Wednesday, April 27, 2016
In recent years, Penn has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the academic market for legal historians. Two recent Penn JD/PhDs in History, Karen Tani and Greg Ablavsky, have secured tenure-track jobs in the law schools at, respectively, Berkeley and Stanford. Another Penn PhD in History (with a Harvard JD), Anne Fleming, is now on tenure-track at Georgetown Law. This year, one of Penn's Sharswood Fellows, a legal historian trained elsewhere, secured a tenure-track job at Vanderbilt Law.
I asked Sarah Barringer Gordon, the distinguished senior legal historian at the University of Pennsylvania, how Penn has been so successful? She wrote:
Our program is designed to be small and highly selective, and we invest substantial time in each student, and ensure that we support our students financially as well as intellectually. We take only those candidates that we are confident we can train in the substantive fields of their interest and in a demanding program that is grounded equally in history and law. We also work hard to help our students enter the field as fully minted scholars, who have presented their work in multiple venues, taught, and published. We have an in-house workshop where both faculty and students who work in legal history present their work at early stages, an annual speaker series that brings in outside scholars, and we are active in the American Society for Legal History, as well as a consortium of schools that hosts an annual conference for early career legal historians. One of us also co-edits Studies in Legal History, the oldest and largest book series dedicated to legal history. Of course, Penn has benefited from the overall success of the field of legal history, and we consider ourselves part of a broader community of scholars that is remarkably collegial. Our legal historians on the faculty include Wendell Pritchett, Serena Mayeri, Sophia Lee, Bill Ewald, and yours truly. We are proud to be among the strong programs in legal history, but are also committed to remaining small, as legal historians are built one at a time.
UPDATE: Another impressive Penn-connected success story is the legal historian Christopher Beauchamp, a Cambridge-trained historian now on tenure-track at Brooklyn Law School (he does not have a law degree). He was also a Sharswood Fellow at Penn's Law School, as well as a Fellow in Legal History at NYU's Law School, before securing his tenure-track post at Brooklyn.