In the article “How to pursue a career in Professor at Law,” Anayat Durrani sticks close to various professors’ accounts of how they made their career. The paper opens with the story of Darian Ibrahim, and the advice he took and the wisdom he learned in the process of becoming a law professor. “For law students who may want to join academia, working for a professor is something I wholeheartedly suggest,” says Ibrahim, and explains why. Another professor, W. Bradley Wendel, is quoted as warning that being a professor is all about writing. To land the job, he says, “My strongest advice to teaching candidates is publish, publish, publish substantial articles in law reviews after you’ve graduated from law school.” The article fills out with plenty of further quotes from professors, such as Lawrence Solum, who pointed out that half of entry-level law professors hail from elite school such as Yale and Harvard, and such as from Eric Goldman, whose advice was the same, that “A student at a top-5 law school meets the initial criterion. A student from a top-20 law school can have a chance. A student at other law schools faces long odds.” This and other fine points a prospective professor should peruse and then consider are offered here.
Anayat Durrani keeps the ball rolling with this second part to the article “Becoming a Law Professor,” keeping to the theme of what actual professors have to say on the topic. Again we hear through the words of Mr. Madison that what matters is that you enjoy writing. He left his career at law because he enjoyed writing so much. The transition was difficult though, and required he go through “the AALS hiring conference three times, and moved his family twice,” and that the most difficult decision was “to give up practice” in the first place. Anayat warns that the transition from practitioner to teaching can be difficult. “The major challenge is moving from the problem-solving mind-set of practice to the more theoretical, policy-oriented focus of legal scholarship,” said Professor Gabriel Chin. He also confirmed that the best preparation for a lawyer to become a professor is to write a law review article, and see if he or she likes that sort of thing. The chances of becoming a professor are not greater even if you have practiced for 20 years, says professor Gordon Smith. Anayat also considers the route of becoming an adjunct professor, weighing the advantages and disadvantages. “The bottom line” says Smith, “is that you cannot talk about law school hiring without discussing scholarly potential.”
In his article, “What You Need to Know about Law Professorships,” veteran legal recruiter Harrison Barnes lays out the basic things you need to know if you wish to walk this daunting career path. Right off the bat he states some hard truths: the school you attended is very important. Yale Law School lands more new teaching candidates than any other. Other considerations, such as prestigious clerkships, very high grades, and membership on the school’s law review matter, but not as much as they once did. The bottom line is what sort of scholarly skill you can bring. Your experience at law firms won’t be as impressive as the degrees you’ve got. Barnes points out that a quarter of entry-level law professor jobs were filled by people with PhD’s. It makes sense, then, that you should be a scholarly minded individual, as writing comes first, teaching second. Barnes suggests taking 2-4 years to prepare for becoming a professor, to do a lot of reading and writing, and to take writing fellowships. He also recommends you be persistent, that “it’s a long hard road that takes a lot of work and commitment.” Finally, Barnes lays out what you should expect from a law professor job by way of compensation.
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