July 27, 2005
I’VE PUBLISHED ADVICE TO ASPIRING LAW PROFESSORS BEFORE, and with the deadline to get your AALS F.A.R. forms in almost here (if you don’t know what that means, go here first), a former student who’s now on the market recommended that I link to some of my earlier posts on how the process works. Okay. Here is a short summary of the process, and here is a very important thing to avoid when applying for law teaching jobs. And here is my reflection on how the hiring process is growing less elitist.
The biggest things that candidates usually don’t understand: (1) Most schools are hiring in a particular subject area, e.g., Torts or Property. That’s the first thing people screen resumes for, so it pays to list specific courses that will catch their eye. (E.g., “Torts” is better than “any first year course.”) (2) Your resume is one of many; make sure it’s easy for people to read, and easy for them to grasp the important bits like class rank, publications, and references. When people have to plow through hundreds of resumes in a short period, it’s easy for them to miss things if they’re not obvious. (3) People notice time gaps — if you took a year off to go backpacking in Namibia, indicate that somehow; (4) Publications are important, even if they’re not in elite law journals. If you wrote the Foreword to the Supreme Court issue of the Harvard Law Review, that’s certainly better than a short piece in The Business Lawyer — but everybody realizes that people who aren’t academics yet seldom publish in elite law journals, and evidence of writing anywhere is better than no evidence at all. A depressing proportion of new hires (even at elite law schools) never publish anything; having published before makes you a safer bet.
One other difference: I remember that when I was a candidate I felt searchingly examined. Now that I’m on the other end, I feel that we know shockingly little about the people we hire. The job is a big deal to you as a candidate, but since even large law schools hire relatively few people, and keep them for quite a while, the stakes are high for the schools, too. A bad hire can really make life miserable for a faculty, so if they want to know a lot about you, it’s not just because they’re running an inquisition.
Read this post from Orin Kerr, too. And it links to quite a few others.