This section describes the various steps in the hiring process. When you are getting ready to go on the job market, you should familiarize yourself with the details of the process, and in particular the deadlines you will need to meet to maximize your chances on the market.
Every school has a hiring committee, usually called the Faculty Appointments Committee, which screens prospective candidates and makes recommendations that are voted on by the entire faculty. Appointments Committees typically begin the screening process in mid-August for jobs to begin a year later. It is critical that you have all your materials ready by the beginning of August, which generally means you need to start working on them in earnest well before then.
Get SLS Help
Stanford’s Teaching Placement Program will give you extensive help in the job search if you want it. Specifically, if you request it, we will:
- Go over drafts of your resume, cover letters to schools, and research agenda;
- Include your resume and research agenda in the Stanford resume book that we send to all law schools in August;
- Moot your AALS interview and job talk at our annual Moot Fest or over Skype
- Pitch you informally to other schools; and
- Notify you of schools that are looking specifically in your areas of expertise or have otherwise reached out to us to find promising Stanford graduates.
But we cannot provide these services if we do not know you are applying. You should get in touch with Amy Applebaum by May of the year you are applying. She will put you in touch with the Chair of the Teaching Placement Committee for that year. (If you contact us later in the process, we’ll do what we can, but it may be more limited because of time constraints.)
If you would like your CV included in the resume booklet SLS sends out in August to all law schools, you should be sure to send the following to Amy Applebaum by the first week in August:
- A camera-ready copy of your resume (we will be happy to review a draft first); and
- A research agenda. We would be happy to send SLS grads recent examples of research agendas an request. Please contact the chair of the Teaching Placement Committee for theses.
Steps to Take
When you are getting ready to go on the job market, you should familiarize yourself with the details of the process, and in particular the deadlines you will need to meet to maximize your chances on the market.
Every school has a hiring committee, usually called the Faculty Appointments Committee, which screens prospective candidates and makes recommendations that are voted on by the entire faculty. Appointments Committees typically begin the screening process in mid-August for jobs to begin a year later. It is critical that you have all your materials ready by the beginning of August, which generally means you need to start working on them in earnest three or four months before then.
Every year, the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) puts together a Faculty Appointments Register (FAR) of people seeking an initial teaching job (the so called “entry level market”—to be distinguished from “the lateral market” for those who already have a faculty position and want to move from one law school to another). The FAR is distributed to every law school in the country. Most candidates come to the attention of schools through the FAR. For this reason, it is critical that you get your information into the FAR. The deadline for submitting materials to be included in the first distribution to schools is generally the first week in August. (The precise date changes from year to year, and will be posted on the AALS website by early May.) We strongly recommend that you get your application in to the AALS in time to be included in that mailing. (Applications received after that date but by mid-September will go out in subsequent mailings, but many committees will already have put together their preliminary list of candidates to interview by that time.)
To participate in the FAR, candidates fill out a one-page form, which asks for basic information on education, teaching and employment experience, publications and references. A sample candidate FAR form is available online at www.aals.org. The form changes slightly from year to year, and for each year is generally made available two or three months before the August deadline.
Applicants may now also submit a full resume as an electronic attachment to the AALS form, and you absolutely should do so, as the one-page form allows for very little information. In addition to the standard information on an academic CV, your CV should include a research agenda and a full list of recommenders. For most people, drafting a research agenda is the most time-consuming and challenging part of the application process, and you should not leave it to the last minute. The goal here is to convey to committees the general impression that you are full of interesting ideas and ready to hit the ground running, as well as giving them a more particular sense of your intellectual interests and methodological approach(es). We can help you draft the research agenda, by providing you with examples of successful research agendas from past years to use as models, reviewing drafts and giving you help in revising them.
How important is it to use the AALS service at all? The short answer is, very important for almost everyone. It used to be the case that all elite schools and all “hot-shot” candidates bypassed the AALS, with those candidates relying on elite schools to contact them directly and fly them out for on-campus interviews. Those days are gone. Virtually all schools (including elite schools) and virtually all candidates now utilize the AALS process. Schools may by-pass the AALS interview for local candidates whom they can screen on-campus at low cost to themselves, or candidates whom they already know through other channels (e.g., their own graduates). But, with a very few exceptions, they will screen everyone else at AALS.
Bottom line: you are almost certainly putting yourself at a serious disadvantage by not registering at AALS. The one exception may be candidates who are restricting their search to a small number of schools in their geographical area that they know will screen local candidates on campus. Even then, however, there may be significant advantages to going on the market more broadly (see “Where to apply” below). We would strongly advise applicants to seek our advice before forgoing the AALS process.
Except for those schools to whom you also send a direct mailing (see below), the AALS application and attached resume will be the only information most schools receive about you before they make their initial cut for interviews at AALS. You want to make sure it presents your strongest case. We are happy to counsel you on what information will be most significant to hiring committees and the best way to present it, and to review drafts if you wish. But once again, for us to help to you, you need to let us know you are going on the market, and the earlier in the process the better.
Where to apply.
By submitting a form to FAR, you will automatically apply to every member school. In addition, we strongly recommend that you send letters on your own to a targeted set of schools where you would like to teach. We suggest targeting between 20 and 40 schools. We are happy to discuss with you which schools it makes sense for you to target. These letters should be sent out in early August if at all possible, as many appointments committees start reviewing files as soon as they get the FAR forms. The direct mailing to schools should include your resume and research agenda, a cover letter, and samples of your scholarly writing if they are not readily available to committees (e.g., unpublished manuscripts not posed on the web or publications in obscure journals). It also never hurts to include reprints of other articles, particularly the one(s) you are most proud of.
You can use the list of Appointments Chairs that we compile annually to address packets.
You should also see if your Stanford recommenders would be willing to contact deans/appointments chairs at these schools and possibly friends of theirs on the faculty. If they are willing to send a formal letter of recommendation, great. But often, a two-line email to the effect that you are a strong candidate and the committee should definitely take a look at you will suffice to bring you to the attention of the committee. This should be done in the early part of August, if at all possible, when committees are just starting to cull through applications.
Do not restrict your applications to schools that advertise positions. Almost all schools interview every year, but many schools never advertise.
Restricting your job search to certain geographic areas is not a good idea:
- There is a tremendous “bandwagon” effect in legal academia. Law schools are much more likely to hire you if a peer institution has made you an offer or has at least shown interest in you.
- The market is tough in many of the most desired geographical areas (New York, Boston, the Bay Area).
- Wherever your start, if you are a productive scholar and plugged in to the scholarly community in your field(s), you may well have opportunities to move laterally to a geographic area you prefer.
- You may even discover that you like parts of the country where you thought you could not survive.
We also strongly urge you not to limit your search to so-called elite law schools. First, it is very hard (increasingly so) to get an entry-level job at any of these schools, even for people with sterling credentials, and it is often hard to predict at the beginning of the appointments season how strong any one candidate’s chances are. If things go very well for you, you can always withdraw from consideration at other schools once you have an offer in hand from a school you would prefer. But if things go worse than you had hoped, it is very hard to put yourself in play at “second-tier” schools halfway through the appointments season. Second, if what you really want to do with your life is write and teach, the differences between so-called “elite” law schools and other schools are less significant than the differences between any of them and (say) being a practicing lawyer. If you want to be a law teacher, but only if you can get a job at one of the top-ten schools, it is worth thinking about whether academia is really the job for you. Finally, as noted above, if you are a productive scholar, you may well have an opportunity to move later on. Many schools have a demonstrated track record of having their younger law teachers hired laterally at other schools.
For the past few years, SLS has been sponsoring an annual Moot Fest in late September. The primary purpose of the Moot Fest is to furnish Stanford grads and fellows with the opportunity to have faculty members moot their mock job talks and screening interviews. The Moot Fest has also featured panels on various aspects of the academic job search process. (See description of the Moot Fest.) The date of the 2015 Moot Fest will be announced shortly. If you are interested in participating, please contact the Chair of the Teaching Placement Committee.
If a law school is interested in you, it will invite you to do a preliminary screening interview in the fall. Typically these interviews will be held at the AALS-sponsored Faculty Recruitment Conference (often referred to as the “meat market”), usually held in mid-October in Washington, D.C. As noted below, occasionally schools will hold screening interviews before the AALS conference, either on campus or by teleconference, possibly in an attempt to get a jump on their competition. (The fact that at least some schools schedule their screening interviews early is one reason why we strongly recommend that you get your resume to the AALS in time for the first distribution in August and your direction mailings out by mid-August at the latest.) The majority of screening interviews, however, are done at the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference. Law schools send members of their faculty appointments committees to interview candidates in 30-minute, back-to-back sessions for the two days. Being willing to attend the conference enhances your chances of getting your foot in the door, and ultimately getting a job, with a school.
- You must pay your own way to the conference, as well as a substantial fee to the AALS. In cases of severe financial hardship, our committee may be able to help.
- Usually you will be interviewed by two to four faculty members.
If a law school is still interested in you after the AALS recruitment conference interview, they will offer you a “fly-back” (full-dress) interview on campus to meet with their whole faculty. For the fly-back interview, you would normally:
- Arrive the night before and have dinner with four to five faculty members either that night or the following one;
- Have a series of one-hour office interviews the next day, each typically with three to five faculty members present;
- Present a scholarly “job talk” to the faculty and respond to questions; and
- Meet one on one with the dean.
A few schools have two levels of screening at their campus: they invite all prospective candidates back first to meet only with the appointments committee (generally over lunch), and then recommend some number of those candidates to go on to a full-dress interview with the faculty.
