How do I become a law professor...

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
bdubs
Posts: 3729
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:23 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby bdubs » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I meant friends, I'm a woman!

Could one pursue biglaw or work in a state's attorney office, while applying for academic jobs? Could it be that something opens up eventually if I'm patient?


Others can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's typical to have a few years of WE prior to going to the meat market. It does seem that teachers are of one or two breeds, those with minimal (few years) of work experience or veteran practitioners who do it as a side/retirement gig. There don't seem to be many law profs with 7-15 years of WE.


taxguy
Posts: 307
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:46 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby taxguy » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:25 pm

Make sure you know what you are getting into if you want to be a law professors.

First of all, all professorships are VERY political. You really need to have good connections and be on good terms with the current deans and/or faculty hiring committee.Even if you have sterling credentials, you will probably not get an academic job without these connections. Even if you do get a job, many times the existing dean retires and/or is replaced with a new dean who you may not get along with. This could definitely stifle your career. It really is political at every stage and stays political. It really isn't as you would imagine a university to be.

Secondly, it really does help to attend a top law school and graduate among the top of the class. Law review publications are essential as are publications in other academic journals. Traditional law schools weren't subject to the same academic crap that other professors were subject too. Law professors could publish practical articles in magazines that were read by practicing lawyers. Now law professors are expected to publish in academic journals that no one reads other than other law professors.
In case you think I am kidding, just ask some law professors and check where they have published their articles. Law reviews are good but count about half of the prestige of what an article in an academic journal would engender. Also where you publish your law review articles matter a lot too. Getting into Harvard Law Review is obviously much better than getting an article published in a "Purdunk law journal."

I wrote three books, one of which was an Amazon best seller. I was told by a law school dean, who was a friend from law school, that all my books were irrelevant because they were "too mainstream and practical." I kid you not!
In addition, having a PhD will really help you because these academic journals are requiring more esoteric stuff such as articles on law and ethics or law with a sociology bent etc. Using statistical analysis in articles does help a lot too.

Also working with a big law firm at some point in your career and clerking for a judge, preferably a federal judge, is also desireable for law professors.

Good luck becoming a professor. It is definitely harder than it seems.
Last edited by taxguy on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:31 pm

Well, you just made it seem really hard! If it's even hard than that, I'm in trouble :(

Oh goodness!

User avatar
paratactical
Posts: 5961
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:06 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby paratactical » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I meant friends, I'm a woman!

Could one pursue biglaw or work in a state's attorney office, while applying for academic jobs? Could it be that something opens up eventually if I'm patient?

Do you understand how difficult and demanding it is to get biglaw or state's attorney work, let alone how difficult and demanding the jobs are once you get them? I think you need to do some research on law school and the employment prospects.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:38 pm

Currently looking into this myself. A few observations:

1.) Grades don't really matter. You'll want to graduate with some distinction, but other than that, cum laude vs. magna vs. coif vs. summa isn't super important. BUT...

2.) For some fields -- con law, federal courts, civ pro, etc. -- a COA or USSC clerkship is really important. And obviously you need great grades for that. But outside of those fields, it's not such a big deal. I guess I'd put it this way: If you really wanted to teach property or bankruptcy or trusts, a law degree from HSYCh plus a published article plus a few years work experience in the relevant field would open up a LOT of doors.

3.) Speaking of HSYCh, as someone above noted, the academic feeder pecking order goes Yale -> big, huge dropoff -> Harvard -> imperceptible dropoff -> Stanford and Chicago (tie) -> big huge dropoff -> Columbia -> big, huge, massive dropoff -> NYU, Michigan, Boalt, Virginia. Some people even claim that the smaller class sizes and increased opportunity for faculty interaction at Stanford and (especially) Chicago make them preferable to Harvard.

4.) A JD is not strictly necessary, depending on the field. You may well have luck on the market with "only" a PhD.

5.) Speaking of work experience, 5 years is kind of the cutoff. More than that and it starts to count against you. BUT...

6.) This isn't true in some areas -- corporate law, property, tax, etc. And you can always wash away the "stain" of being out too long by publishing.

7.) Speaking of publishing, you're not going to get a sniff by law schools if you don't have an article placed in a top 100 law review. (Exceptions: If you are a Supreme Court clerk, or if you are in one of a few more specialized fields and have an article placed in one of the corresponding specialized journals.) Even then, you'll probably need a second one to be really successful.

8.) If you limit yourself to Chicago schools, the chances of getting a job are miniscule.

9.) That said, if you did get a U of C JD to go along with your PhD, you might look into a Visiting Assistant Professorship or a fellowship. Northwestern and Chicago-Kent both have good programs along the former lines, and Chicago's Bigelow program is, of course, notorious for placing alums really, really well.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:39 pm

paratactical wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I meant friends, I'm a woman!

Could one pursue biglaw or work in a state's attorney office, while applying for academic jobs? Could it be that something opens up eventually if I'm patient?

Do you understand how difficult and demanding it is to get biglaw or state's attorney work, let alone how difficult and demanding the jobs are once you get them? I think you need to do some research on law school and the employment prospects.


For biglaw, I know you have to be top 1/3 at a good school like U of C and you need to work 60-80 hours a week, once you're there.
For state's attorney, I know it's nowhere near difficult (even though it's changing) or as demanding as biglaw.

taxguy
Posts: 307
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:46 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby taxguy » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Currently looking into this myself. A few observations:

1.) Grades don't really matter. You'll want to graduate with some distinction, but other than that, cum laude vs. magna vs. coif vs. summa isn't super important. BUT...

2.) For some fields -- con law, federal courts, civ pro, etc. -- a COA or USSC clerkship is really important. And obviously you need great grades for that. But outside of those fields, it's not such a big deal. I guess I'd put it this way: If you really wanted to teach property or bankruptcy or trusts, a law degree from HSYCh plus a published article plus a few years work experience in the relevant field would open up a LOT of doors.

3.) Speaking of HSYCh, as someone above noted, the academic feeder pecking order goes Yale -> big, huge dropoff -> Harvard -> imperceptible dropoff -> Stanford and Chicago (tie) -> big huge dropoff -> Columbia -> big, huge, massive dropoff -> NYU, Michigan, Boalt, Virginia. Some people even claim that the smaller class sizes and increased opportunity for faculty interaction at Stanford and (especially) Chicago make them preferable to Harvard.

4.) A JD is not strictly necessary, depending on the field. You may well have luck on the market with "only" a PhD.

5.) Speaking of work experience, 5 years is kind of the cutoff. More than that and it starts to count against you. BUT...

6.) This isn't true in some areas -- corporate law, property, tax, etc. And you can always wash away the "stain" of being out too long by publishing.

7.) Speaking of publishing, you're not going to get a sniff by law schools if you don't have an article placed in a top 100 law review. (Exceptions: If you are a Supreme Court clerk, or if you are in one of a few more specialized fields and have an article placed in one of the corresponding specialized journals.) Even then, you'll probably need a second one to be really successful.

8.) If you limit yourself to Chicago schools, the chances of getting a job are miniscule.

9.) That said, if you did get a U of C JD to go along with your PhD, you might look into a Visiting Assistant Professorship or a fellowship. Northwestern and Chicago-Kent both have good programs along the former lines, and Chicago's Bigelow program is, of course, notorious for placing alums really, really well.


Item 3 isn't quite right. Yes, there are law schools that are very credential oriented,but there are many law schools that will take people who didn't attend the top 15 law schools. Just publish in great adademic journals and top law reviews, get good grades, get experience working for Big Law firm and/or clerkship, and you should have a shot. Network, Network and network some more especially with people you went to law school with. As I said, getting jobs as a professor and getting tenure is very, very political. Honestly where you attended law school isn't as important as your experience and publications.
Last edited by taxguy on Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Helmholtz
Posts: 4394
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:48 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Helmholtz » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:43 pm

Anonymous User wrote:For biglaw, I know you have to be top 1/3 at a good school like U of C and you need to work 60-80 hours a week, once you're there.


