Should Aspiring Law Professors Roll the Dice with this Year’s “Meat Market”?

Most insiders I have talked to believe that this year’s job market for entry-level law professors will be awful, due to the impact of the recession. Getting a lawprof position is not easy even in a good year; for example, in 2006-2007, the last year for which I could find data, only 13.7% of applicants in the American Association of Law Schools roster were successful. This year, the odds are likely to be much worse.

A number of aspiring law professors have asked me whether they should apply to this year’s “meat market” anyway. On the upside, it seems like it can’t hurt to try. An unsuccessful applicant can reapply next year. On the other hand, you might end up taking a much worse position than you could have gotten in a more normal year. Moreover, I have heard that some appointments committees don’t like to reevaluate applicants who were rejected in a previous year unless they have some new outstanding achievement on their CV (such as a major new publication).

I’m not sure which side of this argument is correct, if either. Obviously, much depends on the circumstances of the particular applicant. For example, an applicant who can instead ride out the next year or two in a good fellowship or visiting appointment can more easily defer than one who can’t. But there may be some generally relevant considerations nonetheless. So I solicit comments from those better informed than I am, particularly senior lawprofs who serve on appointments committees. What do you think? Should entry-level candidates take the plunge this year or not?