August 24, 2004
So You Want to be a Law Professor: Part I
Posted by Gordon Smith

I have written about the law faculty recruitment process before (see here and here), but I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts on the recruitment process this year, since I am chairing the appointments committee. In this post, I will describe the beginnings of the search process from the perspective of the committee. For those of you on the outside looking in, that creaking is the sound of the black box opening.

As far as I know, the appointments committee is one of the most important committees at every law school. That certainly has been true at the two law schools where I have been on the permanent faculty. Hiring a new colleague is a big deal, and people are interested in getting these decisions right. As a result, the people who sit on the appointments committee are generally very serious about their tasks, and the work of the committee can be very time consuming.

The committee's primary task is to bring the best possible candidates to the faculty. The faculty as a whole, usually in close consultation with the dean, has input on the types of candidates that will be considered. For example, we are searching for a tax professor this year to fill a need in the curriculum. The faculty has discussed this and agreed that this area is a priority for us. We also have one open position, and the faculty will have input on priorities for that position.

The search may be limited to entry-level candidates, in which case the AALS Faculty Appointments Register is the primary vehicle for the search. Some candidates attempt to bypass the AALS process, sending a resume and other information directly to their favorite schools, but this works only rarely, for those candidates who are already known to the faculty. If you want to be a law professor, chances are that you will have to endure the "meat market."

We are also hoping to look at some lateral candidates this year, especially for the tax position. The most commom method of finding a lateral candidate is word of mouth. One of my mentors once said this about lateral positions: "If you have to ask, you won't get the job." While there is some truth to this, I tell other professors who are interested in moving to make that fact known (perhaps discretely) to their friends, and eventually the word will spread. For example, I am in the process of emailing tax professors friends for recommendations, and if they know that someone is interested in moving, they might tell me to check it out.

The committee here does not begin its work in earnest until September, but we are already laying the foundation now. Last Friday the AALS Faculty Appointments Register for this year went live with 613 candidates, and we have already started to sort through them, looking for interesting interview candidates.

More about that process in the next installment ...

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