Early Returns on Entry-Level Hiring
I was perusing through Solum’s entry-level-hiring list for this year. I was struck by the number of candidates that had either advanced degrees besides a J.D. or experience at a law school through a fellowship or visiting professor program. For the past few years, observers have noted that the entry path for law professor jobs was moving in those directions. However, the early results this year really underscore the incredible degree to which the market has shifted. The new survey reporting method being used at Legal Theory has a few kinks so the brief biography for a few reported candidates is incomplete. In some cases, I was able to find some more information with a quick Google search. However, my numbers below might be off in a few instances. By my count, there are:
95 total hires with adequate information
58 hires who were VAP’s or fellows at a law school
15 hires with neither an advanced degree besides a J.D. nor teaching experience at a law school
I was most astounded that there were only 15 of the 95 hires so far were “naked” J.D. candidates (and one of those was a former U.S. Supreme Court clerk). Notably, that percentage roughly matches last year’s rate of “naked” J.D. hiring.
I wonder if, now that the entry-level hiring preferences of law schools seem clearly established, there might be some significant effects in the hiring process. The consequences of such information might start showing up in future AALS FAR candidate lists. It is my impression from reading the last two years of FAR packets, the majority of candidates are of the “naked” J.D. type. In the future, such J.D. candidates might recognize that their odds are long and either abandon their quests to become academics or apply to the various fellowship programs without ever going on the market for entry-level hiring. Before I was on the market (as a “naked” J.D.), I read every piece of advice around the Web about how to become a law professor (and there are a lot of great resources). However, with these new hiring patterns, those guides are largely out of date and many future candidates will surely recognize that the path to becoming a legal academic is quickly changing.
From the perspective of hiring law schools, I wonder if there is a substantial arbitrage opportunity for hiring “naked” J.D. candidates. With the incredible proliferation of VAP and fellowship programs, their aggregate ability to serve as proxies for ability and/or potential has probably diminished. For one-year VAP programs in particular, the amount of information available to hiring law schools is almost nil. The candidate submits their CV through FAR before he or she even begins the VAP. The opportunity for writing has, thus, not emerged. And faculty members at the visiting school are unlikely to offer any significant insight to the candidates. Hiring these “naked” J.D.’s to a tenure-track position as an alternative to a VAP might be a potential market opportunity for some schools. It’s unclear based upon Solum’s information how many of the hired candidates have visited at a school for more than one year. However, even compared to some two-year VAP candidates, a “naked” J.D. with publications might be undervalued in today’s market. Just as the Oakland A’s went from exploiting the undervaluing of the players with limited athleticism and plate patience to players with other, potentially undervalued skills, forward-looking Moneylaw law schools might see that the market has shifted too far against the “naked” J.D.