Law Professor Plans in PS?

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SeattleStudent

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Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by SeattleStudent » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:08 am

In my PS I talk about being interested in working in the field of national civil rights law or international human rights law for seven to ten years, and later, becoming a professor of law in one of those areas. Becoming a professor is weaved into the end of my PS, which focuses heavily on my pathway in education and my desire to go to law school.

How do you think long-term career plans in a PS are viewed by ad-comms? I'll admit that I don't know any law professors (but do know several undergrad professors), so my knowledge of the pathway to becoming a law professor specifically is limited...Any advice?

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urbanist11

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doublehoohopeful

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by doublehoohopeful » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:23 am

Not sure I'd do that. Pick one overarching theme for your PS and stick with it. Without serious experience in civil rights or international human rights (people on here will tell you those are unicorn jobs, if they even exist at all), I think it would be misguided to write about it in your PS. Regarding your question about talking about becoming a law professor, I think it would come across as naive.

SeattleStudent

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by SeattleStudent » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:35 am

Thanks for the advice! Would either of you be up for reading my PS to see if more context might make this work? I would gladly return the favor if you desired a PS reader, too. If not, no sweat, and thanks for the responses. I will definitely take the advice into consideration.

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pancakes3

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by pancakes3 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:36 am

wow. just wow.

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rnoodles

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by rnoodles » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:38 am

SeattleStudent wrote:In my PS I talk about being interested in working in the field of national civil rights law or international human rights law for seven to ten years, and later, becoming a professor of law in one of those areas. Becoming a professor is weaved into the end of my PS, which focuses heavily on my pathway in education and my desire to go to law school.

How do you think long-term career plans in a PS are viewed by ad-comms? I'll admit that I don't know any law professors (but do know several undergrad professors), so my knowledge of the pathway to becoming a law professor specifically is limited...Any advice?
I'll just say this, and anyone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the general rule is T14 top of class to go into academia. Of course, a lot of people are profs who didn't go to T14 schools, but they are still often LR, top of their respective classes kind of people. If they're not, I'd say they're more the exception than the rule.

SeattleStudent

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by SeattleStudent » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:42 am

That's one thing I had thought of ^
And since the idea of living in academia forever appeals to me, I thought it might be a selling point to the T14's I apply to (but maybe it won't be, after all...)

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by A. Nony Mouse » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:14 am

Saying you want academia is not at all going to be a selling point to T14s, if you are in a position where you need to sell yourself to those schools. It's not that academics are from top schools, so therefore telling a top school you want to be an academic will you get you in; it doesn't work that way. Law schools have been shrinking, and jobs in legal academia are extremely difficult to get. Academics are from top schools not because top schools select for academics, but because the market is so competitive, schools can afford to hire only people with top grades from top schools with top clerkships (and good publications) (and the top-ranked schools tend to have more resources to support academic aspirations). If you don't already have some kind of serious academic credentials (additional graduate degree, respectable publications, defined research agenda) along with stellar stats, talking about legal academia in your PS is likely to look very unrealistic.

That's not to say that you can't end up an academic without those current qualifications - just that it's going to look very unrealistic at this point to talk about entering academia without them. There are also actually tons of people who would like to be legal academics, so saying that's what you want doesn't make you a more appealing candidate.

If you're an otherwise strong candidate I don't think saying you want academia will hurt you (especially if it's a brief kind of "and here is an interest I have for the distant future" rather than a substantive focus), because your numbers carry by far the greatest weight in your application. But it's just really not likely to help you at all.

(Also, apologies in advance if this is garbled because it's been a long week and what makes sense in my head may not make sense to anyone else by this point.)

SeattleStudent

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by SeattleStudent » Sat Aug 15, 2015 2:15 am

Thanks A. Nony Mouse, and it does make sense (not garbled at all). My interests in becoming a law professor are definitely serious. I think what I was trying to do is finish my PS with a few lines about what I wanted to get out of my legal education. I read the HLS 55 books and many seemed to toss in a few lines at the end about how they wanted to use their degree.

I should have proposed this question sooner, as I've been working on this PS for four months! I would post it here, but it's rather personal, but I am comfortable with email.

Thanks for the excellent advice! I will be making changes.

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CanadianWolf

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by CanadianWolf » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:05 pm

"and the top-ranked [law] schools tend to have more resources to support academic aspirations"--can you share an example or two ? Thanks !

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by A. Nony Mouse » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:05 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:"and the top-ranked [law] schools tend to have more resources to support academic aspirations"--can you share an example or two ? Thanks !
I'm using top-ranked pretty generically here, so not parsing fine distinctions btw HYS and everyone else, but I'm thinking about programs intended to train future faculty. I know Columbia has (or had when I applied) a program along those lines - not sure how much the program actually accomplishes in practice, but even advertising it's something that the school offers suggest some kind of resources put into it and the possibility of getting guidance on the issue (T1 schools I looked at didn't have such programs).

I'm also thinking of things like Climenko fellowships and the non-Harvard equivalents. Obviously going to Harvard doesn't mean you get a Climenko (though the Chicago people often seemed to do well at getting the Chicago version), but if you are at a school that runs one of these kinds of programs, then there are people you can talk to about how they work, how to improve your chances at getting into one, and whether/why you might even want to. My law school (and I think most T1 schools) didn't run a fellowship program and didn't really offer support for these kinds of options. You could still go out and find it, I'm sure, but my sense is that top schools were better prepared to help guide students into this part of academia.

Alumni networks also make a difference, too - given the degree to which top school grads dominate in legal academic hiring, especially in more recent years, going to one of those schools gives you more connections in the field (I think there were about 4 alums of my school currently working as law profs when I was there). Connections in academia don't work strictly the same way as in practice, of course, but the network is still a resource.

Academia is still a difficult field to break into wherever you are; a top school isn't a guarantee and isn't strictly required. But I think the above resources available at top schools are likely to help.

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Mack.Hambleton

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by Mack.Hambleton » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:16 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:"and the top-ranked [law] schools tend to have more resources to support academic aspirations"--can you share an example or two ? Thanks !
NYU Furman program

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by A. Nony Mouse » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:20 pm

Mack.Hambleton wrote:
CanadianWolf wrote:"and the top-ranked [law] schools tend to have more resources to support academic aspirations"--can you share an example or two ? Thanks !
NYU Furman program
Yeah, that's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of when talking about Columbia above.

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debdeb2

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by debdeb2 » Sun Aug 16, 2015 5:09 pm

Hi Seattle - One of my personal sayings is "a personal statement is not a contract." One can freely discuss where she would like to be in the best of all possible worlds after law school, and know that she can change course and do something else without ramification. Specificity is typically a good thing in a personal statement - ambition, too.

What I would recommend in your case is nuance. Academia/research can be treated more broadly - for example, one could go work for an NGO or a think tank instead of becoming a professor, and still feel fulfilled in the academic sense (completing research, working with smart people with terminal degrees on big problems, mentoring young hopefuls). In short, if you have the backstory to back up a desire to have a career that is academic oriented, that could be worth mentioning (again in a nuanced way).

What sort of backstory might that be? If you were a research assistant in university; if you have publications or awards related to your writing; if you worked in a lab; if you helped a professor with a book chapter or manuscript; if you took on an independent project that had a significant impact; if you were an award-winning TA.

What you'd want to avoid is sounding too sparkly-eyed, which is what I sense people are warning you about. And because the personal statement is not an inherently formal piece of writing, I recognize that you could inadvertently hit a discordant note: "Here is a fun/emotional personal story. Also, please help make me a professor."

So back to nuance: ...after focusing my career on civil rights, I would consider seeking research or academic positions. My long-term goal is to publish/collaborate/influence/mentor, and would look for opportunities of that nature.

etc etc etc. Frame it as you will. My short answer is something closer to: say it without actually using the word "professor."

SeattleStudent

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Re: Law Professor Plans in PS?

Post by SeattleStudent » Sun Aug 16, 2015 8:46 pm

debdeb2 wrote:Hi Seattle - One of my personal sayings is "a personal statement is not a contract." One can freely discuss where she would like to be in the best of all possible worlds after law school, and know that she can change course and do something else without ramification. Specificity is typically a good thing in a personal statement - ambition, too.

What I would recommend in your case is nuance. Academia/research can be treated more broadly - for example, one could go work for an NGO or a think tank instead of becoming a professor, and still feel fulfilled in the academic sense (completing research, working with smart people with terminal degrees on big problems, mentoring young hopefuls). In short, if you have the backstory to back up a desire to have a career that is academic oriented, that could be worth mentioning (again in a nuanced way).

What sort of backstory might that be? If you were a research assistant in university; if you have publications or awards related to your writing; if you worked in a lab; if you helped a professor with a book chapter or manuscript; if you took on an independent project that had a significant impact; if you were an award-winning TA.

What you'd want to avoid is sounding too sparkly-eyed, which is what I sense people are warning you about. And because the personal statement is not an inherently formal piece of writing, I recognize that you could inadvertently hit a discordant note: "Here is a fun/emotional personal story. Also, please help make me a professor."

So back to nuance: ...after focusing my career on civil rights, I would consider seeking research or academic positions. My long-term goal is to publish/collaborate/influence/mentor, and would look for opportunities of that nature.

etc etc etc. Frame it as you will. My short answer is something closer to: say it without actually using the word "professor."
This is brilliant! Thank you for the response, it is really helping me shape this PS into something better : )

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