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October 23, 2014


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Was on the market last year with three publications—a published article, a forthcoming article, and a forthcoming boom review—and got a grand total of one interview (for a VAP at that). I honestly doubt anyone, except for former Supreme Court clerks, are getting jitter views (let alone jobs) in the present market with less than two articles, preferably already in print.


Apologies for the typos above - typing on my iPad and have fallen victim to strange autocorrects - should be "book review" rather than "boom review" and "interview" rather than the very strange "jitter views"...


Jitterviews actually sounded right to me!

Orin Kerr

YMMV, but I think it's the new normal in a world with lots of VAPs. My anecdotal sense is that at many or most schools, you need a post-JD publication to get a VAP. Because the primary goal of the VAP is to get time to write, candidates add a publication or two during the VAP. VAPs then go on the market with 2-3 post-JD publications.

And in response to Glenn's question, I think they're accurately following preference signals.

John Thompson

It's almost like candidates for new jobs are subject to a credentialing arms race that leaves more and more people with formerly desirable credentials unable to find stable, well-compensated work in desired fields. When in the recent past has something like this happened to people with law degrees?

Adam Hirsch

"Too much productivity?" Any school that considers someone too productive is a school where no one should want to teach.

Bridget Crawford

I hear your point, Adam, but I do worry that some candidates (and their handlers) may emphasizing quantity over quality. So above a certain baseline, when we talk about "productivity," we need to talk about more than just the *number* of publications.

Former Editor

Marcia McCormick has a post up on PrawfsBlawg that seems to be directly responsive to Cohen and to suggest that there are a number of reasons, in addition to VAP programs, for the increase in candidates with more than one published article.

Zachary Kramet

Bridget's comment is spot on. Productivity only matters when the writing is good.



Be sure to tell that to your colleagues seeking tenure.

Legal academia is so amazing. They laud themselves at all costs, and find ever increasingly ridiculous ways of putting everyone else down.

Scholarship is important. But, oh, whine, these people are writing too much. Quality is important, but oh, whine, no one will accept my papers at top journals (and placement is the only way I know how to judge, because basically I don't know much about anything outside my narrow focus). VAPs are useful and we approve. But, oh whine, they write and publish too much.

Just when the kicking of adjuncts slows down (because they are all practitioners, and practitioners, as everyone knows, never had a theoretical thought in their little heads and view teaching just like practicing law), now it is time to beat on the VAPs, many of whom have been ruthlessly and mercilessly used and abused by law faculties (e.g., asked to move long distances to work for substandard wages with the false hope of employment, only to confront a post like this).

We all can vote a big thanks to law faculties everywhere. What a bunch! They are, as someone said on another thread, "selfless." Yes, indeed. Selfless individuals, sacrificing so mightily every day to find new ways to adorn themselves with titles and distinguish themselves from all the lesser humans whom they find it sometimes necessary to use to sustain their lifestyles.

For those who think this comment is too harsh (truth hurts sometimes), tell me this: What is the point of asking: "Are VAPs writing too much?" Seriously, how skewed can one be?

Zachary Kramer

Anon. Bridget wrote a post. Adam Hirsch commented on it. Bridget then responded in a comment. I thought her comment was right. Not sure why you think I've said anything except that productivity only means something when the writing is good.

I wrote a post over a Prawfs that said I would advise new professors to slow down. I don't think that's such terrible advice that you felt the need to drop so much truth on me.

But I'll bite. I have a close mentoring relationship with our junior faculty. Call them and ask. Would I give this advice to our junior folks? You bet. Don't rush just to rush. Take your time, produce something you're proud of.

I run the VAP program at ASU. When our current VAP started with us, I told her there were two paths from VAP to tenure-track job: 1) write two papers, one each year; or 2) or work on one deeper paper over the course of two years. She chose her path, and I supported her.

No one's beating up on VAPs, as far I read it. The way I read this thread, as well as the discussion going on over at Prawfs, is about the signals we are sending junior faculty, including vaps, about productivity, and whether we need to rethink the signals.



Thanks for the measured response.

But, let's compare what you have told a VAP at your law school, and what was stated above.

You advised: "I run the VAP program at ASU. When our current VAP started with us, I told her there were two paths from VAP to tenure-track job: 1) write two papers, ..."

But above, Bridget, whom you seem to find eminently reasonable, asks "Are VAPs Writing Too Much?"

She goes on to state:

"I am serving on my school's Appointments Committee this year, and I have been struck by how many candidates have more than one article in print. For those who are in the second or third year of a VAP, I would expect to see an article or maybe even two, but there are many candidates (VAP and non-VAP) with more than one article. My anecdotal impression is that this is the new normal. What has caused the shift[?] [I]s it purely a function of a mentality that one-article-is-desirable-so-two-or-three-must-be-better? Something else?"

