Once the hiring committee has completed its screening interviews, it will narrow the list of candidates who will be invited for on-campus interviews. If they conducted their screenings at the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference (FRC), invitations for callbacks can occur very quickly thereafter—sometimes the invitations come before FRC is even over. If they relied primarily on other methods for recruitment, if the position’s funding has not been confirmed by the university, or if the school is hiring for many positions and is staggering the callbacks, the timing may vary.
On-campus interviews often last an entire day. They will involve many small-group interview sessions with faculty; a meeting with the Dean; a meeting with law students; a tour of the law school, including the law library; and a 15-20 minute job talk or presentation, followed by a 35-40 minute question-and-answer session with the entire faculty. Traditionally, there is a dinner with faculty members on the night before or day of the interview. Remember that the dinner is a continuation of the interview. Order something that is not difficult to eat. Most attendees will be faculty you have not met with previously.
Many schools conduct callbacks before the end of the calendar year, but others host interviews in the new year. A school usually will want to schedule your interview quickly when they call you, so be prepared to schedule these visits on short notice. You should do your best to schedule the interview when the school wants to hold it; this can be difficult if you are fortunate enough to obtain multiple callback interviews.
Questions for You
The questions you get will be much like the ones that you received during the screening interview.
Questions to Ask
Regarding Faculty Status
At this point in your candidacy, it is vital to fully understand questions related to faculty status, including the rules governing promotion and tenure, probationary periods, and terms for the renewal of long-term contracts. You can check to see whether these policies are online (they often will be in public institutions). It is also appropriate to ask for a copy of the faculty handbook or these standards.
If you are interviewing for a non-tenure-track legal writing position, it can be tricky to answer questions about your other teaching interests and your long-term goals. If you say that you would like to teach other courses, or your goal is to move onto the tenure-track, some could hold that against you while others will appreciate your candor and strategic thinking about your career.
Consider the following questions:
- Does the law school have a unitary tenure track for all faculty?
- If yes, are the standards for promotion and tenure the same for all faculty?
- Assuming the obligation to research and write, what support is provided for legal writing faculty to produce scholarship?
- Do legal writing faculty produce the same number of articles as traditional podium faculty for promotion and tenure?
- What types of scholarship count for purposes of promotion and tenure?
- If the position is not one that qualifies for traditional tenure, or the school does not have a unitary tenure track, what status does the position have:
- Programmatic tenure-track
- Long-term contract with 405(c) status
- Long-term contract without 405(c) status
- Full-time short term
- If the position is programmatic tenure-track then:
- Is scholarly production required for promotion and tenure?
- If so, what resources are available to support scholarship?
- Do legal writing faculty have to produce the same number of articles as traditional podium faculty for promotion and tenure?
- What types of scholarship counts for purposes of promotion and tenure?
- What are the standards for promotion and tenure? What is the timeline from assistant to associate to full professor?
- If the position is long-term contract with 405(c) status:
- Is there probationary period of employment?
- After the initial period of probation, how many years is the presumptive renewal period?
- Is there financial and other support (e.g., research assistants, assigned librarians) should you choose to produce scholarship?
- If the position is long-term contract without 405(c) status or full-time short-term:
- What is the length of the initial contract?
- Is it a 9- or 12-month contract?
- What is the length of any contract renewal period?
- Is there support should you choose to produce scholarship?
Other Questions to Ask
Remember that not only is the faculty interviewing you, you are interviewing the school to ensure it is a good fit. To get a feel for the culture of the school, consider asking the following questions. Also realize that some questions are more appropriate for a particular person, like the Dean, while others may be appropriate for junior faculty or more senior faculty.
- Is the legal writing program coordinated (and if so, how), or does each professor have control over their syllabus, assignments, course materials, etc.?
- What is the relationship between legal writing, podium, and clinical faculty?
- What are the goals of the legal writing program? What initiatives might be planned for the next five years?
- What issues divide and unite the faculty?
- What is intellectual life at the school like?
- Does the school provide formal or informal mentoring?
- What drew you to the school?
- What other professional benefits accompany the position:
- Eligibility for sabbaticals, teaching leaves, or teaching reductions
- Eligibility for research stipends
- Faculty voting rights
- Faculty committee service and voting
- Travel or professional development budgets
The following questions are most appropriately addressed to a particular person or group of people:
- For the Dean: Would you be eligible for summer research grants: amount, eligibility, availability for the summer prior to classes starting?
- For the Dean or Chair of the Tenure Committee: Do papers published before the date of hire count toward tenure?
- For the Dean or Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee: What are the next steps in the process and timeline?
- For the Dean or director of the writing program:
- Would you be eligible for pre-tenure research leaves or reduced course loads?
- Would you be entitled to research and travel budgets and research assistants?
- Would you be eligible for sabbatical leaves?
