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The Labor Market for New Law Professors


  • We are indebted to the Association of American Law Schools and especially former Executive Directors Carl Monk and Susan Westerberg Prager, Managing Director Jane LaBarbera, and Registration Manager Kai Baker for their assistance. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AALS or its staff. We are grateful to Chris Bransford and Linda Reynolds for their assistance with creation and implementation of the survey, and to Ashley Dennis, Ellen Hunter, and Uros Petronijevic for research assistance. We presented earlier versions of this article at Georgetown, Houston, Northwestern, and Vanderbilt law schools and benefited from their faculties' and students' thoughtful feedback. We also received valuable input from the American Bar Foundation Research Group on Legal Diversity. We thank Ronit Dinovitzer, John Goldberg, Mitu Gulati, Chris Guthrie, Joni Hersch, Lonnie Hoffman, Edward Iacobucci, Helen Levy, David Madigan, Tom Merrill, Richard Posner, Fred Tung, and Alan Wiseman for their helpful comments. This project benefited from the generous financial support of the Russell Sage Foundation and Vanderbilt Law School. All remaining errors are our own.


Law school professors control the production of lawyers and influence the evolution of law. Understanding who is hired as a tenure-track law professor is of clear importance to debates about the state of legal education in the United States. But while opinions abound on the law school hiring process, little is empirically known about what explains success in the market for law professors. Using a unique and extensive data set of survey responses from candidates in the 2007–2008 legal academic labor market, we examine the factors that influence which candidates are interviewed and ultimately hired by law schools. We find that law schools appear open to nontraditional candidates in the early phases of the hiring process but when it comes to the ultimate decision—hiring—they focus on candidates who look like current law professors.