Soon after [he lost his Congressional race in 2000], the faculty saw an opening and made him its best offer yet: Tenure upon hiring. A handsome salary, more than the $60,000 he was making in the State Senate or the $60,000 he earned teaching part time. A job for Michelle Obama directing the legal clinic.
Given Obama's obvious talents, I'm hardly going to gainsay Chicago's offer. Indeed, I think that there should be room on a law faculty [especially, at schools where, unlike Chicago, much of the "scholarship" produced by the faculty is pedestrian at best] for incredibly gifted people who aren't especially interested in writing law review articles, if they can make sufficient contributions to the law school in other ways.
But given Chicago's reputation as the most hardcore of legal academic institutions; and given that Chicago is one of the few law schools that is (admirably) known for having strict tenure standards, and actually has denied tenure to some rather impressive scholars; and given that I've heard Chicago professors say (as of the mid-90s, a bit before the relevant offer) that there was a firm consensus on the faculty that they would never hire anyone who didn't meet the highest scholarly standards, regardless of other considerations; and given that Obama had published no legal scholarship whatsoever at this point; this is a bit surprising.