Law schools are moving to a model where the path to a tenure track job increasingly runs through a job as a fellow in a prestigious program such as the Climenko fellowships at Harvard or through a stint as a Visiting Assistant Professor.
The VAP path is the route I took when I finally figured out after a misspent middle age that teaching law was what I had wanted to do all along. For me, being a VAP was a wonderful experience - the work was stimulating, the pay was more than fair, and every time the administrators or tenure track profs could help me, they did.
That said, a conversation I had the other day made me think a bit about whether the shift to VAPs as an entry point is good either for some candidates or for the legal academy. The conversation started with what Brian Tamanaha has skeptically called the “law professor mantra” that law professors should be paid more than other professors because they could make more in law practice. I wondered whether this has any validity given the modern world of practice. I reached out to Larry Latourette, a former big law partner who now is a principal in the legal headhunting firm of LateralLink, to see if law professors these days really have any options in private practice.