Law schools will require you to submit certain documents as part of your application. With the exception of the FAR application, law schools will likely require all of these materials whether you apply through AALS Faculty Recruitment Services or through direct contact.
Special Note: Candidates should ask a faculty mentor to review their application materials prior to submitting. Learn strategies for finding a faculty mentor.
While a CV resembles a resume, it is usually longer and includes more detailed information about a candidate’s educational background, honors and awards, and academic achievements. It also should include teaching experience, if any, and list publications, presentations, professional service, and any other information that may communicate to law faculties that a candidate will be a good scholar, teacher, and institutional citizen. You can find many law faculty CVs online to use as templates.
A research agenda is a brief statement of a candidate’s research interests. The agenda usually includes a description/abstract of the research projects that a candidate hopes to pursue and often identifies a common theme among them. Research agendas are critical because they demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, scholarly interest and forethought, and the ability to conceive of and sketch out a plan for articles and essays.
Good research agendas tend to reveal connections between your stated scholarly interests, your work record, and your scholarship or publications record. The agenda also reveals any connections between your stated scholarly interests and your stated teaching interests.
As you set out your research agenda, consider both the short and long term. Your research agenda should include 3 to 4 pieces that you are contemplating writing. You should show how the research will proceed, but not promise too much. Writing a research agenda is not akin to signing a contract; you are not wedded to the ideas laid out in the agenda. You can modify and even drop ideas entirely for something better later.
If you feel unsure about how to begin drafting a research agenda, ask a faculty mentor for advice.
In today’s market, it is extremely difficult to secure a teaching job without at least one substantial piece of scholarship. Many successful candidates have more than one. The various ways in which are candidate can build a scholarly record are presented here.
Placement of journal articles and essays plays a fairly large role in the evaluation process. Try to place your papers in the most respected journals possible.
Law reviews and journals have their own specifications for the submission process. This regularly-updated paper by Professors Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit provides an overview of the processes for a majority of law reviews, but be sure to double-check your intended journal’s specific guidelines for submission on its website.
Although placement of an article or essay is important, quality is more important. When you are ready to place an article or essay in a journal or are trying to determine which journal offer to accept, speak to a mentor or former law professor to make sure your published work is of the best quality possible.
Below is a list of publications that law schools may consider when hiring faculty. In general, law journal articles and books are more preferred.
- Single-authored published law journal articles or essays
- Co-authored published law journal articles or essays
- Forthcoming law journal articles or essays
- An article or essay draft submitted, but not yet accepted for publication
- Student Notes
- Scholarly books
Job Talk Paper
After the initial screening interview, law schools will decide whether to invite a candidate to an all-day on-campus interview, otherwise known as the callback. If you are invited to a callback, you will be expected to give a presentation to the faculty on a topic of your choice—which means a scholarly paper that you have published or are preparing to publish. If your only option is an unpublished or forthcoming paper, you must work hard to get that paper in the best shape possible. This paper will be circulated to the law faculty for review as an example of your scholarly writing.
Candidates who reach the callback stage will be required to deliver a job talk to the faculty. The paper for the job talk should be prepared by the time of the screening interview. While you may not need to provide a copy of the paper to the committee at the interview, you will need to send it to the chair of the search committee prior to your callback to be circulated to the faculty.
Be sure that any paper you intend to use as your job talk has been shared with others before sending it the hiring committee. The writing, revising, rewriting, editing process is key to creating a polished draft that is ready to be shared with the hiring committee. More about the writing process can be found here.
Carefully proofread, proofread, AND proofread, then edit the job talk paper before you send it for circulation. While it’s understandably hard to catch them all, it is important to reduce the number of mistakes in the paper.
If you have at least one published paper but want to use a different paper for your job talk, you must ensure the draft is in good enough shape to be shared with the faculty. Do not send a rough draft. Impressions of your writing, even at an early stage, are important. Instead, send a mistake-free, well-written, and well-organized paper abstract, a two-to-three-page short description of the paper’s thesis, and its supporting arguments for circulation.
Learn more about job talks.
Faculty Appointments Register (FAR) Platform
If you are applying via AALS Faculty Recruitment Services (through which the majority of entry-level hiring takes place), the way you fill out your FAR application is important.
You will complete several application forms. Your submission (forms, CV and other uploaded documents), along with other candidates’ submissions are bundled creating the Faculty Appointments Register database. Reviewing the Register is often the very first step in a hiring committee’s screening process. Your forms are often the first introduction to a hiring committee. Because they are a key part of an application, they should be filled out with great care and thought.
How Hiring Committees Use the FAR
Use of the Register will vary among hiring committees. For many, the faculty hiring committee uses the FAR applications as an initial screening device. If a candidate piques their interest, they will examine the candidate’s other uploaded materials to determine if they are interested in interviewing you.
Hiring committees can search the Register by a wide variety of criteria, including subjects, academic background, publications, etc. Committees typically have five faculty members, all of whom may be seeking different strengths in potential colleagues. Some faculty, for instance, believe strongly in hiring based primarily on curricular fit; others seek “the best candidate” regardless of their area of curricular interest.
