November 06, 2012
"Fall" submissions data from one student-edited law reviewInteresting, and probably not unrepresentative.
October 18, 2012
Useful NLJ Piece on This Year's Hiring Convention ("the meat market")
Here. An excerpt:
Sad to say, my prediction during the summer has been borne out. Dean Wu at Hastings is clearly correct that this year is a buyer's market, though, based on the candidates we are working with, there will still be candidates for whom the schools will be competing. But it is definitely a great year to be able to hire new faculty.
Approximately 142 law schools registered to attend the AALS hiring conference—a 14 percent decline from the 166 that attended last year and a 21 percent decrease from the 179 schools that participated during pre-recession 2007. The schools that do attend won't necessarily hire—some use the conference to scout teaching talent for the future. (It's difficult to tell how many open teaching spots actually exist, as some schools advertise specific positions in an AALS-published bulletin but many do not.)
At the same time, the number of aspiring law professors has held fairly steady during the past five years. Thus far, 750 candidates registered for the AALS' faculty interviews, although that number does not include the final list of candidates, which will come out in February. The total number of registrants has fluctuated between 824 and 901 in recent years, according to the AALS.
October 15, 2012
A potted history of American legal education and scholarship in the 20th-century, with special reference to why there is no longer a scholarly Wissenschaft in law
MOVING TO FRTON FROM JULY 11, 2012: THIS APPEARED IN THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER WHEN SOME READERS WHO MIGHT FIND IT INTERESTING MAY HAVE MISSED IT
Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of the Harvard Law School in the late 19th-century, set the paradigm for what law schools and legal scholars should do, a paradigm that lasted for nearly a century, until Richard Posner upset it in the 1970s. That gloss perhaps exaggerates the influence of these two individuals, but only slightly.
In the 19th-century, the idea arose, beginning in Germany of course, that a subject fit for and requiring university study should be a Wissenschaft, a "science," though the Anglophone connotation of natural science is misleading. A Wissenschaft was a body of knowledge characterized by distinctive methods and tools that, when deployed correctly, would lend epistemic credence to the results. If law was to be a subject for university study, then it had to be a Wissenschaft, an idea shared by Langdell and the Legal Realists, and many others.
For Langdell, the body of knowledge constituting legal knowledge arose from a careful study of the opinions of the courts as they analyzed legal problems--not a crazy view for a scholar of the common law to have, of course. Carefuly study of these opinions could elict the general principles and rules of law that explained the particular opinions. The task of legal scholars was to articulate these general principles, and the obligation of the law students was to learn them, so that they could then understand what the courts will do.
The American Legal Realists interrupted this pedagogical and scholarly narrative in the early 20th-century, noticing that the doctrinal categories the Langdellian scholar latched on to were often pitched at a level of abstraction from the particular problems the courts were confronting that actually obscured what was really going on. Sensitivity to economic and social context was often necessary to make sense of the decisions; there was no "law of contracts" or "law of torts," per se. As the great Legal Realist Leon Green's torts casebook of the 1930s suggested, what there really was were principles of tort law for railroads, for hospitals, for factories, and so on. The American Realists accepted Langdell's ambition to make the study of law scientific; they just thought Langdell's science was shoddy, and their view prevailed.
The merged Langdell/Realist paradigm became dominant for a good half-century. To take a prominent example of how the agenda became mainstreamed: my late Texas colleague Charles Alan Wright understood himself, correctly, to be a Legal Realist, and his renowned treatise on Federal Practice and Procedure reflects that self-understanding: Wright and his colleagues carefully parsed the opinions of the courts, in order to elicit the situation-sensitive rules the courts actually were deploying in deciding procedural issues. The treatise writer continued to be the pinnacle of academic excellence for another generation after WWII.
Richard Posner is, like Langdell, the other decisive figure in the history of American legal scholarship and education. He did not invent economic analysis of law--such credit goes, if it goes to any one person, to his Chicago colleagues Ronald Coase and Aaron Director--but he had the intellectual energy and ingenuity to show in the course of the 1970s how the economic way of thinking could both explain what the courts were really doing and upset what almost all the scholars were saying about it. The economic approach started from a simple assumption: individuals are instrumentally rational in trying to get what they want. Their interactions with the law, so the economic story goes, are no different. If the law imposes penalties on certain conduct, they will adjust their behavior accordingly, in order to get what they really want, even if the law prohibits it or burdens the pursuit of it, unless, of course, the burdens become too costly. Those simple "rational choice" assumptions had radical consequences, or so Posner and Posnerians argued. And here they pierced the vulnerable underbelly of the Realist attack on Langdell's doctrinalism. For the Realists operated with "common sense" assumptions about how law would influence behavior, a "common sense" that hadn't really taken account of how actors in market systems tend to think, namely, in terms of the self-centered costs and benefits of different courses of conduct. The greatest success of economic analysis was, of course, in those commercial domains where actors really did think the way the economic analyst supposed.
The victory of Realism and Posnerian Realism means, of course, there is no science of law--no distinctively legal methods or tools--beyond the ones Langdell envisioned. But that's the Wissenschaft law schools have been teaching for a century now, and, arguably, students master it within two years, at least when well-taught. Once a student has learned the Langedellian Wissenschaft, what's needed is something else, at least for a post-Realist, post-Posnerian legal scholar: history, economics, political science, sociology, and so on. That's why the idea of a PhD in law is so bizarre: it's either Langdellian Wissenschaft fetishized (Legal Realism and Posner be damned!) or its history-lite, economics-lite, political science-lite and so on. (The worry is that the latter is really what Yale's new "PhD in law" will be.)
