The Fellowship of the (Hi)Ring

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3 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    This justification of the fellowship has rung a bit hollow to me. Your fellow Fellow at Temple, for instance, already had two publications to his name before coming in. My impression from perusing the bios of other Fellows in other programs is that there are more like Brian Gallini than like yourself.

    Perusing the current list of Climenkos at Harvard, it seems that at least seven of the fourteen had published prior to entering the program, and two either had or were finishing PhD programs (and if you’re not at conferences / publishing during your PhD, what are you doing?).

    In other words, a lot of these people in VAPs really do seem to be people who’d have been hired directly to the tenure-track before the emergence of these programs.

  2. Geoff says:

    I have been a skeptic about fellowship programs as well, particularly those that slot aspiring “bar subject” course teachers into legal writing instructor roles. It has always seemed to me that teaching legal writing involved a different skill set, in many ways, than teaching a class like torts. I know that I would not be qualified to teach legal writing. Schools do a disservice to their students–many in desparate need of writing instruction–when they don’t hire professional writing teachers but instead hire would-be-tenure track faculty with no particular gift or insight with respect to teaching writing. I’m also not sure what value teaching writing has for a person headed to teach crim or something of that nature (as opposed to the value of practicing in the subject area you will teach for another year or getting a year of PHD coursework in).

    Is the main advantage of a fellowship time to write? I think not. The bottom line is that a candidate who has not written pre-fellowship is unlikely to place an article before the AALS conference in November — so while a fellowship might produce an article, it is unlikely to do so in time to matter (at least if it is just a 1 year fellowship).

    But time to interview shouldn’t be ignored. The bottom line is that both the AALS FRC conference and the full-day callback interview process can be incredibly time consuming for most candidates who will end up with a job (and have, say, 3-10 call-back offers). Particularly when you start talking about schools that aren’t close to major hub airports, it can take almost a day to get there and a day to get back, making an interview a 3 day proposition. Are there a lot of firms out there where it is easy to take that kind of time off? Ph.D. programs and fellowships are far more forgiving of that kind of time commitment.

    The other benefit is learning to “talk like a law professor.” Being conversant not just with the law, but with how law is discussed in academic circles, might be something that could come during those first 8 weeks in the fellowship post.

    I’m not sure it’s true that schools are judging candidates based on a “proven record” of scholarship rather than potential — what has happened instead is that the indicators of “potential” have changed. It used to be that scholarship potential was assessed based on what are now generally discredited factors like law school rank, clerkships and the like. Now, schools expect at least some publication as an indication of future publication potential (but I don’t think pre-appointment publications, particularly student papers and notes, are expected to be as good as the papers expected for tenure).

  3. Jason says:

    Geoff, I agree with everything you said, except for a minor quibble about your claim that things like law school rank and clerkships are “now generally discredited.” That is, I think you’re being overly generous. The bios of people coming into academia every year are still dishearteningly tilted toward those with high LSAT’s and “elite” credentials.

    I’m not sure Jeffrey Harrison would feel the need to blog were rank and things to actually be discredited to some significant degree in legal academia.