Schools will pay all your expenses for the preliminary or full-dress interviews on their campus. Most full-dress interviews take place in the period between November and February, although some schools are moving more quickly—sometimes before the AALS conference—in order to get a jump on the competition. If the law school faculty likes you after the full-dress interview, the faculty might then vote to offer you a job. Sometimes schools will vote offers as early as two or three weeks after the interviews are completed. Others will wait until March to make any offers, after the faculty has seen all of the candidates. On occasion, the timing of offers can be awkward. Candidates may receive offers from a less-preferred school that (purportedly or actually) expire before they hear from more-preferred schools. There are no hard and fast rules to deal with such timing conflicts, but you should be aware that they may occur. We are happy to discuss your options should you find yourself in such a position.
Keep schools apprised of positive developments.
You should feel free to update your initial application later in the application process. For example, if you have an article accepted for publication or you finish a draft of an article, you might send the information or draft to the schools to which you have already written or that have indicated interest in you, with a cover letter saying that you wish to update your file. Or if you receive an award of some kind, it is a great excuse to bring yourself to the attention of the faculty appointments committee. Obviously, there is a delicate line between being an effective advocate for yourself and becoming a nuisance or being regarded as too self-promoting. Common sense should be your guide here.
Preparing for Fly Back
Before you go to your full-dress interviews, you should obtain a list of the school faculty and their biographies. Most of the information can be obtained from their website. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with recent faculty publications. This information can be gotten off of Lexis or Infotrac. While it will usually be impossible for you to research all of the faculty members, it is worth looking at some recent scholarship by the faculty who teach in your fields or whose work is closest to the subject of your faculty talk. We have witnessed candidates who have been rejected largely because their job talk ignored the scholarship of one of the law school’s faculty members.
- Get a copy of your interview schedule ahead of time. Usually you will be invited to have dinner with several faculty members the night before your day of interviews, and will meet with most of the rest of the faculty in small groups during those interviews (typically lasting one hour each). The schedule is often made at the last minute, but you should be able to get an approximately accurate copy by the time you arrive, if not before. Obtaining a copy of the schedule in advance will allow you to look up the faculty members before meeting them.
- Stress your commitment to scholarship. If you are interviewing at a school that cares about scholarship (and these days, most do), you want to convey the impression that you have many ideas. If your interlocutors do not give you a chance to bring up another article idea, find a way to give them more information about what really matters or is most interesting to you. Do not wait for smooth segues. No school is going to hire you just because you seem nice (although niceness does help, and its complete absence will kill you at most schools—they’ve got to live with you as a colleague for a long time). You also want to show them more generally that you are enthusiastic about the scholarly life. In one-on-one conversations, ask them about their scholarly projects and interests, and try to engage substantively with the work. (Everyone loves a colleague who seems genuinely interested in what they're doing.) Finally, when asked whether you have questions about the school, you should ask questions about the school’s support for faculty scholarship, scholarly strengths, etc. Having said all that, however, you should be aware that almost every school has a handful of faculty members who are not themselves invested in scholarship and may not be too keen on hiring new faculty members who are. At some schools, that contingent can be a sizable minority, or even a majority. Let your instincts be your guide here (preferably armed with information you've gleaned ahead of time about the faculty). If none of your overtures on the scholarly front is getting a response, you may need to try a different strategy.
- Show Enthusiasm for the School. To the extent you can do so credibly, it is always a good idea to show enthusiasm for the school and the city in which it is located. Schools hate to think they are your third or fourth choice, just as you would hate to think you are theirs.
- Keep Your Story Straight. Faculty appointments committees at different schools talk to each other constantly. You should assume that anything you say to someone on one faculty will get back to other schools. Therefore: (1) be consistent in your stories; and (2) do not run down one school to another (bad form in any event).
- Preparing for the Job Talk. It is very important that you practice your job talk either at the Moot Fest or over Skype. You should plan to talk, at the most, for 20-30 minutes. Law professors do not want to hear an entry-level person talk for a long time. They want to hear your basic idea and then hear themselves talk—and see whether you can carry on an intelligent dialogue in response to their questions.
If you end up with multiple callbacks, we would recommend trying to schedule them so that you do not interview first at the school where you most want to teach. People rarely do their best in their first job talk, so it is a good idea if possible to have a few other schools under your belt first.
For many job talks, it is useful to distribute an outline for your talk, write on the board or use slides or PowerPoint during your talk, so that your listeners can follow your line of argument.
- Preparing for your decanal interview. After the job talk, you would normally end your day with a one on one interview with the dean.
- Do not raise the issue of money unless and until you have an offer.
- You can ask about research support (again showing that you are interested in writing), course loads, time off to write, etc.
- Emphasize how much you enjoyed meeting the faculty and how impressed you are.