Kerr and Madison on Law Faculty Appointments

Orin Kerr is guest-blogging at Prawfsblawg and has promised to blog on the law faculty appointments process. This is a perennial favorite topic, and when I did a nine-part series on this topic in February and March (scroll down to Feb. 28 and read up), my blog traffic reached a peak that I wouldn’t see again until Grokster.

I can’t put my finger on exactly why this topic generates so much interest. I know the most obvious answer: many people are interested in a law teaching career–and for good reason.

However, I think there’s a second-order explanation for the interest: there remains a mystique about the process. I certainly felt that I was staring into a black box before I initiated my search. I think the mystique is partially due to the lack of a single “silver bullet” that allows candidates to ensure a successful search, so candidates are left reading ambiguous tea leaves.

The mystique might also be due in part to an information gap about exactly what happens and what matters. Fortunately, I think the information gap is being filled. Between articles/stories on the web and one-every-six-month blogofest in the blogosphere, there’s so much more publicly available information on the topic than when I trolled the web in 2001.

In any case, Orin has an innate gift for elegant and insightful blog posts, and his first post on the topic is no exception. However, make sure also to check out Michael Madison’s most recent posting on the topic.

Mike is one of the few professors to openly discuss that some/many/most? candidates need to go through the hiring process more than once. This is surely a tough message for a law faculty candidate to hear, but it is helpful to understand in advance to calibrate expectations. If you think you’re going to hit a home run first time at the bat and you strike out, you’ll feel like a failure. But if you think you’ll need a few times at bat before you get a hit, your first strikeout will be properly contextualized. And as Orin’s post clearly explains, the market is susceptible to random volatility that can leave a worthy candidate out of luck. I think Mike does all candidates a huge favor by putting this issue on the table front-and-center.

UPDATE: In response to Ethan Leib, Mike Madison has more to say about repeat trips to AALS.