Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

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.


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.


September 22, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

August 26, 2014

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

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!


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.


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


July 14, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 12, 2014

June 2014 LSAT takers down 9.1% from prior year

Blog Emperor Caron has the details.  One pattern that seems to be emerging is that applicants are applying later in the season (recall that we actually saw a slight increase in February 2014 LSAT takers compared to the prior year).  But a 9% decline in June takers almost surely guarantees that the law school teaching market this coming fall will be as bad as last year, since schools can't re-enter the market for new faculty without the ability to project enrollments into the future.


July 12, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 01, 2014

Hiring committees for 2014-15 can announce themselves...

May 06, 2014

Rookie hiring 2013-14

Sarah Lawsky (UC Irvine) has recorded 73 junior hires this year, though as she notes in the comments, there appear to be just 64 tenure-track academic hires (as distinct from tenure-track clinical and/or legal writing positions--those markets generally operate rather differently, which is why it's useful to disagreggate them).  The AALS, in its infinite unwisdom, made it impossible to search job candidates this year by JD school, meaning that, unlike last year, we have no idea how many graduates from each school were actually on the market.  5 of our 7 graduates secured tenure-track positions, and one is still in the running for a 6th.  All would have placed just two or three years ago, but this year saw multiple positions for which schools interviewed disappear (sometimes after callbacks) due to budgetary concerns.  My guess is we will see only 60 or 70 academic tenure-stream lines filled next year as well.  Once the applicant pool stabilizes (my guess is it will next year), schools will go back into the hiring market for new law teachers more aggressively, since many schools are currently leaving lines unfilled for which they have needs.  Even so, I suspect a "recovery" in the teaching market will mean 100-120 new lines being filled, and that is probably 3-5 years off.


May 6, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

April 10, 2014

Lots of students are applying to law school late in the season

Anyone following Al Brophy's reports on the LSAC data will notice that, while applications are still down from last year, they are down a bit less with each subsequent report.  That's consistent with anecdotal reports from colleagues who teach undergraduates who report being asked to write letters of recommendation later and later in the season than just a few years ago.  One surmises that at least part of what is happening is that (1) students waivering about going to law school are realizing that they don't have other tangible professional plans, (2) students are realizing their chances of getting good admissions offers--either in terms of the caliber of the school and/or the cost--are much better this year than just a few years ago.  Along with this indicator, I suspect the decline in applications is about to bottom out.  It will still take a couple more years, though, for most law schools to begin hiring new faculty again given the dramatic decline in applications and enrollments of the last few years.


April 10, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink