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September 13, 2010


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It's rather disturbing that committee members may frown upon persons posting information regarding interviews on Prawfs, especially because the person posting the information is not necessarily the same person who received the interview. Just another dysfunctional aspect of the process, I suppose.


Yeah, your #7 is going to induce a lot of panic out there. It seems strange that faculties would care about something like that, but if they do, I really wish I had known that before this process started.

Tim Zinnecker

Greg piggybacked on my comment, which I intended to be directed at personal web pages, Facebook postings, etc. I'm less concerned about (and didn't have in mind) "comments" posted on blogs.


Greg, do you have specific knowledge that there are people who are upset about anonymous comments reporting that a school has scheduled an interview? I would have said I couldn't imagine that anyone would care about that, and I've never met anyone who said they did. More concretely, in what way do you see it (or do you think others would see it) as poor judgment?
(And let's distinguish between the simple fact of scheduling an interview and making editorial comments about the interviewers, such as "that committee was a bunch of dolts," which, yes, obviously would be stupid.)

Greg McNeal

#7 sure got people interested. In response to the comments and BDG's question, let me tell you the genesis of this suggestion. When I was at AALS last year (Annual Meeting not meat market) I linked up with some friends who were on appointments at schools I didn't interview with. I brought up the PrawfsBlog comments section. The discussion that followed went something like this: One person remarked that he couldn't believe people were posting about interviews they landed, and doing so under their actual name. He said he would be way more risk averse, and would be especially worried that someone would think this revealed a lack of discretion (noting that some of his colleagues were a bit kooky about blogs, and didn't "get them."). From that we got to talking about the wisdom of posting anonymously and whether any comment was truly anonymous. You're rarely anonymous to blog owners because of IP logging. You're anonymous to blog readers, but as I pointed out, someone who wants to can put together facts and make some guesses about who an anonymous commenter was. Hard to do, but not in all circumstances. (e.g. "Interview with ___ school in tax and jurisprudence" narrows it down pretty quickly).

Okay, so with all of that said let me expand on point #7 a little bit. You're a candidate competing for a coveted, nearly impossible to land position. The hiring process is sometimes irrational, insular, and fraught with all kinds of biases. In DC there are 40 candidates interviewing with the school you are interviewing with. At the call back there may be as many as a dozen candidates, usually less. It's competitive and it's complicated by all kinds of variables that are beyond your control. Part of landing the position is a combination of being the best candidate you can, while also minimizing the number of reasons someone might vote against you (e.g. the things within your control). Sometimes what gets you is a section in one of your articles that wasn't very well reasoned. Other times it's a recommender who inadvertently un-recommends you. It could be a response to a question during your job talk that someone thought was snide. It could be you don't meet one faculty member's demographic criteria. It might be that someone just doesn't like you for whatever reason. In short, there are lots of justifications for any given faculty member to rank you higher or lower or advocate for or against you. Little things can make a difference at the margin.

Knowing this, why risk alienating even one faculty member (even a kooky one) at any point in this process? I think it's insane that a faculty member would frown upon blog comments by a prospective candidate, I personally would never be that insane (I have my own very specific yet different insane tendencies)...but there are all kinds of irrational reasons why faculty members speak out or vote against or vote to rank a candidate lower than others. It's smart to minimize the reasons. Let me frame it this way: What is your expected gain from posting a comment to a blog? What is the potential harm? The biggest gain I see is that you will have anonymously earned the admiration of other AnonLawProfCandidates, and perhaps the good feeling that comes from knowing that you contributed information to the blog comment marketplace. You're one part of a collective effort that won't survive without you. That feels nice, I get it, I blog, I comment on blogs, but if you're on the market I'd be a bit cautious from August to January. That stinks, the system shouldn't be that way, etc., but remember that on the other side of the benefit ledger is the potential loss. The biggest loss you could face is the kooky irrational professor out there who votes on your candidacy and ranks you lower. Or worse, decides to more closely scrutinize your C.V. and finds a non-blog comment related reason to speak out against you in a hiring meeting... Unlikely, sure, but what's the benefit and what's the possible albeit unlikely cost? In a sometimes irrational process, discretion is the better part of valor.


I think the hypothetical professor must not be just "kooky," but perhaps stupid as well, since people may post callback information regarding their friends (as I have).

If a law school entrusts these decisions to someone that insane, I'm willing to let my application be 86ed. I understand that in most places, hiring reflects peculiarities of some sort, but basing a decision on a wild guess that the posted information relates not only to a specific candidate but was also posted by that candidate, is beyond pale.

If this is how things are done at Pepperdine, I'm glad my atheism disqualifies me.

Greg McNeal

Anon2- I agree, the hypothetical professor is both kooky and stupid.

As for your second point. I think you're overreading what I wrote, my point is that something stupid can make a difference *at the margin*. This is one unlikely example among many. The point is that it's unlikely that someone would take any one thing and vote against a candidate on that basis alone, rather they may take their one idiosyncratic and kooky issue, add it up with a few others, and come to an overall judgment about a candidate. The goal is to minimize the reasons that someone might vote against you, including kooky, stupid, and insane ones.

As for your "if this is how things are done at Pepperdine" comment. First, it's not. Second, I don't even know how you could draw that conclusion from the post. The comment explains the genesis of my post, which was based on conversations with friends last year at AALS. I've never claimed to be writing on behalf of my school (I'm not). To make the inferential leap from my personal observations and my suggestion to be cautious and prudent throughout this sometimes irrational process to the conclusion that I'm here writing about how things are done at my school or at any other school is pretty illogical.

Dan Markel

FWIW, I think Greg's comments here were well-motivated but we do well to remember that faculty (especially the insane ones) should not make any inferences at all about information appearing on blog posts. As the blog-owner of Prawfs, I won't ever reveal the IP logs or whatever of the commenters on those threads who act with the veneer of responsibility. But it's important to stress that many anon comments are actually from faculty who are sharing the information with the market place, and are not emanating from allegedly indiscreet candidates. So please, if you know some faculty member prone to making stupid and irrelevant inferences--do something, say something, and educate them. Don't feed the beast of idiocy.


This is great advice, Greg -- all of it.

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