Law School Professor, Taking Questions

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samiseaborn
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby samiseaborn » Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:43 pm

I'm actually out of school for a few years, but looking to start writing. Can you explain SSRN and when/how/why one publishes there? It seems popular but I'm unfamiliar.

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TheJanitor6203
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby TheJanitor6203 » Thu Sep 12, 2013 6:07 pm

LawProfessor123, thanks for answering questions. I've wanted to ask this question for a while now and you're probably the perfect person to ask. I think that I'd be interested in academia down the road once I've practiced for a while but I have noticed that virtually every law professor is from YH. Why is this? I don't have the numbers for one of these schools and I probably won’t be in the T14 either so how much does that limit your ability to become a professor?

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kalvano
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby kalvano » Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:57 pm

He hasn't logged in in months, I don't think he is still taking questions.

But to the above, if you think Biglaw firms are prestige whores, they are amateurs next to law schools. Without going to HYS, maybe Chicago or Columbia, your chances of being a law professor are so infinitesimally small as to be mind-boggling.

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TheJanitor6203
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby TheJanitor6203 » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:10 pm

kalvano wrote:He hasn't logged in in months, I don't think he is still taking questions.

But to the above, if you think Biglaw firms are prestige whores, they are amateurs next to law schools. Without going to HYS, maybe Chicago or Columbia, your chances of being a law professor are so infinitesimally small as to be mind-boggling.

I've gathered that but my main question is why? It seems like law schools would be happy to hire their own grads as profs atleast..

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kalvano
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby kalvano » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:18 pm

Why is it the top 14? Why is Harvard or Cornell so much better? If you want real, concrete reasons, good luck with that. Law hiring is all about image and name. And the competition is so intense for law professor spots that it's an easy way to sort candidates right off the bat.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:19 pm

TheJanitor6203 wrote:I've gathered that but my main question is why? It seems like law schools would be happy to hire their own grads as profs atleast.

This happens to some extent - that is, the lower you go down the law school food chain, there are usually a few of the schools' own grads teaching there (so, say, a Loyola grad who gets a job in academia may be more likely to get hired at Loyola than anywhere else). However, you underestimate the influence of prestige in academic hiring. Lower ranked schools know exactly where they rank and they want people from the top-ranked schools. I would also bet that most grads of the non-top ranked schools who get academic jobs are teaching legal writing or clinics rather than doctrinal courses.

(Also, in academia generally, hiring your own grads is generally looked down on, both to diversify intellectual approaches, and for fear it will look like the hire was based on favoritism/nepotism, not merit.)

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John_rizzy_rawls
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby John_rizzy_rawls » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:31 pm

Reposting so maybe kalvano or nony can take a crack at it -

John_rizzy_rawls wrote:Thanks a lot for taking questions, good thread.

TLS often makes legal academia sound like the pipiest of pipe dreams. You're not presenting it quite that way. Seems like a combination of 1) publications 2) institutional support and mentorship 3) school prestige and 4) flexibility, in that order, gives someone a decent chance of finding work in legal academia.

So if someone were to attend a T14, garner good mentorship/guidance, focus on a note and other scholarly work, and maybe do a good year or two of clerkship or firm work, that person has a "good" chance of being hired?

If so, why is landing academia seen as nearly impossible? Is it that it's not the primary focus of most T14 students, or that publishing is difficult?

Just trying to get a decent handle on whether I'm reading your advice correctly and if so why the general attitude I've seen around here is what it is.

Thanks.

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kalvano
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby kalvano » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:40 pm

It's very hard to do because it's a combination of intangibles along with luck and a very small number of available jobs. You have to publish a lot, you have to have impressive credentials, and a committee of faculty has to like you.

I guess if you were willing to work at Bumblefuck Law School in the middle of nowhere and not ranked, someone with decent credentials could get a law professor job. But if you wanted to work at a decently ranked school, you'd need credential well over and above impressive. For example, most of my professors at SMU (a borderline Tier 1 / Tier 2) were from Stanford, Yale, and Harvard, with a smattering of Columbia and UVA. One of them was from Villanova, but he was hired over 30 years and was a top-notch AUSA before being hired. A few were SCOTUS clerks, and some are oft-cited experts in their fields. Boils down to supply and demand. If there are two spots open for an assistant professor, who do you think is going to get cut first, the Georgetown guy or the Harvard guy?

