For those of you who have been following my interview series you know that it generally focuses on VAP and fellowship directors. This interview, however, focuses on a related, but slightly different, trend in law faculty hiring—the increase in the number of entry-level hires with Ph.D.’s. I spoke with Professor Calvin Morrill, who is the Stefan A. Riesenfeld Professor of Law and Professor of Sociology at UC Berkeley. He has also served as the Associate Dean for the Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Program at UC Berkeley, although he is rotating out of that position this summer. He spoke with me about Berkeley’s JSP Ph.D. program. Thanks, Cal, for participating in this series! An edited transcript of our conversation is below, and I have invited him to respond to any questions in the comments on Prawsblawg.
You can read more about the structure of these interviews and other caveats related to them here.
Q. Can you give me a brief overview of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program at Berkeley?
A. Sure. JSP is a multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that’s focused on the study of law and legal institutions. It’s housed within Berkeley Law, but is a relatively autonomous unit like a department. The program has about 60 Ph.D. students and 17 core faculty members, all of whom hold primary appointments in Berkeley Law, and also typically hold a secondary appointment in a disciplinary department at Berkeley. The goal of our program is to train academics for positions in law schools, interdisciplinary programs, and disciplinary programs. Students come to JSP either with only a BA, or with a J.D., an MA or an equivalent graduate degree, and they spend about five to six years studying toward the Ph.D.
Rather than organize the program by traditional law school curricular areas such as torts, or contracts, or intellectual property, for example, JSP is organized by research disciplines and their intersections. Our hubs of organization within JSP are law and society/sociology of law, criminology and punishment in society, law and economics, law and political economy, legal history, law and political science/public law, law and political theory/philosophy, and law and psychology. Multiple members of our core and affiliated faculty also draw on critical perspectives of law, including feminist theory and critical race theory. Our faculty embraces methodological pluralism that ranges from advanced quantitative methods to advanced qualitative, historical, and critical methodologies.
Let me also note that JSP is responsible for an undergraduate major, Legal Studies, which is an interdisciplinary liberal arts program housed in Berkeley Law, but officially a part of the Berkeley College of Letters and Science.
This year, we’re especially excited about two new faculty members we hired at JSP as part of a spectacular faculty recruiting class of nine new hires at Berkeley Law. One is David Grewal, who was Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale Law. He studies law and political economy, international law, law and political theory, and social inequality. A second is Rebecca Goldstein, who just received her Ph.D. in Government (political science) from Harvard, and studies the politics of criminal justice and inequality (especially policing) using advanced quantitative and mixed-methods.
Q. I had no idea the program was that large. When you said 60 students, that surprised me. How many of those students hope to become academics at law school some day?
A. About 80% of our students go into academia. It used to be about one-third of our students who go into academia teach in law schools, but over the past decade or, approximately two-thirds ultimately teach in law schools. Parallel to this pattern, about two-thirds of our graduates also ultimately earn both J.D.’s and Ph.D.’s. So they’re joining an increasing hiring trend, especially in top-14 law schools, but even beyond the top-14, to hire J.D./Ph.D.’s.
The vast range of dissertation topics that JSP students pursue underscore and help shape the diversity of scholarly interests in the program, including works on law and social inequality, immigration law, business law, law and markets, human rights and comparative law, policing, mass incarceration, law and bioethics, law and religion, law and education, law and technology and intellectual property.
Q. What’s your role with the program?
A. I’m the Associate Dean for JSP and the undergraduate Legal Studies program. Together with a small administrative staff, I’m responsible for the day-to-day management of the program plus strategic planning, faculty and student recruitment, budgeting, etc. I should mention that after six years – I’ve served two consecutive terms as associate dean – I’ll be rotating out of the role, as planned, and back to the faculty as a civilian, so to speak. My JSP colleague, Professor Taeku Lee, will be rotating in as Associate Dean this summer. He’s the former chair of Berkeley Political Science and a specialist in law and racial and ethnic politics, as well as survey methodology.
Q. I’d love to move through the Ph.D. program chronologically. Starting with the application process, moving to the Ph.D. itself, and then the hiring market.
Q. When does the program start accepting application for the following academic year?
A. December 15th is our deadline for applications each year, and students apply through what’s called the graduate portal at the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. Information on applying is available on our website at Berkeley Law where we have an information page. There’s also information available through the main UC Berkeley website as well. People interested in applying can also contact JSP directly through JSP@berkeley.edu or at 510-642-3771.
Q. What materials does a candidate need to submit as part of that process?
A. Applicants need to have official transcripts sent from all previous undergraduate and graduate institutions where they’ve been enrolled. They need to take the GRE, but they do not need to take the LSAT. If they have taken the LSAT that’s great, but it is not required. They need three letters of recommendations. There are two short essays as part of the application. One is called the “statement of purpose” in which applicants should lay out their goals for graduate study and beyond, why they want to be at JSP, what they hope to get out of our Ph.D. program. The second essay is the “personal statement,” which is a brief biographical essay about how the applicant’s experiences have led them to be interested in applying and pursuing a doctoral degree with JSP.
A. And then, finally, applicants can also submit samples of their written work from coursework or publications that they have. Publications are not necessary, but a sample of written academic work is.
Q. What’s the typical educational background of a successful applicant to the program? Did I hear you say earlier, that two thirds of the students in the program have J.D.s?
A. Most students don’t come into JSP with J.D.s. About one-fifth or a bit more who enter the program already have a J.D., an M.A. or an LL.M.. About a third of our students come right from a bachelor’s program into the Ph.D. program. Another third of our entering students don’t have degrees beyond their undergraduate degree, but have work experience of some sort before entering graduate school. So there are a lot of different pathways into JSP. Many of the students who do not have a J.D. when they enter JSP will earn one either at Berkeley Law or at another law school while they’re completing their Ph.D. Ultimately about two-thirds of our graduates have a J.D. along with their Ph.D.
A. JSP graduates who don’t earn a J.D. are typically interested in going into an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program for which a J.D. is not necessary. But, just to underscore, a J.D. is not necessary to apply for the JSP program.
Q. Does JSP interview applicants?
A. No. There are no interviews to be admitted to JSP, although prospective applicants can visit Berkeley, and we’re happy to set up meetings with faculty and students, if they like. Once students are admitted to JSP, we do have an admit day for JSP admits in March each year. And we provide travel and lodging support for each admit to come to Berkeley, to check out the program, to check out their cohort, to meet other students and faculty, and so on.
