Monday, August 22, 2005

Getting into Law Teaching: A Student Seeks Advice

A student writes:

I am a recent graduate of [a top law school that produces a good number of law professors] and will be clerking next term for [a Circuit Court of Appeals judge]. I have recently learned that a position has opened up in a very good state school in the areas that I am interested in teaching.

I have no doubt that I want to go on the market in the near future, but I was wondering your thoughts on the timing of entering the market. I currently have 2 publications (my note and a forthcoming Essay in a reputable specialty journal from a good school) and have 2 near completion.

I was wondering whether I would be in a good position to enter the market now, or whether a lack of legal experience would be detrimental to my candidacy at the AALS.

Also, from the view of faculty hiring committees, is clerking for two Circuit judges a positive, negative or no effect.

Final question (I promise), there seems to be an increasing trend towards some form of fellowship before entering law teaching and I am curious as to your perception of these programs. Specifically, I am thinking of Columbia's Associates in Law program, Chicago's Bigelow Program, the Visiting Assstant Professor Program at Northwestern (have I left out any of the major ones?). Is one of these better than the others.

I appreciate the thoughts and advice. Please feel free to disclose these questions on your blog.

My thoughts, briefly:  (1) practice experience almost always helps; (2) one could contact directly the school of interest, without going through the AALS and without going on the teaching market generally; (3) a key question is what your faculty mentors and recommenders think--if they encourage you to go now, do it; if they hesitate, then wait; (4) on multiple Circuit judge clerkships, my guess would be "no effect," but it does depend on the judges--some Circuit judges have a lot of influence on teaching job placement; (5) Visiting Assistant Professor programs are proliferating, and their terms of employment differ from place to place; in addition to Chicago, Northwestern, and Columbia (though I was under the impression that Columbia's was a degree program, where students only taught legal research & writing--Chicago's Bigelow program may be similar), there are now programs like this at Texas, Florida State, maybe NYU (can someone confirm?).   Are there others?

Comments are open.  I invite readers to agree/disagree with my comments, and to provide supplemental information and perspectives.

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I can confirm that NYU has a Bigelow cognate (though with different pedagogical aims) - it's called the Lawyering Program; I was part of it last year. NYU has other fellowships, and Harvard is starting its own Bigelow-like Climenko fellowship. Columbia's version gets you a degree, I think, Harvard's, NYU's, and Chicago's are salaried gigs.

Posted by: David Zaring | Aug 22, 2005 11:56:35 AM

Columbia's program is a degree program. You get free tuition for the degree, and you receive a salary to teach legal research and writing while you pursue your own research interests. You're technically called an associate-in-law, not a visiting professor. In any event, I went through that program myself, and I have nothing but praise for it. (It is somewhat similar to Chicago's Bigelow program.)

Posted by: Andrew Perlman | Aug 22, 2005 12:04:39 PM

I agree with Brian's advice. The areas of interest are a factor, of course, though many areas of greatest need are areas where practice is often particularly helpful (e.g., securities regulation). This person should feel free to e-mail the chair of the hiring committee and find out if the application is likely to be viewed as premature. I also think fellowship programs are a wonderful opportunity. In addition to the obvious benefits of having time to write and supposedly some faculty who will read the drafts, fellowships provide the person with the chance to become acculturated: what sorts of papers are good workshop papers; what questions are good workshop questions; how one successfully presents a paper; what things faculty like to talk about; etc.

Posted by: Phil Frickey | Aug 22, 2005 1:11:26 PM

Seton Hall School of Law has a two-year "Faculty Fellow" program, geared toward both clinical and non-clinical teaching and writing. One plus is that Fellows teach "substantive" courses -- i.e., not restricted to Legal Writing (in fact, none do LW, it's only "substantive" courses [and I know I open myself up making that distinction, I apologize!]). A good salary, too. Another plus is that 4 of 4 of the last classroom Fellows got academic jobs....

