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Are you an Attorney Who Wants to "Retire and Teach at a Law School"?:

Then read this article. The two most salient points are that becoming a tenure-track law professor is far from "retiring," and the job is primarily "a writing job, not a teaching job." If, for example, you have no law review publications, almost no one is going to take you seriously as a faculty candidate, and certainly not as a candidate to arrive with tenure. If you want to teach as an adjunct for fun, that's another story entirely.

I've on occasion had prominent government attorneys approaching retirement waste my time trying to persuade me that they would be the perfect candidate for a senior (tenured) appointment at GMU, even though they had none of the most significant attributes (most important scholarly record/evidence of scholarly promise) that we look for in any faculty candidate, much less a candidate seeking immediate tenure, and had no intention of remedying that before they went on the market.

Voorhies (mail):
The "most significant attributes" should be teaching ability. As one who attended evening law school in the 70's, We had practicing attorney's when I began and top quality academies when I finished. The later could not teach, the former were exciting communicating litigators (Marvin Mltchelson etc.)who could not only keep you awake but glad ts be there at 6:00 PM: That's just me. Not the ABA.
7.11.2007 10:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't want these comments to devolve into a debate as to what the standard "should be." The article linked to has a very good discussion of what the standard in fact is, even at most schools that don't have great scholarly reputations. Note, in any event, that we are talking about tenure-track and tenured positions. Lawyers who love to teach and are great at it are welcome almost everywhere as adjuncts, and often teach many important courses, including at GMU.
7.11.2007 10:55pm
MJG:
The article, while probably accurate for its topic, seems like a bit of a red herring. I know few practicing attorneys who dream of retiring and then suddenly morphing into Larry Tribe. "Retire and Teach" usually connotes: (1) Having made my money, I could retire and do nothing, but (2) I would like to teach as an adjunct or teach a particular course.

I've not met many practicing lawyers who even dream of teaching first year Contracts. Most, if not all, remember their own law school experience enough to know that they wouldn't replace those first year professors, but instead see themselves more like the "practical seminar-practitioner/thinker" type.
7.11.2007 11:02pm
Ignorant2L:
How easy is it to develop a "scholarly portfolio" as a practicing attorney? Even setting aside the challenge of finding the time to work, have a family, and put together a several dozen page article - how easily can 'mere' attorneys get published?
7.11.2007 11:04pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
MJG, the relevant category is not experienced lawyers who want to be Larry Tribe, but experienced lawyers who want to be "Larry Unproductive." They think that because they were successful lawyers, law schools will be eager and willing to give them a full-time, tenured or tenure-track job to teach the students and maybe write a little bit. After all, THEY were successful attorneys, whereas the professors are mere, well, professors, spinning their academic wheels. I'm not going to argue whether in a just world things would actually work that way, just that not surprisingly, the academics who hire colleagues tend to like academic values, and not be overly impressed by non-academic professional credentials.
7.11.2007 11:11pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
If you want to "retire" and teach. Junior college is the way to go. No pressure to publish, good hours, and a government pension.

Says the "Dog"
7.11.2007 11:22pm
Jeff Yates (mail) (www):
I always find it odd that people seem to believe that being a good teacher and being a productive scholar are somehow mutually exclusive possibilities. My experience has been that the two characteristics are often highly correlated (although not perfectly).
7.11.2007 11:25pm
PersonFromPorlock:

...just that not surprisingly, the academics who hire colleagues tend to like academic values, and not be overly impressed by non-academic professional credentials.

Ah. You mean they're smug.
7.11.2007 11:39pm
MJG:
David,

I agree there are some yokels out there who think being "a Law Professor" sounds like the world's easiest job: teach a couple classes a week, share your jurisprudential musings with the world, and avoid the rigors of all-nighters spent doing or preparing for trials/depositions/briefs/the printers/launching or closing deals/etc.

My point was just that these folks are more the outliers. Most lawyers I've come across might be smug enough to think they could have been law professors at one time, but realistic enough to realize that they gave up that path long ago and their skill set (and credentials) aren't what the academies are searching for. Maybe I'm wrong, and simply know the wrong sets of lawyers. Most I know, while often interested in teaching, aren't interested in being a "Law Professor" because they realize it entails a lifestyle they probably would not enjoy or are not suited to. Doesn't mean they don't respect it, but they know it is not them.
7.11.2007 11:47pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yes, I agree it's a small sampling of attorneys, but a reasonably large percentage of those who take some step (registering for the "meat market," sending their resume and cover letter to local law schools, etc.) toward applying to be a professor.
7.11.2007 11:55pm
MJG:
Fair point. I'm not the guy who has to read that stuff. If that's the case that's kind of sad: successful in one area only to embarrass oneself in another.
7.12.2007 12:07am
Sarah (mail) (www):
This is going to sound silly -- why would you look for teachers whose primary qualification is that they can convince people to publish things that they've written?

