Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are you looking for a first job in ASP?

As is the case every year at this time, postings for ASP jobs are beginning to proliferate.  Some of the openings are brand new positions; some of the openings result from retirements, moves to other law schools, or changes in career focus. 

If you are applying for ASP jobs for the first time, I would like to make some observations that may be helpful to you as you approach your job search.  Whether you are a recent law graduate, an attorney leaving practice, or an academic changing paths, there are some things that you need to know.

ASP positions vary greatly throughout the law school landscape.  They run the gamut of part-time to full-time, tenure-track to administrative, ASP alone to ASP with bar prep and/or writing centers, one-person offices to multi-layered staffing, entry-level positions to experience-required positions.  The positions might report to Academic Affairs or to Student Affairs or to a faculty committee.

The salaries for ASP positions will reflect that law school landscape as well.  Unfortunately, unlike our colleagues in legal writing, we are rarely privy to the salary range from the job ad that is provided.  The wide range of salaries in ASP work makes it especially hard to know whether a position for which you are applying is even realistic for your salary requirements.  If you are looking at positions in diverse geographical areas, your search is complicated even more with cost-of-living considerations.  Add differences in state and local tax rates, benefits packages, and real-estate markets to your list of considerations.

Your status as an ASP'er will also vary.  At some law schools, you will be an equal with faculty because of your tenure-track status.  At other law schools, you may be treated like a faculty member in many ways except the formal ones: promotion, retention, tenure, and voting rights.  And at other law schools, you will be treated as a staff member of lesser status.

The ASP program components will vary depending on the school as well: individual sessions, workshops, formal classes, and more.  The students who will receive services may be at-risk, probation, or all students.  There may be services for students in all three years, a focus on 1Ls, or special segments of your program designed for different populations in each year.

At some law schools, you will be encouraged to publish and teach outside the confines of ASP.  Other schools will see you as purely an ASP person and confine your classroom involvement to those areas of expertise - no matter your actual additional practice expertise.  Some law schools will not allow you to have a classroom presence at all.

You will serve on law school (and maybe even university-wide) committees in one situation. You may have service opportunities for your law school in the wider community even (for example, with a pipeline partnership with the local school district).   Another law school may not require your service at all for anything because only faculty and higher-level administrators are on committees.

At some law schools you will have a carved-in-stone-never-to-vary budget line for your program.  At other places you will justify your budget line anew each year, but have a budget line that you know ahead of time for the year.  At other law schools you will have to go hat in hand for every dollar you need throughout the year.  In some situations, you will be a miracle worker creating programs without resources.

Your facilities might include spaces for multiple staff, classrooms, conference rooms, library space, and other dedicated spaces at many schools.  At other schools, you will have an office space alone that doubles as your space for other duties if you are a part-timer.

Professional development and travel funds will be budgeted for you at some law schools.  Other law schools will have you apply on a case-by-case basis for approval.  Yet other schools will place you at the bottom of the queue for such funding. 

In other words, "it depends" is the mantra for what an ASP position entails.  Each position will have a different experience for you as an ASP'er.  You want to read job ads carefully.  Investigate the parameters of ASP at the specific law school.  Determine where you will fit in professionally.  Determine what the resources are available for the position.  Determine what avenues there will be for your professional growth.  In short, do not make assumptions or take anything for granted because of what you are familiar with at your alma mater or in a friend's ASP program.

ASP work is terrific.  It is rewarding and vital.  However, it is also hard work.  The extras of professional development and service often come out of your overtime hours.  You will not get rich.  There may be detractors if your status is not equal to faculty.  But the incentive is that you will make a huge difference in students' lives.  (Amy Jarmon)       

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