Law Professor Lateraling 101: Part 8 (“You Like Me, You Really Like Me”)

sallyfield.jpgRather than using a saying incorrectly (and having my junior colleague point it out for all to see in the comments (Chris, didn’t you like dinner the other night?)), I decided to steal a line from one of my favorite actresses, Sally Fields, in the spirit of having just shown my Labor Law class “Norma Rae.”

So, congratulations, you have received a lateral offer from a school (BTW, check to make sure it is not from one of those diploma mills). The process is over (or this never-ending series of posts is over), right? Wrong. Not only did I plan 10 parts for this riveting series (come hell or high water), but there are still some remaining issues to tackle including: what to say (and not to say) during that first conversation with the Dean (who will now take over from the appointments committee head), how to negotiate for different terms and conditions, and finally acceptance and other remaining matters like “the move.” (hmmm, maybe I will go with 11 parts).

First, how you react to an offer probably first depends on what type of offer you are made. It seems that a number of years back, it was not unusual for a school to offer a candidate the look-see visit. The idea was that a year visiting the place would be mutually beneficial for both the school and the candidate. If the candidate’s head started turning around and spewing vomit or, on the other hand, the candidate discovered a faculty culture that reminded them of a perpetual AALS conference, it might be best to part on amicable terms after a year while is at least pretending still to be friends.

On the other hand, and this is not the post to go into much detail, there seems to be an increasing trend, as witnessed by the CO/Faculty Lounge lateral moves list, for schools just to offer a permanent position from the get-go. This seems to be more common at the non-elite schools, and less likely at places like Harvard, Yale, Mississippi, or Marquette.


In any event, there are some good posts by Christine Hurt in two parts on visiting here and here (only two parts, Chrstine, what’s with that?). Brian Leiter in another post makes the good point that women and men with children have a much harder time picking up and visiting for a year.

But let’s assume you are made a permanent offer, as I was in two instances in the last two years. The important point here is that there is nothing wrong in telling the Dean that you are thrilled to learn that the school is making you an offer. Again, it is probably not a good idea to exclaim that your next child (of either sex) will be named after said dean. In fact, it is almost never a good idea to accept the offer on the spot.

Here’s why.

First, it may be that the Dean does not have all the specifics of the hire. In one of my cases, the Dean was new to the school and needed to check with others on the law faculty and across campus to determine things as crucial as salary, course load, and tenure policy. Even in my other situation, there was much to be determined through talking to other people around campus.

Second, there will be plenty of time for more in-depth (read: steel cage death match) negotiation later on. At present, it is enough to say that you are honored and humbled by the offer. You should probably let the Dean do most of the talking and hopefully you’ll hear him or her say things like: “We are excited about the prospect of you joining our faculty,” instead of, “Phew! That was a close one. You barely scraped by.” This is also not the time to tell the Dean that you are planning to take sabbatical your first year or that you are dead set on making a play for the Associate Dean position.

Also, this goes back to the pushing and pulling dynamic that I discussed in an earlier post (I believe Post 4, Paragraph 11, line 3, Scott, if you are still paying attention). Now that it is clear that the school wants you, you have some leverage. This is not to say that you want to metamorphosize into a large disgusting bug. But it is fair to use the new power dynamic appropriately to your advantage.

For instance, you may decide that even though you love the place, it is necessary to have the Dean pay to send you and your family to check out the place in more detail. At least the two Deans that I have dealt with have been more than happy to pay for this expense. Such a trip may give you a chance to get to know future colleagues and to figure out whether said school is really excited and enthusiastic about you coming to their school.

Also, by taking your time with the offer, you can do the ‘ol law review expedite process, only this time with schools. I think there is nothing wrong with telling schools that are still in the process of considering you that you now have an offer. It is amazing some times how schools that did not seem to be that interested in you become more so when they know another school has made you an offer. Now, this is not to say that other schools will necessarily move more quickly on a decision on you, but at least at that point you can make the school give you a definite answer.

So, accept your offer with real glee. You deserve it. You worked hard, sweated through a job talk, and travelled a few thousand miles. Sit back and let it all sink for a little bit.

Negotiations are just around the corner.

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3 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Well, Slater didn’t seem to think I was hassling you about the saying–he thought you should’ve referred just to him, and not included “the likes of”! But you know this business–reasoned disagreement is often the highest compliment you can pay someone, because it takes his or her idea seriously. Of course, I probably take silly things like what “served cold” means far too seriously…

    For the record, of course, enchiladas are definitely a dish best served warm, and are especally good eaten with a colleague like Paul and his delightful family.

  2. Chris says:

    Uh, I mean especially.

  3. Paul says:

    Chris, you should try enchiladas cold. It might surprise you.