I mean, okay, I can see lots of reasons to have people like that on your staff, and putting their names all over recruiting and fundraising brochures, and so forth. But this strikes me as odd -- in an environment where your bar passage stats and employment-after-9-months rates are published all over the place, wouldn't you want to hire teachers who'd done things a bit closer to, you know, teaching? Like supervising new attorneys and explaining how to locate something to fresh paralegal types?

Then again, there are significant barriers to entry when it comes to starting brand-new law schools; it's not like you've got a ton of people itching to start liberal arts style "publishing, heck, our professors spend all their time nurturing the souls of their students" teaching havens in the law school market. And, as far as I can tell, the core of actual bar preparation takes place in intense 6 week sessions run by private companies, and hiring seems to be at least 50% prestige (95% prestige at the top.) A St. John's (Annapolis) of law schools wouldn't really fit into the current scheme at all.

Concerning people not getting the right signals and failing to craft their resumes and portfolios in the right way to get a particular job -- this just means you've identified a market for a new how-to book aimed at the I-wanna-be-a-lazy-professor lawyering crowd. They have money to spare, apparently, since they're thinking about retiring young. And owing to the continuing disillusionment amongst corporate attorney types (I can't imagine why anyone who has to work 2500 billable hours in a year and pays $3000 a month for an apartment they hardly get to enjoy would ever become disillusioned...) you'll have a continuing source of demand for updated editions.
7.12.2007 12:25am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I think every law school should have a couple of full-time faculty whose primary accomplishment was having been a successful practitioner for many years. Not much more than a couple, but just enough to give the students exposure to the practical as well as the theoretical side. If nothing else, their old war stories are far more interesting than the rest of the faculty's! At best, they are a great resource for law clerks and new lawyers who need help with the nuts and bolts aspects of drafting and filing a complaint for the first time.
7.12.2007 12:26am
Thomas_Holsinger:
The two best instructors I had at Hastings were 80+ year-old Richard R. Powell, of the over-60 club, in his next to last year of teaching Deeds, Trusts, Wills and Estates, and a trial attorney named Bob Wallach who taught personal injury litigation. Wallach was adjunct faculty.

The last written question on my bar exam involved probate. A proctor came over to glare at me as I wrote a last sentence after the timer went off, but I showed him the sentence, "Long live Richard R. Powell!", and he gave me a thumbs up.
7.12.2007 12:29am
jimmie bob law student:
So it's better to have a professor who spends his time writing this article about something that everyone knows already, than to have an experienced attorney teach me the law?

Yes, and you wonder why judges don't cite law review articles.
7.12.2007 12:41am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
I am a 67 year old who has practiced over 40 years. I have tried hundreds of cases as a first chair trial lawyer, and am still practicing. I have mentored more than 30 trial attorneys in my career. I would love to teach Trial Practice to law students. But I have no desire whatever to seek a tenured or tenured track position anywhere.

I have been paid on an "eat what you kill" basis since 1974, and have been successful in that professional environment. I would not want to do anything where the worth of my services were not obvious to my client or to my employer in an academic situation, or to my partners or students.

If I do not care about the excellence of my work more than my client or my employer, I am not worth hiring.

Most of the lawyers I know who are my age feel the same way.
7.12.2007 12:51am
OrinKerr:
Holsinger,

You left off the most important part: Did your brown-nosing work?
7.12.2007 12:56am
Lev:

Yes, I agree it's a small sampling of attorneys, but a reasonably large percentage of those who take some step (registering for the "meat market," sending their resume and cover letter to local law schools, etc.) toward applying to be a professor.


There is a similar conceit in the business world, which is, that executives who retire can easily set up consulting businesses to which the world will beat a path seeking their expertise.
7.12.2007 1:00am
Thomas_Holsinger:
Professor Kerr,

"Brown-nosing" a bar exam proctor? How does that get you anything? I surmised from his thumbs up that he too was a Hastings graduate and had taken Powell's course.

Unless you read my post hastily and thought that I had stated that Professor Richard R. Powell himself was the proctor. Misreading what people wrote does facilitate snarky comments.

