February 28, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART I
I find it interesting how many people are interested in law teaching as a career, and how many law professors have espoused their views on this subject. I have contributed to this discussion in part with some thoughts already.
With some trepidation, I am going to say more about this subject. I am prompted to do so by an email interview I had for a story. I was asked five pointed questions that inspired me to put together some of my thoughts. A lot of this rehashes what others have said, but I do have some new perspectives to add (and, for those of you who are researching this issue from scratch, this will provide a basic overview as well). I will serialize my response over this week, starting today with the first question.
1) What are the pros and cons of becoming a law professor?
The pros of a law professor job
* I help students accomplish their goals
* I work with interesting colleagues
* I can set my own agenda. I have a lot of flexibility to choose how to allocate my time. If I want to take on a project, I can. If I'm not interested, I don't. If I want to delay some extra efforts because of other priorities (like a new child), I can lighten my workload substantially without needing anyone's permission (although I can't do this forever if I want to get tenure!).
* The things I work on are the things I did with my free time when I was in practice. In other words, my job now is what I used to consider my hobbies.
* I get the opportunity to say what's on my mind. I don't have to hold back for fear of alienating a client or my employer. Occasionally, people are even interested in what I have to say!
* I earn a lot less than I would in practice
* Getting a job is difficult, and it requires flexibility (for example, in my case, I had to move from California to the Midwest)
* There are relatively few clear metrics for measuring my success. In a law firm, associates are measured by billable hours and performance reviews. In a corporate environment, success is measured by profit. In the academic world, there are many possible dimensions to measure success. Thus, there's no natural boundary on when I've done "enough"--there is always something more to do, usually very interesting, and thus it is easy to take on too much.
* The job is not as much of a "lifestyle" job as people normally assume. To be an excellent teacher, scholar and community member takes a lot of time. I do get the summers and holidays "off," but I need to work on grading exams, preparing for the next semester, and writing papers. Some might complain that they get paid a 10 month salary for a 12 month job.
More on this topic tomorrow.
Posted by Eric at February 28, 2005 11:51 AM | Life as a Law Professor