When I was looking for faculty jobs, I sometimes asked myself: why is it that, even after teaching and publishing, I don't have twenty interviews like some people I know? Now that I am on a hiring committee for the first time in my life, I have a better sense of the right answer to that question. The mock email exchange below reflects my guesses (with the caveat that I, of course, do not speak for my colleagues at Florida Coastal).
From: [email protected]
I’ve taught, I’ve published, and I have only five interviews at AALS. What separates me from the people who have twenty?
From: [email protected]
I can’t speak for other law schools. But I can speak for myself. There are four major factors I look at (leaving aside affirmative action considerations): teaching experience, subject matter fit, publications, and practice experience. Most applicants have practice experience, so let’s scratch that factor.
So let’s start with teaching experience. You’ve taught constitutional law to undergraduates at a state university. That probably makes you qualified to teach the same subject at a law school - which is why you’ve gotten some interviews. But law schools aren’t just looking for minimally qualified candidates- they are looking for the most qualified candidate. So if there are people out there who have taught at a law school, they will always beat you for the interview. And given the number of lateral hires, adjunct professors, and former visitors out there, there will always be lots of people who have done exactly that.
The good news is: you can do something about this for next year, if you can find a job teaching at a law school. Even if you just do it for one semester, you will have law school teaching on your AALS form, and in the short period we spend looking at each form, your name will stick out. Some schools may still need adjuncts for the spring, so do not delay.
If its too late for the spring, consider taking a year off to be a visiting professor somewhere, substituting for someone on leave. The top schools can fill these kind of vacancies with professors from other schools- but fourth-tier schools or those in remote locations may be willing to fill them with practitioners.
If you get such a job, think about what you want to teach. If you teach anything at all you are minimally qualified. But to be one of the most qualified candidates, you will want to teach a subject that lots of schools are likely to need.
That means first-year courses or upperclass courses with high enrollments (e.g. corporations, trusts and estates). My guess is that the latter is better than the former, because my sense is that if you teach trusts and estates, maybe people will think you can teach property- but I’m not sure the opposite is true.
Back when I was a visitor, I interviewed for a trusts and estates job, and tried to persuade my interviewers that my property experience translated into trusts and estates. When I got my offer from Florida Coastal, I asked the other school where they stood in the hiring process. They said that they had offered the job to someone who already taught trusts and estates.
Which brings us to publications- what really separates the twenty-interview candidates from the rest of us. Your last publication in a U.S. journal was in 1986- better than nothing, to be sure. But the twenty-interview stars have recent publications, often in first-tier schools’ journals. Your LLM thesis and foreign journal publications are nice, but most of us don’t really know what to make of them, so we discount them more than we should.
So to sum up, to get more interviews next year, (1) teach (2) a subject that tends to be popular, and (3) publish in a law review, preferably one affiliated with a fairly high-tier school.