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Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, August 17, 2018

Law Prof Applicants Are Down 15% (48% From 2010)

Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern), Number of FAR Forms in First Distribution Over Time โ€” 2018:


Legal Education | Permalink


Wasn't it pushing 1,000 at one point? Wow.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 17, 2018 4:30:19 AM

In the nine years it took me to land a teaching job---from 1992 to 2001---I participated in the recruitment conference five times. Each of those times I recall that there were more than 1,000 FAR forms, and I believe one year it was over 1,400.

Posted by: bryan camp | Aug 17, 2018 6:23:22 AM

And maybe 70 of those 344 will get tenure track jobs that aren't clinical or LRW. That is 20%, or 1 in 5. The rest hang out in academic limbo making $50k a year with no job security and growing less marketable by the month. Take home point is that there is hardly a shortage of candidates.

Posted by: JM | Aug 17, 2018 6:38:23 AM

- Take home point is that there is hardly a shortage of candidates. -

There will always be more qualified candidates than available tenure track positions, but the large drop-off in interest is surprising. Do you think this is more the result of better information and less qualified candidates self-selecting themselves out of the process, or the existence of more attractive alternatives - i.e., a better job market in biglaw and in-house positions for attorneys that would otherwise seek academic jobs?

Posted by: r | Aug 17, 2018 9:45:09 AM

Probably more attractive alternatives. Any realistic FAR candidate could write their ticket to a Vault 50 firm in any major city they want for a higher starting salary. Why trade that for a 1/5 chance of landing a job, and even if you do, winding up in some part of the country you never dreamed of living.

Other reasons...

Barriers to entry (Phd almost mandatory now)

Economic uncertainty of many institutions

Student debt (many FAR applicants will have well over $100k)

Criticism of legal education - being a prof is no longer recognized as the "virtuous" endeavor it used to be.

Posted by: JM | Aug 17, 2018 11:44:48 AM

The drop off in applicants has not been quite as drastic as the drop off in entry level tenure track jobs. Half as many people, roughly speaking, are getting hired now compared to the hiring levels at the beginning of the decade. So the decline in the applicant pool makes sense.

Posted by: Academic Observer | Aug 17, 2018 12:02:41 PM

Perhaps now that prospective prawfs are from the law school crisis era, and possibly have significant law school loans to contend with, they are less willing to be complicit in the fleecing of more law students for nonexistent jobs and decades of debt servitude.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 17, 2018 12:25:11 PM

The key to employment in the 21st Century is not legal skills and experience but a PhD in some social science. The PhD has replaced the earlier required credentials of top 10% of class at a top 30 law school plus 5 years of real lawyer experience as the key to hiring. Personally, I have know many fellow professors with mediocre law school records but a PhD who were nice, scholarly people but not really qualified to teach students who were entering a tough profession where winning is the name of the game. Anyone with a good brain who stays a week ahead can teach content (I have been dragooned into this once or twice in a 40 year career) but the intellectual skills needed for success as a LAWYER are not the same as those needed to write a law review article virtually no one will read. The professor job description has narrowed so much that many are not interested. I wouldn't be.

Posted by: OldLawProf | Aug 18, 2018 11:01:18 AM

Someone asked why? The answer is easy: the positions aren't that desirable, even if you get tenure.

First, many law schools are under extreme financial pressure. There are a number that are teetering on the edge of existence and they're only being kept alive by a cash infusion from the rest of the campus because the President doesn't want to be the one who downsized the school.

This means that there will be extreme salary pressure. You're probably not going to get a raise and if you get tenure, you're even more likely not to get a raise. They know you're not going to give up a job for life so they can squeeze you.

Second, there are more than enough people willing to take your job. Even though applications are down, there are plenty of adjuncts ready to pick up another course or even upgrade. No matter what you're getting paid, they'll do it for less. Perhaps even 70% off.

Third, tenure isn't much of a protection. If the school claims it has some fiscal emergency, the contract is voidable. If they can come up with some thoughtcrime or sexcrime, they're more than willing to nuke your contract and let you sue them to get your job back. Ask the psych professors up at Dartmouth. Tenure didn't protect them against accusations about things that didn't even happen on campus. Even if they don't boot you, they can stick you in some virtual dog house. Ask Amy Wax at UPenn.

All of this means that only the true believers and incorrigible academics will consider the positions. Yeesh.

Posted by: bob | Aug 18, 2018 12:28:30 PM

"Ask Amy Wax at UPenn"

Let's ask.... she still has her job, now commands the complete attention and open wallets of the alt-right, certainly can garner a mid to high six figure book contract for some Charles Murray-lite dogwhistling, and no longer has to teach Civ Pro, which is the least favorite course of professor and student alike.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 18, 2018 10:28:20 PM


ROTFL. As I wrote once before, whether I disagree with you or not, I always enjoy your writing style. Whatever you are doing now, I hope you are putting that talent to use. My only suggestion is that it simply be "Civ Pro", full stop. No one with a law degree will fail to get the point (and the joke).

Posted by: Rob T. | Aug 20, 2018 11:18:17 AM

Thanks Rob,

Like all law school graduates I am an important leader of society with millions of dollars in the ol' bank vault and am the very picture of physical and mental health. I simultaneously work every hour of the day yet have unlimited free time. In my community - the sum of the known universe - I am renowned for my perspicacity as much as my great humility.

In other words I am indistinguishable from any other ranting hobo on the street. Or most of the people who routinely comment here.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 21, 2018 7:33:30 AM