November 18, 2015

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


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!

November 18, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (14)

October 21, 2015

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


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 often 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.

October 21, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (16)

October 08, 2015

UC Irvine's Lawsky on the entry-level hiring market in law schools

September 09, 2015

Teaching statements

An increasing number of schools are now asking candidates to supply "teaching statements."  This is common in many PhD fields, where, of course, the candidates typically have teaching experience.   I'm more doubtful how productive it is on the law teaching market.  But mostly I'm curious what readers, either faculty or candidates (candidates may post with a pseudonym) think should go into such a statement.   Here are some possibilities:  (1) texts you favor for certain subjects, and why; (2) "Socratic" vs. lecture vs. other teaching modalities, why and how you expect to use them; (3) "experiential" components of courses you might use; (4) how your practice experience (or PhD study or other pertinent experience) will factor into your teaching. 

What else?

September 9, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 08, 2015

NLJ on market for new law teachers

Blog Emperor Caron has some excerpts (it is otherwise behind a paywall).  The chart overstates the hiring, since it includes all faculty appointments, not only tenure-stream academic lines.  My anecdotal impression is that more schools are hiring, and hiring for more positions, this year--we won't get over 100 new hires, but I am guessing we will get to 80 or more (compared to 60 or 65 the last two years).  With the enrollment decline over, schools can now budget for the future and start filling positions that need to be filled.

September 8, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 20, 2015

The first FAR distribution: only 410 candidates, down from over 600 about five years ago

Sarah Lawsky (UC Irvine) has the numbers.   In the past, I would estimate that 50% of those in the FAR were non-starters wasting their time and their money.  That percentage has probably gone down with the amount of information easily accessible via the Internet.  But does the drop in total applicants represent the casual/tourist candidates not bothering or does it represent credible, but well-informed candidates deciding to wait in light of the weak market?  I'm not sure.  Here's another data point:  there are roughly 200 candidates in the FAR with JDs or LLMs from Yale, Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Michigan, Columbia, NYU, and Virginia, to take schools that send sizable numbers into law teaching on a regular basis.  Add in graduates of Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, UCLA, Northwestern, Penn, Southern California, and Texas, and the total rises to about 270.   Not all these candidates are going to turn out to be serious--I'd guess 15-25% of these folks threw their hat in the ring without much consultation or preparation.  If, in fact, there is more hiring this year (my impression so far is that the number of schools hiring is up slightly), then it could turn out to be a good year to be on the teaching market given the overall decline in candidates--but it's too soon to say for sure.

August 20, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 17, 2015

Packets from job seekers: electronic or hard copy or both?

This is the week that job seekers in law teaching are sending out packets of their materials to the schools they are particularly interested in.  The question often arises whether to send the materials via e-mail or via regular mail or both.  I generally advise both, but I'm curious what readers with experience in hiring think.  (Comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear, so please submit the comment just once and be patient.  Thank you.)

August 17, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (6)

July 24, 2015

Hiring Committees for 2015-16

The Prawfs thread has been open for about ten days now, and will be useful to those on the teaching market.  Other schools can also announce their hiring plans for this coming year.

July 24, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

July 22, 2015

Rostron & Levit's useful compilation of information about submitting to law reviews...

...has been updated again.  They write:

We  just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Fall 2015 submission season covering the 204 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 spring.

Second, there continues to be a gradual increase in the number of journals using and preferring Scholastica instead of ExpressO or accepting emails submissions: 22 journals prefer or strongly prefer Scholastica, 14 more list it as one of the alternative acceptable avenues of submission, and 10 now list Scholastica as the exclusive method 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.

The Washington & Lee data, I should note, is mostly silly (among other things, it does not control for publication volume by the journals).  Law review prominence and visibility tracks law school reputation, full stop.  For some specialty journals, the W&L data is somewhat useful, but that's about it.

July 22, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

June 18, 2015

SALT salary survey, 2014-15

Here.  Schools with the highest salaries tend not to participate in this survey, but it does give a realistic sense of what's going on at most law schools in the U.S.

June 18, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink