Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

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Darth Jar Jar
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Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Darth Jar Jar » Tue May 21, 2019 2:40 pm

Any advice for folks considering academia? 0L here, but a bit older than the typical prospective student and legitimately interested in becoming a professor.

It's tough, and there are things that can be done to better the odds, but beyond that, I am wondering if anyone has any advice with respect to modern academia. Or is it still HYS, clerkship, publish, and stay with your firm if it doesn't work out? It's my understanding that the classical path is becoming less common. Curious to know if there are other things folks can be doing proactively to improve their candidacy, starting in 0L.

Now, back to trolling SSRN! :D

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Hey_Everybody
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Hey_Everybody » Tue May 21, 2019 2:45 pm

Just anecdotally most of my profs in my 1L year followed the path you laid out. All but one went to HYS and did SCOTUS or feeder clerkships. I think that's why people say not to count on making it in academia, the odds of all those stars aligning seem insanely low and you definitely can't bank on it before starting law school.

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UVA2B
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by UVA2B » Tue May 21, 2019 3:10 pm

I would be surprised if “publish” won’t be the single-most differentiator for academia. Not simply the act of publishing en masse, but continually producing scholarship that other academics like/respect/want to acknowledge. I think the HYS smoke screen could become secondary to who has published your scholarship (to the extent that those two things can be separated).

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Hey_Everybody
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Hey_Everybody » Tue May 21, 2019 3:13 pm

Forgot to mention that at least two profs also had PHDs in another field (one from Harvard, one from MIT). So that's another credential you may need to check off.

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necho2
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by necho2 » Tue May 21, 2019 3:28 pm

Hey_Everybody wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 3:13 pm
Forgot to mention that at least two profs also had PHDs in another field (one from Harvard, one from MIT). So that's another credential you may need to check off.
Yeah check the academic hiring results that lawprofblog and Leiter (grr) put out each. Sort by "other degree" and see how many have a PhD or something else.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Stranger » Tue May 21, 2019 3:38 pm

Anecdotally, none of my 1L professors holds a degree from HYS. I had one prof from Chicago, one with a couple of advanced degrees from Columbia, two Duke JDs who held LLMs, another Duke JD, an extremely well-published Akron JD, a South Carolina JD who was a clinical professor helping on the doctrinal side of the house in his specialty, and a writing prof with a JD from NYLS (but who had served on the NYT editorial board before law school, and then clerked). I'm guessing that for clinical profs, the degree doesn't matter worth a damn compared to their accomplishments, and the Akron JD is an anomaly who's teaching on the strength of his publishing (and was an excellent professor, so no complaints there). Beyond those two, and the writing prof (again, I'm pretty sure that it's easier to get that gig than the doctrinal side of the house), the lowest standard any of my other profs met was a Duke JD with a pretty stellar career as a litigator, and the next lowest was a Chicago degree. So it's not HYS or bust, but it's still a high standard.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Hey_Everybody » Tue May 21, 2019 3:46 pm

Stranger wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 3:38 pm
Anecdotally, none of my 1L professors holds a degree from HYS. I had one prof from Chicago, one with a couple of advanced degrees from Columbia, two Duke JDs who held LLMs, another Duke JD, an extremely well-published Akron JD, a South Carolina JD who was a clinical professor helping on the doctrinal side of the house in his specialty, and a writing prof with a JD from NYLS (but who had served on the NYT editorial board before law school, and then clerked). I'm guessing that for clinical profs, the degree doesn't matter worth a damn compared to their accomplishments, and the Akron JD is an anomaly who's teaching on the strength of his publishing (and was an excellent professor, so no complaints there). Beyond those two, and the writing prof (again, I'm pretty sure that it's easier to get that gig than the doctrinal side of the house), the lowest standard any of my other profs met was a Duke JD with a pretty stellar career as a litigator, and the next lowest was a Chicago degree. So it's not HYS or bust, but it's still a high standard.
Yeah, to clarify I wasn't talking about legal writing profs, clinical profs, or professors from practice. The rules seem totally different for them, and definitely way more variation.

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Darth Jar Jar
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Darth Jar Jar » Tue May 21, 2019 5:10 pm

Thanks for the responses, everyone!

Yeah, it does seem as though things are quite different for folks looking to be hired on the contributions they can make to the clinical vs doctrinal side of things, though I imagine once you've got your foot in the door there are opportunities to help other faculty.

I also wonder how much the conventional wisdom/classical route applies to regional schools. Do all T100 and unranked schools really hire primarily those with "elite" academic backgrounds? Like are there enough of those people to go around? Wouldn't they rather have someone whose research they are interested in rather than a cookie cutter applicant?

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Tue May 21, 2019 5:58 pm

Yes, the T100 and unranked really hire people with elite backgrounds. Yes, there are enough of them to go around. Schools can hire someone with both an elite background AND interesting research; it’s a buyer’s market. There are way fewer openings than there are elite grads. The lower down in the rankings you go the more likely you are to find profs with local ties/connections, but there are still people with very strong qualifications.

