Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Monday, January 4, 2016
MOVING TO FRONT(ORIGINALLY POSTED NOVEMBER 24, 2009)
With luck (and luck will help more than usual in what is a very tight year on the academic job market), some of you seeking law teaching jobs will get offers of tenure-track positions in the next couple of months. What then? Here's roughly what I tell my Texas and Chicago advisees they need to find out, and in the interest of having it written down in one place and for the benefit of others too, here it is (not in order of importance):
1. You will want to get (in writing eventually) the basic salary information, obviously, and the nature of summer research support and the criteria for its award (is it automatic for junior faculty? contingent on prior publication [if so, how much?]? awarded competitively (if so, based on what criteria/process)?). You should also find out how salary raises are determined. Are they, for example, lock-step for junior faculty? Fixed by union contract? (Rutgers faculty, for example, are unionized, a huge advantage and why they are among the best-paid faculty, not just in law, in the country.) Is it a 'merit' system, and if so is it decanal discretion or is their a faculty committee that reviews your teaching and work each year?
2. You should ask for a copy of the school's tenure standards and get clear about the expectations and the timeline. Does any work you have already published count towards meeting the tenure standard?
3. What research leave policy, if any, does the school have? A term off after every three full years of teaching is a very good leave policy; some schools have even better policies, most have less generous leave policies. (If there is a norm, it is a term off after every six years.) Many schools have a special leave policy for junior faculty, designed to give them some time off prior to the tenure decision. Find out if the school has such a policy.
4. One of the most important things to be clear about is not just your teaching load, but what courses you will be teaching precisely. You should ask whether the school can guarantee a stable set of courses until after the tenure decision. Preparing new courses is hugely time-consuming, and you also get better at teaching the course the more times you do it. As a tenure-track faculty member, having a stable package of, say, three courses (plus a seminar) will make a huge difference in terms of your ability to conduct research and write. In my experience, most schools will commit in writing to a set of courses for the tenure-track years (and do ask for this in writing), but some schools either won't or can't. In my view, it's a good reason to prefer one school to another that one will give you the courses you want and promise them that they're yours, while another won't--a consideration that overrides lots of other factors, including salary.
5. You should ask for the school's materials on benefits: retirement, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, and so on. The biggest, and certainly the most easily discernible differences, are often in the retirement and life insurance categories (sometimes longterm disability insurance too, though unlike life insurance, you're hopefully less likely to utilize this!). What is the university's contribution to retirement? At the low end are schools contributing only 5-6% of your base salary to retirement; the more competitive schools will be in the 8% range, and some will be higher. The big issue on life insurance concerns the amount you are guaranteed irrespective of your health history. 500-600K increasingly seem to be the norm. And, of course, if your health is perfect, this doesn't matter, but I've worked with plenty of candidates where this was a serious issue. (Life insurance companies have no incentives to insure faculty beyond the base amount they have to provide, so even health matters that strike you as trivial may disqualify you from more coverage.) A final benefits issue concerns education/tuition benefits for children. State schools don't offer these; the wealthier private schools do, and if you have kids or expect to have kids, this is worth looking into. At the high end is Chicago, which pays up to 75% of Chicago tuition anywhere for each child. Most of the wealthier private schools will pay 30-50% of the home school tuition for faculty children, wherever they go. Some will offer a larger benefit if your kids go to that school. But there are differences, and they don't track your ordinary expectations about prestige (e.g., last time I looked, the Wash U/St. Louis benefit was much better than the benefit at Penn or Cornell). In any case, get the information. But remember, university-wide benefits are rarely a subject for negotiation--the law school can't give you a higher benefit. Of course, if you have a competitive offer, they may be able to compensate for a significant benefits differential.
6. Finally, once you have an offer, this is a good time to raise issues about the employment prospects for a spouse or partner. Sometimes you may just want help: can the Dean help the significant other make relevant professional contacts in the area? Sometimes you may be hoping for more: e.g., a position in the law school, or in another university department, for the significant other. It is certainly fair to explain the situation and ask. Schools vary in their ability to response effectively to these situations, but many have formal universities policies pertaining at least to spouses who are academics. Raise the issue, and see if the school can help. But realize that the school made you the offer, and they may be able to hire you, and that's that.
The last point relates to a more general issue. If you don't have other offers, you are not in a position to bargain. Period. You may certainly ask about things, raise concerns, etc. But unless you're going to walk away from a tenure-track offer (not a wise thing to do in this market), don't make demands. And even then, a collegial discussion about issues of concern is far better than demands. Even if you have other offers, this advice applies: proceed with caution and respect for the institution. You can report that School Y is offering you a salary 20K higher, and ask whether the Dean of School X, to whom your talking, has any flexibility on this front. But remember: you may end up at School X (because of location, or colleagues in your field, or a better teaching load etc.) and living with that Dean and the other faculty for many years to come. Don't poison the well by displaying a sense of entitlement and self-importance before you even get through the door. Remember: no matter how good you are, you're quite dispensable--in almost every instance, you need the job more than the school needs you. Approach any 'bargaining' or discussion of the package in that spirit. A good school has every reason to want you to succeed and to try to help fashion a package of professional duties and support in that spirit. A good school doesn't need a prima donna.
