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October 31, 2011


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Bernie Burk

Because to take a VAP before a tenure-track position, you have to move twice. And moving twice in two or three years is quite hard on spouses and children. Moving once is hard enough.


Taking the Climenko is one thing. Taking a VAP at a lower ranked school is another. Climenko places pretty much everyone in jobs, so it's just a matter of how many times you want to move. At most other schools, taking a VAP is a calculated risk with a real downside.

I was a VAP at top 100 school. I enjoyed it, and found a great job. Some of my fellow VAPs, similarly qualified, struck out at the hiring fair. I know of other lawyers on their third or fourth VAP, having sacrificed promising law firm careers for a try at academe. Net result: they moved, took a pay cut, worked like dogs, and damaged their employability as practicing lawyers.

That this could happen in the current market is pretty obvious. It didn't happen to you, and it didn't happen to me, but I am capable of respecting the concerns of those who wonder if it is good judgment to make the leap, and capable of feeling empathy for those who tried it and ended up with career and personal challenges.

Christine Hurt

Carissa, I think that you are right. Anon's friends didn't strike out at the hiring conference because they took a VAP; if they had interviewed while still in practice they would probably have struck out then, too. The cold, hard fact is that most of the folks that you are competing against are coming out of VAPs or fellowships where they have had ample time to write and learn the lingo of being a law professor. (Note that a 'VAP' that works you to death so you don't have time to write is just a school trying to get a cheap teacher, not place you on the market.) Folks call me every year and want advice on being a law professor, and they all say "I only want to move once," usually for family reasons. I just don't think that works very often in academia any more. Of course, maybe I'm the wrong person to ask because I have moved my family around quite a bit!

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