Again, that applies to schools that are generally considered "good" law schools. If you're willing to work at any school anywhere, that probably opens up quite a few more doors. But if you want to be at a good school in a good location, your options are very limited.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Sep 12, 2013 10:05 pm

Okay, I'll take a crack at it. (To the extent I know anything about this.) WARNING: WALL O' TEXT AHEAD.

John_rizzy_rawls wrote:TLS often makes legal academia sound like the pipiest of pipe dreams. You're not presenting it quite that way. Seems like a combination of 1) publications 2) institutional support and mentorship 3) school prestige and 4) flexibility, in that order, gives someone a decent chance of finding work in legal academia.

So if someone were to attend a T14, garner good mentorship/guidance, focus on a note and other scholarly work, and maybe do a good year or two of clerkship or firm work, that person has a "good" chance of being hired?

I think to a large extent this is true (with a couple of caveats below). While HYS are clearly the top schools for academia (followed by maybe Columbia and Chicago), publications are really the key to the realm. If you can write and place good law review articles, that's largely more important than where you went to school.

However, the likelihood of writing/placing good law review articles isn't independent of where you go to school. First, schools like HYS/CC are more interested in placing students into academia and probably offer better resources and training in doing so than other schools. (Think about how much everyone complains about their CSO when they're trying to get a biglaw gig, which is what the majority of students are trying to do; if academia isn't a thing for most of your students, you may not be able to give a lot of support.)

Second, the vast majority of law reviews do not use blind review, so LR editors know what school you're attending/attended when deciding whether to publish your article. Prestige/reputation can certainly play a role in whose articles get published, although people debate over how big a role.

Also, pedigree may play a bigger role in getting placement in the most highly-ranked law reviews. (I can't speak to this directly because I wasn't selecting articles at a top-ranked law review, but it may be that the LR boards at those schools are more pedigree conscious (however that works. The current issue of the Harvard Law Review, for instance, has articles by authors who went to Harvard and Yale and that's it).

Third, connections are always great, and legal profession's equation of prestige with quality means that highly-placed connections are better than less highly-placed connections (this is your mentorship/guidance bit). This probably doesn't really explain the gulf between HYS/CC and the rest of the T14, because the profs at all of the T14 are pretty damn impressive. But it may be that HYS/CC have enough higher concentrations of academic powerhouse profs to make a difference. I think this can also extend to the connections you make with students in your class, and here the self-selection of people who want academia into HYS may play a part in explaining those schools' dominance.

If so, why is landing academia seen as nearly impossible? Is it that it's not the primary focus of most T14 students, or that publishing is difficult?

I don't think publishing per se is necessarily very difficult; Washington & Lee ranks LRs and includes 217 general LRs in the US (it balloons to 891 if you add specialized journals). But where you publish matters a lot. My LR (not top-ranked - around top 50) had literally thousands of submissions for 12-16 publications. (And we didn't publish student work.)

(This is leaving aside the potential difficulty in coming up with appropriate article topics that you can execute well, as part of a defined academic research agenda extending into the first stage of your academic career. I have a skewed perspective on this because I come from an academic background expecting longer study and more in-depth research than a JD affords before you could have anything to say about a subject, but obviously lots of JDs handle this just fine. But I'm sure this part ends up being tough for some people.)

I think the biggest thing is just that there aren't very many jobs (especially compared to the other options for high-performing grads from top schools). There are, what, ~200 ABA-accredited schools? Not all of them will hire new faculty every year. Not all of them will hire in every field every year. So what field you want to research plays a part as well. Common wisdom holds that a gazillion people want to research constitutional law issues, whereas most schools don't need hordes of con law scholars. While certain fields are frequently in demand (I think a lot of the "business" courses are frequently in demand, in part because people who are really into business stuff enough to want to teach/research it enjoy biglaw so don't go into academia), you may not know what openings there will be when you're choosing what to write about (and personally, I think that's a bad way to choose a research agenda).