Q. How many applications does JSP typically receive?
A. We receive between 80 and 110 applications per year, and our admit rate is somewhere between 8 and 12%, depending upon the number of applications we get. We’re looking for cohorts between 8 and 10 each year, and our yield rate is about 70 to 80% of those admitted. So, if people get into JSP, they generally come.
Q. Let’s talk about what you’re looking for, then, to select that cohort. What matters the most? If you were to look at somebody’s application materials, what do you go to first?
A. We do a holistic review of each application, but what we’re really looking for are clues about the applicant’s promise of being an outstanding academic, whether as a faculty member in a law school, or in an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program. An applicant’s grades and the kinds of courses that they’ve taken in their previous academic programs matter. A J.D. or an M.A. may help signal an applicant’s promise, but it’s not determinative in terms of the admissions process. More important are how an applicant signals they are interested in committing themselves to the theoretical, substantive, and methodological training offered at JSP that will enable them to do cutting-edge research and teach at the highest levels of academia.
We gather clues about a student’s promise from different parts of the application. The statement of purpose, for example, can tell us how students frame what they’re interested in, what they’re committed to. They don’t have to have a fully developed research agenda. They don’t have to have their dissertation plan all worked out. That’s what they’re going to figure out while they’re in the Ph.D. program. Letters of recommendation can tell us how others view the applicant. And samples of academic writing tell us how students actually set up scholarly questions they’re interested in and the way they try to answer them given their prior levels of training.
We also try to gauge how their background experiences, whether it’s in law or another field, inform their professional goals. We have a number of students who come to us with professional experience, but a number who don’t. Whatever an applicant’s background experiences, we’re interested in how that has shaped an applicant’s orientation, and their excitement and promise for doing exciting graduate work at JSP.
Q. And you said they don’t have to have their dissertation topic picked out when they apply?
A. Not at all. In fact, we actually prefer that they don’t. Going through a Ph.D. program is importantly about learning how to ask significant research questions that are important theoretically and, especially in JSP, are relevant to policy and law in the deepest possible ways. Almost every dissertation out of JSP seeks to push underneath the assumptions that inform a law, a policy, or a popular conception about law, policy, or social problems. What students learn at JSP is how to answer research questions regarding law, policy, and society in a cutting-edge way, in an innovative and illuminating way, and in a manner that might matter for social and institutional change.
A. This is an important value-added aspect of coming to JSP. This is what we help and facilitate students to form — a research agenda and to gain research tools in order to execute that agenda.
Q. And, how do you gauge their ability to do that type of high level research? I’m just thinking about your yield rate. Obviously, you’re only taking a small percentage of the total applicants. You mentioned the statement of purpose, you mentioned the letters of recommendations. Just wondering, what types of things are you looking for to say to you, “This is the extraordinary candidate, who will thrive in this program.”
A. It’s a tall order to gauge an applicant’s promise. We use everything in the application – the academic record to date, the letters of rec, statement of purpose and personal statement, any sample academic work they provide, the test scores. Again, it’s a holistic assessment. We don’t do interviews, although sometimes students do visit us, and we do get to know them. Based on all the evidence we have through the application, we try to put together a picture. A sense of who the student is right now, and who they might become. The admissions committee is looking for certain clues that their experience tells them will translate into success in the JSP program and importantly beyond the program in a career.
We’re constantly asking questions about the applicants, as represented in their application materials. One of the important questions is how do people write? How do they express themselves? Even though they may not have an advanced degree, how sophisticated are they given where they’re at in their personal and academic development? How have they negotiated the academic experiences they have had? How do they frame the issues that they’re interested in?
The other thing that we look for are applicants who are quite committed to an academic experience. Again, we’re looking for applicants’ promise in terms of how they put together the kinds of issues and questions they’re interested in. How they write, how they express themselves. The kinds of academic experiences they’ve had. The letters of recommendation are really important because we’re looking for recommenders who can actually comment on an applicant’s academic promise. One of the things that I always tell potential applicants is, “It may be better to get a letter of recommendation from somebody who really knows your academic potential, with whom you’ve had meaningful professional engagement, and has really seen your academic performances, rather than going for the most famous person who may not you as well.”
Sometimes a prospective applicant will say to me, “I know an important judge on the federal bench.” Or, “I know a Supreme Court Justice. Could I get a letter of recommendation from them?” My answer is, “That would be wonderful to receive a letter from Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but does she really know your academic record? Does she really know what you’ve done in your academic career thus far? And, can she really comment in a substantive way about your promise as an academic? If she can, awesome! But don’t get the letter unless that super high-status can write a meaningful letter about you.”
Q. On the academic/scholarly side, how much do the successful candidates tend to have already when they come in? Are these candidates who have already been doing academic writing? And, I’m thinking here beyond what they wrote in their college classes, obviously. Have they done really sophisticated legal writing already?
A. Some applicants have and some haven’t. I would say most have not. We do get some applicants who have already published a paper or two in a law review, but I would say the vast majority, 80%, 90% of our students have really not yet done that kind of work. So, in that regard this is very different from a fellowship program where people might be returning to academia from practice having perhaps published something in a law journal or another academic venue.
Speaking of practicing law, we do have applicants who have considerable experience as attorneys, but they generally haven’t done high-level scholarly research prior to applying to JSP. This is why they’re coming to a Ph.D. program, to get that training and to get immersed into that world. Now you might say, “Well, how do they know if they want to commit to academia?” How does anyone truly know about committing to a career until one is in the middle of it? It’s tough to know. And again, this is where we try to discern clues from the application materials, such as letters of recommendation, where the recommenders speak to evidence of applicants’ commitment and interest in coming to JSP and academia.
I also think that applicants who have been out of school for a while, who have had practical experience, be it in law or another field, have had a chance to reflect on what their strengths are, what their sustained interests are, what their passions are. They may be better able to express those kinds of aspects of their identity than younger students. Although, again, we have a mix of students, as I said before, students coming right out of undergraduate programs, students coming in with J.D.s, students coming in with practice experience. This is another interesting and exciting part of the program. All these kinds of students meet and exchange their experiences and their interests within and across their cohorts.
Q. Does the program have a preference for applicants in particular curricular or research areas?
A. No, we’re interested in all the areas of inquiry we have represented on the faculty. As much as possible, the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee tries to balance the areas that we accept students in. I think this is also one of the strengths of JSP. When you enter the program, you’re going to encounter peers in your cohort, in other cohorts, who are interested in law and philosophy, legal history, law and economics, sociology of law, law and politics, critical perspectives, and more. They’re interested in qualitative and quantitative empirical work. They’re interested in work that is not empirical in nature.
