Advice for New Law Teachers

If you’re just starting out as a law professor this fall, here’s my advice:

1) Prepare to spend much more time teaching than you expect. Teaching any class for the first time is intensely time consuming, especially when you have never taught before. Among new law teachers, it’s common to spend about 10-15 hours prepping for every hour of class you teach. As a result, teaching a single new course is a 40 hour-a-week job in addition to everything else you need to do. It’s worth it, as you need to invest the time to be able to do a good job. Plus, you’ll spend much less time prepping the next time you teach the course. But be prepared to put in the time.

2) Prepare to cover less material than you expect — and assign less reading accordingly. It’s common for new law professors to have very unrealistic expectations about how much students can read, and how quickly material can be covered. For a one-hour meeting, a reasonable assignment for first-years might be 15 pages (less at first) and for upper-level students 20 pages. That may mean you cover less material than you wanted, but that’s okay: It’s better to teach 600 of pages of material really well than 1,000 pages poorly.

3) Get out an article in the spring. It’s easy to get lost in all the prepping, teaching, faculty events, and committee work as a new professor. At the same time, my advice is to commit to writing something and sending it out to law reviews in the spring (around March 1) of your first year. There are three reasons for this. First, it gets you in the writing habit. Second, it will go a long way towards persuading your new colleagues that they hired someone who will be a productive scholar. Third, it gives you room for your tenure clock: By jumping out of the gate with a new article your first year, you get started on the tenure requirements early and won’t have to worry much about them later.

I realize the combination of (1) and (3) means that I recommend new professors work very long hours. And that’s right: In my experience, the very long hours devoted to doing the first year right (both from the standpoint of teaching and scholarship) pays major dividends later on.