Becoming a Law Professor by Eric Goldman

Careers in Law Teaching
Eric Goldman
Santa Clara University School of Law
http://www.ericgoldman.org
Last updated 8/8/2008

This web page provides resources and advice for becoming a law professor (specifically for getting a job as a full-time tenure-track professor at a law school).

Articles

Here are some resources that can help you evaluate and pursue a career as a law professor.

Uncloaking Law School Hiring: A Recruit’s Guide to the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference

http://www.aals.org/frs/jle.html

This article remains the seminal piece on the AALS process.  A must-read.

Breaking Into the Academy: the 2002-2004 Michigan Journal of Race & Law Guide for Aspiring Law Professors

http://students.law.umich.edu/mjrl/guide/Guide.pdf

This guide is updated biennially, so check for the latest version.  Although nominally oriented towards minority candidates, this guide expands on and updates the AALS article above and has good discussion on the alternative paths available to get into the profession.

Advice from Various Schools

Many schools provide support to their alumni applying for law teaching jobs.  While some of these materials have school-specific aspects, they usually have more general applicability.

Columbia: http://www.law.columbia.edu/careers/law_teaching.  See also http://www.law.columbia.edu/law_school/communications/reports/Spring2002/next1.

UPenn: http://www.law.upenn.edu/cpp/alumni/jobseekers/careersacademia.pdf

UTexas: http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/bleiter/GUIDE.HTM

Virginia: http://www.law.virginia.edu/lawweb/lawweb2.nsf/0/d5d827544c198f098525699e005c5673?OpenDocument

Yale: http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/LTguide2008-09_FINAL_public_version.pdf

Resources from Brian Leiter, Lawrence Solum and Dan Solove

In addition to other resources at http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/bleiter/, Prof. Leiter prepared a chart of where new tenure-track law professors went to law school.  Prof. Solum did a similar analysis ofentry level hiring for 2004-05 (obviously Yale and Harvard dominate, but the diversity of schools represented is interesting) and a time-series analysis showing consolidation of hiring from a very limited number of schools.  Prof. Leiter critiqued political biases in the hiring process. Dan Solove posted a “batting average” of law teaching candidates by JD-granting institution (supplemental data here) and offered his top 10 tips for candidates.

The Big Rock Candy Mountain: How to Get a Job in Law Teaching

http://ww3.lawschool.cornell.edu/faculty-pages/wendel/teaching.htm

A very helpful perspective from Brad Wendel

Faculty Fellowship Programs That Lead To Law Teaching, by Patricia A. Cain and Faith Pincus

http://www.law.arizona.edu/depts/chin/teachlaw/cainfellow.pdf

Description of programs that you can use to get onto a law teaching career track (this particular file appears to be a few years out-of-date)

Law School and Beyond

http://www.theihs.org/pdf/materials/91.pdf

An exhaustive work discussing every aspect of the process of becoming a law school academic from law school application all the way to the on-campus interview for a full-time legal position.

Richard E. Redding, “Where Did You Go To Law School?” Gatekeeping for the Professoriate and Its Implications for Legal Education, 53 J. Legal Educ. 594 (2003)

A very detailed statistical study of the credentials of new law teachers.  This should help you assess how your credentials stack up, but remember that there’s an exception to every rule (I broke a few “rules” myself).  For additional data, see Association of American Law Schools Statistical Report on Law School Faculty and Candidates for Law Faculty Positions 1999-2000,http://www.aals.org/statistics/index.html

David W. Case, The Pedagogical Don Quixote de la Mississippi, 33 U. Memphis L. Rev. 529 (2003)

Describing the author’s 12 year quest to get a law teaching job, which required an LLM, 2 judicial clerkships, a PhD and three trips to the AALS conference [congratulations David!].

Kevin H. Smith, How to Become a Law Professor Without Really Trying: A Critical, Heuristic, Deconstructionist, and Hermeneutical Exploration of Avoiding the Drudgery Associated With Actually Working as an Attorney, 47 U. Kan. L. Rev. 139 (1998)

A satirical (?) description of the process of deciding and applying to become a law professor.

