Finding a Faculty Mentor

Most materials on law faculty hiring, including these materials, repeatedly advise candidates to locate a faculty mentor and to seek advice from that mentor throughout the hiring process. Whether you are a law student considering a career in academia, a candidate seeking a visiting assistant professorship (VAP) or fellowship, or a practitioner seeking to enter the legal academy, you will benefit from insider advice about navigating the process. Many people who became interested in law teaching while in law school may have cultivated faculty mentors while in law school. For candidates who are members of historically excluded groups based on race, sex, gender identity, sexual identity, or disability, finding an empathetic and supportive mentor may be difficult. If you have encountered a law professor whom you feel comfortable approaching, you should consider reaching out to that professor for advice and perspective. If you do not have one yet, we offer the following suggestions for identifying faculty mentors or advisors.

Start With Your Law School

Contact the faculty from the law school you attended or are attending who are likely to remember you or in whose courses you performed well, and let them know about your interest in law teaching. You can ask them if they would be willing to talk to you about the teaching market and/or your research interests, or to recommend someone on the faculty who would be willing and able to do so.

An alternate strategy is to identify the faculty recruiting chair at your law school and let them know about your interest in law teaching. Ask them to help you locate advisors either from the faculty or someone else they know who has a reputation for mentoring candidates.

Consider contacting the director of career placement services and asking them for referrals to recent alums who entered the teaching market. Seek out their assistance and guidance in navigating the process.

Institutional Resources

Conferences: If possible, attend conferences sponsored by law schools or scholarly associations and organizations such as Law & Society. The AALS website and the Legal Scholarship Blog list upcoming conferences and symposia. Network with the speakers and panelists who are presenting papers on topics that interest you. Tell them about your interest in law teaching, your background and qualifications, and ask for suggestions they might have on how to enter the legal academy.