I passed the general bar exam the first time and failed the ethics exam because, as I mentioned earlier, I was trying to nail a crooked attorney while clerking for SEC Enforcement during my third year. This meant that I knew so much about legal ethics that the California State Bar deemed it dangerous to allow me to practice law.

Because the first two times the then new ethics exam was given (in Feburary and July 19750, the questions asked what an attorney could get away with, but the permissible answers were what an attorney should do, not what an attorney could do. The public relations stink, and ensuing lawsuits, about failing people for correctly stating the law motivated the State Bar to change things for the next ethics exam.

Not that correctly stating the law is a defense to a malpractice claim in California as my late colleague, Eugene Mash of Merced, found out. Aloy v. Mash (1985) 38 Cal.3d 413

And Richard Powell (reputedly the model, while at Columbia, for Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase) never knew about my bar exam. He only taught Property (Powell on Property was a classic text) to first year students for one term because he made too many puke at their desks when he called on them.

But taking Powell for Deeds, Trusts, Wills &Estates was a rite of passage for a generation of 2nd &3rd year Hastings students, and I'm glad I had him.
7.12.2007 1:43am
Jeek:
the academics who hire colleagues tend to like academic values, and not be overly impressed by non-academic professional credentials.

The primary purpose of law school is to generate non-academic professionals - i.e. lawyers - and therefore law school professors should have non-academic professional credentials and be impressed with such credentials. In short, actually having practiced law should be the prerequisite for teaching law.

Yes, yes, I know you said this isn't about what the standard should be. Yet when I hear something like this, it strikes me as ridiculous that lawyers should be "trained" in law school (which in reality they are not, it's just an expensive hoop to jump through) rather than through OJT as an apprentice to an actual practicing lawyer.
7.12.2007 8:58am
Waldensian (mail):

They think that because they were successful lawyers, law schools will be eager and willing to give them a full-time, tenured or tenure-track job to teach the students and maybe write a little bit. After all, THEY were successful attorneys, whereas the professors are mere, well, professors, spinning their academic wheels.

I sense an axe being ground here. This sounds like it was prompted by a personal experience. Name names!
7.12.2007 10:16am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
"I'm not going to argue whether in a just world things would actually work that way, just that not surprisingly, the academics who hire colleagues tend to like academic values, and not be overly impressed by non-academic professional credentials." (italics added)

It's not an issue of "justice" but of how to educate lawyers. Seems like a pretty practical problem. It seems to me that a top-notch attorney who practices in a certain area has got to be at least as knowledgeable about the evolving social agreement which is the law as is an academic who teaches that same area. The stakes are far higher for the practitioner (real wins and losses, money etc) and as we capitalists know, competition brings out the best.

As a non-practicing attorney I find the snobbery of law school academics pretty astonishing.
7.12.2007 10:17am
Al (mail):
How about the reverse of David's example? The law professor who decides that he wants to be "of counsel" at a prestigious firm (and only a prestigious firm) and who expects the pay and/or perks of an equity partner, yet who has no intent, interest, or ability to actually do the work required to benefit the firm?
7.12.2007 11:06am
ronnie dobbs (mail):
Sounds to me like there's probably a "Moneyball" opportunity for the right law school. Surely someone with the brains and brawn to reach the upper tiers of a prestigious law firm has the intellectual ability to produce scholarly work, if given the time and opportunity. While this probably isn't the optimum strategy for the true heavy hitter law schools, who can afford to recruit exclusively from a pool of well-established academics, it may be a good choice for lower tier institutions.
7.12.2007 11:49am
Total (mail):
"why would you look for teachers whose primary qualification is that they can convince people to publish things that they've written? "

They're not looking for teachers, they're looking for professors. Those are different things.
7.12.2007 11:49am
Bretzky (mail):
Al:


How about the reverse of David's example? The law professor who decides that he wants to be "of counsel" at a prestigious firm (and only a prestigious firm) and who expects the pay and/or perks of an equity partner, yet who has no intent, interest, or ability to actually do the work required to benefit the firm?


What would you identify as "the work that would benefit the firm" when the firm is a law school? Is it churning out academic papers or highly capable lawyers?

To me, I can see where a law school would want to have some subjects taught by academics and some taught by current and former practicing attorneys. Whether or not those former practicing attorneys should be tenured is another matter.

I think one should ask: what is the purpose of tenure? Tenure is, after all, meant to protect academics on faculty from losing their positions over their scholarly output. If the former attorney has no desire to engage in academic publishing, then he has no need of the protections offered by tenure.
7.12.2007 11:51am
ptleahy (mail):
Law professors, doing really serious important writing like posting on blogs that have important scholarly stuff like the "Sunday Song Lyrics."

Here is a song lyric for you from Van Halen (the real Van Halen, not Van Hagar): The album is Fair Warning and the song is Unchained:

"Come on Dave, gimme a break"
7.12.2007 12:31pm
jallgor (mail):
It surprises me that a lawyer with a renowned private practice (public/private) wouldn't be welcomed at a Law School wheter they publish or not. If David Boies says he'd like to teach Antitrust and do it as a tenured professor rather than as an adjunct would most schools really ask him to publish or to have already published before applying? Maybe the people David is talking about don't quite have the name recognition or cache to get away with it but certainly there are some people who can get tenured positons without publishing. If Arthur Levitt would like to teach a class on Securities Regulation do you deny him tenure because he hasn't written enough law review articles.
For my part, I have often said I would love to be a professor (law or otherwise) if i didn't have to publish.
7.12.2007 12:37pm
rarango (mail):
Adjunct is the best way to go--no department meetings, no committee meetings, come in teach and leave.
7.12.2007 12:42pm
Roger Rainey (mail):
I've never understood the laser like focus on law review publishing as a qualification for legal teaching. Such works are a "gargantuan souffle of irrelevance", as I have seen them described. Law review articles are only read by other professors, but meanwhile the real law is being developed by real lawyers in real courtrooms and negotiations outside of academia. As the legal professorship moves further and further away from the practical world of lawyering, hurdles such as these absurd publishing requirements can only be seen as protectionism and are one of the reasons why so many law students start their real legal training upon entering the work force.
7.12.2007 12:53pm
Porkchop:
To answer the initial question:

No, I'm a lawyer who would like to retire and do something completely different. :-)
7.12.2007 1:55pm
TerrencePhilip:
jallgor, David Boies is kind of a superstar name; even for someone like him the top schools would be very unlikely to give him a tenured spot, though they'd love to have him in some sort of cushy adjunct capacity teaching classes, clinicals or seminars. Roger Rainey, focus on law review is an attempt to make cuts among a surplus of applicants, much as some firms and judges apply similar strict criteria for interviewing and hiring. You can still get a job as an academic but it might be tougher, like if you worked somewhere and meanwhile burned the midnight oil and got a few articles published.
7.12.2007 1:59pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Speaking as the chair of the faculty hiring committee for my school, the comments in this thread brings up a lot of important topics -- how much practice experience should count is an important and controversial topic.

But let me emphasize what maybe we can all agree on, a point in the (very useful) original article that DB linked. People that do hiring for law faculties will inevitably see some -- not all, not a majority, but a decent number -- of applicants who are practicing lawyers who will say, in more-or-less subtle ways, something like, "well, the hours and pace of life in a law firm are really tough, and I would like a different lifestyle."

Now I would bet that most legal academics don't work as many hours as partners in big law firms claim to bill. But I would also bet that many-most academics work a lot harder than many people outside academia think we do (we don't "get the summers off," really, we don't). Plus, who wants to hear, "I want to get in your line of work so I won't have to work as hard"?
7.12.2007 2:47pm
Steve2:
I think a previous commenter approached this with one of their questions, but I didn't see an answer addressing it, and I'm curious. Do law reviews tend to accept anything that practicing attorneys might write in the process of their cases? My understanding's that privacy torts were more or less invented by Brandeis and Warren in a paper they wrote while practicing (and isn't that a depressing thought, that it took the law until the end of the 19th century to have even inadequate recognition that violating someone's privacy is a tort), but I don't know if that sort of thing happens nowadays.

For instance, the field I work in is traffic engineering. While some of the journals are exclusively articles on research done by university folk, there's also some journals that'll publish articles written by practicing engineers based on projects they've completed, and conference proceedings are full of that as well.
7.12.2007 3:35pm
ptleahy (mail):
Joseph, you mention that law professors don't get summers off. At the numerous law schools where I have worked (that includes all tiers), I've walked down faculty row in the summer months and I beg to differ. Sure, they may have been home producing scholarly articles; however, they weren't doing it in their offices and I can't believe every single one of them were home banging away on their keyboards. Let's just say they may not have summers off, but they aren't working as much.
7.12.2007 3:36pm
Rick Esenberg (mail) (www):
As a lawyer who actually is returning to the academy this fall after 26 years in practice, I am of two minds about this. It is near and dear to my heart, so please excuse the length of this comment.