That’s one of the strengths of JSP – having this all under one roof. It also can be a bit unsettling, I think, for first year students to experience that kind of intellectual diversity. But over time this is what we think makes our program unique. JSP students learn to move and work across various boundaries and to think about how to ask research questions that might connect or address puzzles that span multiple areas of inquiry.
This aspect of JSP connects to another thing that we’re looking for in applicants – students who are willing to experiment in their thinking. To not be confined and siloed in particular research areas, or particular fields, or particular areas of law. We’re interested in students who are willing to try out different ways of looking at legal questions, legal problems, social issues, and social problems.
Q. Does work experience matter in the application process?
A. It really doesn’t, except that sometimes students come in with background experiences that can help them with their research. If somebody, for example, has worked in international human rights and in their statement of purpose writes that they’re interested in doing research in that area, that experience may help them in forming interesting questions. Background experiences can also help sometimes with access to particular settings if a student wants to do research, for example, in that field. Otherwise, what one has done in their background simply signals how an applicant has navigated the world.
Q. Do you make any special efforts to recruit applicants from diverse or non-traditional backgrounds?
A. Yes we do. We direct market JSP to about a thousand colleges, including historically black colleges and universities in the United States, and universities in Canada, Europe, and other regions. We reach out to scholars who are well positioned to identify and recommend diverse applicants to JSP. We make efforts to link diverse students with relevant affinity groups, both within the JSP student body, and Berkeley Law, and on the Berkeley campus more generally. We have a standing JSP Diversity Committee that is chaired by the Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee, and has a number of faculty and students on it. That committee is charged with working with the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee, as well as working with Berkeley Law, more generally, to recruit and retain diverse students.
Our efforts along these lines have paid off. Just taking the last five years, for example, we’ve admitted the most diverse cohorts in the 40-year history of JSP. Over these five years, the cohorts are over 50% women, and 40% self-identified, under-represented minorities. We also have a very low attrition rate from the program. Ultimately, we believe our efforts will lead to the placement of an ever more diverse set of JSP graduates into academia and increasingly into legal academia.
Q. Is that committee that you just referenced, is that the same committee that actually selects the Ph.D. candidates?
A. No, it’s a different committee. The committee that selects applicants into JSP is the JSP Graduate Admissions committee. The faculty member who’s chaired that committee most recently is Professor Catherine Albiston, and she’s rotating out of this position as well this year, after two consecutive two-year terms. Professor Rachel Stern will Chair the committee for 2019-2021. I addition to the Chair (who also acts as the Head Graduate Advisor), the JSP Admissions Committee comprises three other faculty members, plus a JSP graduate student representative — an advanced student who is selected by their student peers to sit on the Committee. The Graduate Student Affairs Officer (GSAO), Margo Rodriguez, provides administrative support. She is our chief liaison between JSP, the Berkeley Graduate Division, and the Berkeley Law Registrar.
Q. Let’s transition over to the financial aspect of a JSP Ph.D. This program is obviously very different from a VAP or fellowship program. Tell me how it works – tuition, stipends, etc.
A. Right. All JSP students are guaranteed a multi-year funding package in the same way that any of our usual Ph.D. program competitors might offer. Typically, we’re competing for Ph.D. students with other top doctoral programs in political science/political theory, sociology, history, economics, and psychology at a lot of top universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, UCLA, Michigan, Yale, Columbia, Wisconsin, and Northwestern.
The JSP multi-year base funding package includes graduate tuition, health insurance, a living stipend, an annual travel allocation, and two years of summer funding. The initial package is five years, although students often times can get more than that, but the base package is five years. If they’re studying for the J.D./Ph.D., there’s also some funding support for the J.D., and Berkeley Law – with full support of our dean, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky – is committed to increasing the level of support for J.D. tuition and the funding support in the JSP Ph.D. program.
JSP students are also quite successful at applying for extramural sources of support for their dissertation research. They routinely receive grants from places such as the National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and other private foundations. So, funding is, I think, improving at JSP to support graduate education. It certainly could be better, given the cost of living here in the Bay Area, but it is improving.
Q. When you say JSP students receive a stipend, are you comfortable sharing the amount of that stipend, generally?
A. Our stipends for the incoming JSP cohort are in the lower thirty-thousand range plus additional stipends during the first two summers. Health insurance is included. It’s very expensive to live in the Bay Area, as I mentioned, and we’re committed to increasing the stipends of every student in the program to keep up the cost of living. But it’s difficult to do so. In addition to the stipend, JSP students also receive graduate tuition support, and if they are in the Berkeley Law J.D. program, there is some additional support available for J.D. tuition.
Q. You mentioned that they get health insurance.
Q. How about access to any subsidized or university housing?
A. All Berkeley graduate students have access to university housing. It is not subsidized, although it is less expensive than the market rate for this area. There is some priority given to students with families, and the housing is good. There’s not enough of it, but we have many students who live in that housing, and I know they find it to be good.
Q. You mentioned travel funding, what’s the amount of that funding?
A. It’s $1,000 per year for the amount of time that you’re in the JSP program. This amount allows students to go to at least one academic conference per year which is really important for professional development. And, there are other sources of funding on the Berkeley campus for academic travel funding, especially for international conferences.
Q. Let’s turn to the quid pro quo side of receiving this money. Are JSP students teaching while they’re completing their Ph.D.’s?
A. Yes they teaching, which is also part of professional development, but they typically don’t start until their second year in the Ph.D. program. During the first year, JSP students are on fellowship because we consider that year a transition year into the Ph.D. program. In the second, third, and part of their fourth years, JSP student funding comes through a graduate student instructor (GSI) appointment, which are teaching assistantships in our undergraduate Legal Studies program. The summer funding for the first two summers is through a research apprenticeship in which students select from a number of potential projects to work with a JSP faculty member.
Towards the end of their careers, students also have other opportunities for campus fellowships so they don’t have to be teaching at all or as much while they’re conducting research for or writing their dissertations.
Q. So, I should have followed up earlier on the summer stipend amount. How much is that amount? And, when you say that they’re working on particular research projects with professors over the summers, does that mean that they can’t work on their own projects related to their Ph.D.?
A. The summer stipend for the first two summers is three thousand per summer. After their first summer, some students combine the apprenticeship with teaching, another GSI or other work. What we found is that at least in the early parts of the program, students are really interested in getting involved in research with a faculty member. And one of the best ways to do this is to work with a professor on a project that the professor’s got going. There are also publication opportunities there, depending upon the type of project it is and where the project is in terms of its development.
