The Changing Entry-Level Market for Law Prof Jobs:
Over at CoOp, Corey Yung has an analysis of new entry level hires at law faculties, as collected so far by Larry Solum. As Corey notes, the really big switch based on the numbers so far is towards more candidates with fellowships and Visiting Assistant Professor gigs: Of the 95 new hires so far with bio info, 58 were fellows or VAPs. That's a huge shift in just the last few years.

  On the whole, I think this is a very good change. The culture of most law schools makes tenure a very low hurdle, meaning that entry level-hiring is hiring for an entire career unless the candidate decides to go elsewhere. It makes sense for law schools to get as much information as they can before making such hires: An extra year or two of preparation provides more recommendations, more writing, and usualy some teaching to help that decision be at least a little bit more informed.

  Plus, it's certainly rational for a candidate who can afford it to do a VAP or fellowship. The one or two years of training often provides a quantum leap in a candidate's marketability: You learn to walk the walk and talk the talk. If a candidate's goal is to go to the highest ranked or most prestigious school they can, it's very much worth it: It's much easier to get noticed as an entry-level than as a lateral. I don't like the fact that this favors wealthier candidates who can afford to take a low-paying fellowship for two years, but so it goes.

  The one concern I have from a school's perspective is that I suspect the new norm of the VAP/fellowship encourages more entry-level hiring than is optimal. Schools often debate the right mix between entry-level hiring and lateral hiring: entry level candidates are the folks who have never had a tenure-track job, while lateral candidates are usually tenured stand-outs from other (typically lower-ranked) schools. My own view is that schools that can get away with it should do as much lateral hiring as possible: The best way to build or maintain a top faculty is to hire proven scholars with known records.

  My sense is that the high numbers of VAP/fellowship entry-levels encourages more entry-level hiring, however, because it leads to the entry-level candidates being much more polished than the laterals. This may seem odd at first: How can a newbie be more polished than an old pro? The trick is that entry-level VAPs have been preparing their jobtalks for 2 straight years. They are quite likely to provide a very polished presentation after many moots and rounds of edits. The substance may be lacking, but the style is likely to be strong.

  In contrast, laterals candidates may be sitting at their office one day, get a call, and then may be giving a job talk in a few weeks that they have never given before or really thought through. It may be a decade or more since they went on the market or worried about these sorts of presentations. As a result, they'll tend to give much less polished presentations than entry-levels with VAP experience. Given the importance of polish and presentation to the hiring process — not a good thing, in my view, but my sense is that it's a reality of the hiring process — I fear that this will l lead to more entry-level hiring than is optimal among the schools that have a clear choice. Of course, this creates a market opportunity for the schools who recognize that to pick up strong laterals, but it's easier to recognize the market opportunity than to move a faculty to take advantage of it.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Job Talks for Laterals:
  2. The Changing Entry-Level Market for Law Prof Jobs: