November 07, 2018

What do you need to find out now that you've gotten a tenure-track offer?


With luck, some of you seeking law teaching jobs will get offers of tenure-track positions in the next couple of months; a handful of offers have already been extended this season (2018-19).  What then?  Here's roughly what I tell the Chicago job candidates we work with that they need to find out, and in the interest of having it written down in one place and for the benefit of others too, here it is (not in order of importance):

1.  You will want to get (in writing eventually) the basic salary information, obviously, and the nature of summer research support and the criteria for its award (is it automatic for junior faculty?  contingent on prior publication [if so, how much?]?  awarded competitively (if so, based on what criteria/process)?).   You should also find out how salary raises are determined.  Are they, for example, lock-step for junior faculty?  Fixed by union contract?  (Rutgers faculty, for example, are unionized, a huge advantage and why they are among the best-paid faculty, not just in law, in the country.)  Is it a 'merit' system, and if so is it decanal discretion or is their a faculty committee that reviews your teaching and work each year?

2.  You should ask for a copy of the school's tenure standards and get clear about the expectations and the timeline.  Does any work you have already published count towards meeting the tenure standard?

3.  What research leave policy, if any, does the school have?  A term off after every three full years of teaching is a very good leave policy; some schools have even better policies, most have less generous leave policies.  (If there is a norm, it is a term off after every six years.)  Many schools have a special leave policy for junior faculty, designed to give them some time off prior to the tenure decision.  Find out if the school has such a policy.

4.  One of the most important things to be clear about is not just your teaching load, but what courses you will be teaching precisely.  You should ask whether the school can guarantee a stable set of courses until after the tenure decision.  Preparing new courses is hugely time-consuming, and you also get better at teaching the course the more times you do it.  As a tenure-track faculty member, having a stable package of, say, three courses (plus a seminar) will make a huge difference in terms of your ability to conduct research and write.   In my experience, most schools will commit in writing to a set of courses for the tenure-track years (and do ask for this in writing), but some schools either won't or can't.   In my view, it's a good reason to prefer one school to another that one will give you the courses you want and promise them that they're yours, while another won't--a consideration that overrides lots of other factors, including salary.

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November 7, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (14)

August 28, 2018

Which law school's alumni are in the first FAR?

This sometimes includes LLM and SJDs, as well as laterals:

1.  Harvard University (28)

2.  New York University (25)

3.  Yale University (20)

4.  Columbia University (15)

5.  Stanford University (12)

5.  University of Michigan (12)

7.  University of California, Berkeley (11)

8.  University of Chicago (9)

9.  University of California, Los Angeles (8)

9.  University of Pennsylvania (8)

11. University of Texas, Austin (7)

12. University of Virginia (6)

13.  Northwestern University (5)

14. Cornell University (3)

14.  Duke University (3)

14. University of Minnesota (3)

Apart from NYU, which has far too many candidates on the market, these numbers look about right given past placement performance.

August 28, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

August 16, 2018

First FAR distribution: only 344 candidates!

I'm surprised there are so few, but that is good news for job seekers since it appears there will be even more schools hiring this year than last.

August 16, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

August 13, 2018

SEALS planning on launching its own faculty hiring conference

I have only one comment on this terrible idea:  don't do it!   It will make the lives of job seekers much worse, and increase their out-of-pocket costs, since they may then feel the need to attend two separate hiring conferences (which belies all the blather in the proposal about "inclusiveness"--the cost (both financial and in terms of time away from work) of travelling to two separate conferences will be prohibitive, so only the candidates with the most resources and institutional support will be able to do it).  More importantly, I encourage all schools to boycott any alternative hiring convention for these same reasons.

ADDENDUM:  Let me comment on one particularly ludicrous reason given for the idea that what the world needs is another hiring convention for aspiring law teachers:

Many schools are “jumping the gun” in the sense that they are actively recruiting candidates well before the AALS recruitment conference. Indeed, some schools hold Skype interviews, invite candidates to campus, and even make offers, outside the AALS time frame. Indeed, some candidates receive multiple offers before the AALS conference. Some of these offers are “exploding offers” which require the applicant to make a decision in a relatively short period of time.

To start, this just isn't true.  In a given year, maybe one candidate in the entire market has an offer before the "meat market," if that.  More to the point, how in the world would having an earlier hiring convention help with this non-problem?  Obviously those looking to "beat the market" would simply accelerate their own process.

ANOTHER:  In this article, Prof. Weaver of SEALS admits they are trying to do something "positive" for their "member schools."   At least it is now clear this has nothing to do with the job seekers, although how it will be positive for the SEALS schools is mysterious, since those schools will have to send hiring committees to two difference conferences.  This really is shameful, and I hope schools hold fast on boycotting this if, in fact, SEALS pursues this foolish and pointless exercise.

