Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fellowships Panel, Advice, and Shout-Outs

Posted by Jed Shugerman

Tomorrow, I am going to be on a panel at Yale Law School from 12 to 1 on post-graduate teaching fellowships, as part of their Law Teaching Series. My co-panelist will be Irina Manta, who was a Bigelow Fellow at the University of Chicago. I have had a chance to experience these fellowships from a few perspectives: as a Yale Legal History fellow (2003-04), a Golieb Fellow at NYU (2004-05), and then as a faculty co-chair of Harvard's Climenko Fellowship for five years, and of the Berger-Howe Fellowship in Legal History.

A few posts below, Karen announced a very impressive set of legal history fellowship recipients for next year. Let me take this opportunity to extend my congratulations, too, as well as give a little advice. Prospective academics should know that the law teaching market has changed in many ways for the better over the past ten to twenty years. Law review members, the high-status clerkships, and references matter much less than they used to, and writing matters a lot more. It is more or less necessary to have a few publications before going on the market, and in particular, a job talk paper receives a disproportionate amount of attention and scrutiny.
The key to a fellowship is getting two years, with the time and support to write a solid paper in year 1, and time and support to go on the market in year 2. In the Climenko, we actually emphasize two papers, so that a fellow can place one paper as an article in the spring of year 1, and write a job talk paper in the spring/summer, but I will say that the other reason we want fellows to aim for two papers is that sometimes focusing on just one paper can backfire if the project turns out to be flawed or preempted. It may be better not to put all of one's job market eggs in one basket. And we sometimes find that the goal of writing one single field-transforming paper can be more self-defeating or paralyzing than writing two very good papers. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Finally, let me give some more congratulations to our Berger-Howe alumni who have been in the legal history news recently:

Dan Sharfstein (2005-06) just won the J. Anthony Lukas Prize for his new book, The Invisible Line: Three American Families and the Secret Journey from Black to White (Penguin Press, 2011).

Diana Williams (2006-07), now at U.S.C., won the 2008 Cromwell Prize for her dissertation, and is finishing a book manuscript, "'They Call It Marriage': Race, Gender, Families, and the Law Before Plessy v. Ferguson."

Owen Williams (2007-08) was inaugurated as President of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, last April. I was proud to serve on a panel at the inauguration.

Cynthia Nicoletti (2007-08) won the 2011 ASLH's Cromwell Prize for her dissertation "The Great Question of the War: The Legal Status of Secession in the Aftermath of the American Civil War, 1865-1869."

Kara Swanson (2008-09) was just recognized in this blog a few days ago for her fascinating new article, "Adultery by Doctor: Artificial Insemination, 1890-1945." She is finishing her book manuscript Banking on the Body, a history of body banking in the United States, drawing upon her doctoral dissertation, Body Banks: A History of Milk Banks, Blood Banks and Sperm Banks in the United States.

Deborah Dinner (2009-10) recently published "The Costs of Reproduction: History and the Legal Construction of Sex Equality," 46 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 415 (2011).

Jed Kroncke (2010-11) is completing a terrific manuscript, "The Modern Origins of American Legal Exceptionalism: Amidst Missionaries, China and the New Legal Science."

And Sam Erman (2011-12) just presented to Harvard's legal historians "Citizens of Empire: Federico Degetau, Puerto Rican Status, and the U.S. Order, 1898-1905," an excellent chapter of his forthcoming book, “Puerto Rico and the United States Constitution: Struggles around Status and Governance in a New Empire, 1898-1922.”

And among our Climenko alumni, Matthew Lindsay, Wes Oliver, and Charles Barzun also work in the legal history field.

We are very proud of this fine group.