Plus, academic hiring happens on a fairly strict, once-a-year schedule. It's not limited to people who graduated in a given year the way that entry-level biglaw hiring works. It doesn't hire throughout the year the way that lateral/mid/smalllaw hiring happens. And you have to be willing to go anywhere in the country to get a job.

So, my first caveat is that I think you can have a "good" chance coming from a T14 (even if you have a better chance at HYS(CC)), and that I think the big thing is producing good scholarship more than anything else. But if you go websites for a variety of law schools, and look at who's been hired in the last 3-5 years, they're almost universally going to have graduated in the top X % of their class (where X = some small number) [assuming the school ranked], have been on LR, done a very competitive COA or perhaps SCOTUS clerkship, and worked somewhere extremely selective. Even at the T14, not everyone can do this. When people talk about getting biglaw out of a TT/TTT, people always point out that sure, it's possible, but you have to be top 5-10% and 90% won't be. That's kind of how it usually looks to get academia, regardless of what school you go to. HYS may let you graduate lower in the class (and they don't actually rank, do they?), in the way that going to a T14 means you can get biglaw at median rather than top 10%. But it's just a hard thing to bank on. The people out there who got biglaw from a TTT will tell you that it's possible, but if someone showed up here asking whether they should go to a TTT to work in biglaw, everyone here will tell them not to do it. I think that's how people here talk about going into academia.

(My second caveat is that this is my understanding, based on my non-legal academic background and my research into legal academia as a possible career path. But I didn't end up even trying for legal academia, so in that respect it's very much an outsider's view, so take it with a grain of salt.)

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John_rizzy_rawls
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby John_rizzy_rawls » Fri Sep 13, 2013 6:02 am

That is all just insanely helpful. Thanks a bunch :)

Alexandria
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby Alexandria » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:07 pm

I don't think you can underestimate the role of institutional support -- not just in getting your former professors to pick up the phone to tell schools to hire you and in helping you understand how the system works, but in providing you the resources you need to think and write like an academic. I think that is what H and Y do particularly well. But the other schools that routinely send alums into academia can provide that support, too -- there just probably won't be as formalized a structure.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that if you aren't from HY, your chances are minuscule. It is all about being a credible academic. Your ideas have to be interesting, your work has to be good, and you need to be competent at discussing it. If you have those things down, you aren't going to be turned away because you went to Duke.

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manofjustice
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby manofjustice » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:41 pm

The law relies on authority. Certain words count, certain words don't. Two variables govern: who wrote the words--as in, their official or procedural capacity--and why the person wrote the words.

Legal academia seems to follow the same rule. Does it? Should it?

Contrast with science or philosophy: while some people may get more visibility than others, when push comes to shove, no one says a scientific or philosophical argument is either strong or weak based on who made it. In fact, in these fields, "appealing to authority" is a fallacy.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:49 pm

No one says an argument is strong/weak based on who made it in legal academia, either, and if that was the impression I gave, I was in error. But law is obsessed with prestige and that can have an effect, not so much on whether someone makes a good legal argument or not, but whether someone has the opportunity to get the good legal argument out there at all. I also think you underestimate the role of prestige/connections in philosophy/science.

LawProfessor123
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby LawProfessor123 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:17 am

The route you describe would be the traditional path to academia and traditionally would ensure a good chance of being hired on the tenure track, somewhere. All hiring has been thrown in the air due to the crash in law school applicants. There are now plenty of aspiring professors who fit the typical profile (T10, clerkship, 2-3years biglaw, 2-4 publications, VAP) who cannot find tenure track jobs.

Putting present circumstances aside (in which economics makes finding a job very difficult), I would suggest that it's very difficult to find a job in legal academia because the vast majority of folks just aren't cut out for it. Most normal people are not willing to spend months slaving over an article draft, often in isolation. It takes a certain type of person to be research-oriented, and most people who go to law school want to actually do things -- argue in court, draft deal documents, negotiate settlements, and so on. Again, putting aside the current economic climate, I don't think it's "impossible" to get a job in academia. It's just that it's fairly unusual to be the type of person that is desired in this field.

