Hurt on Law Teaching Careers and Years of Practice

This week I’ve been blogging about experienced lawyers seeking a law teaching job. In response, Christine Hurt posted on an important related topic. She writes: “conventional wisdom tells would-be applicants that practicing too long can hurt you in the law teaching pool.” (She cites the number as 5 years of practice). She offers a possible rationale and some suggestions to candidates to address it.

Like Christine (and another colleague I discussed this with), I have definitely heard this conventional wisdom before. In fact, several of my advisors mentioned this specifically in connection with my candidacy. I was applying with 8 years of practice experience, and several advisors mentioned that schools liked candidates with 3-7 years of experience (I got different guidance than Christine did). Several advisors warned me that some schools might look at my experience with suspicion and that my window of opportunity was closing rapidly.

I chose not to initially address this conventional wisdom because I can’t substantiate it. I don’t know if appointments committees act on the conventional wisdom (implicitly or explicitly) and, if so, how often. In particular, I’ve never seen any empirical stats on this (unlike the stats on JD credentials). Therefore, it’s possible that this conventional wisdom is outdated or was never true, or is true right now—I just don’t know.

Thanks to Christine for tackling a tough topic rarely discussed in public.

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