Recap of the Aspiring Law Professors Conference at Arizona State University

October 18th, 2009

Yesterday I attended the Aspiring Law Professors Conference held at Arizona State University School of Law. It was intended to provide attorneys considering the academic market an insight into the hiring process. There were about 30 attendees, of varying degrees of experience. I think I was the newest attorney there (I just received my bar results on Thursday!). Many of the attendees were already VAPs. Others just finished clerkships. Others were in private practice.

The day began with a formal panel discussion. The panelists were Brian Leiter, Mark Miller, Jack Chin, Orly Lobel, Carissa Hessick, Brent White, Andrew Hessick, and Marcy Karin. All of the panelists gave fantastic advice to the approximately 30 attendees in attendance. Each spoke about their experiences entering the market including advice on LLMs, VAPs, Fellowships, the Meat Market, and Callback Interviews.

One important distinction Carissa Hessick drew, was between engaging in “selling” mode and “buying” mode. When you are interviewing at the meat market, you should be in full sell mode, and attempt to make the school want to hire you. But as you progress through the process, and get a call-back, and perhaps an offer, you should transition to buying mode. That is, you need to ask the tough questions that will determine whether this is a school you would actually want to teach at.

Another important discussion focused on teaching what you love versus teaching what schools are hiring. There is no easy way to resolve this dilemma, but ultimately the panelists cautioned the attendees from faking it and teaching something they have no interest in. Eventually, your dislike of the topic will come out, and that will leave you in a tough position for the future.

The panelists also discussed the value of an LLM if your J.D. is not from a top school. Some felt that a prestigious fellowship could suffice for an LLM. Others felt you should go directly into a VAP if possible. While the VAP pays a salary, the LLM does not make you work, and you have lots of time to write and publish. There are lots of trade-offs. I am still debating this issue myself.

After the panel discussion, the group split up into breakout sessions, where students practiced job talks and mock interviews. I found this portion particularly helpful. Some of the attendees were ready to go on the market this November, and were extremely well-prepared. I took notes.

I am a few years from applying to the market, but I am very glad I attended. I gained some fantastic insight into the hiring process, and perhaps even more important, made some great contacts and expanded my network.

Many thanks to Douglas Sylvester and everyone at Arizona State University School of Law, who organized a fantastic conference.

I also made it to the Arizona State v. Washington tailgate, and scalped some nosebleed seats. I stayed for part of the First Quarter, before I had to leave for PHX for the red-eye (I’m on a layover at Charlotte now, I should be in Johnstown in about 6 hours). I’ve never seen so many fireworks and explosions at a college football game. But a nice way to cap off a pretty cool day.