During your callback interview, you will make a presentation to the faculty—a job talk, a teaching demonstration, or something else. The form of this presentation will depend on the status of the position you are seeking and each school’s requirements.
When you are offered the callback interview, make sure you understand the expectations and follow them. Do not be afraid to ask questions in advance. This presentation is a proxy for your classroom demeanor and presentation ability, ability to answer questions (including hostile and seemingly irrelevant questions), knowledge about the subject presented, and, for a traditional job talk, your scholarly potential. It can be the critical factor in whether you ultimately are offered the position.
Presentations often occur at noon, when fewer classes are offered. Expect the audience to be eating during your presentation. You likely will be offered food; it is fine to decline or, time permitting, to eat after your presentation.
For tenure-track positions, the conventional presentation required will be a job talk on a published or forthcoming paper of yours. Ideally, a job talk involves a 15-20 minute presentation of a legal argument/thesis and its supporting subparts, followed by a question-and-answer session that lasts approximately 30-40 minutes. Each law school’s culture differs. Realistically, you are unlikely to receive an uninterrupted 20 minutes to present your talk. Faculty often will begin to ask questions before you finish. Be prepared to get back on track after each question and response.
Goal of the Talk
The job talk serves many purposes, but it is increasingly used as a proxy for good teaching skills. Faculty may use both your style of responding to questions and your actual responses as a proxy for how you handle student questions in the classroom.
Faculty members are not only examining how well you substantively answer questions, but also, and perhaps more importantly, how well you play with ideas. Ultimately, faculty members are asking themselves “Would I like to talk ideas with this person on the faculty? Will this person be in conversation with other scholars in their field and advance the name and mission of the law school?”
Preparing for the Job Talk
- Use a polished paper. Some schools will expect you to give a presentation related to the courses you will be teaching. If you are interviewing for a legal writing position but your best paper is on another topic, reserve a few minutes at the beginning or end of your talk to express your enthusiasm for teaching legal writing: discuss your teaching philosophy, connect your scholarship to legal writing, and indicate that you will welcome questions at the end of the presentation. Learn more about how to prepare the paper on which you base your job talk here.
- Master your topic. Your goal is to have such command of your topic that you can speak comfortably to your audience without reading directly from your paper. The method for reaching this level of mastery will depend on your personal preferences and strengths. You might prepare by actually writing or typing out the job talk on paper; others will simply rely on an outline to prepare. Whichever method of preparation you choose, you want to arrive at the podium and present your ideas fluently without reading your paper directly to the faculty present.
- Practice. Once you have prepared your written presentation, it is critical to practice giving the talk in front of an audience. The audience can be law faculty from your alma mater (unless this is where you are interviewing), colleagues who are lawyers, former law school classmates, or former co-workers. It is helpful to have both people familiar and unfamiliar with your topic. The more practice presenting you have, the better. Comfort level and ease of speech is often cited as a sign of good teaching; the job talk is an opportunity to demonstrate good teaching skills.
- Visual presentation aides. Before assuming that you can or should create a visual presentation such as a PowerPoint, speak with the chair of the recruitment committee for advice. If you do decide to use a digital presentation, double check that the room scheduled for your job talk has the appropriate tech in place, let the chair know you plan to use it to ensure someone from the school is able to troubleshoot, and have several different ways to access your presentation files as backup. Make sure that you proofread the presentation carefully, as any errors, small or large, will be held against you.
- Time constraints. Time your job talk and make sure it is within any stated time limit. The chair of the hiring committee will let you know the particular guidelines for the talk; follow them.
- Recording. Do not expect the entire faculty to appear at your talk, because conflicts always exist. Do expect your presentation to be recorded. You may be asked to sign a release. Understand what type of recording will be made (audio only, video, recording that has audio and will show slides on the screen) and think about how those listening to or watching the recording will perceive your presentation (for example, you may need to stay closer to the podium so the audio will be clear).
Additional Job Talk Tips: Dos and Don’ts of Giving a Law Faculty Job Talk
- Begin the talk with an easily-identifiable argument/thesis in the introduction (e.g. a simple statement such as, “My talk addresses . . . . In my talk, I will argue . . . .”)
- Provide a roadmap during the introduction of the talk that details the various steps you will take in making the argument and supporting the thesis.
- Bring a pen or pencil and a small notepad to jot down notes as people ask questions. Law professors love to ask multi-part questions and to see that their questions are being seriously considered.
- Where appropriate and sincere, begin a response to a faculty member’s question with “good question” or “great question,” although you want to avoid over using this device.
- Be sure to answer the question that is asked.
- When appropriate, feel free to say, “That issue is not central to my paper, so I have not given it a great deal of thought, but off the top of my head, here is my initial reaction to your question…”
- If a question leads to a future idea or piece that you plan to write, feel free to say so and give your preliminary thoughts. Such a response may help to demonstrate that you have a scholarly agenda.