We put students with professors through matching process in which professors supply an abstract of the project they’re working on, their project goals for the summer, and the expected activities for the research apprentice. Students see the array of abstracts and rank their top two or three choices. Almost every student gets matched up with their first or second choices unless we have a shortage of projects compared to the number of students in the first or second-year cohorts. If that happens, sometimes we have multiple students working for the same professor.
Q. Let’s go back to the teaching side. How many courses are they typically teaching?
A. As a GSI, a student will be attached to one lecture course per semester, teaching two smaller break-out sections of that course. They’re also obligated to attend the larger lecture, hold office hours, and participate in the grading of assignments and exams. There may be periodic meetings with the faculty member teaching the course. This is what we call a 50% appointment, which means that total number of hours that the GSI works is not more than 20 hours per week, which includes all the activities I mentioned and any prep time for the sections.
Q. Okay, and do they ever have the opportunity during their Ph.D. program to be the primary instructor for a course?
A. Yes, there are some opportunities. For more advanced students, there are smaller, writing-intensive freshman/sophomore seminars that they can teach. In the past, we’ve sometimes had opportunities for students who already have their J.D.s to teach some sort of J.D. seminar and we’re looking to see if we can make that a more general opportunity for JSP students with J.D.’s, although we’re not sure whether this can be done or not.
More generally, there are University of California policies that limit the opportunities that Ph.D. students have to teach standalone courses.
Even so, there are some unique GSI possibilities in JSP beyond teaching at the undergraduate level. Our introductory Ph.D. statistics course and our doctoral pedagogy course have GSIs assigned to them. Students who are interested in teaching statistics at the graduate level are often interested in being the GSI for the stat course.
The pedagogy course is really interesting. Every graduate student at Berkeley, before they teach, is required to take a semester-long pedagogy seminar in their home or another program on campus. We offer a pedagogy seminar in JSP and the course is really co-taught seminar by the GSI and a JSP faculty member.
Q. What topics are covered in the pedagogy seminar?
A. The course is geared to help a graduate student prepare to lead break-out discussion sections of larger lecture courses. But it covers all the foundational aspects of teaching, from how to structure a course, to how to lead course discussion, to questions of inclusions and diversity. The course covers evaluation and grading, formulating assignments, developing syllabi. Giving lectures, handling questions, troubleshooting in classes. Working with folks who require special accommodations. All of it. The JSP student who is selected to co-teach the course is generally an advanced JSP student who’s won a campus-level teaching award for their work as a GSI in Legal Studies courses. JSP always has a superb group of GSIs and every year we have two or three doctoral students win teaching awards.
In addition to discussions and presentations led by the instructors, the course is also organized around a series of panels for which we bring in advanced doctoral students who have been teaching for a while to talk about their experiences. We bring in undergraduates to talk about their experiences, as well. We also have a small panel with other faculty and doctoral students on work-life balance as it relates to professional careers and teaching in academia. That panel covers questions like how can one best managing commitments across teaching, across research, and across all the other responsibilities that adults have outside of the workplace.
The pedagogy seminar also sometimes has panels with award-winning instructors from the J.D. faculty who come and talk about best practices for teaching a 1L course. They also discuss the more general challenges of teaching J.D. courses in law schools and how they manage those challenges.
Q. I wish more law faculty had the opportunity to take a course like that. That sounds great.
A. Well, actually, the reason why Berkeley implemented this requirement at the Ph.D. level is because traditionally there was no training for doctoral students who were going to go out and spend a good portion of their academic careers teaching. They received a world-class education and experience in research, but training and education in teaching was hit and miss at best. I would think that almost every American university or college has programs that support teaching of some sort, but I still think that systematic training to teach at the doctoral level is relatively uncommon. And courses that teach law professors how to teach might be even rarer. Having a semester-long course on pedagogy and a requirement that students take it before they teach is really an advance along these lines.
Q. It feels like it should be more mainstream. I’m glad it is at Berkeley.
A. Yeah. That we have the requirement is a testament to folks at Berkeley wanting to take college teaching more seriously than in previous generations.
Q. It’s not our norm for sure.
Q. Let’s skip over to the intellectual community in the JSP program. You mentioned that there’s about 60 JSP students at Berkeley at a time. How do those students get together professionally, intellectually? Do they have, for example, a workshop series where they present their work to each other? Is there anything like that?
A. In any given year, there about 45 JSP students in residence with the rest perhaps out collecting data for their dissertations or on a fellowship somewhere else. In addition to a lot of social events, JSP students get together at all kinds of professional events. There are student-led events that students organize through the JSP Law and Society Graduate Students Association (LSGSA). Even though the title of the organization contains the words, “law and society,” the association is more inclusive intellectually than that title might suggest. Through the LSGSA, students organize what they call the Friday Forum at which they present research to each other. The LSGSA also organizes what students call the Gateway Conference for first-year JSP students, which provides a chance for the first-year students to present their work and receive feedback from more advanced JSP students and faculty.
JSP funds and supports all these events. The annual conference travel funds provided to JSP students also means that they’re getting out really early in their careers to present and learn about research at other schools, and they’re developing professional networks. They’re also connecting to the global network of JSP students. There are about 150 graduates from the program, and they’re on the faculties at law schools, interdisciplinary programs, and disciplinary departments throughout the U.S. and more than two-dozen countries around the world.
There are also many other ways that JSP students can participate in the intellectual life of JSP, Berkeley Law, and the Berkeley campus more broadly. There are multiple ongoing workshops at which students can fully participate, including the speaker series at the Center for the Study of Law and Society; the Law and Economics Workshop; the Law, Philosophy and Political Theory Workshop; and the Law and History Workshop. There are also vibrant topical workshop groups that include JSP faculty and students, and faculty and students from other programs at Berkeley. These include the Carceral Studies Group that focuses on research about punishment and society, criminal justice, and mass incarceration; the Berkeley Immigration and Migration Initiative (BIMI); or the Law, Text and Machine Learning Workshop. And then there are the countless speaker series that Berkeley disciplinary departments and other units hold on a regular basis that are all open to students. There are always opportunities to not only hear the presentations, but also meet the presenters in small groups or one-on-one, over a meal or coffee, or in other gatherings. Students also can receive academic credit for going to the first set of workshops I mentioned.
There’s also the Berkeley Empirical Legal Studies (BELS) Fellowship, which is run through the Center for the Study of Law and Society, that JSP students can apply to. BELS is a competitively-awarded research fellowship that brings together Berkeley doctoral students conducting quantitative and/or qualitative empirical projects on law and legal institutions into a year-long workshop. Each cohort typically has about ten students, representing multiple programs around campus (including JSP). The BELS Fellowship comes with research money, as well, but not graduate tuition.
