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Sunday, November 20, 2011
NY Times Article on becoming a law professor: Is it like a pro sports draft?

Very provocative article today by David Segal of the NY Times.  Among many points critical of law school teaching and of allocation of law school resources - and students' tuition dollars - on arguably irrelevant or ponderous legal scholarship, he makes an apt comparison between how one becomes a law professor and how a prospect participates in a pro sports draft:
The Prestige Game

About half of all law school hiring begins at the Faculty Recruitment Conference, widely known as the meat market, held by the Association of American Law Schools. It is conducted every year at the Marriott in the Woodley Park neighborhood of Washington.

At this year’s conference, in October, nearly 500 aspiring law professors turned up for interviews with 165 law schools. Like the draft of every professional sport, there are superstars here and for two days they were hotly pursued. At the top of the pile were former Supreme Court clerks. Just under them were candidates with both a J.D. and a Ph.D. in another discipline. Law schools, especially those in the upper echelons, have been smitten by Ph.D.-J.D.’s for more than a decade.

Ori J. Herstein, who studied philosophy in grad school and is a doctor in the science of law, says that “an economics Ph.D. is the most valuable,” and that “the further away you get from the humanities the better.”

Mr. Herstein was sitting in the Marriott lobby between interviews. Israeli-born and cheerful in a boyishly wonky way, he has a résumé that seems custom-built to tantalize law school recruiters. He has two degrees from Columbia, which, along with a handful of other elite schools — most notably Yale — has become a farm team for the credential-obsessed legal academy. He has already published a handful of  law review articles with promisingly esoteric titles (“Historic Injustice and the Non-Identity Problem: The Limitations of the Subsequent-Wrong Solution and Towards a New Solution”) and has submitted another that sounds perfectly inscrutable (“Why Nonexistent People Do Not Have Zero Well-Being but Rather No Well-Being”).
To read this article, click here.


Thanks for continuing to post some of the most interesting articles related to law/sports law especially while many of us are caught up in the pressures of fantasy sports and what not... :)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 11/20/2011 2:44 PM  

This isn't the first time this has come up though, right? I mean, the legal profession has come under some substantial fire in recent years to reform its curriculum. There's no arguing that many grads are leaving ill-prepared to contribute in meaningful ways to large firms/complex issues, etc. I'm just not sure, given the many nuances of the law (business of the law) that law schools are able to teach such things. Plea bargaining, as the author touches on, is something specific to each prosecutor's office.

That said, the comparison to a pro sports draft is spot-on. Law schools looking for future professors will look to the schools that have historically produced talent in the past (Harvard, Yale, Stanford, etc). In a similar vein, your top talent in the draft will usually come from a powerhouse (feeder?) school.

Anonymous Recent Grad -- 11/21/2011 1:28 PM  

Recent grad--not to be a scrooge, but unlike objective factors that pro drafts use such as speed, strength, height, weight, etc., what are the objective factors used by your assertion "historically produced talent in the past?" Put differently: does where you go to law school demonstrate you have better talent to become a professor, or does it rather show a clear bias, instead, against those who do not attend Ivy League schools. Or, if you prefer: Does the decision NOT to attend an Ivy League (or similar vein) law school by a talented student assure them that they will not be drafted by a law school during this so-called "draft" based upon historical assumptions related to elitism, preferences, financial acumen and so on? Frankly, I do not see the comparison to pro sports drafts as spot on. Rather, I believe it is to perpetuate the myth of talent. For further discussion, read "Schools for Misrule" by Olson.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 11/21/2011 8:41 PM  

Anon - I couldn't agree more. I didn't make my point clearly (or at all). I was trying to say that, for whatever reason, your ability to enter academia is almost directly related to your institutional pedigree, rather than your "stats" so to speak. I'm not saying that a middle of the road Ivy leaguer is going to get picked up for a premier teaching gig as a matter of right, but I think s/he is going to have an easier time than a top flight student out of Tier-3/4. Truth be told, when I graduated from a Tier 3, the best piece of advice I was given when I asked about teaching was "go get a PhD or LLM from Harvard or Yale" ... and that was from one of my law school profs!

If only they put that in the brochure when applying...

Anonymous Recent Grad -- 11/22/2011 10:10 AM  

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