Monday, July 11, 2011

Advice for legal historians on the entry-level law market: Part II

As I mentioned in May, I'm posting occasional advice for legal historians applying for entry-level law teaching jobs.  These posts (the first one is here) are based on my own very limited experience, but also on the wise counsel I received from mentors and colleagues.

I've noticed some blawg chatter about the FAR form, which candidates submit to the AALS in the late summer and early fall (the first "drop" date is August 2).  Here's my advice: don't try to game the system. I'm thinking specifically of the teaching interests section, where some people attempt to improve their chances of getting interviews by listing particular subjects and omitting others. Claiming an interest in a subject that you loathe is a clear "don't," but there are less obvious ways in which over-strategizing can go wrong. Here are two examples:

1. On my first draft of the form (DO circulate a draft to your advisors before you send it in), I omitted Legal History from the first line ("Subjects most like to teach").  Knowing that it would be a tight market, I was concerned about appearing too narrow and perhaps overly "academic."  An advisor reminded me that Legal History is my core interest; I would only confuse committees by giving it lower priority.  My takeaway: think about how you can contribute to the standard law school curriculum -- both because you should contribute and because you'll encounter this question in interviews -- but don't think that you need to fill every slot on that first line with 1L classes to demonstrate your potential value, especially if doing so leads you to bury a real area of expertise.

2. I omitted Con Law from my FAR form, having heard that "everyone wants to teach that" and "only Supreme Court clerks get those jobs." I later found myself interviewing with a committee that was looking for Con Law coverage. I felt foolish trying to explain that my research does actually relate and that I would be excited to teach the subject.  The lesson I took from this is: don't take yourself out of the game before it begins (asking the coach to bring you off the bench is pretty awkward).

Readers - do you have any other tips for legal historians filling out the FAR form?