Thanks, Howard, for introducing this new series! As Howard mentioned, I am the Chair of the AALS Committee on Becoming a Law Teacher. The Committee’s goal is to improve the available resources regarding how to become a law professor. There is information out there already, to be sure, but it is pretty scattered and if you were new to the law professor world and didn’t have many connections, it could feel pretty puzzling. What is a job talk anyway? And how about a research agenda? And why is everyone terrified about the Wardman Park Hotel? Our goal is to demystify the process as much as we can.
That’s the big project, but we are partnering with prawfsblawg on one specific part of it. As we started to dig into the data, it become clear to us that VAPs and fellowships are the de facto gateway into the profession. We all know that to some extent, but the stats that Sarah Lawsky has put together are even more striking than we would have guessed. Almost everyone (literally, almost everyone!) who is hired for a tenure-track law professor job today has either done a fellowship or VAP or has gotten a Ph.D. And yet, while there is some information available on the tenure-track market, there is surprisingly little information about these programs. How do you get a fellowship? How does one fellowship differ from another in terms of mentoring, teaching and research time, and basic employment terms? And how can you make the best use of your fellowship time to prepare for the entry-level market? If you have stayed in touch with your law school professors or have friends who have done VAPs or fellowships, they might be able to give you some information about specific programs. Otherwise, though, you are on your own.
Our hope is to change that. Over the summer, I will interview the directors of as many VAPs and fellowships as I can. I will ask them all of the questions I would have had when I was new on the market, along with additional questions I crowdsource here from all of you. Then I will post edited transcripts of the interviews on prawfsblawg and on the AALS website. My goal is to post one interview per week starting in June and continuing through most of the summer. I will also maintain a spreadsheet of basic information about each program for easy comparison.
I’ll be back in a few days with a draft list of questions for the interviews, and I would love your feedback!
This series is cross-posted on PrawsBlawg.