Experienced Lawyers and Law Teaching Careers–PART II

This is the second of a four part series about experienced lawyers seeking a law teaching career. This series is a follow-on series to my previous five part series about law teaching generally. You can find the previous posts here.

2) Should a person consider adjunct teaching as a bridge? Please explain.

Adjunct teaching is a great experience, and I recommend it enthusiastically. However, as a bridge towards getting a full-time tenure-track job, I don’t think it’s heavily weighted in the hiring process. A candidate is principally evaluated on his or her academic pedigree, other prestigious accomplishments and track record of publishing law review articles; prior experience as an adjunct is an insignificant factor compared to those criteria.

Nevertheless, experience as an adjunct might help the candidate at the margins. It might convince schools that the candidate is serious about making the career switch, or it can provide evidence that the candidate can actually teach (through good teaching evaluations). It also helps the candidate answer the inevitable interview questions like “What’s your teaching style?,” “How would you choose a casebook?,” “How would you teach X course?” or “How do you write exams and grade them?” Depending on the school, adjunct experience can also act as an additional prestige credential; for example, an adjunct stint at Boalt added some panache to my resume.

Nothing comes free, however, and the question is whether a stint as an adjunct is cost/benefit justified. My two-unit Cyberlaw course routinely consumed 200 hours per year, and I could have redirected those hours to writing one or more law review articles. I strongly suspect that writing articles would have been a better investment of time to prepare for a law teaching candidacy. Having said that, personally I would not do anything differently; being an adjunct was one of the best professional experiences of my life.