Friday, December 23, 2016
I recently updated my list of business law teaching positions. At this point, a number of the positions have probably been filled, but I put posted dates by the more recently posted positions. I still get asked, on a fairly regularly basis, about how one breaks into law teaching, and while I do have thoughts on that topic (basically, write, write, write), I think folks wanting to enter the legal academy should ask themselves a few questions first.
- Are you truly drawn to both teaching and research (or are you just tired of practicing)?
- Are you geographically flexible? (You have to be both really good and really lucky to pick your geographic location in legal academia)
- Do you have a few years to devote to pursuing a career in legal academia? (these days, it often takes a VAP or two, and/or a few years on the market to secure an academic job).
- If you are in BigLaw, are you truly comfortable with a sizable pay cut?
- Can you be patient with students, administrators, staff, etc.? (things typically move much more slowly in academia than in practice)
Once you have received one of more offers, I would ask the following questions.
- What is my BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement? (If you only have one academic offer, and don't like your alternatives in practice, you should be very careful in negotiating and should try to avoid offending the offering school).
- Can I see myself living in this part of the country? (Accessibility to a major airport can be an important consideration as well, if you plan to travel for work or personal reasons)
- What is the teaching package? Does it include night, weekend, or online courses?
- What are the research expectations? When are reviews done? Roughly what percentage of faculty members achieve tenure?
- How is the financial stability of the school? What is the reputation of the school? Does the school have strong distinctive? How is the local competition? What is the discount rate trend? What is the LSAT/UGPA trend?
- How do you get along with the faculty members you met?
- Is the surrounding town/city an area where it is easy or difficult to find an appropriate job for your significant other?
- If you have young children or plan to have children, how are the schools in the area? Does the university have a tuition exchange and/or tuition payment program?
There are many more questions to ask, but again, it is important to start with your alternatives. If you have strong alternatives, you can be more picky, but you also don't want to start your academic career with an overly aggressive negotiation.
I still think teaching is the most rewarding job available, but there are definitely important questions to ask before pursing an academic career path and before committing to school.