Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers–PART I

This is the first of a four part series on experienced lawyers and law teaching careers, prompted by my email interview with Anayat Durrani for a LawCrossing.com article. This four part series follows on my earlier five part series about law teaching careers generally.

1) Is it possible for someone to transition to teaching after years practice? Is it hard/not hard? (from your own experience)

Let me focus on full-time tenure-track positions. For experienced lawyers, it can be hard to start their career over in an entry level position. In my case, I had been general counsel of an Internet company, in charge of the company’s legal affairs and a member of the company’s executive management team. I left that to become an assistant professor, the junior guy on the totem pole, with no credit for my past experience. This meant that I had to learn the ropes, build new skills, build my reputation within the school, and stress about tenure.

Most experienced lawyers also will see a major decrease in their income. However, experienced lawyers may have been able to pay off school loans and put away some savings, which makes a law professor’s salary more manageable.

However, an experienced lawyer has certain advantages. Experienced lawyers may have accomplished their professional goals as a lawyer, giving them a sense of “closure.” Experienced lawyers can bring their practice experiences and “war stories” into the classroom, which students often find very valuable. Finally, experienced lawyers may have some assets that will contribute towards succeed as a professor, such as time management skills, networking skills, a rolodex of contacts and experience writing and speaking.