Law Teaching Careers–PART III

This is the third of five posts on the topic of law teaching careers, prompted by an email interview I had with a reporter. See Parts I and II.

3) Are the publish or perish pressures worse than in firms?

For full-time tenure-track positions, almost all schools expect professors to publish law review articles regularly. Therefore, these jobs are not a great choice for someone who thinks teaching is fun but writing articles is anathema. There are other law professor jobs where publishing is usually not expected, such as clinical or legal research and writing positions. Otherwise, in most cases, it truly is publish or perish.

Having said that, at many schools the publication requirements are not insurmountable. Often, the requirements can be as low as 2 or 3 substantial law review articles over 6 or 7 years. Of course, schools vary on this, and at some places, 2 or 3 articles are the stated minimum but the realistic minimum is higher. Furthermore, some schools have additional standards, like the prestige of the journals publishing the articles.

I don’t want to trivialize the effort required to write a substantial law review article–it is hard, time-consuming and a labor of love. However, for people who like to write law review articles, the tenure standards are entirely achievable and, in fact, lower than many would choose to do as a matter of preference.

Therefore, I would suggest a different way of thinking about the “publish or perish” issue. If the candidate likes to write law review articles and can do so competently, they may never feel any pressure about perishing because they will have no problem meeting the requirements. If, however, the candidate feels pressured to write law review articles solely because of the fear that they will perish, a full-time tenure-track position may be a sub-optimal career choice.

More on this topic tomorrow.