In a couple months, the lucky few will begin tenure track positions at law schools throughout the country. At Law and Society this weekend, I met a few of these individuals and one remarked that he had been told that during his first year he should focus on teaching rather than scholarship. Now, I was told something similar prior to entering the Academy and honestly, it seemed like the oddest advice to me. Why does it seem odd? Well, from what I understand, when one goes up for tenure, if you are one piece short of your tenure requirement or if you barely have enough articles to get tenure, no one on the faculty is going to care that you were told not to focus on scholarship your first year. You just won’t get tenure. So let me ask---why do senior folks continue to tell junior scholars not to worry about writing an article during their first year?
I have a theory as to why people give this advice. I think that this advice translates to: “Don’t worry about publishing anything your first year.” Writing is so integral to what we do as law professors that your first year should be spent trying to develop your teaching and a reliable writing regimen. So in essence, senior scholars are not telling the youngsters not to write; rather, they are telling them not to focus on putting anything out their first year. The expectation at many institutions, including mine, is that you should be a good teacher AND a good scholar, and both are a substantial time investment. As such, sending out an article in August or February of your first year is less important than establishing a daily writing schedule and focusing on being an effective teacher.
Am I right about this? I know there is often conflicting advice on this subject. I have also heard that you should spend as little time as possible on class preparation during your first year and focus on getting an article out. The obvious problem is that this could be a real disservice to the students, but this is advice that is commonly given to new professors. On the flip side, the failure to send out an article during the first year could make a new professor appear intellectually unengaged to the rest of the faculty, especially if his fellow first year professors have been able to send out articles despite being similarly advised not to worry about it. So let me ask: What is the general sentiment about the division of labor for first year professors? To publish or not to publish?
Cross-posted at Democracy and Distrust.