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August 09, 2009


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Tim Zinnecker

Thanks, Rob, for the post. This recruiting season does promise to be extra-challenging, given that some schools may curtail hiring because of budgetary concerns (or other reasons), while at the same time the adverse economic impact on law firms may drive more super-qualified candidates to the faculty recruitment process.

I'll respond to each of your questions below. I have been a member of our hiring committee approximately six times, and this year will mark the third consecutive year that I have chaired the committee.

1) On average, I spend less than fifteen seconds per form (always glancing first at subjects of interest listed by the candidate to see if we have a curricular match).

2) All forms are reviewed by each member of our committee.

3) I use the electronic version for occasional "searches," usually to generate a list of candidates who fit certain parameters. Then I review that list to determine whether one or more candidates may have "slipped through the cracks" during my initial review of the tangible forms.

4) For me, the primary sorter is curricular fit. Rarely have we hired the "best athlete available." After I find a candidate who has expressed an interest in an area of our need, my other sorters are scholarship and law school w/ class rank. I love to see candidates who graduated in the top 10%-15% from law schools outside the traditional feeders into the academy (candidates I consider "undervalued" by the market). Judicial clerkships, advanced degrees, and law school teaching experience are nice, but a bonus rather than a necessity. I also like to see at least two years of "real world" legal experience.

5) and 6) As chair, I handle both of these candidates the same way. I make copies of all materials submitted and I distribute them to other committee members (marking them with the FAR form # if applicable) for review and (subject to a particular level of interest) discussion.

Usually our committee meetings are spent discussing candidates who have generated a certain level of interest among members. In some years, the chair has asked members to rank each "FAR form candidate" with a number of 1, 2, 3, or 4, and an average score is then calculated for that candidate. Those candidates with the best scores then become the topic of conversation at our meetings. In other years, the chair has asked each member to submit a list (anywhere from 25 to 50) of favorite "FAR form candidates." A composite list of committee favorites is then compiled, and our discussions focus first on "unanimous" favorites, then "near unanimous" favorites.

I hope others will respond to Rob's questions. No doubt we all might pick up a few pointers from this discussion thread.

And I'll add this comment for those of you who are candidates: being on the hiring committee is a very humbling experience for most of us and serves as a powerful reminder of how lucky many of us are to have landed such a wonderful and rewarding position with entry-level credentials that often pale when compared to yours. Thank you for participating in this process. Good luck to all.

Jacqueline Lipton

Our process is historically relatively similar to Tim's, although we don't always have every single committee member look at every C.V. Like Tim, we do sometimes use the electronic FAR forms to identify people in either particular subject matter areas and/or people who are particularly interested in clinical teaching or teaching legal writing. But many of us like actually going through the paper forms and making notes on them when evaluating candidates - rather than relying on the electronic versions.

One other comment I wanted to add is that personally I do like to look at the top right hand corner (diversity) fields. While I understand the impetus against focusing on race and gender rather than "best candidate", this information can sometimes be a proxy for what Tim describes as candidates who might be undervalued by the market. Statistically, I don't think women and minorities are as highly represented in certain parts of the "job description" as (don't want to offend anyone but, well...) white guys, including publications in top ranked journals. This has been well documented in other places. While I wouldn't want to hire an unqualified person just because they happened to be a woman or a minority, using this field to identify undervalued candidates can be useful in my experience.

I should also say that I like to look at some kind of track record of proven interest in/aptitude for scholarship. I always think the best predictor of future success in publishing is past success or at least demonstrated interest in publishing.

Re curricular fit - it depends on the year for us. Sometimes we have clear curricular needs, and other years we do a combination of curricular need and best athlete hiring. Hope this is helpful - good luck to everyone in this crazy process this year.

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