Included in this group are people who are in practice, those who work in an academic setting such as a director of a center at a law school, and those who are teaching in non-tenure-track positions that are neither fellowships nor VAPs. What they all have in common is that while working, they are writing and publishing, and thus creating a body of scholarly work in preparation for going onto the teaching market. Available data indicate that in 2018, around 10% of entry-level hires fell into this category.
One common question for candidates in this category is how law schools view practice experience. The answer is: it depends on the field. In some fields, such as private law, even schools that are extremely scholarship-oriented value practice experience. However, the longer an aspiring professor has been outside of the realm of academia without having published, the more challenging it may be for them to secure a position.
Law faculties want colleagues who are strongly motivated to be law professors, and may worry that candidates in this category want to stop practicing law but have not thought carefully about whether they want to write scholarship, teach students, and engage in university and law school service. Again, publications—specifically those placed in reputable law journals—can serve as good evidence of a candidate’s commitment to the scholarly enterprise.
How does one begin the process of writing, absent publications from law school? The exhortation to write without guidance on how to do so may itself create an obstacle to writing. See below for resources that may be of assistance to the novice writer.
Writing begins with reading. Once you have figured out the general area you are interested in writing about, read. Go to a law school library near you and browse the stacks for books in your area of interest. Do the same at a local university library. Build your knowledge base. As you read, keep a tally of what you have read and ideas that come to you as you read. Ultimately, you will develop a list of potential topics on which to focus. Contact the faculty at your law school who teach in an area of interest, and ask them for guidance in developing a research plan. Look for blogs and virtual communities tied to your areas of interest and follow them. Locate subject matter-specific law conferences and attend, being sure to network with speakers and attendees.
Write, Circulate, Edit, and Polish
Everyone’s writing process is different; the key is that you develop a process and that you follow it. The research librarians at the school you are attending or from which you graduated generally are willing to assist students and alums in locating information about the process of writing. Once you have a good working draft, you will need to get feedback on your article to achieve a polished publication. A few strategies for getting this feedback include to sending the draft to the authors whose work you have relied on in your article. Ask them to review the portion in which you cite their work, noting that you are sending your draft to ensure that you are accurately summarizing their work. When you attend conferences, make sure that you meet the panelists who have spoken on topics related to yours, and get their contact information. When you are ready for feedback, contact them and ask them if they can recommend someone who can provide feedback on your draft, or it they themselves are willing to review it. Finally, ask your mentor for recommendations for faculty to whom you can send your draft for review and feedback. The important thing is to have two or three people review the draft before you circulate the draft either to the hiring committee or for publication.
For additional strategies, see the “Writing Resources” listed below.
After you have written an article or essay, circulated it for review, and revised and polished it, then you will submit the paper to law reviews for consideration for publication. Prior to submission, ensure your work is of the best quality possible. What you submit to a journal is not a rough draft; it should be as polished as you can make it. Footnotes or endnotes should be in bluebook form and typos should be eliminated, as should grammatical errors. When you are ready to place an article or essay in a journal, speak to a mentor or a former law professor about the submission process and strategies for article placement. You might also consult online resources such as Prawfsblog and The Faculty Lounge for advice on publication and placement.
Placement of journal articles and essays plays a fairly large role in the evaluation process. Try to place your papers in the the highest ranked journal possible or a specialty journal.
Law reviews and journals have their own specifications for the submission process. This regularly-updated paper by Professors Allen Rostron and Nancy Levit provides an overview of the processes for a majority of law reviews, but be sure to double-check your intended journal’s specific guidelines for submission on its website.