I invite signed comments from faculty or deans on these issues. A comment without a full name and e-mail address won't appear. Post your comment only once; comments are moderated and may take awhile to appear.
Good luck to all job seekers!
Thursday, December 31, 2015
The list includes University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks for her important work on "revenge porn."
Monday, December 28, 2015
Leading evidence law scholar and UC Hastings faculty member David Faigman named Interim Dean effective January 1, 2016
The Hastings press release is here. No indication, however, of what's become of current Dean Frank Wu, who was just reappointed in 2014. I'll add an update when I know more.
UPDATE: I apparently missed the announcement in November that Dean Wu was stepping down.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Law Dean at Bar-Ilan University continues attack on speech and due process rights of Prof. Hanoch Sheinman (UPDATED)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM DEC. 23--UPDATED
Details of this sorry episode are here.
UPDATE: Several law faculty have sent me a statement disputing Prof. Sheinman's account; I have posted it at the original link, above.
ANOTHER: Hebrew U's David Enoch responds to the preceding.
DEC. 28 UPDATE: Alon Harel (Hebrew U) weighs in.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Not a law professor, but a fabulously successful trial lawyer in Houston and a major benefactor of my former employer the University of Texas at Austin (I once held the Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law). I recall a speech he once gave to the law faculty, he was extremely humble and complimentary towards us, and he always spoke in support of interdisciplinary legal education. He was probably about 80 then, and everyone said he had mellowed from the days when he was banned for life from the courts of Delaware for his, shall we say, "combative" manner, some of which is famously captured in this YouTube video of a deposition (Jamail is not visible on the right, except for his hands. He calls opposing counsel, variously, "big boy" and "fat boy," and the witness being deposed "asshole" [the witness was an asshole actually!].) Jamail was also a liberal Democrat in a state not known for them. After the Hopwood striking down affirmative action, I recall that he donated ten million dollars to create a private fund for the recruitment of African-American students to the university.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Blog Emperor Caron charts the results. A strong showing by USC grads, not so much by Berkeley grads, relative to the reputation of the school. UC Irvine grads did better than UC Davis and UC Hastings grads. Loyola-LA grads had a typically strong showing, trailing Irvine only slightly. Some ABA-accredited law schools in California, by contrast, had awful results (e.g., Golden Gate, Whittier).
Friday, December 18, 2015
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Monday, December 14, 2015
In the era of Google Maps, instant language translation, and digital music libraries, law students still spend countless hours flipping pages to find the right subclause or definition in a statute. This process can and should be automated.
Computerized calculations have liberated STEM students from tedious, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the more intellectually simulating and creative aspects of math, science and engineering. Word processing software has freed us all from applying whiteout and waiting for it to dry and from manually retyping manuscripts to correct a few errors. This has enabled us to focus on our ideas and not the mechanics of fixing them permanently on paper.
Law is an inherently conservative field, focused on precedent, tradition, and risk avoidance. But when the case for change is compelling, we are prepared to try new tools.
I’ve been thinking about the problems of statutory interpretation for years and how automation could streamline the process. I’m very excited to announce a new electronic statutory supplement, LawEdge. (Full disclosure: I helped develop it).
LawEdge aims to do for statutory interpretation what the calculator did for mathematics.
The U.S. Code includes thousands of defined terms. A reader must understand what each of the defined terms means to understand the meaning of each provision containing those defined terms.
Unfortunately, defined terms are not always clearly labeled. Even when defined terms are labeled as defined terms, understanding one provision may require flipping back and forth to several other locations in the code. This process can be slow and cumbersome with paper statutes. Even electronic statutes often will not take users to the precise location in the code where a definition appears, but will instead take readers to a the section containing the definition, forcing readers to search for the definition.
LawEdge makes working with defined terms simple and easy. Defined terms are clearly labeled. Clicking on a defined term generates a popup window showing its meaning. Definitions are also hyperlinked to their meaning.
Definitions are context-specific and do not apply to all sections of the code. For example, the definition of “property” in Section 317(a) of the Internal Revenue Code does not apply to Section 351 of the same title. LawEdge recognizes context and links definitions appropriately.
LawEdge is easy to navigate. For example, suppose that you wish to read § 21(b)(2)(B). With a paper statutory supplement, you could flip to section 21, then look for subsection (b), then read down to paragraph (2) and finally find subparagraph (B). The entire process might take 30 seconds, and along the way you might accidentally look at the wrong provision. With LawEdge, this process is nearly instantaneous and error free. You would simply type s21b2b in the search bar. This feature works all the way down to the subclause level.
Browsing a statute is also easier and more intuitive. Structural components are color coded to be more recognizable.
The underlying technology is algorithmic, which means it is easy to update and support as the U.S. Code changes.
LawEdge has all of the benefits of paper—notes, highlights, bookmarks, offline access—and many advantages only available electronically. It can be used on exams with the latest version of ExamSoft, which offers on option to only block internet access but not the hard drive.
If you’re interested in trying it for your class, please feel free to contact me for an evaluation copy.