August 13, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

August 10, 2018

More than 100 law schools have constituted appointments committees so far...

...although only about 40 have shared that information at the Prawfs site.   This year is shaping up, as expected, to be the best year to be on the law teaching job market since the very early 2010s.   We won't get back to those levels, to be sure, but since a number of the schools hiring are looking to fill multiple positions, I am hopeful we'll see more than 100 rookie faculty hired by the end of this academic year (compare that to 160-180 before the collapse).   The main factor explaining this is, of course, the steady increase in LSAT-takers and applicants that we've seen for several years now, all occurring against the backdrop of the contraction by law schools during the prior five years.

August 10, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

August 01, 2018

On filling out the FAR form, Part III

(Part I is here and Part II is here.)

Under "Major Published Writings" you can list up to five items, though you can also include a "total publication" count greater than that.  If you have no published writings, or only one or two, you may also list your job-talk paper, but indicate that's what it is:  "(job-talk paper)"   Do not list articles for bar journals, or opinion pieces in newspapers--those can go on a CV, but are not "major" published writings for purposes here.  If you do list such ephemera, schools will draw the conclusion that you are simply "padding" since you lack real scholarly writing.

And now a word on the AALS's idiotic decision to add two new categories to the FAR form this year:  "Student Leadership" and "Community Servce."  Applying for a job in law teaching is not like applying for admission to college, where admissions officers expect everyone to demonstrate "leadership" and "community service" and other public-spiritedness.   Whoever at AALS made the silly decision to add these categories to the FAR form should be replaced with an adult familiar with the law teaching market!   Job seekers should feel free to leave these blank, unless they have something pertinent.   Most questions I'm getting seem to be about "community service":  this can include pro bono legal work, service on the boards of non-profits and other community organizations, and the like.  But don't take up too much space with this stuff, it isn't relevant, and hiring schools know it isn't relevant.

August 1, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

July 26, 2018

Hiring committees for 2018-19 may announce themselves..., thanks to the good offices of Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern).

July 26, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink

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.  

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July 10, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 27, 2018

On filling out the FAR form, Part I

One of the key parts of the FAR form are the two columns (left and right) for subject areas the candidate is interested in.  The left column is far and away the more important:  these are the five primary areas of teaching and research interest, though not all five have to be areas of research interest.  You must list five, and any of these five are fair game for teaching questions at interviews:  what casebook do you like and why?  which parts of the subject do you view as essential to teach (which do you ignore or give less time to)?  and so on.  It is customary, though not essential, to include one core 1L subject in the list (e.g., torts, contracts, criminal law, civil procedure, property); a candidate specializing in all areas of tax and corporate already covers so many essential classes, that are always in demand, that having a 1L class in the left column won't matter.  The right column is courses that one would be willing to teach if asked; you don't need to be prepared to answer detailed teaching questions about these.

In the ideal case, the courses in the left column fit together as some kind of intelligible package:  intelligible with regard to their connections to each and/or your scholarship and/or your experience.  Someone whose left column includes tax, land use, federal courts, and criminal law will have a lot of explaining to do!   Public law and private law clusters are common:  e.g., administrative law, legislation, environmental law, constitutional law, federal courts (public); or contracts, business associations, secured transactions, corporate finance (private); or torts, insurance, products liability (private).   Criminal law, for FAR purposes, has several categories, ranging from substantive to procedure as well as the "criminal justice system," which is suitable for those doing, e.g., empirical work on various aspects of the criminal justice system.

The order of courses in the left column doesn't matter much, so don't waste time over-strategizing:  be who you are actually are, and not someone else.  I recall a candidate several years ago who was advised by folks elsewhere not to list professional responsibility first, even though that was clearly the candidate's main area of research.  That was foolish advice, which we corrected!  And the candidate did quite well, as schools really do hire in PR.  But don't list a 1L course first unless it's really your main area of research and teaching interest!

Signed comments from faculty with hiring experience welcome:  full name and valid e-mail address (the latter will not appear); post the comment only once, it may take awhile to appear.  (I can not answer questions from job seekers here.)

June 27, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 29, 2018

Which schools stopped hiring 2011-2018?

An interesting chart from Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern), though it was misleading to treat t14 and t20 as separate categories here--resource-rich schools like Texas, UCLA, Vanderbilt and  USC, which were in the t20 category, did fairly regular hiring during this period, just like the t14 category.  But it's clear, and not surprising, that lower ranked schools, which no doubt faced more financial pressures due to the decline in applications, accounted for most of the hiring drop.  Many of those schools are now coming back into the market for new law teachers.

May 29, 2018 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink