Ambitious Academics and the Ex-Factor

I interviewed for Arizona at the AALS in DC, met lots of great candidates, and we are starting to have people to Tucson. Some candidates, it was reliably rumored, already held offers, and others are certainly starting to get them at schools around the country. Surely candidates considering multiple offers will look at scholarly impact studies and rankings, such as this interesting one from Professor Michael J. Yelnosky at Roger Williams. Most such studies focus on the current faculty, an important factor, but candidates thinking about mobility in the future should also examine the size and strength of the former faculty. I don’t mean to plug my former employer Western New England College School of Law, but I use them as an example because I know their track record in giving people opportunities to move. A fairly complete list of ex-faculty includes:

Len Baynes at St. Johns, Wendy Gordon at Boston University, Jim Gardner at Buffalo, the late Chris Iijima formerly at Hawai’i, Val Vojdik at West Virginia, Robin Kundis Craig at Florida State, Sue Liemer at Southern Illinois, Jay Mootz at Penn State, Lenese Herbert at Albany, Eric Miller at St. Louis, the late Bill Lash who taught at George Mason, Madeleine Placensia at Tulsa, Keith Werhan at Tulane, me at Arizona, and Don Dunn, Dean of the University of La Verne College of Law. On three occasions, two faculty members independently lateraled to the same school: Dennis Patterson and Don Korobkin to Rutgers, Camden, Scott Howe and Dennis Binder to Chapman, David Moss to Wayne, and Joan Mahoney, to be Wayne’s Dean. Taylor Flynn went to Northeastern and came back.

While teaching where Wendy Gordon taught back in the day does not automatically make you as smart or productive as Wendy Gordon, a strong history of mobility suggests effective support for scholarship and the presence of colleagues who can offer good feedback. It also may suggest that a school is trying to hire the best teachers and scholars that it can, without worrying about the probability that the candidate will stay on the faculty for life. At Western New England, the policy was if you love somebody set them free; reportedly, the long-time dean’s opinion was that it was better to get a good person for a year or two than not to have them at all. If a school has a policy like this, other schools will know, and look at that school as a potential source for laterals. By contrast, I’ve heard rumors of schools refusing to let faculty take visits, for fear that they will be lured away.

I don’t expect schools to advertise that lots of teachers have moved on, and it would probably be impolitic to ask, at least before having an offer in hand. Over time, systematic data will be available from the Dan FIller lateral move posts (2007 here, 2006 here) But until a complete study is done, I’d advise candidates interested in the possibility of future mobility to discreetly investigate the history of lateralization in schools they are considering.

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