stage.  It has the effect I think of killing candidates that otherwise would get interviews or offers.   Yet, paradoxically, if schools had confidence in their internal assessments (and it is not like this is one person deciding; it is an entire faculty or faculty committee) this sort of market provides a real opportunity to steal that person you loved without a fight. 

So why do schools do this?  I think in most cases it is because they lack confidence in their own judgments.  But what do readers think?  I would prefer signed comments, but you must, in any case, include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.

Posted by Brian Leiter on October 8, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (10)

September 22, 2014

The scheduling of interviews at the AALS "meat market"

Schools vary in their procedures for scheduling interviews with candidates at the "meat market," but a typical pattern is this:  after an initial cull of candidates in the first AALS distribution, schools begin doing "due diligence," which typically means talking to references and reading work by the candidates.  Appointments committees usually only meet once a week.  At each meeting, the Committee will take a decision on some of the candidates they've been reviewing, and then contact them to schedule interviews.  The same thing will happen the following week and so on, until all the spots are filled.  For schools that do a lot of 'due diligence,' the process of scheduling 15 or 20 candidates to see could easily take four weeks.   It's important for candidates to realize that this is how many schools proceed, so the fact that an anonymous person on some blog reports they have an interview at school X does not mean you, a hopeful candidate, will not get an interview with school X.  School X may have only just begun, and may be scheduling interviews for weeks to come.

Posted by Brian Leiter on September 22, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

August 26, 2014

ASU's annual "Aspiring Law Profs" conference...

...is coming up!

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 26, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Professional Advice | Permalink

August 20, 2014

When the FAR goes live shortly...

...it will once again include the feature that permits one to search by law school attended (a feature that mysteriously disappeared last year).  Judy Areen, the new Executive Director of AALS, tells me they have a first-ever Chief Information Officer that fixed this.  Thanks to Judy and the AALS!

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 20, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 12, 2014

A couple of thoughts on FAR forms

It's that time of year when I spend a lot of time looking at draft FAR forms and learning about the sometimes strange advice others in the profession are giving to candidates.  Let me set out a few of my own thoughts, and invite readers to comment:

1.  My rule of thumb is that in a given year about 10% of schools are looking to hire "best athletes" and about 90% are doing curricular-driven hires.  Those are rough estimates--many of the 90% want "best athletes" too, of course, assuming they can plausibly meet the curricular need.  That means the curricular listings on the FAR form are crucial.   Under the new FAR regime, there are two lists of five:  the left-hand list is the most important, signalling both the candidate's primary teaching and research interests.  It is crucial, in my view, to fill all five slots on the left.  It is also crucial, in my view, for candidates not to pretend to be someone they are not.  True story, from a couple of years ago, though I've changed a few identifying details:  we had a candidate, call him Mr. C, who was clearly a specialist in XYZ, a course that all law schools offer, but which they don't often advertise in.  Mr. C was advised by faculty not at Chicago to list XYZ fifth in the left-hand column, or perhaps move it to the right-hand column, and instead list two or three 1L courses at the top of the lefthand column.  I said this was horrible advice, Mr. C followed my advice and listed XYZ at the very top of the left-hand column, followed by areas in which Mr. C was genuinely interested, including one or two bread-and-butter courses.  Mr. C had no trouble getting a job.  My advice:  be who you are, and not someone else.  Strategic decisions about what courses to list stand out like a sore thumb.  The courses in the lefthand column, your writing, your recommenders, your practice experience should, ideally, form a coherent and mutually reinforcing package.

2.  With regard to the right-hand list of courses, I think it is less crucial to have five, and it is reasonable to treat these as "courses you'd be willing to teach if asked," but which you are unlikely to be questioned about at interviews in any detail.

3.  I generally disfavor adding "comments."  My basic attitude is:  you don't list yourself as a reference, don't recommend yourself in the comment sections.  Sometimes factual information can be added to comments:  e.g., specifying what your litigation practice focused on; or listing additional references beyond the "big three."  Comments of the form, "My practice experience complements my research, and will allow me to bring a unique perspective to the classroom" are an embarrassment and should never appear anywhere on a FAR form.

4.  Speaking of the "big three" references:  my general advice is to list them alphabetically, unless it is really important to signal that some really knows you much better.   Do not list the judges you clerked for, schools will assume they are available as references.   If you are in a VAP or Fellowship, at least one academic reference from the VAP/Fellowship school is highly desireable.  

5.  In general, do not list works-in-progress under "publications" since they are not; the exception is for someone who has no other publications, or few publications, or publications a bit unrelated to the candidate's current area.  And in that case, make sure to clearly identify it as a work-in-progress.

6.  Needless to say, don't list any "work-in-progress" you aren't prepared to share.  If it's on the FAR, it's fair game for a school to ask for it.

What do readers think?  Signed comments only, full name and valid e-mail address.

Posted by Brian Leiter on August 12, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (4)

July 14, 2014

Rostron & Levit update their materials on submitting to law reviews

Professors Rostron & Levit asked me to share the following:

Dear Colleagues,

We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Fall 2014 submission season covering the 203 main journals of each law school.

A couple of the highlight from this round of revisions are:

First, the chart now includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions.  Most of this is not specific dates, because the journals tend to post only imprecise statements about how the journal is not currently accepting submissions but will start doing so at some point in August, at some time in the Spring 2015, or that the “submissions will close no later than September 15, and may close earlier, depending on acceptances,” etc.   

Second, a couple of schools have had name changes (for instance, Phoenix Law Review is now Arizona Summit Law Review, and Texas Wesleyan Law Review is now Texas A&M Law Review), and the charts reflect these changes. 

Third, there is a gradual increase in the number that are using Scholastica instead of ExpressO or accepting emails, but it is still a minority of the total: eight school list Scholastica as the exclusive method of submission, eighteen strongly prefer it, and seven more list it as one of the alternative acceptable avenues of submission.

The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review.  The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.

Information for Submitting Articles to Law Reviews and Journals:  http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1019029

We’d welcome you to forward the link to anyone whom you think might find it useful.  

We appreciate any feedback you might have.

Happy writing!

All the best,

Allen and Nancy

Professor Allen Rostron

William R. Jacques Constitutional Law Scholar and Professor of Law

Professor Nancy Levit

Curators' and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law

Posted by Brian Leiter on July 14, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink