Academic Careers Program

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What makes a strong candidate for the US law teaching market?
  2. How important are grades?
  3. Do lower ranked law schools require the same credentials?
  4. Is there an ideal post-graduate position?
  5. How does the framework for becoming a clinical professor differ from the framework for becoming an academic law professor? Are you expected to publish?
  6. I have my law degree from a country other than the US, is it possible for me to teach in an American law school?
  7. Is there a way to find law teaching jobs without attending the AALS Conference in Washington, DC?
  8. I want to teach as an adjunct, what should I do?
  9. I have an offer to teach as an adjunct, will it help me get a tenure track position?
  10. Should I get an LLM or other advanced degree?
  11. I only want to teach in the New York metro area, how should I conduct my job search?
  12. How are co-authored articles viewed by faculty appointments committees? What about non-legal scholarly writing?
  13. How many people attend the AALS Hiring Conference and how many get hired?

 

1. What makes a strong candidate for the US law teaching market?

A strong candidate for the US law teaching market has several published law review articles and can articulate the direction of their future scholarship. Top grades, an editorial position with a law review or journal, a federal clerkship, and several years of interesting work experience or a graduate degree are also likely to attract a hiring committee.

2. How important are grades?

Grades are important, but they are not the only factor a law school will consider. If your grades are not strong, you will need to evidence your intellectual depth in another way—most likely by your scholarly writing.

3. Do lower ranked US law schools require the same credentials?

Generally yes. The difference is one of degree. A new tenure-track hire at a top-ten law school may have graduated at the top of her class from a top-five law school, served as a law review editor, clerked for the Supreme Court, and published an interesting law review article while pursuing a graduate degree. A new tenure-track hire at a second or third tier law school may have strong grades from a top-ten law school, served as a law review editor, clerked for a federal court of appeals, and published two practitioner pieces while working as an associate at a well known law firm. But there is no hard and fast rule, and the process can be unpredictable.

4. Is there an ideal post-graduate position?

Not really. Working for a reputable national law firm is fine. More prestigious positions, such as the Department of Justice Honors Program, are helpful. In some areas of teaching, such as tax or securities, it is very helpful to have related practice experience. Since publications are important, the ideal position may be one which allows you time to write. Fellowships and visiting positions are becoming more commonplace and provide a number of benefits.

5. How does the framework for becoming a clinical professor differ from the framework for becoming an academic law professor? Are you expected to publish?

Unlike academic teaching positions, where publications, grades, law review, and clerkships are consistently considered important criteria by most hiring committees, credentials for clinical positions vary widely by law school and position. Some law schools expect legal scholarship from their clinical faculty, while others expect little or no scholarship—or define scholarship very broadly. Unlike academic positions, one thing all clinical hiring committees will look for is strong, relevant practice experience. Taking a clinic as a law student is also helpful.

6. I have my first law degree from a country other than the US; is it possible for me to teach at a US law school?

Possible, but difficult. The process is the same as for an American-trained lawyer. A foreign-trained attorney is at a disadvantage because he or she may not have the education or experience to teach a number of the basic subjects offered in an American law school, and may not have any English language publications or publications in US law reviews. Completing graduate studies in the US will be helpful, particularly if you use the opportunity to pursue legal scholarship and build strong relationships with US law professors. Some candidates may decide it is worthwhile to apply for a JD program at an American law school, but you should be aware there is some tension between building a strong résumé for the US law teaching market and building a résumé for non-US markets. It is best to consult the Academic Careers Program and faculty mentors as you consider your options.

If you are already teaching at a foreign law school, you should use your existing academic network to indicate your interest to those American institutions offering courses in your area of expertise.

7. Is there a way to find law teaching jobs without attending the AALS Conference in Washington, DC.?

Generally no. School that are hiring new faculty expect to interview candidates at the conference. If you do not attend, law schools may assume you are not committed to a career in law teaching. However, the AALS publishes a Placement Bulletin six times each academic year that lists teaching, administrative, and legal writing positions, as well as fellowships. If you register to attend the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference, you will automatically receive the Placement Bulletin. If you are not attending the conference, you can subscribe to the Placement Bulletin. The Placement Bulletin is also available in the NYU Law Office of Career Services. Finally, you can contact law schools directly to see if they have any positions available.

8. I want to teach as an adjunct; what should I do?

The best way to find an adjunct position is to have (or make) a connection with a law school and determine what courses they plan to offer in the upcoming semester that still need instructors. Then send your application materials to the Dean of the school. You can also "pitch" a course to the Dean, but recognize many schools do not have the flexibility to add unique courses beyond basic law school offerings.

9. I have an offer to teach as an adjunct; will it help me get a tenure track position?

No. Teaching as an adjunct is irrelevant when it comes to getting a tenure track position. Even worse, it can be a detriment, as the time commitment may interfere with your ability to write and publish.

10. I have a JD from a US law school; should I get an LLM or other advanced degree?

There is no easy answer to this question. An LLM degree, on its own, is unlikely to increase your marketability. It may, however, give you an opportunity to complete more scholarly writing (which will make you more marketable). If you do apply to a graduate law program, make sure it is at a top law school.

A PhD in a non-law program is a different story. Graduate degrees in fields related to law are becoming more common as law becomes increasingly interdisciplinary, and it is an accepted post-law school option. Because graduate programs require a substantial investment of time (and often money), you should only pursue such a program if you are truly interested in the field and the work required by the program. Solicit the advice of your mentors as you consider which graduate programs may provide the best fit with your scholarly interests.

11. I only want to teach in the New York metro area; how should I conduct my job search?

There is really only one answer to the question of geographic limitations: If you really want to become a law professor, you must be open to working outside of New York (or Chicago, or Boston, etc.). The Academic Careers Program strongly recommends that you do not indicate any geographic limitations on your AALS Faculty Appointments Registry form, and that you meet with all interested law schools at the AALS conference. The more schools you meet with, the more offers you may receive. Job offers often generate more job offers. You can always consider geography after you receive multiple positions.

12. How are co-authored articles viewed by faculty appointments committees? What about non-legal scholarly writing?

Unless you are identified as the primary author, the problem with co-authored articles is that it is impossible for a faculty hiring committee to attribute specific ideas, analysis, or writing to you. Without more, co-authored articles make it difficult to determine your scholarly potential. Thus, the core of your "scholarly portfolio" should be your work. There is, however, a growing acceptance of co-authored works for those working in interdisciplinary areas, such as law and the social sciences.

Non-legal scholarly writing is useful if it relates to your legal scholarly work, although it will not carry as much weight as legal scholarship. If the non-legal writing is unrelated (for example, your scholarly agenda focuses on federal jurisdiction, and in your past life as a botanist you wrote three articles about peonies), it is unlikely to make a difference.

13. How many people attend the AALS Hiring Conference and how many get hired?

The most recent statistics compiled by the AALS reflect the 2002-03 hiring year. In that year, 927 people were listed in the Faculty Appointments Registry. Over the last twelve years, the success rate (including both tenure and non-tenure track hiring) has averaged 11.3% (from a low of 7.2% to a high of 15%).