John_rizzy_rawls wrote:Thanks a lot for taking questions, good thread.

TLS often makes legal academia sound like the pipiest of pipe dreams. You're not presenting it quite that way. Seems like a combination of 1) publications 2) institutional support and mentorship 3) school prestige and 4) flexibility, in that order, gives someone a decent chance of finding work in legal academia.

So if someone were to attend a T10, garner good mentorship/guidance, focus on a note and other scholarly work, and maybe do a good year or two of clerkship or firm work, that person has a good chance of being hired?

If so, why is landing academia seen as nearly impossible? Is it that it's not the primary focus of most T14 students, or that publishing is difficult?

Just trying to get a decent handle on whether I'm reading your advice correctly and if so why the general attitude I've seen around here is what it is.

Thanks.
Last edited by LawProfessor123 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:08 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby LawProfessor123 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:22 am

An LLM in tax would likely be valued by hiring committees. However, if you have substantial practical tax experience, you should have no problem credibly showing you are a tax expert. The LLM program might give you additional opportunities to write in the tax field.

I doubt that a CPA credential would receive any weight or anything more than minimal weight by hiring committees. It might help in finding a non-academic job, though.

If you want to be a tax professor, get a job as a tax lawyer. Treasury Dept or DC office of IRS or biglaw would all be good. I don't think accounting firms would be as impressive.

It's easy to get published. There are journals out there who publish pretty much anything. Your challenge is finding something worthwhile to say. Ultimately, academia is a good place if you already have the drive to research and publish. If you want to research and publish simply because you think it would be cool to be a professor, you probably wont' like this job and would be better suited to the real world.

JJ123 wrote:My undergraduate is in accounting and finance, and I would like to focus on tax law, with the goal of landing in academia eventually. Toward that end:

1. Do you think an LLM in tax/JD joint degree would make much difference compared to just taking tax classes in my JD program?
2. Would passing the CPA exam help?
3. What type of work experience would help in this regard? IRS attorney, big 4, big law, clerkships?
4. I understand that publishing is very important. What steps can I take as an undergrad/law student to get published?
Last edited by LawProfessor123 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby LawProfessor123 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:22 am

SSRN is just a repository site for draft or published papers. If you write anything half-intelligent, you can post it on that site.

samiseaborn wrote:I'm actually out of school for a few years, but looking to start writing. Can you explain SSRN and when/how/why one publishes there? It seems popular but I'm unfamiliar.

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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby LawProfessor123 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:24 am

Outside of T14 will make things more difficult, but not impossible. Focus on publications, above all else. It may also be easier to get into academia from a non-T14 school if you are interested in things like patent law or tax, rather than conlaw (in which case you may be competing with various HYS graduates with SCOTUS clerkships under their belt).

TheJanitor6203 wrote:LawProfessor123, thanks for answering questions. I've wanted to ask this question for a while now and you're probably the perfect person to ask. I think that I'd be interested in academia down the road once I've practiced for a while but I have noticed that virtually every law professor is from YH. Why is this? I don't have the numbers for one of these schools and I probably won’t be in the T14 either so how much does that limit your ability to become a professor?
Last edited by LawProfessor123 on Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby LawProfessor123 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 1:25 am

Hah. Keep in mind that the faculty at any random T100 school is likely to be made up mostly of people who graduated from the T14. THere may be some schools that like to hire their own students, but generally top law school grads are preferred.

TheJanitor6203 wrote:
kalvano wrote:He hasn't logged in in months, I don't think he is still taking questions.

But to the above, if you think Biglaw firms are prestige whores, they are amateurs next to law schools. Without going to HYS, maybe Chicago or Columbia, your chances of being a law professor are so infinitesimally small as to be mind-boggling.

I've gathered that but my main question is why? It seems like law schools would be happy to hire their own grads as profs atleast..

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JazzOne
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Re: Law School Professor, Taking Questions

Postby JazzOne » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:27 am

LawProfessor123 wrote:I even wonder, if Harvard's law faculty transported to Cooley, how much higher would Cooley go?

:lol:

Brilliant H trolling!




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