Tuesday, July 10, 2018

On filling out the FAR form, Part II

(Part I is here.)

The FAR form offers space for listing three references, though many candidates will have more than three--in that event, you need to make a decision  about which three to highlight in the space provided ("the big three").  (Note that in the comment section you can add more:  e.g., "Additional references include [give names, affiliations, e.g., 'Brian Leiter (Chicago)']...  Full contact details available on CV.")   Here are some considerations:

First, highlight faculty recommenders that know your work well and some of whom, at least, work in your main areas.   In my view, it's more important that they know your work well than that they be famous, names everyone will recognize.  Of course, there can be close cases:  if a very junior faculty member knows your work well, but a much more prominent senior figure in your field knows your work well enough to recommend you, you might want to highlight the senior person.  But these are judgment calls.

Second, if you're currently in (or have held) a VAP or Fellowship at a school other than the one where you got your JD, it's customary to have at least one faculty member from that school listed--if you have no references from the VAP/Fellowship school, hiring schools might wonder what transpired during your time there!

Third, if you have a PhD in a cognate field, list at least your dissertation chair in the comments, but not as one of the "big three" references, unless it is someone that law faculty will recognize.  The "big three" should, ideally, be law faculty.

Fourth, do not list any judges your clerked for as one of the "big three," unless you lack three suitable faculty recommenders.   There is space elsewhere on the FAR form to list your clerkships, and hiring schools will assume the judge will be available as a reference.  "The big three" should provide new information about references ideally.  

Fifth, do not list practitioners as one of the "big three" unless, again, you lack suitable faculty recommenders.  (If you are a clinical candidate, the advice would be different; all this advice is aimed at candidates for non-clinical positions.)  Your CV can include one attorney from the firm or other organization where you did legal work.  Hiring schools, when doing diligence before formally making an offer, will usually contact such a reference just to confirm that there are no skeletons in the work closet, as it were.  But the simple fact is that excellent practitioners aren't usually in a good position to speak to scholarly potential of candidates.

Sixth, list your "big three" alphabetically unless you want to signal very clearly that one or two of them really know more about you than the others.  In general, faculty hiring committees will scan the list of references, and reach out to the ones they know best (at least at the start).  But if one reference is really the go-to person, then listing him/her first and out of alphabetical order will be taken to mean s/he is the person to really consult.

Seventh, and this should hopefully go without saying, confirm in advance that any faculty recommenders you list are willing to serve as references!  Make sure your recommenders are current with your work, have your CV, your job talk paper, and other writings.   This process should take place well before the time the FAR is due.

Once again, comments are open for additional thoughts from faculty with hiring experience.  Full name required and valid e-mail address (the latter will not appear).  Submit your comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.


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