JoshCast: The Meet Market: Applying for a Legal Academic Job

April 23rd, 2012

In January, I recorded a podcast with Jeanne Hoffman from KosmosOnline where I talked about my experiences at the AALS meat (or is it meet) market.

And I have my very own tag at Kosmos:

The transcription is here:

Jeanne Hoffman:        I just came across Josh Blackman, assistant professor at South Texas College of Law who is a newly appointed professor there and I decided to ask him about his process. So what sort of process did you go through when applying for that job?

Josh Blackman:           Oh! Good seeing you Jeanne. The process for applying for a law professor job is rather long and tedious. It really begins in the summer time with something called FAR. You basically submit this form to every law school in the country through this clearinghouse, which is the AALS, The American Association of Law Schools and it informs us of your education, who are you, where did you work, what have you published and you also send things like writing samples and other documents and then based on the information that you submit, schools choose whether they want to invite you to what is called the “Meet Market” which is effectively this huge conference in Washington, DC where every law school comes and they can invite you to come in for 25-minute interview. You can have as many as you know, one, two, three, four, five or even 20 interviews in a span of 2 days. It’s like trick or treating, kind of, you are in a hotel, you go from door-to-door, knock, go in, interview and you go in the next door and that is really all the chance you get.

That is really the first phase. If a school likes you enough after the Meet Market they would actually invite you back to what is called a “Call Back Interview” where they fly you to the campus, they put you through a full day of interviews which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, meeting with faculty, meeting with students, perhaps most importantly is the job talk that is really the capstone of the call back where you basically give a presentation of a paper that is a work-in-progress to the faculty and they grill you on it and ask you questions. After that happens then you find out if you got a job or not. Very thankfully and gratefully I was able to get a job at the South Texas College of Law in Houston where I will be starting this coming summer and I am really, really, really excited, so I hope that answered your question.

JH:       Yes it did thank you. So you said it about like took a 3-day going through the interview, so how many interviews are you talking about?

JB:        I had a lot which I don’t know if it is good or bad, I scheduled a lot of them many more back to back to back which had the added benefit of giving you some more exposure, but the downside is you are running around a lot. The interview is actually a block of 30-minute segments. So each interview would last 25 minutes, give you 5 minutes to go in for interviews. Unfortunately many schools do run late and they hold you past your time; even more unfortunately is a hotel where the conference is held at – Marriot Wardman Park – is like a maze, it is something out of Greek mythology. It can actually take you 10 minutes to go from one place to another with these towers it is very complicated to get around and a couple of times I was a few minutes late, the schools are understanding. So there is a lot going on, you have to prepare, you have to run between interviews. I saw girls click-clacking in high heels down the hallway trying to make an interview; it gets tough. And also getting your stuff together and making sure you are composed and cool and you are walking like it is first interview of the day.

JH:       So I could understand the running around part, but how do you keep up that level of energy, how can you be on for that many interviews in a row?

JB:        Well, I am usually a pretty high intensity person, Jeanne is smiling, you can’t see this is in the podcast because Jeanne knows me, but I am usually pretty high intensity, I don’t need to drink coffee or anything in the morning to get going, but it is very tough to keep your stamina up. After that last interview of the day, it gets a little drag, it is a little drag. For no other reason and the fact that you are answering the same questions over and over and over again, I think on one of my last interviews I prefaced with “I apologize if I already answered this question but I don’t remember if I have or not.” I just didn’t remember if I had answered that question or not because I had presented the same paper about 20 times that day. It is very difficult, I don’t know if there is anything much you can do to prepare other than, know your material cold know your paper cold, know your record cold and be prepared.

Just as important as you talking is like professors talk, something which I will soon learn is professors like to hear themselves speak. So to the extent that you can listen to them and engage them and perhaps if they have written on something that is similar to what you would like to write about, ask them about it. That raises the challenge of in addition to running around interviews, who you’re meeting with. I had my android device up with a biography of every single person I was interviewing with and as I was running down the hallway like a mad man I would quickly scan it, like “who I am meeting with?” and some instances there are one, two, three, four, five as much as eight people in the room so you got to know your stuff. It is really, it is really a brutal process. They call it the “meet market” which I guess is supposed to be M-E-E-T but it really should be M-E-A-T market because you really felt like a slab of meat, because you are just peddling your wares but it is a tough process and thankfully it was successful for me on my first go around this past Fall.

JH:       Just my final question to you is the on-campus interviews kind of like the AALS since you have so many meetings during the day or does there tend to be more variety in the questions asked?

JB:        You know the on-campus interview is a lot more fun a lot more interesting. It usually starts when they fly you out for an evening and you’ll dinner with some faculty. I went to a great steakhouse in Houston. It was delicious and next morning you have a nice breakfast at a nice restaurant, then you meet with groups of faculty in four or five blocks, sometimes you meet with students which I actually love and I love talking to the students to see what they wanted out of their education, you have a one-one with the dean and the associate deans. The job talk is much more focused, but it also little bit more on your own pace because you are basically holding it for 25 or 30 minutes rather than you getting grilled from all about. It just it is a lot a lot more easier pace but it is still very stressful and perhaps the easiest benefit is that you can prepare better, you know who are meeting with you have a full day and you know exact what your calendar is, versus at the AALS market in Washington where you’re just bang-bang-bang one after another.

You know if nothing else for anyone considering the Law professor market it was actually enjoyable on some sort of sadomasochistic level because this is probably the last time in my opportunity that professors from 20 different schools who have any interest in what the heck I am doing and if you think about it all these people are talking about what you want to do, what you want to write about and giving you good feedback. I had one professor read a paper and he found a mistake and I was like “Oh wow, that’s good, I’ll fix that.” Someone else made a point which I had not considered and actually advised a paper. So treat it as an opportunity of nothing else, just get yourself in and immerse yourself in the wonder that is academia if only for a day.

JH:       Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us Josh.

JB:        Thanks Jeanne, take care.