July 12, 2005
Does everybody want to be a law professor?
Posted by Darren Roulstone

I think I've figured out the attraction of blogging to law professors: if you're suffering "posters-block" you simply write about the most popular topic in the blogosphere, "How to be a law professor in a few easy lessons."

I find the process described in the above links (and there are more where they came from!) to be fascinating.  It appears that to become a law professor you: 1) get your name and c.v. into a big book (now an online directory); 2) at a certain time converge in a hotel with hundreds of other potential law professors for short screening interviews; and 3) travel to schools for visits that include short, lunchtime presentations.   Oh, and before any of that happens, you need  to do something else: 4) start out by attending one of about 15 top law schools for your J.D.

Aside from points 1), 2), 3), and 4) the same process applies for business academics.

Speaking seriously, hiring in business academia does not have the model of most hires coming from the elite schools.  Instead, the hiring is stratified: elite schools hire from elite schools, the next tier hires from that tier etc... but with considerable overlap (upward mobility being possible but more difficult than downward mobility).  In other words, there are great people at a broad range of great schools and the system seems to find those people.  It's not that there isn't elitism, just that the elitism controls whether I get a job at an elite school, not whether I get a job. 

Am I overstating the role of elite schools in providing the bulk of new faculty hires across the spectrum of law schools?  Brad Wendel's page emphasizes this idea but I don't have empirical familiarity with it.  If it is true, why does this happen?  Is there some characteristic of law faculty that can only be developed at a top J.D. program or do these programs attract most of the students that have those characteristics?  Or is the system so overloaded with candidates that recruiters have to use your J.D. school to make screening time and cost-effective?  (That seems to imply large gains to investing effort looking for "diamonds in the rough".)  This post by Gordon implied they have to look at over 1,000 C.V.s!  How many slots are those applicants competing for?

Another thought: is this related to the fact that J.D. programs turn out lawyers, only a small percentage of whom will (after leaving the program) pursue an academic job, whereas business schools offer M.B.A.s who go into industry and Ph.D.s who are primarily heading straight into academia?  This means J.D. programs don't have to invest resources into separate professional and academic programs.  Business programs on the other hand offer Ph.D.s which are cost centers as opposed to M.B.A. profit centers.  This limits the ability of any group of elite business Ph.D. programs to supply most of the demand for their product and leads to a more stratified supply and demand model.

(If the business/economics side of our readership wants more info on getting into business academia, let me know in the comments.  The current shortage of Business Ph.D.s is good for our salaries but needs to turn around long-term.)

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