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Law Professor Jobs Getting Harder to Come By:

Over at The Faculty Lounge blog, Al Brophy notes that William and Mary has instituted a hiring freeze. Brophy continues:

I'm expecting freezes on hiring at many universities. I asked a friend at a major law school a few weeks back what he thought the effect of the economy would be on law school hiring. ... First, fewer people are going to be retiring; second, schools will be reluctant to fill vacancies. A handful of elite schools will be insulated from the downturn, I suppose. For all the rest of us, get ready for some more belt-tightening.... Maybe the real crunch will be felt next year; that's hard to know.

I was on the teaching job market at the tail end of the belt-tightening caused by the 1991-92 recession. It was an awful time to be trying to break into academia. I saw the statistics many years later, and something like three times as many faculty candidates were hired annually in the late '90s as in the early '90s. The last few years have also been good for prospective professors; state budgets have been flush, and many private and public law schools have received private gifts allowing them to expand their faculty.

Given the budget situation in many states, and the reduced endowments (and probably reduced giving) at private universities, things are likely to get a lot worse before they get better. Thinking about whether to go on the job market next year, or to finish that economics Ph.D./take a two-year fellowship/take that dream job working at an NGO in Geneva? The latter options should be looking relatively more attractive.

Bama 1L:
The economic crunch should also make biglaw associate life even less appealing, meaning more lawyers will be trying to get into academia.
10.19.2008 11:26pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Big cutbacks in Florida at the universities and the law schools which in turn is having a ripple effect on the housing market up here. Renting and selling is suddenly much harder.

Also heard discouraging stories about biglaw hiring practices lately. Start dates being pushed back, offers being rescinded, someone I know didn't get hired after a successful summer internship, etc.

For me, I feel much less remorseful about my decision to start my career in the federal government.
10.19.2008 11:59pm
Lev:
Does this mean fewer lawyers graduating?
10.20.2008 12:22am
huskerfan:
Imagine that. A libertarian blog that is made up mostly of law school professors are complaining that it is difficult for state and private universities to hire professors because the state budgets are cut due to the current financial meltdown that libertarians advocated for. I can't imagine this would ever happen. Fancy that.
10.20.2008 1:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Americans must face an awful truth: more HS graduates won't being going to college. We have a surplus of people going into what I call "the symbol economy," at the expense of the "real economy." In other words, we need to get back to production to create goods for both export and domestic consumption. Otherwise you have to believe that foreigners will take our IOUs forever. Fewer college students means fewer jobs for professors-- particularly at the University of California. With the CA economy in a tailspin, either tuition has to increase significantly, or the UC system must shrink as the CA budget shrinks. In either case that means fewer professors.
10.20.2008 1:42am
Jim at FSU (mail):
I never said I had a problem with it. And as far as I can tell, neither do they. It seems more of an observation than a complaint.

I've seen hard economic times before. It's why I always live frugally and save money. That being said, the sooner I can secure gainful employment, the better I will feel. There are a lot of cool (read: expensive) projects I want to start and I need a steady paycheck for that.
10.20.2008 2:23am
OrinKerr:
Imagine that. A libertarian blog that is made up mostly of law school professors are complaining that it is difficult for state and private universities to hire professors because the state budgets are cut due to the current financial meltdown that libertarians advocated for. I can't imagine this would ever happen. Fancy that.

Hmm, I don't see "the blog" complaining. Actually, I don't see anyone complaining. What am I missing?
10.20.2008 2:45am
Jay:
huskerfan....Is that you, Justice Thomas?
10.20.2008 3:01am
eric (mail):
What am I missing?

Tin foil hat and kool-aid.
10.20.2008 3:02am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Yes, in fact, I believe in all sorts of libertarian policies which would probably be awful for the academic profession as a whole. If some of that happens, I won't be complaining! (At least not as a moral matter -- people are always entitled to complain when things go badly for them, as long as they don't do so using incorrect moral arguments.)
10.20.2008 6:54am
A.C.:
Will reduced wealth make more families eager to send their kids to public universities rather than private ones? It seems like a reduction in the supply of public tertiary education might happen at the same time as an increase in the demand for it. Any thoughts?
10.20.2008 9:20am
Houston Lawyer:
Meanwhile, tuition will continue to increase faster than inflation. This trend seems to be immune to the economic cycle.
10.20.2008 10:26am
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):

Imagine that. A libertarian blog that is made up mostly of law school professors are complaining that it is difficult for state and private universities to hire professors because the state budgets are cut due to the current financial meltdown that libertarians advocated for. I can't imagine this would ever happen. Fancy that.


I believe the blog covers the business of practicing law, and teaching it, along with theory.

As much as I understand such things, the blog is an excellent stop for the young cats to facilitate their entries into the big "out there".
10.20.2008 11:04am
Hark:
To clarify, the hiring freeze at W&M does not apply to the Law School.
10.20.2008 11:14am
T.J.:
Not to hijack the thread, but in light of the increasingly tight and competitive law school hiring market, I'd very much appreciate hearing the thoughts of law profs on here about law teaching jobs in business schools or other non-law school appointments. These other alternatives seem to be a potentially less competitive avenue into law teaching. Aside from the obvious (teaching law students vs. non-law students), is there a good reason that the law school appointments appear to be so much more competitive than other law teaching opportunities?
10.20.2008 11:22am
Mad Max:
Thinking about whether to go on the job market next year, or to finish that economics Ph.D./take a two-year fellowship/take that dream job working at an NGO in Geneva?

So what are there, maybe 150,000 law students in the USA? And how many NGO jobs are there in Geneva? For that matter, how many law professor jobs are there? Don't count on either one is what it sounds like to me.

