October 13, 2011
To Market, to Market
Posted by Usha Rodrigues

The AALS hiring conference for law profs, aka the "Meat Market" is this weekend, and I'm flying out tonight night as part of Georgia Law's hiring team.  This is my first time at the D.C. conference as interviewer--and so it's my first time at the Wardman Park since having been the "meat".  I'm curious as to what I'll find.  I've scanned the obvious suspects for buzz about hiring this year.  The results:

For the interviewees: tips from Lyrissa Lidsky, Bridget Crawford, and Paul Horwitz (twice).  For the interviewers: advice from Paul Horwitz.  Here's something for those who believe we're pointlessly reproducing a morally bankrupt hierarchy.  There's also been an interesting discussion on dual-academic couples (a topic close to the Glom heart), started by Jeffrey Harrison, and continued by Howard Wasserman, and Jennifer Hendricks

I'll offer one reflection on my last experience of the meat market.  As an interviewee, I felt like a party crasher.  Don't get me wrong, I was very lucky--not only lucky to end up at Georgia Law, but lucky throughout the AALS conference.   I went on the market while in practice (I told my firm I had a wedding to attend, because even law firm partners admit you can't reschedule that), so I was at a disadvantage. I thought Virginia Law did a great job of supporting me--most notably by insisting I moot my talk BEFORE the meat market. I had a wealth of interviews, at some incredibly impressive schools.  I had it good.

Still, I couldn't help feeling like there was a market within the market--and that that inner circle was where the cool kids were.  Several things conspired to create this impression.  First, I heard about the "books" of resumes that Yale and other schools sent out for their alums.  Second, I observed during the awkward loitering-outside-the-interview-room time that a lot of my fellow interviewees knew each other.  Same 5 law schools, same 4 fellowships, same set of 20? 40? people who had been in this world for a while.  Finally, I had been in touch with a former professor who said he wasn't interviewing but would be at the market, and urged me to drop by.  Somewhat puzzled, I did so, and realized after a few minutes that he was hosting a special suite Columbia Law had provided as a hospitable resting place for its grads between interviews.  Me? I slummed it in the hotel lobby, rereading Possession and trying not to stress out.

I may sound like I'm complaining, and I don't mean to.  Again, my alma mater was incredibly supportive throughout the hiring process, and I was and remain thrilled with where I ended up.  I just felt a bit like there were at least two--maybe three--markets (the third being made up of attorneys who'd practised for X number of years and thought "I can teach law!"). 

Have things changed? The biggest change since the "old times" when I went on the market is the dominance of VAPs and fellowships. I have decidedly mixed feelings about these programs, but I wonder whether they have, if not eliminated the presence of a "market within the market," at least diversified the membership of the inner circle. I hope so. 

The best piece of advice I got through the process--advice I took to heart--was "have fun."  Never again will you have so many people interested in hearing what you have to say and engaging with it.  Enjoy yourself, and you'll convince others that you really can do this for a living. 

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