Thursday, October 3, 2013
Tracey E. George (Vanderbilt) & Albert Yoon (Toronto), The Labor Market for New Law Professors, 11 J. Empirical Legal Stud. ___ (2014):
Law school professors control the production of lawyers and influence the evolution of law. Understanding who is hired as a tenure-track law professor is of clear importance to debates about the state of legal education in the United States. But while opinions abound on the law school hiring process, little is empirically known about what explains success in the market for law professors. Using a unique and extensive data set of survey responses from candidates in the 2007-2008 legal academic labor market, we examine the factors that influence which candidates are interviewed and ultimately hired by law schools. We find that law schools appear open to non-traditional candidates in the early phases of the hiring process but when it comes to the ultimate decision — hiring — they focus on candidates who look like current law professors.
The current study can help us to evaluate the law school crisis through its focus on how law schools hire tenure-track faculty. As law schools are called upon to reevaluate our goals and pedagogy, they rely on law professors who have a limited range of experiences. Nearly all new hires in our study attended a small set of schools which are more likely to emphasize theory over practice. And, the new hires have a shared set of professional experiences, especially time as a law teaching fellow and a judicial law clerk. Missing from those experiences is substantial time outside of a law school. The lack of real-world experience affects the capacity of new hires to teaching skills courses and to assist students making the transition to those real-world jobs.
The challenges facing legal education, of course, cannot be fixed simply by hiring different tenure-track professors. Our study casts doubt on the ability of law schools to innovate in entry-level hiring due to the self-reinforcing nature of the selection process. Even if law schools could respond to the call for more skills training or better career advising by altering their tenure-track hiring, the reasons against doing so—the value of research and the core curriculum—may outweigh dramatic changes in tenure-track hiring. But, continuing to hire tenure-track professors who share the same credentials and experiences as tenured faculty may be a poor investment for law schools. The solution may be greater diversification in the types of law-teaching positions in law schools.
(Hat Tip: Brian Leiter.)