Now, UVA is absolutely correct that the most important factor is publishing, and good, interesting research trumps pedigree. You do get the occasional person from an ordinary background with amazing research, but usually they’re from a good if not stellar background. The thing to keep in mind is that self-selection among aspiring academics and the opportunities at the very top schools help reinforce the relationship between amazing research and where you attend law school. I agree that it’s not HYS or nothing, but a lot of people who want academia and who have the chops for academia are going to self-select to the top schools, and those schools provide way more opportunities to get into academia than regional schools do.

The point about PhDs is also super pertinent. The benefit to a PhD is that to get one you have to develop a research agenda and (usually) publish stuff, so you are in a better position than the bog-standard JD-only grad.

As people have suggested, anything practice-related is totally different, and is going to be based on your practice experience rather than pedigree or publications. (Not sure what “once you have your foot in the door you can help other faculty” means - I’d be extremely surprised if clinical/practice faculty have any input into hiring doctrinal faculty.)

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Nony
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Tue May 21, 2019 6:00 pm

The easiest way to explore this is to just go to various schools’ websites and see who’s been hired most recently. Brian Leiter, as annoying as he is, tracks a lot of this. So does the Law Prof blog (I think that’s what it’s called).

Edit: I think I mean the Faculty Lounge blog.

I think the best thing you can do as an 0L is (apart from all the usual stuff that gets you into the best schools) is work on developing a research agenda and planning publications. If you don’t know how to do that already, most law schools aren’t going to help you very much with it, I’m afraid.

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necho2
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by necho2 » Tue May 21, 2019 6:43 pm

Just to back up what Nony said, here's the 2018 results I think.

https://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsbla ... ng-report/

Should have a link to a Google Doc summarizing.

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Nony
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Tue May 21, 2019 6:54 pm

(PrawfsBlog! That one!)

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Jubo
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Jubo » Thu May 23, 2019 4:17 pm

From limited discussions with professors, none of the ones I talked to gunned for academia from the get-go. They all went to law school to be lawyers, killed it, most got SCOTUS or feeder CoA clerkships, some practiced for a while, got a PhD or something, and then decided to apply to be a professor after publishing a bunch of stuff and deciding they'd rather publish for a living than be a lawyer.

Becoming a professor is a bit like becoming a judge. Very few professors/judges ever went into law school shooting for that outcome; it's something that you end up doing after the stars align and you've been killing it since day 1.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Thu May 23, 2019 4:48 pm

I think that’s absolutely true of a lot of people - especially those who’ve been profs for a while - but there is an alternate path where you gun for it from day one, and I think that’s more and more common for recent hires. Because “killing it in law school” doesn’t really mean you have the skills/inclination/ability actually to publish the kinds of articles that will get you a prof job (at least not these days). Law school in general isn’t a very good preparation for legal research and publication, funnily enough. Also “getting a PhD or something” kind of downplays the work that goes into 1) getting into a PhD program and 2) actually finishing a PhD. Any lawyer who goes and gets a PhD after the JD has got to be gunning for academia at that point, IMHO.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nebby » Thu May 23, 2019 7:18 pm

Professors. Who needs them

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Nony
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Thu May 23, 2019 8:03 pm

Thanks for that substantive contribution, Nebs.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Borges_and_barbells » Sun May 26, 2019 8:40 pm

Not OP, but curious about something. I understand that a PhD is becoming increasingly common for law professors. I personally don't mind the idea of 5 more years of school post-JD, especially considering that I could potentially begin teaching at a law school as a VAP during the dissertation years. I'm wondering if it would be possible to spend 4-6 years working before going back to the PhD. I'm specifically thinking of a clerkship, then a number of years as an appellate lawyer. This would both be for financial reasons (I don't come from money, and would like to build a cushion), and because I'd like to use my license for a while before becoming a professor. Obviously every step here is very difficult to achieve, but would the time working make re-entering via a PhD difficult?

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Nony
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Mon May 27, 2019 8:26 am

Not beyond you having to overcome the inertia of being established in work and ditching it to go back to school. While I think more and more grad programs are tending toward K-PhD, it’s what you put in the app that will matter and I don’t think 4-6 years working would be a problem as long as your app is good (ideally the work you do would bear some relationship to your research agenda so you will like like you’ve continued to be engaged). Legal academia doesn’t value lots of practice experience so the longer you practice, the harder it can be to get hired, but I also think if you go JD —> work —> PhD, the PhD sort of resets you a bit (rather than if you reversed the PhD and work).

Working while dissertating can really slow you down, though. If you can get money just to dissertate and then do the VAP when you’re done, it would probably be more manageable. (Publishing while on a VAP would also probably be more helpful than dissertating - the dissertation is just entry to the game, publications are currency. It’s also easier to revise a diss for publication than to write it in the first place.)

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Borges_and_barbells » Tue Jun 04, 2019 6:10 pm

Thanks, Nony!

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by ymmv » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:29 pm


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Nony
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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by Nony » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:37 pm

Absofuckinglutely.

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Re: Gunning for academia in 2019 and beyond

Post by BlendedUnicorn » Thu Jul 25, 2019 1:55 am

The other thing to keep in mind is that all legal academic writing is bullshit and the most important things in getting published are pedigree, connections, and having a catchy title.

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