She is clearly not praising the determination and work ethic of VAPs; she is, in a quite arrogant and Olympian tone, questioning whether that work is "too much" for her tastes: and just to rub it in, she notes that she probably wasn't subjected to the same pressure as current candidates.

You advise VAPs to do exactly what Bridget may feel is "too much." Bridget didn't emphasize the quality or lack of quality of the work: others chimed in to do that. Others, who may or may not be in any position to question the quality of the work of VAPs or anyone else, for that matter.

Here's my question: Why does ASU use VAPs? Pure altruism? Just to "allow" them to serve? Does ASU hire ASU VAPs?

How about this for a "signal"? Stop using people and asking them to give up so much. I'm sure you've read about the truth surrounding the use of VAPs. It may not be as egregious at ASU; somehow, though, I wonder.

Hire or not. It isn't likely ASU is hiring all "look see" VAPs; many, if not most schools, don't. Stop using VAPs and adjuncts and ask the faculty to start working harder or hire qualified folks and stop running a law school like, well, I'm sure you can fill in the blank here.

After all, we don't want faculty producing all the true dreck that they produce - and we all know that most of it (measured by citations) is just that - just to be "productive," do we?

Zachary Kramet

Anon. You truncated my quote. And your beef is with Bridget's post, evidently. Not sure why you called me out by name. I'll say this, then I'm taking leave of this thread. I am phenomenally proud of our Vap program and the way our whole institution supports and promotes our vaps, who we treat as full faculty members (without the burden committee assignments), with a low teaching load, research support, and the full weight of the faculty when they go on the market. They are hired solely to transition to the academy. We've hired wonderful candidates who have made substantial contributions not just to our faculty, but the legal academy as a whole . They're good teachers, thoughtful colleagues, and sharp scholars. Again, I'll bite. Call one of them, ask them about their experience with us.


I see, Zach. ASU hires VAPs out of a sense of pure altruism. Very noble. And really, the "full weight of the faculty"? Wow. Hired "solely to transition to the academy." Great! That is truly impressive. All those good teachers, thoughtful colleagues, and sharp scholars; out of the past ten of these good people, how many applied to ASU and how many did ASU hire? Perhaps all of them, from the sound of it.

You must recommend that two semester gig in the dust bowl for a pittance to a working person who must give up everything to move there to do it, with no chance of being hired. That's altruistic too, I'm sure, according to the folks who purvey those positions (and then criticize the person who "bites" to use your favorite word, for taking the opportunity to write more than one article). Perhaps according to you too.

As you haven't responded to the remainder (and profess not to know the reason anyone answered your assertions), the remainder stands unchallenged.

Simply noted, truncated or not: You tell VAPs to write two papers, as they see fit. If they write two, Bridget is waiting, and asking a very serious and thoughtful question,

"Too much?"

No mention of quality. This is simply unbelievable. You couldn't make up this stuff.


Just went over to Prawfblawg to review the 2014 hiring.

It was worth a look, Zach.

Perhaps you have something to add.


Increasingly, VAPs seem to have relatively strong practice backgrounds (top law firms for more than a few years, key governmental or critical public interest work), which in my opinion makes them much stronger candidates, especially in the current climate of a dropping attendance numbers and perceived need for reform. As far as the quantity-quality point goes, it's certainly reasonable for hiring committees to consider the number of years a candidate has been a VAP to evaluate his or her expected productivity. A candidate who has been a VAP for three years, for example, certainly should be expected to have produced more than a candidate who has been a VAP for just a single year.

Jeff Harrison

The discussion over on prawfs also notes the possibility that writing "too much" means too many articles with the implication being that they are shorter (I applaud that) but also the ideas less fully developed. The law school world has become obsessed with numbers -- how many downloads, how many articles, the length of the resume, how many conferences, how many papers, etc. Since quality is difficult to assess and the increased emphasis on self-promotion and rankings, perhaps it is too much writing of not very significant pieces.



Couldn't agree more. Law faculty are the worst offenders.

Therefore, don't fault others.

Glass houses, my friends.


I wonder to what extent candidates are producing more articles because (1) there seem to be more candidates coming from Ph.D. programs where they have the time and support to produce multiple publishable works before going on the market, and (2) more candidates are doing multiple VAPs after they strike out on the market. My impression is that the number of candidates that fit into these two groups has increased substantially. So I would fully expect to see more candidates with several published articles before going on the market. This, in turn, then puts pressure on others to increase their productivity to remain competitive in a tough market.


As Orin notes, "at many or most schools, you need a post-JD publication to get a VAP." In response to the shrinking tenure-track market, many schools are emphasizing the predicted marketability of VAP and fellowship applicants in order for such programs to maintain their prestigious placement rates. At the same time, these schools are increasingly selecting from folks who may have been able to jump straight to a tenure-track job in better years. The result is an increase in VAPs who enter with 1-2 post-JD publications and who still have a year or two of writing ahead of them before they hit the market.

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