January 18, 2006
Junior Law Professors & Visiting, Part I
Posted by Christine Hurt

From time to time in the blogosphere, someone asks for advice on how to make a lateral move to another law school or how to visit at another school.  These questions are usually met with marked silence from the blogosphere, especially in comparison to how much bloggers love to talk about entry-level hiring.  I suppose the difference is that we have all survived the meat market and don't anticipate going through that again, but most law professors could potentially be in a visiting/lateralling mood in the future and don't want to say anything dumb.  This semester, as I was visiting, many fellow junior scholars asked me these same questions, but I don't have any conclusive answers based on my one datapoint of experience.  But, I thought I would share the advice that I was given over the course of my visit.  I think I'm in a safe place to respond because I loved my home institution and most of what happened during my visit was serendipitous, but I tend to keep my eyes and ears open.  From informal conversations, I've found that the inefficient entry-level market leaves a lot of junior scholars in locations or institutions that are not perfect fits.  If you are in that situation, maybe something here will help you out.  These thoughts are aimed at junior law professors and divided into two posts:  (1) How does one secure a visit at another school and (2) What advice I was given about my visit (next post).  This first post uses the terminology "visit," but I suppose the information is equally applicable to straight lateral offers.

How do visits occur?  In talking to others this semester, I can only arrive at the conclusion that most visit invitations happen very organically.  In a nutshell, visitors are chosen by word of mouth.  Associate Deans or appointments committees ask persons inside and outside the building who would be a good person to ask and then compile a list.  Luck determines whether the persons ahead of you on the list accept or decline before you are called.  I do know of some visitors this year who targeted their school of interest with phone calls and letters saying "I'm available."  I don't know if this works with every school, but I saw that work this year.  So, if you want to be in a particular area, persistence can pay off with certain schools.

So how do I get on these informal lists?  I think Woody Allen said that 80% of success was showing up.  But, how do you "show up"?  In the first post linked above, Brian Leiter urges both good scholarship and good exposure.  Probably in the past, showing up meant going to conferences, sending out reprints, and keeping in touch with people one meets at conferences.  I think all that is still true.  I do think that blogging (or commenting on blogs) is showing up.  I've even known of people moving laterally by impressing others on listservs, the precursors to blogs.  Of course, blog exposure can be good or bad, but that can be true of all exposure.  In the comments to Leiter's post, David Hyman suggests that the Young Scholars Law Abstracts on SSRN is a good way to gain positive exposure.

How do I signal willingness to visit?  First, I'm not sure, but second, I'm not sure it's necessary.  At first, I was wondering why there is no monster.com for law professors.  I think the profession is too small and too personal for that.  You'd be sending a bad signal to your home insitution, even if you were perfectly happy, but always open to opportunity.  In a way, SSRN is like monster.com, but with a much lower signal.  If a would-be employer wants to check out junior scholars, SSRN would be a good place to look.  As to signalling a strong willingness to move, I'm not sure how necessary that is.  I think most would-be employers assume that most people are willing to move, unless you've given the opposite signal by turning down offers before.  Also, there may be a negative reaction to a strong "Get me out of here" signal; no one likes a malcontent.

Anything else?  From my limited experience, there seem to be people in every field who are in the loop.  These people know who is where, who is looking, and who is on the move.  This person seems to know all the deans, all the appointment committee chairs, and all the junior people with potential.  Figure out who that person is and get to know that person. 

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