Once the hiring committee has completed its screening interviews, it will narrow the list of candidates who will be invited for on-campus interviews. Invitations for callbacks can happen very quickly after screening interviews.
On-campus interviews often last an entire day and 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 before the entire law faculty followed by a 35-40 minute round of questions from the 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 prior to the end of the calendar year, but others do interviews in the new year. A school will usually want to schedule your interview quickly when they call you, so be prepared to schedule these visits on short notice. The school will pay for your travel and lodging. 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
Remember that not only is the faculty interviewing you, you are interviewing the school. You want to be sure it is a good place to begin your career. To get a feel for the culture of the school, consider asking the following questions.
- How does the school support junior faculty members?
- What is the school’s culture around sharing and providing feedback on drafts?
- Are there opportunities for faculty to get feedback and share thoughts regarding pedagogy?
During your callback interview, you will give 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, at many law schools, you will not receive an uninterrupted 20 minutes to present your talk. Faculty will often begin to ask questions before you finish your presentation. You will have to 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 members may use both your style of responding to questions and your actual responses as a proxy for how you may respond to student questions in the classroom.
Faculty members are not only examining how well you substantively answers 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. 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- Get the names of the faculty members who may be attending dinner. Review their bios on the law school website.
- Ask the host or the hiring chair for the job talk presentation guidelines and job talk norms.
- Explore and carefully study the law school’s webpage, particularly the webpages of faculty members, before arriving for the callback interview.
- 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.
- Send thank you notes to your host, the hiring chair, and the dean asking them to share your thanks with the faculty.