Berkeley, in general, is kind of an intellectual interdisciplinary cornucopia of talks and conferences, and they’re all open to JSP students. JSP faculty and faculty in other programs are always interested to help JSP students connect with these talks and conferences. So, there’s a lot of opportunity there.
Q. So, would that include, for example, the Berkeley Law faculty’s regular colloquium or speaker series?
A. Yes, there is a regular Berkeley Law workshop, which I don’t believe is open to students and is organized by the J.D. faculty in the law school. However, JSP students and J.D. students are welcome to attend any of the faculty job talks that are given throughout the year as part of the Berkeley Law faculty workshop. Going to these talks is an interesting and valuable experience for students. As I mentioned earlier, this year we hired nine new faculty members to the Berkeley Law faculty, including two specifically in JSP. There were probably 25 or so job talks throughout the year in order to successfully pull off that scale of recruitment. I would say that there was a good half a dozen JSP students at every single job talk, and they weren’t always the same students. Who attended depended upon the topic and student availability, but there were a lot of students at each of the talks and, of course, a lot of faculty members.
Q. Let’s talk about advising in the JSP program. As students are moving through the program, choosing dissertation topics, starting their own research agenda, what type of advising are they receiving through that process?
A. Every first-year JSP student is assigned a temporary advisor based on the student’s interests. We call these advisors temporary because we want to make sure that when students come in to the program they have at least one faculty member they can begin talking with about getting settled in the program academically and to begin thinking through their trajectory in the program. But we don’t expect temporary advisors will necessarily be permanent advisors. I would say that in about half the cases the temporary advisor becomes the permanent advisor while in half the student’s interests change, or what have you, and student shifts advisors.
In addition to temporary advisors, the Chair of the JSP Admissions Committee also acts as a general advisor to Ph.D. students. And then there are several milestones through a JSP student’s movement through the program at which they receive professional advice. There’s a review at the end of the second year, for example, with two faculty members. This is not an opportunity to weed students out of the program. This is simply a chance to take stock of where the students have gone, what courses they’ve taken, what things they’ve done thus far, and how they might want to plan out their next few years in the program might look as they begin looking toward a dissertation or even toward eventual job markets that might be attractive to them.
In the second and third years, students also work closely with faculty members and peers to prepare for two written doctoral exams. One of those is in a discipline, such as law and economics, or legal history, or sociology of law. And then, one is in an interdisciplinary field which is chosen and formulated by the student. That disciplinary field is generally a topic that will be aligned with the dissertation topic, ultimately.
In the third and fourth years in the program the students select their primary dissertation advisor, and they form a Ph.D. dissertation committee that will have a core of JSP faculty members, but may often include a member from the J.D. program at Berkeley Law. And then, by Berkeley graduate division requirement, it also must have a so-called “external” member, who is a member of the Berkeley faculty, but not appointed on the Berkeley law faculty.
The composition of the doctoral dissertation committee tells you a little something about Berkeley. Berkeley, in general, is an interdisciplinary campus at every level, but especially with regard to Ph.D. education. The requirement of having someone on the dissertation committee outside one’s own program is over and above the interdisciplinarity within JSP, and adds yet another layer of interdisciplinarity to our program. And then, finally, in the fourth and fifth years, students write the dissertation.
So, at multiple points in the program, there are multiple mechanisms and sources of advising that students get. Temporary advisor, graduate studies admissions chair, second-year review, doctoral dissertation chair. You might think that such a structure would be a recipe for a lot of conflict or at least conflicting advice. Sometimes that’s the case. But mostly, it means that students are able to hear and try out ideas with multiple scholars, which we think strengthens students training. It also means that students have to find their own voice and who to rely on for what kind of advice. Mostly though, I find that advising in the JSP program is a collective effort. I find that students can always go to faculty members in the program who aren’t on their committees, or who aren’t helping them with their written exams, and get advice. This is a very open and advice-friendly kind of place. It doesn’t always work perfectly, to be sure, and it doesn’t work smoothly for every student, but in general, we strive to offer multiple kinds of mentoring and advice for students.
Q. What type of feedback is the Ph.D. advisor, or the Ph.D. advising committee providing on drafts of the dissertation throughout this process?
A. There’s multiple types of feedback. First of all, there’s the substantive advice that students receive leading up to and during what we call the “qualifying exam” or simply the, QE. In JSP, the QE is really a 2-3 hour face-to-face discussion of the dissertation prospectus among the student and their committee. The dissertation prospectus is a proposal that advances the key research questions or research hypotheses that the student expects to address in their dissertation research. The prospectus lays out a plan for answering those questions, or for testing those hypotheses. The dissertation committee, by the time the student is formulating that prospectus, will have read multiple drafts, and given feedback, both oral and written, on that prospectus. They’ll provide feedback on the research questions/hypotheses themselves and the significance of it all to relevant literatures, theories, events in the world, and law or policy. They’ll provide a great deal of feedback on the methods used, whatever they might be. Another important aspect of the QE is to make sure that everyone involved – the student and their committee – is aligned in terms of the expectations for the dissertation. This doesn’t mean that the dissertation might not change as the student works on it. They almost always do in some way. The key thing is that the student comes out of the QE meeting with a clear path forward for doing their dissertation research and if they do change paths, they know where they’ve been so that they can chart a new path forward in communication with their committee.
For JSP students, the QE can and should be an exciting discussion to facilitate students setting sail, if you will, on the dissertation journey in best shape possible. Depending upon what the student and the dissertation committee agree to, the student might produce a dissertation that consists of three publishable articles or more like a research monograph, like a book. What form the dissertation takes depends upon the disciplinary audiences to which the student is trying to speak.
Students and dissertation committees will have different preferences on form and timing of feedback as the student writes the dissertation. Some dissertation committees want to see each paper or chapter as it’s completed. Other dissertation committees will want the primary advisor to look at each paper or chapter as it’s completed, approve it, and then look at an entire draft of the dissertation down the line to provide feedback. Different dissertation committees will work differently, but there’s always an iterative process of feedback and advice, oral and written for the student, along the way.
Of course, the primary dissertation advisor is a key person in this process. They’re the person who ultimately is responsible for facilitating the student writing the best dissertation they can. But they and the entire committee will be
A second kind of feedback that the student receives is more strategic about how to position their work for the various job markets their interested in entering or as a piece of scholarship in what the relevant field or audiences might be. Students receive this kind of advice throughout the program, but it’s especially intensive and important as they produce their dissertation, which is or should be their signature research up to that point in their career.