And let's see, lots of universities are cutting back on hiring, so don't get that law degree, coz it will be hard to be a law prof. Instead, go get that economics PhD, because universities are sure to keep hiring econ profs even as they quit hiring law profs! Heck, you'll be that much further in debt, but at least you'll have delayed reality for a few more years...
10.20.2008 11:33am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Um, finishing the econ Ph.D. if you're a law grad with the basic credentials to become a law professor will help you get a LAW teaching job in the future, while waiting out the downturn.
10.20.2008 11:44am
Hoosier:
Attention Baby-Boomer Faculty:

Retire when you hit 65!

I don't care if your job gives you a sense of satisfaction. Gen-X needs jobs!
10.20.2008 11:52am
Mad Max:
Yeah, and while you're getting that econ PhD there will be more and more wanna-be law profs coming out of the pipeline, so delaying has only increased the amount of competition while putting you more in debt. So hey, knock yourself out!
10.20.2008 12:04pm
T.J.:
Mad Max,

You are missing David's point. The econ PhD will make the hypothetical individual's candidacy much stronger, thus better preparing him/her for a more competitive market.
10.20.2008 12:18pm
catullus:
Hoosier: Aging Baby-boomers need jobs, too. Nobody's entitled. Based on your post, Gen-X sounds like even bigger whiners than boomers.
10.20.2008 12:57pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"These other alternatives seem to be a potentially less competitive avenue into law teaching."

I'm in one of these positions at a community college. One thing is they don't pay as well as law school prof jobs. Not that it doesn't pay well (I make a comfortable 5-figure salary); it's just, from my understanding, law school profs usually have a starting salarly in the 6 figures, which higher than most 4 year or non law school grad. school teaching positions go.

And even still there is tremendous competition for these positions. It's really hard to get a law prof teaching job if you don't have a JD (or at least an LL.M.) from an Ivy League or top ten school. So where do all of the other JDs go when they want to teach (as many of us do)? Those other positions. When a full time position opens at a community college it's amazing how many JDs from state schools like Temple, Rutgers, etc. apply. Lots of lawyers apparently want to get out of the practice of law and into teaching.
10.20.2008 1:09pm
T.J.:
Thanks Jon, I appreciate your thoughts.
10.20.2008 2:08pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
My pleasure: Here is something nice about CC prof jobs: No pressure to publish. My teaching load is 15 credits, though I can overload it to 18-21 a semester if I choose. 15 is a lot more than the 6 that law profs have or the 9-12 at a lot of 4 year colleges. But not having to publish in order to get tenure is a big relief. We always can publish if we'd like (I try to a little); but it's always on our terms. Plus if you do what's expected (effective teaching and committee work, etc.) tenure is presumptive.

But of course, on threads like these, I face a stigma of being just a "community college" professor. I don't care. I'm proud to have graduated from Temple (JD, MBA, LL.M.) not Yale or Harvard and be where I am today. Though I've noticed that the need to eat and to live a comfortable middle class life is more important that status of where one teaches. Humanities hiring can be so bad (from the perspective of a PhD who wants a full time teaching job) there are plenty of PhDs from great schools who thought they'd end up at a 4 year college but teach at community colleges. And most that I've run into are happier for it. Our students are much more "down to earth" and if one is a lefty egalitarian, as many college profs are, there certainly is a sense that we are "giving back" to the community and not part of an elite system of privilege or status conference.
10.20.2008 2:39pm
Mad Max:
You are missing David's point. The econ PhD will make the hypothetical individual's candidacy much stronger, thus better preparing him/her for a more competitive market.

I understood he hoped to make that point, but I am not sure what the evidence for it is. Is it just econ, or would any PhD make the candidate stronger? If you wanted to be a history professor and you took four extra years to get an econ PhD before you sought your history job, that econ PhD wouldn't help you at all, and in fact would hurt you.

Maybe it's something peculiar to law. How many law profs have econ degrees right now, anyway?
10.20.2008 3:44pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):

The economic crunch should also make biglaw associate life even less appealing, meaning more lawyers will be trying to get into academia.


Depends on what area of law you're in. If you're a bankruptcy lawyer or litigator, you'll have more work than ever. If you're a finance/M&A lawyer, you might get to lead an almost normal lifestyle for a while (assuming your firm has enough work to justify keeping you around until the economy picks up).
10.20.2008 4:11pm
comm (mail):
Why has the law prof job market gotten so much more competitive so quickly, even before the economic downturn? The supply of JDs hasn't changed, has it?
10.20.2008 4:37pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
MM,

Yes in a sense it is particular to law. A JD degree is probably less onerous than a PhD because of the lack of dissertation requirement. A JD/PhD makes one all the more distinguished. I've seen some experts note if you want to do cutting edge interdisciplinary work now a days you must have the PhD in the subject that comes after the "&" in the "Law &X" studies.
10.20.2008 4:39pm
spider:
Mad Max,
If all you have is a JD, then with the way JD curriculum is structured, you have very little experience at conducting extended academic research and writing in a specialized area of law -- i.e., what professors do. A PhD is great experience at developing that, whether it be history of law, or economic analysis of law, or health policy, or criminology, or use of statistical evidence in litigation, or what have you.

The traditional route into legal academia, where somebody graduates from one of the fancy law schools, then does a clerkship with a fancy judge, then gets a professor job, is a rather poor model IMO.
10.20.2008 5:20pm
spider:
Jon Rowe captured my point more eloquently before I pressed Post :>
10.20.2008 5:22pm