March 04, 2005
Jumping into the Law School Professor Credentialling Fray
Posted by Christine Hurt

At some point I'll actually blog about corporate law, but I did want to jump into the blogospheric conversation on whether you have to go to a top 3, 5, 15, or 20 law school to get a t-track law teaching job.  For professors' takes, see Bernstein, Goldman, Leiter, and Solum.  For law students who understandably feel that law professors are shattering their teaching dreams, see Chris Geidner and David Gulbransen.

The only aspect that I wanted to comment on was the point that the students seem to be making, which is that a lot of the faculty they see listed as teaching at their schools did not go to top 3 or 5 schools.  So, what the law professors are saying is elitist trash that is not true.  However, hiring seems to have changed at many schools in recent years.  At a lot of schools, certain criteria were emphasized 20 years ago, such as practice experience, whereas other criteria are emphasized now.  To get a good sense of hiring practices now, you have to look at recent hires, such as Prof. Solum's survey last year.  I am only saying this because I had to learn this the hard way.  When I went through the meat market with my Texas degree, I had no guarantees.  Even if I was interviewing with professors who had J.D.'s from non-Top 20 schools, they still knew what the expectations were and applied them.  I had people tell me, "You know, I'm glad I'm not interviewing today.  I don't think I could get a job."

Now, does that mean that faculty members or faculty candidates who didn't go to Harvard, Yale or Stanford are not comparable scholars, teachers, or colleagues?  No.  Of course not.  And yes, it is not fair that doing poorly on the LSAT one Saturday can pre-determine your law school and your career path.  But statistics do not determine individual success.  So, if you didn't go to a top, top, top law school, you cannot use your degree as a proxy for intellectual rigor.  So, give them something else.  Show them.

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