Q. And what types of formal training do JSP students receive in these interdisciplinary areas. So, to the extent that somebody wants to go into law and economics, or law and history, what type of methodological training are they receiving in these different areas?
A. There are courses and training in both social science methodology and in the substantive fields represented in the JSP program. In terms of methods, JSP students are required to take an introductory doctorate level statistics class. For some JSP students, this course may be more about gaining what you could call statistical literacy. For those students who are interested in doing advanced quantitative work, they will generally regard the intro course we offer as a foundation or gateway to more advanced courses. We also offer a more advanced statistics course that covers causal inference with special application to the study of law and legal institutions
Some JSP students are especially interested in learning quantitative methods in the context of particular disciplines to which they want their research to speak. These students may take the econometrics sequence in the Department of Economics, for example, or they may take advanced statistics courses in the Department of Political Science or in the Sociology Department. Some of our students take their quantitative training even further by earning a MA in Demography or Biostatistics. In terms of methods, however, it is not only quantitatively-oriented students who take additional methods courses in departments on campus. The Department of History, for example, now offers a course in historical methods and JSP students have taken that course. And Berkeley is renowned for the variety of qualitative field methods courses offered across multiple departments, including the qualitative field methods course offered in JSP that is jointly taught with the Department of Sociology.
Within JSP, we also offer an introductory-level research design course. This is not another statistics course. It’s a course that teaches students how to formulate research questions and pair them to appropriate kinds of methodologies, be they quantitative, qualitative, or otherwise. This course helps students begin thinking about how to make the transition from being a student to being a scholar, and about how to ultimately formulate a dissertation topic and research questions.
In addition to the methods training, JSP has a number of distribution requirements in what we call foundations areas that represent the areas of inquiry that we cover in the program. You have to take courses in at least three foundations areas, such as in law and economics, sociology of law, legal history, or law and philosophy. And then, students build on those foundations courses by either taking additional courses in JSP in those areas, or taking additional courses in other departments.
We advise students to take courses in the disciplines that they’re interested in and virtually every JSP students takes some proportion of their coursework in other disciplinary programs on the Berkeley campus. And, of course, JSP students can take courses in the J.D. program with many students earning their J.D.’s at Berkeley Law. What this all means is that in addition to the unique courses students take in JSP, they are taking courses in our excellent J.D. program and can take courses in any of the world-class Ph.D. programs that we have on the Berkeley campus. If a student is going to specialize in law and economics, for example, we urge them to take economics courses in Economics Department, the Goldman School (of Public Policy), the Haas School of Business, or other units on campus that offer courses in aspects of economics. And, the same thing with history, sociology, political science, psychology, etc. And if students are studying a particular topical area, such as punishment and society, they might knit together a series of courses in the topic that cuts across JSP, Berkeley Law, and multiple programs on the Berkeley campus, which happens to be really strong in this area.
So, students are taking courses in JSP, and they’re taking courses in the J.D. program, and they’re taking courses in other Berkeley doctoral programs.
Q. Would it be right, as I listen to you talk about this, is it right to say that students have a tremendous amount of flexibility in choosing their specific course work within the JSP program?
A. Yes, absolutely. Unlike a program that has a unit minimum or maximum, JSP has distribution requirements. Students must take three foundations courses in different fields; then two additional seminars, one of which can be outside the program, and then can take additional seminars on top of all of that.
In a doctoral program, there is always debate about what the right amount of coursework is, about whether there’s too much or not enough and which courses are absolutely necessary. Doctoral programs go through cycles that lead to them review and change their requirements about every decade or so to introduce more or less “structure” or more or less “flexibility.” Some of these changes are informed by cycles in styles of research that wax and wane, some of this results from broader fads and fashions in graduate education, and some of this results from changes in the world that demand attention or new methodologies and technologies. Think about how much changes in computing technology has changed education and research over the past few decades. I think in JSP we’re in a good position to take advantage of all these changes, to keep at the vanguard of graduate training in the interdisciplinary study of law and legal institutions.
One thing I should also mention, too, is that the JSP program offers financial support for students to take additional offsite methods training, such as at the Institute for Social Research at Michigan or the Institute for Qualitative and Multimethod Research at Syracuse. We also provide support for additional training for students pursuing work oriented toward the humanities, such as special training in languages or other research tools. So, students might go to a summer language institute, statistics workshops, or data science workshops offsite.
Q. In terms of the number of years, how many years does the JSP program typically take, and how many of those years are course work, and how many are exclusively working on their dissertation?
A. It’s generally six years to finish the Ph.D. or seven if a student earns their J.D. at Berkeley Law with the JSP Ph.D. JSP courses are law courses and can double count for both the Ph.D. and J.D. programs. If a student does their J.D. at another law school – taking a leave from JSP to do so – it may add 2-3 years on to the total time to early the J.D./Ph.D., depending upon how and whether that other law school counts any of the coursework completed at JSP. Focusing just on the JSP Ph.D. program, it’s about two and half years of coursework, about a year of independent and small group study related to the written disciplinary and the topical exams, and two and half years or more devoted to the dissertation.
Q. We’ve gone through a lot of the details of the program. Let’s step back. What do you think makes JSP standout from other law-related Ph.D. degree programs, or interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs, or even law school fellowships around the country?
A. JSP is unique in providing the rigor of a top-flight Ph.D. training, but in an elite law school setting, all embedded in one of the world’s great academic research institutions. There isn’t another interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in law and legal institutions like JSP in the world. There are pieces of our program all over the world, partly because of our graduates start and lead different graduate programs at the universities where they work. In terms of being in a top-flight law school, being at a top-flight research university, and then being a well-structured and successful Ph.D. program, JSP is unique.
I think a second issue is that, because we’re in a law school, JSP students receive training that’s more integrated with law, rather than siloed in a discipline. So, if you think about JSP versus a disciplinary Ph.D. program, what typically happens is that you get your Ph.D. in the discipline where you put on your disciplinary hat. Then you go over to do your J.D. and you put on your law school hat. It’s up to the student, basically, to figure out how to bridge the two fields in their research and teaching. In JSP we’re structured to try to bridge the two. We provide training in the disciplines and we provide training to integrate, and to be interdisciplinary. And then we’re housed in a law school, so we’re very, very close to the law.
This means that JSP students learn different ways of formulating and answering research questions about law and legal institutions, and importantly learn how to navigate across law school, disciplinary, and interdisciplinary fields of research. We like to say that people learn how to “speak law,” they learn how to “speak JSP,” and how to “speak discipline.” Their ability to speak these different languages enables them to navigate across and thrive in different academic worlds, and understand the perspectives of diverse scholars and students.