I did not struggle against the idea that it is a writing job. The world is generally not as irrational as we think it is and there is a reason that almost all universities value scholarship by teachers in almost all fields. Concentrated intellectual curiousity about a thing
can fuel the ability to explain it to others in a way that is both thorough and engaging. Having smart people think about things in a way that is not dictated by this afternoon's crisis is not a bad thing.

In any event, the writing is the thing that persuaded me to take a large salary cut (I am not close to retirement) and do it. You can practice law and teach - albeit not as well as you would be capable of if you had more time to devote to it. But you really can't practice law (much) and write. So I did take the time to put something in a law review.

I would not have dreamed of saying anything like "I want to retire and teach" or "I'm seeking a less stressful life." Any lawyer who would say things like that has either 1) not thought through what she is doing or 2)not much of a lawyer.

But, beyond the strategy of job seeking, I also don't believe it reflects reality. I fully expect to work harder than I have over the past few years. My hope is that I will enjoy it more.

Seasoned practitioners who want to do this have got to understand that the market is wildly competitive. The traditional candidates who are successful tend to have platinum resumes and you'll need a pretty good one too. You also have to accept that, in some ways if not in others, you are becoming a rookie again. That requires a great deal of humility for successful practitioners who have grown used to being treated like lords and ladies. You may have to (as I did) agree to enter on a provisional or "visiting" basis. You need to accept the idea that, after all these years, you need to prove yourself again.

That may be good for the soul, but it's not easy.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that most law faculties undervalue (and many do not even understand) practice experience. Many do not appreciate the opportunity for the greater intellectual diversity that might come from looking more carefully at experienced practitioners. No doubt some, like much of our society, have no problem with age discrimination, no matter what the law may say.

Still, I got a job at the only law school in the city where I was born and have raised my family. So it can be done.
7.12.2007 3:39pm
JosephSlater (mail):
PTLeahy. First, FWIW, your original post quoting Van Halen was pretty funny.

Second, and more seriously, I'm not sure what schools you've worked at or where you've been, but I'll take your word that profs weren't in their offices a lot. There are a couple of possible explanations.

First, people really were working at home. Personally, I do, in part because it's easier to do the solitary work of writing away from distractions like, um, posting comments on blogs.

Second, however, I won't deny that some faculty members don't work all that hard during the summer. But I would suggest that those are mostly relatively senior folks who came into the biz when publishing expectations are not what they are now. The original linked article talked about advice to people who are entering the teaching market now. And rightly or wrongly, the older model of being a good teacher, publishing one or two things for tenure and then not much after that is not what law schools are looking for today in hiring.

Don't get me wrong: as I said in my first post, most law profs don't work as many hours as most partners in big firms. But it's harder work than most folks outside the biz think.
7.12.2007 3:49pm
A Guest Of Wind:
Wasn't it Catharine MacKinnon who told Time Magazine, upon getting tenure, how fortunate she was to finally get paid to write?

Thinking back to law school, many of my most favorable impressions are of law professors who also had distinguished careers in legal practice or government service. I also suffered through countless "well-published" professors who had little to no experience in practice. Even respecting that professorship is a "writing job", unless those younger faculty are writing circles around their counterparts who have real-world experience, there's good reason to want professors to have real world experience.
7.12.2007 4:19pm
Lee & Roth LLC:
One break, comin' up!
7.12.2007 4:39pm
Xrayspec:
I've on occasion had prominent VC posters waste my time trying to persuade me that they're real estate experts.
7.12.2007 5:04pm
Mitchell J. Freedman (mail) (www):
Hate to say it, but as someone who has trained associates at a couple of law firms, as an extra part of the job, law schools continue to do a poor job of teaching people how to be lawyers, particularly trial lawyers.

I think the legal academy could use more practioners since going to law school is like going to a car mechanic's school to an extent more applicable than we lawyers want to admit, i.e. it's a profession, not merely an exercise in academic philosophy.
7.12.2007 11:51pm
dweeb:
I don't want these comments to devolve into a debate as to what the standard "should be."

But your initial post implicitly launched the first salvo in such a debate, by questioning the judgment of those who assume the standard is what most commenters clearly see as a more a rational one. The phenomenon you cite is a conflict between two views on what the standard should be, and your post belittles those who don't see eye to eye with those who, for the moment, control the standard. Or were you just making a smug "it's good to be the king" observation?
7.13.2007 4:21pm