Monday, June 14, 2010
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JUNE 9 TO ENCOURAGE MORE DISCUSSION--AND DO SEE THE INTERESTING COMMENTS ALREADY POSTED
A reader writes:
I follow your law teaching blog religiously and am very interested in pursuing a career in law teaching. I was hoping you would have a moment to answer a few questions I have concerning how best to position myself for the teaching market....
First, is there a meaningful difference between the teaching fellowships at Chicago (Bigelow), Columbia (Associates-in-Law), Harvard (Climenko), Texas (Emerging Scholars Program), and Northwestern (VAP)? I am wondering how these programs compare in terms of placement, and whether any of them tend to place better in certain regions (midwest and south). On a related note, do these programs tend to favor their own graduates (particularly Bigelow and Climenko)?
Second, I have noticed that a few schools are starting visiting professorships distinct from the aforementioned programs (e.g. Columbia's Academic Fellows Program and Harvard's Visiting Assistant Professor Program). Do you have a sense of how these compare to the aforementioned fellowships regarding (1) selectivity and (2) placement?
Third, how do the teaching fellowships at Fordham, Brooklyn, Georgetown, and Duke compare with the fellowships in my first question?
Finally, how much will my time since graduation affect my marketability? Will the fact that I have been a practicing lawyer for 5-6 years be a detriment?
To the extent you feel my questions would be useful for others, you are welcome to post them on your blog.
Let me start by saying I have mostly anecdotal, rather than systematic, evidence on all these issues. I am opening comments, and invite SIGNED comments and links to information. I know most about the Bigelow and Texas ESP. The Bigelow program has an extraordinarily good placement rate, and the Bigelow candidates are always heavily in demand. The Texas ESP has also had a perfect placement rate, though with not quite as good placement on average (but Texas ESP alumni are now at Berkeley, Georgetown, and Duke, among many other places). A big difference between the Bigelow and Texas ESP is that the Bigelows teach legal research and writing, while pursuing their scholarship, while those in the Texas ESP teach in substantive areas of interest (a seminar one term, a course the other term)--this makes the Texas ESP somewhat unusual. My impression is that Climenkos are also doing well on the teaching market, but I just have less information on this score.
The Chicago Bigelow and the Texas ESP, like most such programs I believe, certainly give some slight preference to their own graduates, but in each case, have appointed many graduates of other schools.
A big plus for both the Chicago Bigelows and Texas ESP participants is that they are both well-integrated into the academic community and faculty. That's a key issue for applicants to consider: are the Fellows/VAPs just 'paid help' or are they part of the intellectual community of the school, do the school's faculty mentor them, etc.?
The longer one is in practice, the harder it is to break into academia--questions invariably arise about the motives for leaving practice, whether the candidate can make the transition back to academia, and so on. I would certainly advise anyone to make the move not later than five years after graduation from law school, and ideally within two to three years after graduation. But there are exceptions to the rule, and at least some of the Fellowship and VAP programs were *originally* designed with an eye to helping experienced practitioners make the transition. My impression, however, is that most of these programs now, in fact, look for signs of academic promise, and so like tenure-track hiring generally, disfavor those with very extensive practice experience but no publications or substantial scholarly writing.
I do hope readers will weigh in with more information and opinions about the questions raised.