The hiring market for tenure-track non–legal writing positions is a world unto itself with its own lingo (i.e., “meat market” and “FAR form”), its own unwritten rules (i.e., “Do not have two first-year courses in your preferred teaching package.”), and carefully calibrated expectations for candidates and schools with respect to the process and timing of hiring. These norms and expectations are disseminated to the participants in this market through a relatively well-established set of feeder fellowships, visiting assistant professor programs, elite law schools, blogs, and academic literature on the subject.
But there is another market that goes on every year with much less fanfare—the market for positions teaching legal writing. In fact, it is likely that every year law schools fill more legal writing positions than positions teaching any other subject. Moreover, the hiring market for legal writing positions is far more heterogeneous than the market for non–legal writing positions. The positions themselves vary widely in their job security, governing status, job responsibilities, and writing expectations. And, the hiring processes also vary widely in terms of timing, application requirements, interviewing process, and decision-making mechanisms. Yet, unlike the non–legal writing market, there is little available to guide would-be applicants through this daunting process.
This Essay aims to not only fill that gap but also provide a critical appraisal of the state of the legal writing hiring process and suggest some areas where law schools and the legal writing community can improve. This Essay was born out of my own personal experience with the legal writing hiring process as a candidate over the last few years but is also informed by a survey of legal writing programs that have recently conducted candidate searches. This Essay examines the kinds of candidates legal writing programs look for, when jobs are posted and filled, and the various approaches that schools take to the interviewing and hiring process. It then proposes some suggestions for improving the process with an eye toward broadening the pool of candidates, elevating the status of legal writing in the profession, and improving the quality of teachers that schools ultimately hire.
Cody J. Jacobs is a Lecturer, Boston University School of Law.