Ibrahim v. Secunda on Appropriate Lateral Etiquette

Who has the better approach to the lateral hiring “market”?

Paul Secunda:

[A]s long as you do not have concerns about people knowing your looking, you might as well go forward with all the approaches: get known, file a FAR, and target letters/emails to appointment committees. Although I think letters are by far the least effective method (no one wants to be added to a long stack of paper), you just never know.

And that, my friends, sums up the lateral market in general: you just never know – sometimes you try to put yourself “out there” without actually being “out there,” and other times you do nothing proactive and are “out there” anyway.

or Darian Ibrahaim:

To lateral candidates, do not write directly to schools you’re interested in, and do not go through the AALS process. You do not want to appear anxious to escape your current situation, even if you are. The best way to get the word out that you’re open to a move is to let your well-respected friends at other schools know that. These folks will inevitably be contacted by appointments committees looking for people who might be moveable. Also, the standard advice about going to conferences, publicizing your papers all holds true. If you’re doing good work, getting yourself out there, and are at a school from which one would reasonably assume you are extractable, you’ll get calls.

My view: Darian is correct on the tactics.  And he’s equally right about the appropriate move for entry-level faculty: “write directly to schools you’re interested in.”  This is a real change.  When I was on the entry market in 2003, I had no sense that it was appropriate to write to schools directly, though I lacked a mentor so I could have missed many tricks.  Now, writing directly to committees is apparently almost necessary (though not sufficient).

[Update: An earlier version of this post credited David Zaring for Darian Ibrahim’s post.  I have no idea how I made that mistake.  Sorry guys!]

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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3 Responses

  1. Paul Secunda says:

    So I still stand by what I wrote above. I do think you have to be careful not to appear desperate or over anxious, but I think you can explain that away with an appropriate story.

    So, for instance, when I was on the market, I actually had some good reasons for moving. My father-in-law was sick and the family and I were trying to get closer to Pittsburgh and a Jewish community. In short, a lot of people move for reasons unrelated to being unhappy at their current school. People leave for religious, geographical, family, and spouse job reasons, among others.

    Another point, and I point this out in my lateral piece, during my time on the Ole Miss appointments committee, we hired two people who were laterals who submitted FAR forms and/or contacted us directly. We didn’t think they were desperate and they were excellent additions to our faculty.

    Finally, I think if you are coming from a low tier law school, it is sometimes hard to get to conferences, symposiums, or even have “well-respected friends at other schools.” Indeed, with the lack of travel money for many schools in this economic environment, the old “get known” strategy outside of FAR and letters, might be that much harder.

    In short, I still recommend keeping all options open and consider explaining your reasons for wanting to move during the interview process.

  2. David Zaring says:

    I’ll take credit for Darian’s good ideas at any time!

    And these I agree with. Sometimes you don’t have a choice but to go through the FAR process, but then you’re in difficult circumstances anyway.

  3. Speaking as someone who made a lateral move this year, my answer: it depends.

    If you are desperate to leave where you are and don’t care where you land, maybe the FAR is better, since you can rack up more interviews (and by definition you probably don’t care how ticked off your home Dean will be).

    On the other hand, if you want to move for geographic reasons, there are probably very few schools you would prefer to the status quo. So in that case the FAR is a waste of time, since you will be (a) creating difficulty for yourself at the home school and (b) not materially enhancing your chances of getting what you really want.