Debra R. Cohen, Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me A Match: An Insider’s Guide to the Faculty Hiring Process (Sept 21, 2006)

A more current article in the vein of the Uncloaking Law School Hiring article.

Teachlaw

www.teachlaw.org

A site with more links to relevant materials.

Other General Articles

Harvard Record, http://media.www.hlrecord.org/media/storage/paper609/news/2007/10/18/News/Prof-Levinson.Demystifies.The.Path.To.Legal.Academia-3044745.shtml (I saw a number of statements here that look garbled in translation–especially the statement about salaries!)

NY Lawyer Crossroads, http://www.nylawyer.com/crossroads/04/072704.html

JURIST, http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/hiring.htm

Law.com on Women Law Professors, http://www.law.com/jsp/printerfriendly.jsp?c=LawArticle&t=PrinterFriendlyArticle&cid=1095207119654

Chronicle of Higher Education, http://chronicle.com/jobs/2004/07/2004071501c.htm (not specific to law, but a good general article; subscription required)

Note that many blogs routinely discuss this topic.

Job Listings

It’s pretty much impossible to get accurate information about what schools are hiring and for what.  When you sign up for the AALS conference, you’ll get a few editions of their Placement Bulletin. Other places to check are the Chronicle of Higher EducationJurist and HigherEdJobs.com.  Evaluate any published listings with healthy skepticism.

A Few Tips of My Own

  • Send any supplementary materials to schools you’re interviewing with before the AALS conference.  Some schools will make decisions immediately after the conference, and thus you won’t get a chance to submit additional materials on a timely basis after the conference.
  • Practice your job talk before friendly law professors before doing it live.  This was very helpful to me.
  • If you do get interviews after AALS, think VERY carefully about their sequencing.  You will likely improve your interviewing and job talk skills after doing it a few times, so you may not want to schedule your top choices in the early part of the process.
  • Have your job talk generally well-thought-out before your first screening interview.  You’re likely to be asked about the talk in some detail at screening interviews.
  • Get a set of law professors as consultants.  Multiple professors are better, because each professor has their own perspective on the world.  They can help you understand the sometimes perplexing experiences you’re having and, in some cases, run interference for you when you need a neutral source of information.
  • Be flexible about your willingness to teach courses that aren’t popular to teach.
  • There is a huge element of luck involved in getting a position through AALS.  Don’t let your self-worth be influenced (down or up) by the vagaries of the process.  Any failures—or successes—you experience are not likely to be based solely on the “merits.”

After You Get the Job

I haven’t yet seen any websites listing articles specifically addressing the transition to a new doctrinal law faculty position, so here are some suggestions:

R.H. Abrams, Sing Muse: Legal Scholarship for New Law Teachers, 37 J. Legal Educ. 1 (1987)

Susan J. Becker, Advice for the New Law Professor: A View from the Trenches, 42 J. Legal Educ. 432 (1992)

Cheryl Hanna, The Nuts and Bolts of Scholarshiphttp://www.aals.org/nlt2004/hanna.pdf.

M.K. Kane, Some Thoughts on Scholarship for Beginning Teachers, 37 J. Legal Educ. 14 (1987)

Eric L. Muller, A New Teacher’s Guide to Choosing a Casebook, 45 J. Legal Educ. 557 (1995)

Douglas K. Newell, Ten Survival Suggestions for Rookie Law Teachers, 33 J. Legal Educ. 693 (1983)

Madeleine Schachter, The Law Professor’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to Teaching Law Students (2003)

Kent D. Syverud, Taking Students Seriously: A Guide for New Law Teachers, 43 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1993)

Donald J. Weidner, A Dean’s Letter to New Law Faculty About Scholarship. 44 J. Legal Educ. 440 (1994)

Douglas J. Whaley, Teaching Law: Advice for the New Professor, 43 Ohio State L.J. 125 (1982)

There’s an extensive literature about law teaching generally.  See the AALS and University of Iowa bibliographies about law school teaching.   Another bibliography (a little skewed to bankruptcy topics) and another.