Q. So, once they’ve received this training, obviously the goal for most of them, I assume is to get an academic position. Focusing on those students who want to get an academic position in a law school, what type of mentoring do they receive related to the job market?
JSP students receive both one-on-one mentorship from their advisors and through ongoing professional development workshops. JSP holds workshops that cover such topics as the job market, publishing, getting the most out of one’s advising relationships and so on. We urge students to begin attending these workshops in their second or third years, and to begin thinking ahead about job markets rather than waiting until the last moment. In addition to these sources of information and mentoring, there is also the Berkeley Law placement committee that is responsible for facilitating Berkeley J.D. student success on the academic law market, and the chair of that committee coordinates closely with the chair of the JSP Graduate Admissions Committee, and the chairs of individual JSP dissertation committees in positioning students on the market.
Not to be too clichéd, but it’s true, in addition to excellent credentials and potential as a scholar and teacher, it takes a village and active networks to get someone a job in academia. The real advice is that students after their first couple of years need to begin to think proactively and look forward at the market that’s coming up. They need to be attending conferences and meeting relevant scholars in their field; they need to be begin thinking strategically about Berkeley faculty with whom they’ve taken classes and who might interested in being on their dissertation committee and who might eventually write letters of rec or call someone on a hiring committee on their behalf. Students can’t wait until you’re getting ready to go on the market to position themselves for it if they want to be successful.
Q. Do the students have an opportunity to do a mock job talk?
A. Yes, they do. They can do multiple talks if necessary. Those talks are generally attended by members of the student’s dissertation committee and JSP student peers. There may be other faculty present who are on the dissertation committee, but have been deemed by the student or the dissertation advisor to be really important to be in the room so that they can replicate some of the questions that the student may receive in a job talk setting.
Mock job talks are really interesting in that in addition to the formal presentation by the student they typically have two kinds of Q&A sessions. The first replicates the front stage questions that the student may receive wherever they’re going to interview and the second goes backstage to presentation and Q&A response styles and strategies or the visuals, if any, that are used.
Different academic job markets, as you might suspect, have different norms in terms of job talks. They also require really different kinds of framings for one’s research, and somewhat different presentational styles. To begin with, in political science or in sociology, the job talk is typically 40 to 45 minutes, plus about 30 minutes of questions. Whereas in law, the job talk may be 15 to 20 minutes plus 55 minutes of Q and A. So, that difference in and of itself requires a very different way of framing one’s research in order to be successful in communicating what is interesting and important about one’s research. The key thing we try to communicate to JSP students is that in whatever market one is trying to get a job, it’s important, in addition to doing excellent research, to signal what one’s valued-added is as a JSP graduate. What does one bring to the table as a graduate of an interdisciplinary doctoral program focused on law and legal institutions?
Q. Do the JSP students receive feedback on the application materials themselves?
A. Absolutely. Again, they’ll receive multiple layers of advice from their dissertation advisor, from the members of their dissertation committee, and the Berkeley Law placement committee, and other JSP and Berkeley Law faculty. JSP faculty members may be differently positioned in different academic markets. Some may be more familiar with the history market, or the political science market, or the sociology market, whatever it may be. This is where it’s really important for the primary academic advisor and the student to strategize about who they need to connect with in order to get their application materials to the appropriate framing, and in the right hands.
This is where peers can play important roles, as well. Especially peers who have just been on the market. The network of JSP alumni also can play a role. They’re not only important in perhaps getting a hiring committee to take a look at a JSP student’s application materials, but also and perhaps even more importantly in giving feedback on a student’s application materials.
Q. If you had to look back on the JSP students who wanted to go into a tenure-track, law teaching job, what percentage of those students do you think succeeded in landing in one of those jobs?
A. Well, over the 40 years of the program, we’ve graduated over 150 students, and about three quarters have gone into academia. Of those students, about three quarters have tenured or tenure track positions. So, JSP is a good bet if you want to go into legal academia or a law-related area in an interdisciplinary or disciplinary program.
Let me be more specific. Over the past five years, JSP has graduated 30 students, and 17 or 57% currently hold tenure-track positions, seven have postdoctoral or VAP positions, and six are not working in academia. Of the JSP graduates in academia, both those in tenure-track and those in temporary positions, 16 are in law schools. By contrast, in the most current survey of Berkeley doctoral alumni over the past five years, about 44% of Berkeley doctoral graduates hold tenure track positions. So, we’re doing well in terms of placement even when compared to other world-class doctoral programs at Berkeley, most of which are ranked at number one or at least in the top 5 in their respective fields. We also do well comparatively in terms of being one of the top sources for law faculty in the country. We had an especially robust placement record this year, including a student who accepted a tenure-track position at Stanford Law, another student who accepted a tenure-track position at the London School of Economics, and another who accepted a prestigious UC Presidents postdoc at UCLA Law. We had still another JSP graduate accept a clerkship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (with great support and thanks to the very effective Berkeley Law Faculty Clerkship Committee).
Overall, it’s important to keep in mind that all of these placement statistics should be calibrated in light of the fiscal recession in 2008-09, which really constrained academic hiring and especially law school hiring for several years, and I think continues to reverberate even to the present.
Q. Let’s turn to just a few broader policy questions.
Q. Increasingly today, candidates on the law teaching market have Ph.D.’s, and often many of them also have completed VAPs or fellowships.
Q. Focusing just on those with Ph.D.’s, I’m wondering what you think are the benefits of the rise of Ph.D.’s on the law teaching market, and what do you think are the costs?
A. A benefit to law schools is that you can hire an entry-level faculty member who has a more defined research agenda than a candidate who did not go through a Ph.D. program. What you get of a Ph.D. program is the ability to formulate a research agenda and to pursue it – the research tools, the theory, and all that it takes to do that. It’s not that entry-level law school candidates with Ph.D.’s are smarter than those without a Ph.D. It’s that they are further along in developing their research agendas and how to pursue their agendas.
One cost is at the level of the candidate. It takes a lot longer to secure a law professorship. It used to be that a Ph.D. might substitute for some other experience, but what we’re seeing now are J.D./Ph.D.’s who have been a VAP, who have had a fellowship, who have clerked, and who may have practice experience of some kind. Securing a law faculty position is beginning to look like getting a faculty position at a medical school. In the medical school context, one might not secure an entry-level position at an elite institution until one is their mid-30s because of all of the internships and externships that one has to complete prior to becoming a full member of a medical faculty. The process through which has to go and the milestones that one has to achieve is prolonged in legal academia as it has been for decades in the field of academic medicine.
