Faculty Hiring and Best Practices

As one academic year winds down, plans are already being made for next year’s faculty hiring.  What does that have to do with Best Practices?  One could argue that to implement the vision of the Carnegie Report and Best Practices law schools should only hire applicants who have practiced law for at least a decade and have become “masters” or “experts” in their field of practice. Such applicants, it follows, can easily integrate the apprenticeships of practice, professional role identity and core knowledge emphasized in both reports.

Although I do believe the legal academy and most faculty recruitment committees currently overemphasize scholarship and undervalue teaching potential,  I am not of the opinion that only expert practitioners can teach in accordance with Best Practices and Carnegie.   Just as the young faculty member who was hired to fill the “Property” slot may eventually become the Administrative Law expert, so too the “faculty member theorist” with no practice experience can become an ally of Best Practices.  Faculty members who care about their students and what goes on in their classroom are always learning new ways to equip themselves for better teaching.  Theorists can interact with the practice world, co-teach with a practioner or clinician,  bring expert practioners into the classroom and/or consult with practioners.

In terms of Best Practices in faculty hiring, it seems critical to ensure that prospective candidates are evaluated not just upon their potential for scholarly contribution, or ability to lecture, but on how much they VALUE the lessons which practicioners and the profession can offer students.  In addition,  candidates should demonstrate an interest in innovative and experiential teaching pedagogy, in integrating the 3 apprenticeships of Carnegie and in the honest assessment of what students have learned as outlined in Best Practices.

Fortunately for me, the recruitment committee at Albany Law School agrees.   This year, during our hiring season, we intend to evaluate candidates, among other criteria, upon their demonstrated or potential ability to integrate the 3 apprenticeships of Carnegie and/or teach in accordance with Best Practices.  I would be interested in knowing how other law schools plan on addressing Best Practices in faculty hiring.

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One Response

  1. Bridget Crawford of Feminist Law Professors responded to Professor Lynch’s post here.

    Ms. Crawford’s full post in reply to Professor Lynch is below:

    I have faculty colleagues who insist that law schools should hire only those who have “substantial” practice experience. Apart from the obvious question of what constitutes “substantial” practice experience, I observe the steadfastness with which these particular colleagues make their claim. Part of their tenacity seems to arise out of self-interest. (Ever heard a newly-minted Supreme Court clerk on the job market extol the virtues of law practice? Neither have I.) But part of my colleagues’ tenacity appears to be a legitimate objection to the “Yale-ification” of legal education in the last 25(+) years. Even law schools whose graduates are almost entirely destined for law practice have begun to hire (more) like schools further up in the “pecking order.” Clerkships and prior publications have cache in the job market that practice experience does not.

    I have practice experience (but maybe not “significant” experience — it was only 6.5 years in a big firm). I also have a penchant for legal theory. I find myself agnostic on the importance of practice experience for someone who is going to teach and train future lawyers. Professor Lynch’s post suggests that my agnosticism may be appropriate, insofar as learning from lawyers and learning with lawyers can and should be undertakings for all law school faculty members. Whether a particular candidate has a legal practice experience does not necessarily indicate whether she values what lawyers do (let alone be skilled at teaching others). We all know plenty of lawyers with lots of practice experience but no love or respect for the practice of law.

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