Timing Your FAR Application
Generally, AALS opens the FAR for candidates to submit their materials in June. Law schools are granted access to the Register in August. It is best to submit your FAR application before the first deadline so that it goes out with the first distribution to law schools. The FAR is released to law schools in three separate distributions during the late summer and fall. Many law schools, however, fill all or nearly all of their interview slots with people who registered during the earliest “distribution” of the FAR. As a result, you should make every effort to submit your materials before the first deadline so that you can be in the first distribution. If you wait too long to submit, a law school may not have an interview slot left to give you even if they are interested. Competition for these slots is steep, but it becomes steeper as interviewing slots disappear.
Strategic Completion of the FAR Application
The FAR application requests a wide variety of information: institutions attended; degrees earned; law journal positions; employment history, including clerkships; courses of interest (both primary and secondary); publications; and names and positions.
Include every piece of information you are asked for. Assume that no one will review your CV until later in the screening process. Never simply refer a law school to your CV on the FAR application. The CV is not a replacement for the application, and vice versa.
It should be neither overly dense nor too sparse. Be careful about the information you provide, and try to interest a prospective team without overwhelming them. If you must, however, err on the side of providing more information.
You should do a final, careful review of your forms to ensure that there are no typographical errors, grammatical mistakes, misspellings, or inaccurate citations. Better yet, have someone else review your form before submitting it. Don’t let your candidacy be eliminated based on a typographical error.
The publications section of the FAR application is extremely important. Everything listed should be an academic publication, meaning a scholarly work that has been published in an academic law journal or as a scholarly book or book chapter.
If you do not have academic publications, consider delaying your candidacy until you have at least one. Refer to the section on pathways to law teaching.
CAUTION: Do not submit a rough draft or an incomplete paper.
Do not share any rough draft paper until you feel that it is polished and of good quality. Even if a faculty member tells you that it is fine to send a very rough draft or an incomplete paper, you should not. Remember: the job of the hiring committee is to evaluate you. A rough draft of poor quality can leave a negative impression.
Many schools will ask to see your “job talk paper” before scheduling a screening interview. This paper is one that you plan to present if you are invited for a callback interview. You should have a draft of this paper that is complete and ready to share by release of the first distribution of the FAR so that you are ready to send it to schools that ask for it.
Most faculty are required to teach three to four classes per year. In coming up with your list of courses you are willing to teach, consider the following questions: What are the high enrollment courses that almost every law school has to offer? What course can I teach in the first-year curriculum? What areas did I practice in? What research interests do I have? What do I want to write about? Are there courses that law schools need that other candidates are less likely to want to teach, and that I am qualified to teach?
Leave yourself open to several teaching possibilities. Think broadly about what you can, or could do. Where possible, list courses that make sense given your research interests and practice experience. Make sure that the courses listed make sense together. Courses should be listed in order of preference, with the most desirable course listed first.
The FAR application allows you to select five total courses you would be willing to teach. One of the courses you list should be general, i.e., those in the standard first-year curriculum or included on the bar. These courses are ones that every law school must offer, so there is a greater likelihood that a school will have a teaching need in them.
It is a good idea to list two or three law faculty as references on your CV. Law professors understand the job better than anyone, thus they can best speak about how your abilities will translate in the position. Also, law professors tend to know other law professors at different schools; in some cases, simply listing someone as a reference may raise a hiring committee member’s attention and interest. You should contact your references ahead of time to confirm their willingness to be listed
It is a good idea to list a judge for whom you clerked, particularly if the judge is a former law professor.
Be certain that any person you list as a reference knows that you are applying for law teaching positions. You also should make sure that your references know you and your work well enough to speak about your potential as a scholar and, if possible, a teacher.
You should explicitly ask references whether they can offer a very strong reference. It is best to know this information upfront rather than list a reference who will not offer a positive recommendation.
You do not have to list anyone from your current employer as a reference. Law faculties understand why an individual may not want their current employer to know about their job search. If you do not want your current employer to be contacted, you must mark “No, do not contact.” Search committees will honor the request. Before a law school ultimately extends an offer to a candidate, however, some law faculties may want to contact a candidate’s current employer.
Listing Geographic Restrictions or Preferences
You should avoid listing geographic restrictions or preferences if at all possible. Recall that law faculties want people who are committed to the scholarly enterprise. Willingness to move to a broad range of locations is often viewed as good evidence of a commitment to that enterprise. It is important to conduct your job search (and fill out your FAR application) strategically in order to maximize your exposure on the market. Not only do geographic restrictions limit your options, but they can communicate to hiring committees that you are not serious about becoming a law professor.
The obvious disclaimer is that a candidate needs to be genuinely interested in moving to a new place if a specific law school shows interest. Depending on your personal situation and familial or other obligations, you may not be able to be flexible in terms of location. If there are concrete, serious reasons why you are geographically restricted, you should list your preferences and seriously consider conducting an additional targeted job search. Make direct contact with law schools in your desired areas.