Another cost is institutional. There has been a sea change in law school hiring over the past several years with more J.D./Ph.D.’s than ever being hired into top law schools, especially, but increasingly in non-elite many law schools. These hiring changes have led to a growing tension on law school faculties between hiring candidates with and without Ph.D.’s. Some law faculties frame these two trajectories as a trade-off. These arguments go something like this. Those who have Ph.D.’s will not have practice or clerkship experience, and these experiential differences create differences not only in how legal research is conducted or defined, but how law is taught. There are trade-offs. J.D./Ph.D.’s, so the argument goes, teach law courses in less practical ways. Yet the currency of a Ph.D. becomes more valuable as law schools, especially at the elite levels, want to up their research capacities. So there’s a tension between having entry-level folks come in with Ph.D.’s who have better developed research agendas than entry-level folks without Ph.D.’s. As I said earlier, having a Ph.D. doesn’t make you smarter, but it may enable you to hit the ground running faster and perhaps to look more polished as you come through the door.
Does a Ph.D. trained law professor approach their 1L courses differently, for example, than a non-Ph.D. trained faculty member? Perhaps. I know that I can certainly see some differences here on the Berkeley Law faculty among my colleagues with and without Ph.D.’s who teach in our 1L curriculum. But the differences don’t always play out as one might expect. Faculty members sometimes compartmentalize how they’re teaching a 1L contracts course, for example, or a 1L crim law course, compared to how they approach their research. They also shift how they teach a more advanced seminar where they might bring in work from law and society, or criminology, or sociology, or whatever it might be, or economics, to look at that topic. On the other hand, some of my colleagues who have it all – a Ph.D., a J.D., and practice experience – and who teach in the 1L curriculum are some of the best instructors we have precisely because they offer practical perspectives and stretch the boundaries of conventional legal teaching to offer insights from their research or other interdisciplinary sources.
Q. I want to circle back to the discussion about practice experience, because one of the things that’s interesting about a Ph.D. program versus a VAP or fellowship, is that at least for students who aren’t entering the JSP program with a J.D., it’s impossible for them to have practice experience as a lawyer before they enter the program.
A. Right, sure.
Q. So, what does that mean for them when they go onto the job market? Does that mean that typically the student coming out of the JSP program does not have any practice experience?
A. There are trade-offs, as I just noted. I would say that if anything’s going to drop off for a JSP student it’s probably the practice experience. But we have a number of students who come into the program with J.D.’s and have substantial prior practice experience. We also have students, for example, who have earned their J.D., but haven’t finished their JSP Ph.D., and take time off to practice law. They then come back to finish their Ph.D. and go on the academic law market. For students who interrupt their Ph.D. to practice law, one always wonders if they’ll return to finish their Ph.D. But we have multiple examples where that has occurred and the students have succeeded quite well on the academic law market.
More typical would be students who finish both the J.D. and the JSP Ph.D., and then go into a clerkship or a VAP. That’s not practice experience, but it is experience apart from their Ph.D. program prior to going on the academic law job market. Again, I’m seeing more and more candidates who seem to have it all, which means that they’ve gained practice experience either prior to coming to JSP or interrupted their doctoral studies to practice.
Q. So, obviously for the students who have checked all the boxes, they would probably be very attractive candidates on the law faculty hiring market.
Q. As for the candidate who, perhaps, has just completed the JSP program straight through, who doesn’t have that practice experience, what do you think about that trade off, given that law schools are in the business of educating lawyers?
A. Well, law schools are in the business of educating lawyers. But as I said, especially for many law schools, they’re trying to up their research game. I also don’t think that practice experience guarantees hiring a dynamic instructor or an instructor who can quite capably prepare a law student for legal practice. My sense is that law schools need to think about their faculties not as monolithic, but, as an integrated team on which different faculty members with different backgrounds bring different strengths. So, it may be that some faculty members will have J.D./Ph.D.’s and less practice experience, and they bring that formal research training with them. Other faculty members who may not have Ph.D.’s or who may have Ph.D.’s, but also have practice experience, bring that experience with them. It’s also unclear to me how having Ph.D. influences the long-term research career that one has. Having a Ph.D. can certainly alter one’s style of research or where one wants to publish – only in law journals, for example, or in both law and peer-reviewed journals. Again, background is not always destiny. I have colleagues at Berkeley Law who have Ph.D.’s and who publish almost exclusively in law journals. There are colleagues with J.D.’s without Ph.D.’s who publish in peer-reviewed and law journals. Maybe it’s just situation at Berkeley Law, but it’s not clear how these changes in the academic preparation of law faculty will shake out in terms of where the field is going. It will be interesting to see!
I hope that one of the things that our interdisciplinary training in JSP does for our students is facilitate them being more conscious and sensitive to these changes and tensions, and to be respectful of future colleagues with very different backgrounds from their own.
Q. Last question for you, Cal.
A. Sounds good.
Q. So, as there’s been this rise in Ph.D.’s, VAPs, and fellowships on the law faculty hiring market, I think a lot of hiring committees have struggled when it comes to evaluating candidates’ work, because it’s hard to tell how much of the work and ideas come from the candidates themselves, and how much comes from their mentors, advisors, and faculty at the school where they were fellows or Ph.D. students. How should we be thinking about that criticism?
A. This issue can be a challenge in any academic field. In any Ph.D. program, there’s a lot of mentoring. Questions can be raised about whether the ideas that one sees from an entry-level candidate are the candidate’s or the mentor’s. I think that one of the key things that we teach students in JSP is to signal what are their signature ideas. Students have to stand and deliver, so to speak, in the job interview situation and in their application materials. In those contexts, it is important for candidates to compellingly signal their own potential for sustaining the level of research accomplishment they’ve demonstrated in their Ph.D. program. If a student can’t do this effectively, they’ll have a difficult time being hired.
Q. Any last comments on either the JSP program, or the state of law hiring more generally?
A. JSP offers law schools incredible opportunities in terms of its graduates. Students who graduate from JSP come with world-class research training, training in teaching, and well-formulated research agendas. They can move across the boundaries of legal and disciplinary scholarship. They can teach traditional law school courses, such as in the 1L curriculum, and more advanced or interdisciplinary seminars. We’ve also found over time that a JSP education also equips our graduates for successful, longer-term careers. As law schools become more interdisciplinary in their research aspirations, my sense is that JSP graduates will become even more attractive on the law school market than they have in the past – and they’ve done quite well in the past.
This series is cross-posted on PrawsBlawg.