Am I reading this wrong? You absolutely do not need to be top 1/3 at U of C to get a biglaw job. 70% were getting biglaw/Art III clerkships even when the economy was in the tanker (or, at least more in the tanker than we are now).

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:43 pm

Wow, SO much good info on this thread. I am SO grateful!

I just looked into Bigelow and my panic attack subsided, haha ;)

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/bigelow/apply

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:47 pm

Helmholtz wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:For biglaw, I know you have to be top 1/3 at a good school like U of C and you need to work 60-80 hours a week, once you're there.


Am I reading this wrong? You absolutely do not need to be top 1/3 at U of C to get a biglaw job. 70% were getting biglaw/Art III clerkships even when the economy was in the tanker (or, at least more in the tanker than we are now).


Oh, I figured that things have gotten so bad that you should plan on being top 1/3. I do remember reading that ~65% got biglaw or great clerkships.

User avatar
Helmholtz
Posts: 4394
Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:48 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Helmholtz » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Helmholtz wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:For biglaw, I know you have to be top 1/3 at a good school like U of C and you need to work 60-80 hours a week, once you're there.


Am I reading this wrong? You absolutely do not need to be top 1/3 at U of C to get a biglaw job. 70% were getting biglaw/Art III clerkships even when the economy was in the tanker (or, at least more in the tanker than we are now).


Oh, I figured that things have gotten so bad that you should plan on being top 1/3. I do remember reading that ~65% got biglaw or great clerkships.


When things were good, Chicago was putting 85% or so into biglaw/great clerkships. A drop to 65-70% or so is a big hit, but the wide majority of the class is fine.

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:45 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:52 pm

bdubs wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:If you got an offer from Yale or Harvard, though, you'd have to take it instead of staying in Chicago.


Why? OP says she (he?) wants to stay in Chicago and is currently enrolled in a PhD program there. Going to Yale just for better academic job prospects seems a bit silly if s/he will have to add 2-3 more years of school on to do it, not to mention the additional cost of not having a stipend and possibly a scholarship.


Lol? OP really wants academia. Turning down Yale when you really want academia is absolutely ridiculous. I will grant that maybe - maybe - Harvard is more debateable if you're talking about a significant scholarship at Chicago vs. sticker at Harvard for job prospects, but Yale is an absolute no brainer.

And how in god's name would she be adding two more years of school to get a JD elsewhere? That's just nonsensical. Yes, there are joint JD/PhD programs to consider, but depending on how far along OP is on her PhD, you can generally write your dissertation remotely.

bdubs
Posts: 3729
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:23 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby bdubs » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:59 pm

ToTransferOrNot wrote:
bdubs wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:If you got an offer from Yale or Harvard, though, you'd have to take it instead of staying in Chicago.


Why? OP says she (he?) wants to stay in Chicago and is currently enrolled in a PhD program there. Going to Yale just for better academic job prospects seems a bit silly if s/he will have to add 2-3 more years of school on to do it, not to mention the additional cost of not having a stipend and possibly a scholarship.


Lol? OP really wants academia. Turning down Yale when you really want academia is absolutely ridiculous. I will grant that maybe - maybe - Harvard is more debateable if you're talking about a significant scholarship at Chicago vs. sticker at Harvard for job prospects, but Yale is an absolute no brainer.

And how in god's name would she be adding two more years of school to get a JD elsewhere? That's just nonsensical. Yes, there are joint JD/PhD programs to consider, but depending on how far along OP is on her PhD, you can generally write your dissertation remotely.


I was contrasting finishing a PhD at Chicago before going to Yale or Harvard to completing a JD simultaneously with her PhD. Depending on the type of research that OP is doing completing her dissertation remotely may not be feasible. Agreed that Yale produces far more legal academics, but its not as though she would be shut out purely based on her decision to go to Chicago.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:01 pm

Wow, it sounds like there are a ton of things to consider. I do see how important it would be to network and position myself for a Bigelow, at some point. But I should probably resolve myself to taking the appropriate steps to becoming a professor, while pursuing law for its own sake.

A lot to consider!

