August 11, 2020
July 20, 2020
According to a widely circulated list of hiring chairs at different law schools in the U.S., 117 have already named appointments chairs, compared to 138 last year. That's not as big a drop-off as I had feared we might see. Bear in mind that last year's 138 hiring chairs yielded 88 rookie hires at 66 law schools according to Professor Lawsky's data (of course, some schools hired laterals, not rookies). Still, while this will definitely be a tighter job market, it may be somewhat better than many had feared.
June 18, 2020
The AALS has revised the FAR form. On the plus side, they've done away with the "community service" category; eliminated the need to explicitly rank the "preferred teaching subjects" (which always led to endless and pointless strategizing) and cut the "additional subjects" altogether (perhaps recognizing that the old "preferred subjects" were the key); and will permit candidates to upload a document with their references, so no more agonizing about the "big three" for the FAR form. On the negative side, it's no longer possible to print out a draft of the FAR form for review (that was dumb!). Candidates can still upload the CV, research agenda, and job talk, as before.
June 01, 2020
May 15, 2020
Professor Lawsky (Northwestern) has released her typically excellent entry-level hiring report for this academic year. I'll have more to say about some of what we learn from these results in a subsequent post.
I'll add one data point: Professor Lawsky reports the number of graduates by school who got law teaching job, but not how many were on the market. Using the first FAR distribution (not a perfect metric, since it includes LLMs as well as JDs, but that effect probably washes out across schools), here are the schools ranked by the success rate of their graduates on the market (for all schools that placed at least two graduates and had at least five graduates on the market):
1. University of Chicago (57% [4/7])
2. Stanford University (53% [9/17])
3. Yale University (51% [18/35])
4. University of California Berkeley (46% [5/11])
5. Harvard University (33% [12/36])
6. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (23% [3/13])
7. New York University (20% [6/20])
8. Columbia University (15% [2/13])
9. Georgetown University [14% [3/22])
Northwestern had only three graduates on the market, but placed two of them, so 67%!
May 11, 2020
April 10, 2020
The Great Recession of 2008 (which we might mark from the collapse of Lehman in September of that year) was followed by increased law school enrollment for the first two years, and fairly normal law school hiring. The turning point came in 2011-12, with David Segal's New York Times series in 2011-12 which, notwithstanding, a lot of inaccuracies, made the debacle of the legal job market common knowledge, as well as Senators Coburn and Boxer pressuring the ABA to force law schools to report job statistics more accurately. That's when the collapse in law teaching jobs began in earnest because of the collapse in applicants to law school. Prior to the collapse, 150 to 160 new assistant professors of law were hired each year in the U.S.; at the lowest point, that number dropped to about 55. It has crept back now to the 80s or 90s now, at the same time that fewer candidates have entered the law teaching market (this year there were fewer than 400 candidates, compared to 700 or 800 in better times).
We are about to enter at least a Great Recession and maybe worse, due to the coronavirus pandemic (barring a medical breakthrough in the coming months). Recessions usually send people back to school, including law school, as we saw in 2008. Since LSAC has figured out how to keep testing, we'll find out soon how the 2020-21 application pool is shaping up. I expect it to continue the trend of recent years of increasing applications. If so, that means, despite the hiring freezes, or quasi-freezes, that many schools have announced (almost always with provisions for exceptions), that there will be hiring by law schools next academic year. (Even in a hiring freeze or slowdown, different units at a university will be treated differently depending on their finances. This will generally favor law schools.) If the general legal job market undergoes a significant retraction, as it did in the years after 2008, that will change the picture, but it won't do so right away.
So while 2020-21 won't be as robust a market for new law teachers as 2019-20 has been, my initial forecast was that it should still be a decent year (especially if the increase in applicants continues).
One additional data point has me a bit more concerned, however, about 2020-21, although it will affect different law schools very differently. There is likely to be a plunge in international students coming to U.S. law schools: some will not be able to travel because of restrictions imposed by their countries; some will not be able to travel because of US-imposed restrictions; and some will be unwilling to come to the U.S. for further education because of the obvious incompetence of the federal government in managing this crisis (many states have done much better, of course, but that's likely to be less well-known by foreign students). There are many law schools (including some elite ones) that are highly dependent on LLM tuition revenue from international students. Schools heavily dependent on international students will be in trouble and thus less likely to be hiring next year, even if their domestic JD applications hold up or increase.
In any case, the first indicators to watch are the LSAT testing volumes, which we should learn about in June. If they are strong, that will bode well for 2020-21. The second indicator to watch is travel restrictions, both those the U.S. imposes on other countries, and those other countries impose on travel to the U.S.
April 08, 2020
...that will involve remote proctoring. Bar examiners may need to take note of this approach, but kudos to LSAC for coming up with a solution in a timely way. My guess is this will be the new form of the LSAT for the coming year. This is important too because it will allow law schools to gauge demand, which, in turn, will affect their hirng plans. (Recall that after the 2008 Great Recession, law school enrollments went up for two more years, before the downturn began after the ABA mandated better reporting on job outcomes.) I'll have more to say about what law school hiring next year may look like soon.
February 28, 2020
February 20, 2020
MOVING TO FRONT FROM DECEMBER 12, 2019 (ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 24, 2009--I HAVE UPDATED CERTAIN NUMBERS)--SEE ALSO THE COMMENTS, WHICH HAVE HELPFUL ADDITIONAL SUGGESTIONS
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 (2019-20). 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.