In the UK, Langdellian Wissenschaft still reigns supreme--hence the PhD in law there really is a graduate degree, one that complements the undergraduate training students have had in "dcotrinal" analysis. (There are exceptions, of course, in the UK for those who do a doctorate in jurisprudence or legal history, which are well-developed specialties, which operate in tandem with, not as lite-versions of, the cognate Wissenschaften.) But as American law professors often jest, if you want to know what law school was like in the 1950s, spend a term at a leading English law school. Maybe doctrine really does explain the behavior of courts in the UK, and maybe English citizens are even more infrequently maximizers of their satisfactions than their American cousins. But the Langdellian legal Wissenschaft exhausts its intellectual utility within two years of JD study, and that is, as far as I can tell, no longer controversial on this side of the Atlantic. So what could a PhD in law really be about? Especially at Yale, where even the craft of the Langdellian paradigm has largely vanished, it is especially puzzling. Although Yale has smart historians, psychologists, economists, and philosophers on the faculty, the Law School clearly does not have the resources to mount a serious "law-and-X" Wissenschaft in any of these fields, certainly not when compared to a JD/PhD in history, psychology, economics etc. The real worry about Yale's PhD in Law is that it's going to be a PhD imprimatur on even higher-level post-Realist dilettantism. Only if law schools generally acquiesce to this will it be successful.
October 12, 2012
A travel tip to keep in mind, esp. for job seekers
One of our graduates on the market writes:
[F]or callbacks in the coming weeks, you might want to suggest that folks not book flights on American Airlines. Many folks might not have internalized the news coverage of American's ongoing problems -- flying American in the coming weeks almost certainly increases the odds of delayed flights and missed connections by a statistically significant margin. Given the tight scheduling of callbacks, I can't see any good reason to risk flying American unless it's the only option, or any good reason that a school wouldn't cover a (reasonably) more expensive ticket on another airline.
October 02, 2012
Do you think any ABA-accredited law schools will actually close over the next decade?
There are about 200 of them, and the belief certainly seems widespread in the bowels of cyber-space that half of them are destined to disappear, or something like that, due to the cost of legal education relative to the actual professional outcomes in the current market (indeed, in some cases, even before the current economic crisis). Of course, we've already seen some law schools reduce enrollments, and others withdraw from the market for new faculty--so 'shrinkage' is already happening. But will accredited law schools actually close? Assume that there are no changes to the current student loan structure (i.e., the federal government still backs them), and assume that there is some improvement in the legal market in the years ahead. How many of the 200 accredited law schools do you think will close their doors over the next decade? UPDATE: So with 140 votes cast, here's the breakdown: 12% think no law schools will close in the next decade; 68% expect 1-10 to close; 14% expect 11-25 to close; 4% think 26-50 will close; and about 1% think more than 50 will close. So an overwhelming majority of respondents so far, 88%, expect at least one or more law schools to close, and nearly one in five expect a non-trivial number to close, i.e., 5% or more.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Several hours later and 209 votes, here's the breakdown:
POLL IS CLOSE and the results and discussion are here.
September 19, 2012
On "Joint" Appointments Prior to Tenure
The proliferation of JD/PhDs over the past generation has resulted in many junior faculty candidates facing the question: should I seek a "joint" appointment between the Law School and the cognate PhD discipline?
"Joint" appointments come in various forms, of which the two main ones are: (1) tenure-track status in two units, with two separate tenure reviews, and two separate tenure decisions; and (2) a "courtesy" or "secondary" appointment in the cognate department, with the tenure home residing in the Law School. The former is, I suppose, a fully "joint" appointment, but it is also to be avoided (perhaps even after tenure, since it is likely to increase your administrative burdens [committee work, faculty meetings etc.]). Although it's still easier, alas, to get tenure in a law school than in most academic departments, the bottom line is having two different tenure masters is a bad position to be in. (There are cases of faculty who didn't get tenure in the non-law department, but did get it in the law school, and those situations are unhappy ones all around.) On the other hand, (2) can have benefits for the faculty member (perhaps teaching in the cognate department, involvement with PhD students and the like) without any of the costs.
But a JD/PhD on the rookie law market should be careful about raising the question of courtesy appointments. Law schools understand full well that they offer better terms of employment (in teaching load, salary, and research support) than almost every academic department in the humanites and social sciences, and so a key question for them in hiring JD/PhDs is: why do you want to be in the Law School rather than in the cognate field? The answer had better turn on intellectual and pedagogical considerations. After a JD/PhD has an offer, you can raise the question about courtesy appointments (assuming they exist, not all schools have them), but if you're hired by a Law School, do understand your primary obligations reside there.
September 18, 2012
A list of Fellowships for Aspiring Law ProfessorsUpdated.
September 04, 2012
Remember that "Faculty Lounge" posts......job ads.
September 03, 2012
Attention Hiring Committees: Don't Google CandidatesAn interesting cautionary tale from Lyrissa Lidsky (Florida).
August 28, 2012
Exploding Offers--What are the Norms?
These devices are becoming more common is my impression. Some schools have actually made them prior to the 'meat market,' and others make them afterwards. In the typical case, the candidate is given two weeks, or some even shorter period of time, to accept or decline. My impressions are that, as a strategy, these do not work well--candidates tend to decline them, or, if they accept, they accept with a plan to head out the door ASAP. I'm curious what experiences others have had with these offers?
But that's not the main topic I wanted to address. The main question is should schools utilize exploding offers at all and if so with what time frame? My own view is that it is in the interest of both the hiring schools and the candidates to provide a 30-day window for any offer, and that anything much less than that is certainly unfair to the candidate, but will also backfire for the hiring school.
What do readers think? Signed comments only: full name and valid e-mail address.UPDATE: The AALS has officially endorsed a four-week standard.