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:45 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:04 pm

OP: You should get in touch with Brian Leiter at UChicago. He's one of the bigger PhD names at the law school, and is one of the go-to folks for people here who want to break into legal academia. He'd be worth talking to about this, regardless of what you may think of him personally.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:09 pm

ToTransferOrNot wrote:OP: You should get in touch with Brian Leiter at UChicago. He's one of the bigger PhD names at the law school, and is one of the go-to folks for people here who want to break into legal academia. He'd be worth talking to about this, regardless of what you may think of him personally.


It's funny you say that, I was quite struck by his page when I was going through all of the faculty pages! So, does that mean you don't like him personally - all that much? ;)

ToTransferOrNot
Posts: 1928
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 12:45 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:OP: You should get in touch with Brian Leiter at UChicago. He's one of the bigger PhD names at the law school, and is one of the go-to folks for people here who want to break into legal academia. He'd be worth talking to about this, regardless of what you may think of him personally.


It's funny you say that, I was quite struck by his page when I was going through all of the faculty pages! So, does that mean you don't like him personally - all that much? ;)


I don't have much of an opinion, but I'm under the impression that he is a "you either love him or hate him" sort of figure in academia. I could be wrong on that, though.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:13 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
ToTransferOrNot wrote:OP: You should get in touch with Brian Leiter at UChicago. He's one of the bigger PhD names at the law school, and is one of the go-to folks for people here who want to break into legal academia. He'd be worth talking to about this, regardless of what you may think of him personally.


It's funny you say that, I was quite struck by his page when I was going through all of the faculty pages! So, does that mean you don't like him personally - all that much? ;)


I've had multiple exchanges with him. Always very willing to help and provide insightful advice in a timely manner.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:14 pm

Fair enough.

I should probably start working with a U of C professor. That couldn't hurt! Haha

User avatar
Cavalier
Posts: 1994
Joined: Mon Apr 13, 2009 6:13 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Cavalier » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:36 pm

Make law review, publish in law review, get prestigious clerkship, get fellowship, become entry level professor somewhere. No big deal.

User avatar
jpSartre
Posts: 326
Joined: Sun Jan 03, 2010 11:05 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby jpSartre » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:41 pm

do you already not contribute anything to society? if so, you're half way there

Anonymous User
Posts: 273376
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:48 pm

jpSartre wrote:do you already not contribute anything to society? if so, you're half way there


Tell me how you really feel about law professors!!! Haha

notanumber
Posts: 485
Joined: Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:28 pm

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby notanumber » Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:58 pm

jpSartre wrote:do you already not contribute anything to society? if so, you're half way there


I, too, enjoy posting demeaning and irrelevant comments about other people's career decisions. But I do suppose that it really is impossible to imagine a law professor ever doing anything productive. It's not like the current leader of the free world was once a law professor or anything crazy like that . . .


OP: This may be a bit cart-horse, but one thing to seriously consider when weighing the different schools is the impact that the necessary grade-striving at Chicago (compared to YS and H to a lesser extent) will have on your scholarly output and eventual career prospects. Grades many not matter too much, but you'll need to be near the top of the class which isn't even close to a guarantee at a school full of smart strivers like Chicago. When I was looking at schools, I got the impression that the more fungible grading systems at HYS allow one to focus more on scholarship and less on memorizing some professor's esoteric interpretation of some 19th century BLL rule. You still will have to work hard in your classes, but those systems make it easier to strategically prioritize.


ETA: Also, don't count your LSAT chickens before they hatch. Being a fantastic scholar will not help you overcome a good-but-not-great LSAT score. At HYS, for example, you'll be competing for admission against dozens of other people with PhD degrees and many of 'em will also have high LSAT scores. You need to do better than the rest of them. I know several brilliant folk with degrees from top schools and major publications who couldn't get into a top law school because of their LSAT score.

User avatar
dresden doll
Posts: 6802
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 1:11 am

Re: How do I become a law professor...

Postby dresden doll » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:34 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
dresden doll wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:
There is an argument that a lot of academic placement is self selection. Future academics don't end up at Columbia, NYU etc etc in large number. I wonder how true that is.


In my experience it holds, but my experience is exceedingly limited.


Your sex life isn't relevant DD.


Inapposite joke.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.