Lateral Market Slowdown; Sign of the Times
The lateral market for law professors appears to be substantially curtailed. In 2006, 2007 and 2008, about 75 law schools annually secured lateral recruits, with 130-134 professors changing schools each year. After the financial crisis, in 2009 and 2010, the figures fell off, with 68 and 72 schools involved in relocating 114 and 92 professors, respectively. In 2011 and 2012, the number of such schools dropped more sharply to, respectively, 55 and 56, involving 93 and 84 prawfs.
What about this year? The latest figures, as of February 4, 2013 (and largely unchanged since then), show a mere 17 schools and 21 prawfs reporting final lateral moves. The figures likely will rise a bit, as the deadline for extending lateral offers under AALS best practices is tomorrow (March 1) and that for accepting the same is two weeks later (March 15). But those figures do signal another, much steeper, decline, than in the past couple of years, reflecting the general decline in student applications to law schools and the considerable uncertainty facing legal education now.
Whatever else critics might say about the legal academy, such a decline shows deans and faculty making big changes in operating procedures. The import may be mixed, however. It’s one less way that many schools can demonstrate that they are competing with each other, though schools that are able to compete in such an environment (e.g., Alabama) send a signal that they have the resources and confidence to buck the trend. It may be one less tool prawfs have to negotiate raises and other perqs, though, again, those that are able to do so may have greater leverage than predecessors.
In any event, the time is probably ripe for an updating of the classic work of Paul Secunda about how the lateral recruiting process operates. It appears that it’s quite different today than just a few years ago.
UPDATE: For a few additional notes updating this post, click here.