Search the Lounge

Categories

« R.B. Bernstein and Rush Limbaugh | Main | Offshore Tax Evaders: You Deserve A Break Today! »

March 27, 2009

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Anonymous

Before reframing this as a parent rather than a woman issue, you should also consider what percentage of men leave their partners and children behind when they go visit versus what percentage of women do the same. When I was in law school, I took several classes with visiting professors. Most seemed to have a wife and children who were living somewhere else while the professor figured out whether he was getting an offer. I didn't see female professors doing the same.

Michael Risch

I think it is a parent thing, though perhaps dad's are more willing to commute. When I went on the market, I was fortunate to land a local fellowship. However, the advice I got was to spend another year as a VAP - however, I just couldn't see picking up my family and moving twice.

I don't think this is limited to entry-level, though. I think Christine Hurt at the Conglomerate blogged a couple years ago about the effects of visits on women, and I would extend that to parents (especially of young children).

On a side note, as someone whose whole family went to CSU, and who had a good friend get his PhD in Sociology there, Fort Collins ain't a bad place to land as a sociology professor.

Anonymous

I respectfully continue to disagree. For the rather small segment of the population that genuinely practices equal parenting, I agree with you. However, I think most of the empirical literature in this area bears me out. Women, even professional women, still bear the lion's share of childcare responsibilities in this country, which gives men more flexible alternatives to simply picking up their entire family and moving them for a year (for example, long-distance commuting where the male partner comes home only on the weekends) than are practical for many women.

I think recasting it as a parent issue is dangerously close to missing the point entirely. Certainly, the policy is worse for parents than it is for non-parents. As are millions of other things. Law school itself is more difficult for parents than for non-parents. But fundamentally, our social institutions have grown up around the idea that most people are parents. They haven't grown up around the idea that both parents work. Certainly any policy that is not considerate of both parents' employment is a policy that burdens all parents, male and female. But as long as most women continue--despite participation in the labor force--to absorb the majority of childcare responsibilities, I think it's unfair and possibly even destructive to attempt to recast policies that conceivably disadvantage all two-employee families as gender-neutral and equally disadvantageous to both men and women.

Dan Filler

Anonymous, you are probably right as an empirical matter about lateral visits: more men do seem to leave their spouse and kids behind to take them. But lateral visits are a different thing than VAP's, if only because professors who visit other institutions typically stay only one term (if they leave the family behind.) Most VAP jobs last at least one school year, if not two.

As to your point that policies that burden parenthood inevitably burden women more, fair enough. I'm not sure I believe that the best way to address that broader social imbalance is to reduce the use of fellowships and visitorships - but it certainly is reasonable to inject the question into the VAP debate.

Laura

Anecdotally, I've found that I know more women who did VAPS than men (including me). One reason may be because many entry-level women who go on the market (especially the ones who had small children) find it easier to do continue to do their VAP for a year or two until they found the right position that worked for their family. A VAP can be a real lifesaver when you can't take permanent offers that would uproot your whole family.

I also think it's important to differentiate between different kinds of VAPS. There are usually plenty of local VAP/legal writing positions if you are in a decent-sized city, thus no need for a location change. The more disruptive ones are the highly prestigious and competitive VAP positions, doled out sparingly by Harvard, Yale, Chicago, etc. With those, you may see more of a gender disparity--although I haven't noticed any.

On a personal note, doing a VAP year while I was on the market was really helpful to me; not only did it immerse me in the law school culture, making me a better candidate, but it also allowed me to hit the ground running with both teaching and scholarship when I started my permanent position. "Naked JD" candidates can have a harder time adjusting.

Orin Kerr

I think we can generalize the point: The market favors those who have no other competing priorities, commitments, hobbies, or duties.

Jennifer Hendricks

And thereby shapes people's choices, creating conditions under which it "makes sense" for one member of a couple to specialize in career while the other specializes in family.

