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Careers in Academia

becoming a law school professor

Professor in class

Many Boston College Law School alumni have chosen careers as law school professors. Being a law school teacher is a terrific job, and, while the market for open law school faculty positions is quite competitive, many of our graduates successfully pursue this career. If you might like to explore this aspect of our profession, the Law School’s Committee on Alumni in Teaching can be of help to you.

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Law Teaching Jobs

Law schools hire teachers to fill a number of needs, but in general law faculty fit into one of the following five general categories:

Classroom Teachers: These individuals teach classroom courses within the law school, covering the doctrinal and seminar offerings constituting the traditional curriculum. Classroom professors tend to join a faculty on a tenure-track arrangement.

Clinical Teachers: These individuals teach students in clinics or similar experiential learning settings. Clinical professors sometimes are hired on a tenure track and sometimes on a separate long-term contract arrangement.

Legal Writing Teachers: These individuals teach required first legal research and writing courses, as well as upper-level drafting or research courses. Legal writing professors sometimes are hired on a tenure track and sometimes on a separate long-term contract or other arrangement.

Visiting Assistant Professors (VAPs): These individuals join a faculty for a short-term appointment, usually one or two years, in order to have the opportunity to write while preparing for the job market. VAPs usually have a lighter teaching load than full-time faculty members.

Adjunct Professors: These teachers tend to be hired on a part-time basis to cover a specific course needs. Adjunct professors typically have a full-time law practice and are not permanent members of the faculty. 

There is some overlap in these broad categories, of course. Legal writing and clinical professors often teach doctrinal and seminar courses, for instance.

The Timing and Process of Law School Hiring

Law schools typically hire full-time faculty (whether classroom, legal writing, or clinical) in the fall semester for the following academic year. The hiring for visiting and adjunct faculty typically occurs in February or March prior to the academic year in which the courses will be taught.

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) hosts a two-day law school recruiting conference in Washington, DC each October for schools with full-time teaching needs. Law schools arrange interviews at the conference with applicants for full-time law teaching. Applicants express their interest in the hiring process by completing an AALS form known as the Faculty Appointments Registry form (the “FAR”). The FAR details may be found here: www.aals.org/frs. Law schools then invite selected applicants from the conference to their campuses for further interviewing, including, usually, a “job talk.”

The Committee on Alumni in Teaching Can Assist with the AALS Interview Process

The AALS and FAR processes can be very intense, but Boston College Law School’s Committee on Alumni in Teaching is available to assist you along the way. Indeed, the Committee is willing to help you in any teaching aspirations you have, full-time or otherwise, or for lateral moves between schools. For new applicants for a full-time position, the Committee suggests the following pointers:

Contact the Committee in the spring of the year in which you hope to apply;

• Share with the Committee your draft FAR form, for feedback and suggestions;

• Explore with the Committee your “research agenda,” which schools usually look for in an applicant; and

• Search BC LawNet (/schools/law/alumni/bclawnet.html) to locate alumni in teaching who might be useful contacts or references.

Boston College Law School’s alumni include full-time faculty members at the following schools, as a representative sample: Albany, American, Arizona, Boston College, Buffalo, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Nova Southeastern, Roger Williams, Suffolk, SUNY-Cornell, Temple, and Vermont.

It is also possible, depending on timing and faculty availability, for the Committee to arrange an opportunity for you to offer a mock “job talk” at the law school and receive feedback.