- Simply read the job talk. You should strive to engage the faculty—the entire room—with eye contact, gestures, and your voice level.
- Hesitate to ask a faculty member to state their question more clearly (in a polite way).
- Take it personally if two or more faculty members’ questions begin to feel like part of an ongoing debate between those faculty members. It likely is. Stay calm. Others on the faculty who are familiar with the longstanding debate between the faculty members will know what is going on and will not attribute anything negative to you.
- Defend your thesis and arguments at all costs. This is a common mistake. Understand that faculty members are examining not only the substance of your arguments but also your ability to discuss ideas with others, to incorporate feedback, and concede weaknesses when necessary.
If you are not interviewing for a tenure-track position, you may be asked to give a teaching demonstration. In this case, the school will provide the topic and, sometimes, basic materials on that topic. In the event that a school allows you to select the topic, you should speak with the program director to understand some of the topics you are likely to be teaching, whether the program uses standardized course materials, and gain insights into other teaching goals and expectations. Find out whether you need to provide a reading assignment or other materials in advance so that your class will be prepared.
For a teaching demonstration, you may be teaching an actual class with some faculty members observing, or you may be presenting to an all-faculty audience.
In a teaching demonstration, the faculty present will be evaluating your ability to master, organize, and explain the topic to level-appropriate students; the accuracy of your information; your ease in the classroom and presentation abilities; and your understanding of how to interact with a diverse student population. If you are presenting to students, the school may ask them to fill out a questionnaire. It’s fair to ask for a copy of that questionnaire in advance so you can see how you will be evaluated.
If you are asked to teach a mock class, make sure you thoroughly understand the following if the school has not given instructions:
- Length of presentation
- Presentation topic
- Pedagogical goals of the lessons
- Who the audience will be, both “mock” (e.g., 1L students) and “actual” (e.g., professors, actual students, or both), including the anticipated number of participants
- If the class if part of the regular semester and if so, whether you can have a copy of the course syllabus to understand how the class you will teach fits into the course
- Whether you may call on audience members or engage in some other type of interactive exercise
- Whether you can or should prepare handouts (and whether they will be posted in advance or whether you need to make and bring the copies)
- Whether you can or should use slides (see “Visual presentation aides” above for tips)
- The type of room you’ll be presenting in
- Whether you will be asked to answer questions after the presentation about topics such as your pedagogical goals, teaching philosophy, etc.
If you feel comfortable doing so, ask the program director or your contact on the recruitment committee for access to a recording from an actual legal writing class at the school. If you’re not comfortable, you might try to find videos on the school’s website or YouTube that reflect the range of teaching styles used in legal writing at that school.
Other Types of Presentations
It is possible that you may be asked to give some other type of presentation—for example, one about why you want to teach legal writing, your philosophy of teaching, or what type of teaching techniques you would use. If you are interviewing for a director position, you may be asked to present on your vision for the program over a three- to five-year period. For these types of presentations, use the guidance above to ask questions so that you have a firm understanding of what is expected and can meet those expectations.
Final Tips for a Successful Callback
- Schools will usually designate a specific faculty member to act as host during your callback. Be sure to get the name of your host and review their bio on the law school website.
- Ask for a copy of the day’s agenda prior to arriving at your interview. Research everyone with whom you will be meeting, as well as everyone who will be at the dinner.
- Ask the host or the hiring chair for the presentation guidelines and presentation norms.
- Explore and carefully study the law school’s webpage, particularly the webpages of faculty members and about the legal writing program, before arriving for the callback interview. The viewbook compiled by the law school’s admissions office is another good source of information.
- Become familiar with important organizations and sources in the field, including the Legal Writing Institute, the Association of Legal Writing Directors, and the ABA’s Legal Writing Sourcebook.
- Read select publications by faculty members at the law school who teach and write in the same field. Where possible, consider how those faculty members’ research ties into your own.
- Come prepared to focus. Although you may be given a few breaks, try to not do other work that day.
- Understand that the day will be long and grueling. Although food likely will be provided, you may not have time to eat. Pack a snack or two and carry some water in your bag.
- Do not hesitate to provide, in advance, any special needs you might have (e.g., dietary restrictions or preferences, a break to use the nursing parents’ room, etc.).
- Do not ask about terms of a contract, such as salary; those matters are premature at this point.
- Remember that you are being interviewed by everyone you meet and interact with from the very first telephone call—from security guards to administrative assistants to IT workers. Be gracious to everyone.
- Throughout the process, ask yourself if this is a place you want to come to work every day for the foreseeable future.
- Send thank you notes to your host, the hiring chair, the legal writing director (if any), and the Dean asking them to share your thanks with the faculty. Using email is typically best, since it will arrive quickly, but handwritten notes, if sent immediately, can also be effective.