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February 21, 2013


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Not Larry Mitchell: When Sallie Mae knocks, I'll be sure to mention that her near-term concern with my ability to pay is "misplaced."

I actually *am* a year-and-a-half out from first going on the market. Doesn't look so good from here either.

Previously Anon

By the way, VAPflop, you're partly right about what law firms want ("They say they want that, but really want--and reward--people who are willing to bill 2,200 hours and play the firm reindeer games. They want the academic records for social and prestige reasons.")

However, I think you're leaving out a critical piece. In new associates, law firms want some who will "bill 2,200 hours" and has academic prestige factors. In more senior associates and in partners, however, they want someone who will bring business to the firm, almost exclusively. There will always be more eager young associates to churn out billable hours. What they're willing to pay high value for, however, are rainmakers who bring in business. Which usually means, lateral partners with pre-existing books of business, without (as much) regard for their academics. VAPs don't have that, and they're less likely to be reliable billable hour churners than new graduates. Thus, the lack of interest from law firms.


I am completing my 2-year VAP this year at an institution that was incredibly supportive to me. I was lucky enough to be offered a tenure track position to stay at my institution as well as a tenure track position at a much lower ranked school in a city that I really wanted to be in for family reasons that also happened to be a school that I really liked. I had several years of practice experience both in big law firms, as an HR person and as in house counsel. While it might be considered crazy in this market to go to a lower ranked school, I am protecting myself by doing consulting work on the side because I have skills that are in demand and I am also doing government committee work through an appointment. I have also been asked to be an expert witness on matters but I have not had the time. There are ways that professors can keep their skills relevant in the marketplace through the downturn. Like many others on the thread have mentioned, if our students have to open their own firms, we may have to as well if the job market does not improve. I took the risk and left a mid six figure income to take the VAP and uprooted my family with no guarantees. I was very lucky but I have no guarantee that I will get tenure or that my school will still exist five years from now so I continue to study in my field. I will continue to research and write strategically in areas that I am interested in but areas that I know have practical import as well even if I may want to write something more esoteric. Good luck to all through this awful time.


Absolutely true, PrevAnon.

This goes back to a fundamental problem: when law firms say they want academic success in young associates, they're embellishing. Young associates are fungible and treated as such.

This is I can't see this as part of a scam. The whole idea of teaching to what firms want without examining the so-called market demand critically is a little silly to me. The prevalence of the case method at law schools should hardly come as a surprise to managing partners who, um, graduated from a law school. But only now they want "skills" to be taught, or even displace that curriculum? That can't be unquestionably right.

This is all a long way of saying that the idea that a failed VAP- or TT-applicant can just go back to practice is, more likely than not, horse hockey. What this thread has shown, if nothing else, is that there is a lot of collateral damage to the collective action problem of hiring into legal academia. And sadly, I'm not sure how widely known this was before.


I think that everyone missed that Not Larry Mitchell was *sarcastically* channeling the real Dean Mitchell and his op-ed from last year where he suggested that law school is worth it if you look at the long term career arcs of lawyers, the availability of alternate career paths, etc. I see the response is much like the response of real law grads here.

Previously Anon

Well, part of the problem is only about 10% (or less) of law graduates go into Big Law. That leaves another 90% that must find their way through smaller firms, solo practice, or other employment. It is for them, I think, that the skills training would be more valuable. Most Big Law associates aren't appearing in court immediately, at least not without heavy supervision. Smaller firms, however, need associates who can hit the ground running. And solo practitioners, of course, have to handle everything (although frankly I have my doubts about that ever being a widely practicable route for most law graduates, despite law schools' tendency to promote it as a way for otherwise unemployed graduates to proceed).

It's possible that a two-tier approach to law schools might be more appropriate, with the HYS crowd doing the traditional 3-year program (although perhaps at a somewhat reduced cost) and lower-ranked law schools pursuing a more practice-oriented approach. I'm not sure how popular that would be, though, because it would be much harder for lower-ranked law schools to sell applicants on the Big Law dream, or on the "prestige" of a law degree, if they aren't even following the same curriculum. Plus, it might be harder to claim the degree has much flexibility if it is only geared at teaching the skills necessary to be a lawyer (not that it really does have much flexibility now, though).

I also don't think it's really a substitute for simply reducing the number of law graduates being produced.


