September 10, 2008
Wikis, Markets and Incomplete Information: The Law School Hiring Version
Posted by Christine Hurt

Dan Markel at Prawfs is asking for both FAR recruits and appointments committee members to divulge information on interviews that have been scheduled for the FRC in a wiki-type comment thread to this post.  As of Wednesday morning, there were 30 comments, but many of those were comments on the advisability of this project.  Dan asks that those types of comments be made to this post.  The current professors commenting thought this type of information would have made them "suicidal" and "scared sh*tless."  I have to agree.

I always think that more information is better information, and the FRC is full of informational asymmetries.  Ironically, the asymmetries flip post-offer, creating an interesting puzzle.  However, I'm not sure how this information, even if complete, enables candidates to make better decisions.  According to AALS statistics, 926 candidates submitted an FAR form at some point last year (2007-2008), and 762 by the second mailing (roughly equivalent to things now).  I have heard those more expert than me say that at least 1/3 of those are basically "why not" applicants who may not receive any attention at all.  So, let's say that at this point there are about 500 plausible candidates.  So far, the thread as 16 comments with any information on calls from recipients and 4 on information from those on the hiring side.  The recipients are all anonymous, and some of the callers were, too.  So, we have a little information, none of it verifiable.  Brian Leiter says that this type of wiki is very helpful in the philosophy hiring market, and the commenters at Prawfs all seem to appreciate it, but I'm wondering if this type of information, other than being interesting and whetting one's appetite for more, actually affects decision-making.  In other words, is an FRC candidate able to do anything differently or better because of this information?

My instinct is that candidates will do the same thing (mostly wait for the phone to ring, then accept offers to interview) even if this thread becomes more complete.  Dan suggests that candidates will be able to know whether to hold a place on one's dance card for a dream school or whether to go ahead and accept the bird in the hand.  These two scenarios are at different times, so let's think about them differently.  Yes, if the information were complete and perfect, one who was turning down offers to interview to save spots might then be able to know whether to free up those spots.  OK, this was not really me.  I would think that maybe 10% or less of these 500 candidates are turning down offers to interview with plausible schools to hold spots.  There are a lot of spots.  I think I had 25 interviews at the conference, and only turned a few schools down the last week because they seemed like schools I would never go to under any circumstances and I wanted to conserve my energy/voice/etc.  I definitely know people who had more.  If your dance card is getting really full, then congratulations -- you seem to be doing fine on your own!  At the offer stage, it would be nice to know if the person who is holding on to an offer at a school were you are #2 is going to keep holding.  I wonder if any wiki is going to be able to get that information because the offer holder has very little incentive to divulge either the offer, or more importantly, her intentions.  So, let's go with the experiment and see what happens!

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