Posted by: Jeremy A. Blumenthal | Aug 22, 2005 1:30:10 PM

Fordham has a Visiting Assistant program.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Aug 23, 2005 8:45:58 AM

The Bigelow program does not have a degree associated with it - it is a salaried fellowship. Fellows teach Legal Research and Writing and are expected to work on their own research and writing as well. The program is one year with an option for a second - fellows staying for a second year are generally given the opportunity to develop and teach a seminar in their own area of interest. Placement in academia from the program is excellent. For more information, visit

Posted by: Marsha Nagorsky | Aug 23, 2005 12:07:24 PM

Columbia's Associate Program does not require Associates to take a graduate degree. Indeed, several of the current Associates (all of whom graduated from YLS-- coincidence?) are not taking the degree route. I am told by those in the program that the degree route is usually taken by foreign Associates (mostly from Commonwealth countries where an masters level law degree is required) and those coming to the program from 2d and 3d tier schools.

I am also told that Columbia is actively working to develop the program into something more like the Bigelow Program at Chicago, which would explain the shift to a non-degree option.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 23, 2005 6:08:48 PM

I was an Associate in Law at Columbia last year. I chose to do an LLM, but the degree is definitely optional. The program does require Associates to teach a legal writing/research class in the fall. Associates have the springs and summers to write, and there are also opportunities to teach other courses in "substantive" subject areas. It's a great program that provides both teaching and writing opportunities, and, as Phil Frickey puts it above, the chance to get "acculturated" into legal academia.

Posted by: Alice Ristroph | Aug 24, 2005 10:49:39 AM

Yale has something similar, I believe it's called the Dean's Fellowship.

Minnesota also has a Visiting Assistant Professorship.

One issue with these programs is that sometimes they have a preference for hiring their own graduates. I think Yale maybe only hires Yale grads, and Minnesota has a preference for MN grads.

Posted by: Ted | Aug 24, 2005 5:49:45 PM

Yale has the Ribikoff Fellowship, which is only for YLS grads. It also added two additional fellowships this year, which are open to grads of other law schools (as well as YLS grads).

NYU has the Furman Fellowship (only for NYU grads) and the Alexander Fellowship, which has some fuzzy criteria (but I think NYU goes into the search with a candidate identified).

Stanford has a legal research and writing program that is fairly analogous to both the Bigelow Fellowship and the Associate's Program.

Also not mentioned by previous posters: Harvard's Lewis and Houston Fellowships (I think they are intended for minorities); Georgetown's Future Law Professors Fellowship (as well as a number of clinical and policy-oriented fellowships); Temple's Graduate Fellowship; and the Hastie Fellowship (for minorities) and the Legal History Fellowship at U of Wisconsin.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 24, 2005 8:06:28 PM

Harvard Law School invites applications for appointments as Climenko Fellows in its First Year Legal Research and Writing Program. Climenko Fellows are promising legal scholars with high academic achievements and a strong interest in teaching. The Fellows will teach the Program and devote themselves to scholarship in preparation for entry into the teaching market. The Law School anticipates hiring at least four Climenko Fellows for the 2006-2008 term, beginning July 1, 2006. Each Fellow will teach one section of 40 first-year students in a Program whose content is coordinated by the Director of the Program. The emphasis of the Program is on writing workshops and one-on-one critique of student work. Each Fellow will be assigned two student teaching assistants to assist in the workshops and work individually with students. While the workload will vary throughout the year, it is assumed that on a yearly basis, a substantial amount of a Fellow's time will be available for work on scholarship. The Program undertakes to facilitate participation in faculty workshops relating to the Fellow's fields of interest and to facilitate mentoring relationships with faculty working in the field. Occasionally, a Climenko Fellow may have an opportunity to teach or co-teach a seminar or small course in the second year of the fellowship, depending on the needs of the academic program and the status of the Fellow's own scholarship. Salary will be approximately $60,000 in the first year of the Fellowship.

A J.D. degree and a superior academic record are required. Further information about the program can be located at: Applications will be accepted after September 3, 2005, and will be evaluated on a rolling basis. To apply, send a resume, law school transcript, two or three letters of recommendation, and at least one scholarly writing sample to: Elizabeth T. Bangs, Director, First-Year Legal Research & Writing Program, Harvard Law School, Griswold 1 North, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Harvard University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Posted by: Elizabeth T. Bangs | Aug 30, 2005 12:16:26 PM

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