"I also don't think it's really a substitute for simply reducing the number of law graduates being produced."

No it would not. Reforming the law school curriculum and "pricing" is definitely needed. But ultimately even if law school costs a reasonable $5k a year and the curriculum was "perfected" these things alone obviously don't create jobs.

If you graduate 20k JDs and there are only 10k jobs, well 10k won't get jobs by definition no matter what changes you make to law curriculum.

Previously Anon

By the way, VAPs, I have to say I have grave doubts about the rationale being given for law schools hiring VAPs ("if a school has a successful program, it will attract bright, energetic faculty who will go on to wave the school's flag for years.") (from here: "They might say nice things about us" seems like a pretty tenuous reason for investing substantial resources into a VAP program.

Rather, I suspect the rationale is at least that VAPs have academic prestige factors, are available full-time, can work more hours (and better hours from a scheduling standpoint) than adjuncts, produce scholarship, have more time to put into curriculum development, may be more suited to teaching courses other than practice courses, etc.

Also intriguing to me is the possibility that it is simply another way to game US News statistics--under ABA Rule 402, Interpretation 402-1, adjunct faculty count only as two-tenths of a faculty member:

If VAPs count as full-time faculty, or even something at least greater than two-tenths of a faculty member, that would be a significant motivation for law schools to hire VAPs, since a significant component of a US News ranking is a law school's student-to-faculty ratio, and one full-time professor counts as much as five adjuncts. I'm not sure about that analysis, however, as I have not been able to locate an interpretation of Rule 402 specifically addressed to VAPs.

For possible reference, however:

Maggs said the drop [in US News ranking] could also be attributed to the faculty-student ratios, which count adjunct professors as less than full-time professors, leaving GW Law's official ratio at 16 students to every one teacher.

"It's a very unfair system, where we have 2,000 students and 480 full-time and part-time faculty and yet we're told our student-teacher ratio is 16 to one when really it's five to one," Maggs said. "We hired six new professors last year and a number of visiting professors. Those numbers will be higher."

Note that none of these rationales necessitate actually placing a VAP at the end of his or her term. It's still probably somewhat in law schools' interest to place their VAPs, to ensure that more VAPs apply in future, but it's not necessarily much more in their interest to place VAPs than to place one of their law students in employment (and we've all seen how good they are at that).

Previously Anon

Also, the same rule limits the number of "additional teaching resources," including adjuncts, to 20 percent of the full-time faculty, for what it's worth.

another VAP out in the cold

FYI - The survey results haven't been posted because I don't think I have enough responses yet. More responses come in every day. Here's the link again:

I promise to distribute the results when I get enough responses to constitute a useful quorum. (At present, I have 13 responses. I think we need at least 20 to make this useful.)


Just publish it as a google spreadsheet. You can always add to it.


Today we learned that someone on this blog shared posters' IP addresses with Brian Leiter. This sharing of information led to several documented incidents of cyberstalking.

Given the sensitivity of the information contained in comments on this particular thread, I think the moderators owe a full accounting to posters about what happened. Were the IP addresses of struggling VAPs engaging in candid commentary shared with Leiter?

Dan Filler, all eyes are on you...

another VAP out in the cold

[ignoring the previous comment for the moment...]

FWIW, I have had a couple of interviews for practice jobs and they've been quite positive. Now, the ratio of resumes distributed to interviews received is pretty skewed, but I have been picked out of the pile and interviewed, and in at least one case, the pile had over 200 resumes in it.

So, perhaps not all hope is lost for us.

I received 18 responses to the survey. I'll send the tabulated results to Eric as soon as possible. The link will stay open indefinitely (see a few comments up), so if you still want to fill it out, by all means, please do. I'm confident this isn't a true representation of all of us in the VAP trap, but it will do for now. Interestingly enough, a couple of people skipped the question about whether you got any offers. I'm not sure why you'd skip that one (especially that one), but that's what happened.

Uh, no.

Just wanted to echo what aVoic said. I'm mainly applying to government positions (federal and state), and I've been told that I'm past the first cut in a few of them, and a few others have responded with requests for seemingly promising documents (specific briefs in cases that I worked on, draft opinions, etc.).

I should also note that I can keep my current non-academic job through most of 2014 if I want to, though that will cause a hardship for my family. Though not as big of one as losing a paycheck!

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