Anon

I think that women probably do have a harder time meeting VAP expectations on the meat market, but, as hinted here, the real difference is between people with professional spouses, and those who don't or are single. This has a cascading effect that leads to pretty disturbing results in who is hired and who is not in our new VAP era.

To add another anecdote, I am a male about 4 years out of graduation, have a professional wife, and was (unsuccessfully) on the market this year, and I plan to try it again in the future. I understand that a VAP/Fellowship would highly assist me in landing an entry-level job, but because I can't expect my wife to drop her career and follow me around the country for temporary gigs, I have only been able to apply to VAPs in my city. Now, perhaps I'm just not that good a candidate, but given that there are only 3-4 such positions in my city, and dozens around the country, the math is pretty certain that I'd have a very good chance at a VAP with a nation-wide search, but have a crappy chance as it stands.

Now, Orin's point is a very good one: people with less geographical constraints than me by definition are more flexible, and (I believe his premise is) so much the better for the profession if hiring them results in better professors. True. But my (admittedly biased) suspicion is that while a VAP is better for one's scholarly and teaching ability than spending that year in private practice, and prepares one for the first year or two of teaching, it won't make much of a difference for that candidate's output over the 5-35 years that the candidate will be at the hiring school.

Contrarily, isn't a close reading of the scholarship the candidate has already produced a much better indicator of how they will be, long-term, as a scholar? I realize VAPs will, on average, have more scholarship produced than practitioner candidates come meat market time, but many practitioner candidates, of course, are able to produce published scholarship to submit to hiring committees. In comparison, if the practitioner's work is equal or superior to a VAP's, why would a school favor the VAP? How would this help the hiring school, other than having the new professor be a bit more adept in their first year (out of hopefully many more) at the school?

I believe the answer is simply ease of hiring. The VAP, on average, gets the meat market interview over the practitioner because s/he is a VAP, not because her/his article is more scholarly (it may be more scholarly, but that's not the reason why the VAP gets the interview). Thus, the single person who moved across the country to take a VAP spot gets the interview over the person married to the professional spouse. This will be true, on average, even if the non-VAP's existing scholarship shows greater promise than the VAP's because in selecting candidates for meat market interviews (and indeed often for callbacks) most or all hiring committee members will not have read their work. So, the bottom line is those who are geographically limited in taking temporary jobs have a worse chance at becoming law professors, not because they will be worse scholars over their first 5-35 years of teaching, but simply because they are geographically limited.

Isn't this bad for the profession? Is this simply because it takes too long to reach the articles of everyone who submits FAR forms, and so searching for the letters "VAP" cuts down on search committee time? I realize there may be some MoneyLaw to be performed here, and maybe in the long run that will help solve the problem, but it is disconcerting.

Orin Kerr

Anon writes: "Now, Orin's point is a very good one: people with less geographical constraints than me by definition are more flexible, and (I believe his premise is) so much the better for the profession if hiring them results in better professors. True. But my (admittedly biased) suspicion is that while a VAP is better for one's scholarly and teaching ability than spending that year in private practice, and prepares one for the first year or two of teaching, it won't make much of a difference for that candidate's output over the 5-35 years that the candidate will be at the hiring school."

In response, I don't think it necessarily makes people "better professors," as that depends on what you think a good or bad professor is; there are lots of normative judgments packed into that that I didn't mean to get into. My general point is that law hiring is sort of like training for the olympics: The folks who succeed are more often than otherwise the people who gave it 100% and put aside everything else for a long period of time. It's an incredibly competitive system involving a lot of talented people, and it tends to reward the person who is 100% focused and has no life outside of it.

Orin Kerr

Also, as for the question of long term output, I don't think VAPs make much of a difference: Most profs write a lot in the beginning and then mostly stop writing after a few years or at least really slow down. Maybe some VAPs immerse folks in a culture of writing, but it's hard to compare them, I think.

The comments to this entry are closed.

StatCounter

  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad