In the Future, Will a Ph.D. Be More Important to Get A Law Teaching Job — Or Less?

Over at CoOp, Dave Hoffman recently made an interesting prediction about the likely value, over the next few years, of having a Ph.D. to get an entry-level law teaching job:

There are more PhDs in the legal academy every year. They’ve all of the motivation in the world to demand the training as a credential for entry level hires, and as they age in their schools they will begin to flex their muscles. Looking ahead to 2015, I’d say that the current cutoff of schools that softly demand a PhD for entry level hires (i.e., 1-10 or thereabouts) will trend toward all of the top tier.

I’m not so sure. Such things are hard to measure, but my sense is that Ph.D.s are often overvalued in entry-level hiring right now. Hiring committees change every year, but some committees see them as a very big deal. Time will tell whether that perception is accurate. Right now that perception is based on a prediction about the kind of scholarship those with Ph.D. credentials are likely to produce — more serious and more important than those with just a J.D. But we don’t know if that prediction will pan out. Maybe it will. But maybe it won’t. And if it doesn’t, the preference for Ph.D.s. at some schools likely will soften. We may end up looking back at the present as a time when hiring committees overvalued the Ph.D. credential and schools tends to overhire Ph.D.s. Of course, Dave may be right that those on the inside will then want to replicate themselves. That much is human nature. But I suspect the track record of Ph.D.-versus-non-Ph.D. hires over the next decade will play a significant role in determining the long-term picture of how much the academy values the credential.

For more on these questions, Larry Ribstein has additional thoughts.