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Greg McNeal
Malibu, CA
Associate Professor, Pepperdine University
Recent Activity
Just to put stronger emphasis on my final line, and to ensure what I've written is clear ---I'm just speculating. There's no evidence that the rankings focus will change in the manner I've articulated, just discussion on some listservs. It's not clear what will happen next week, but if the speculation is correct, this would be a bad result. I couldn't edit the comment after posting, my apologies for the two comments.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2011 on Changes in US News Data at The Faculty Lounge
It seems (at least according to some conversations on Listservs) that the changes to the rankings will favor employed at graduation rates over employed at 9 months. If true, this is really unfortunate because it disfavors certain types of important jobs that require bar passage. Small firms, public interest, and government jobs oftentimes fall into this category. I imagine many of us have mentored students who have a high likelihood of employment with a DA or PD's office after graduation, usually couched in terms of bar passage and availability of public funding. The at 9 months ranking takes account of this (measuring employment after bar results and closer to when employers will know if they have funding for a position). If the rankings eliminate the at 9 months measure, it will be tough to ever ethically count those graduates as employed. Of course, it's not hard to see where all of this might lead, possibly creating institutional incentives to disfavor public interest, government, and small firm employment. I'm hopeful this won't happen, and if it does I'm hopeful (albeit pessimistic) that we as a profession will push back against the change. Of course this is all speculation because Morse won't tell us what changes he and his team are implementing. It's almost comical that there is a lack of transparency about changes intended to favor transparency.
Toggle Commented Mar 10, 2011 on Changes in US News Data at The Faculty Lounge
Dan, Thanks for posting about Dean Tacha, we are very excited about her appointment. With that said, I'd like to register my disagreement with your characterization of her as a conservative akin to Starr or Luttig (or with the fact that 2 of anything counts as a "tradition"). On the conservative assertion, perhaps the best counterargument is the fact that Emily Bazelon and David Newman writing at Slate ( created a shortlist of candidates as a counter to the lists of "radical right wing" candidates being kicked around at the time. Their criteria for their shortlist were distinguished jurists who believe in moderation, judicial restraint, and deference to Congress. I doubt Bazelon and Newman would count Starr or Luttig as having such qualifications, and I'm sure they wouldn't put either on their *preferred* shortlist of Bush SCOTUS appointments. An Emily Bazelon endorsement does a lot of things, but as a conservative I can confidently state that it doesn't warm the hearts of conservatives and I think calls into question the notion that we've appointed a "conservative federal judge." More importantly, let's look at Tacha's merits. What impressed us as a faculty, and what I'm certain would have impressed many law schools were her experiences as: - a law professor - an associate dean at a law school - an associate vice chancellor - a vice chancellor (provost) - a federal appellate court judge, with administrative experience as chief judge. She will also be the first female dean in the history of our law school, and we are proud to add gender diversity to our list of important considerations. You follow these searches closely enough to know that the pool of law dean candidates with her profile and any one of those significant administrative experiences is pretty limited (it may even be a class of one). To reduce her appointment to "conservative judge" is a bit simplistic and unfair. I get that you were joking, but I think it's important to not caricature people, especially as in this case when it suggests that politics or ideology somehow trumped her substantial qualifications.
I don't think it's so much a matter of a committee as a whole or a faculty writ large caring about real world relevance, rather I think Mary's original post, and my post were trying to highlight the fact that a candidate should be prepared to answer why their scholarship matters and to whom (or to which debates). It could just as easily be framed as "Why did you write this piece?" Some intellectual curiosity must have prompted the idea...a debate amongst scholars, a desire to change the law, an unobserved inconsistency, and even (but not necessarily) a practical policy impact. Mary framed this as the "cash out value" and noted that might mean the question will be posed as "'how does your work matter for contemporary law and policy.' Or perhaps: 'I care about law as a means of improving society. Why should I care about your work?'" I think Orin's providing a few more helpful examples of the "cash out value" "so?/who cares?" question that are not necessarily practical or real world relevant. Perhaps I could have made the framing clearer in my original post where I focused just on the law and policy question... Mary's point was broader than that so I'm going to tweak my OP just slightly for posterity.
Tim- One of my mentors told me that when he was on a hiring committee that they "..pretty much knew who they were taking within the first 5 minutes." So it's either just a coincidence that he said that, or there are definitely some people who are making their judgment within the first few minutes. Some people reading this may think first impression=appearance, but I don't think it's that at all, rather it's setting the tone. I think the take away from it is that those first few minutes are critical for setting the tone and framing your personality. Anotheranon- I don't believe the question is code for anything, rather I think it's a question of fit. If a school is committed to their mission, and committed to the point where they are asking you questions about it in the interview, it is an indicator they take that mission seriously. The reason a committee would ask questions about it in an interview is to hear how you genuinely feel about the mission and assess whether you will be happy at the school (long-term question) and whether you will make it through a full faculty vote (short-term question). Committees don't like to bring people back who won't pass muster with the full faculty. Thus if mission is a deal-breaker for a candidate because they are uncomfortable with the mission, or opposed to the mission, it saves everyone's time to get that out there up front. This is true of religiously affiliated schools, but I also imagine it is true of schools with a strong social justice or public interest mission.
#7 sure got people interested. In response to the comments and BDG's question, let me tell you the genesis of this suggestion. When I was at AALS last year (Annual Meeting not meat market) I linked up with some friends who were on appointments at schools I didn't interview with. I brought up the PrawfsBlog comments section. The discussion that followed went something like this: One person remarked that he couldn't believe people were posting about interviews they landed, and doing so under their actual name. He said he would be way more risk averse, and would be especially worried that someone would think this revealed a lack of discretion (noting that some of his colleagues were a bit kooky about blogs, and didn't "get them."). From that we got to talking about the wisdom of posting anonymously and whether any comment was truly anonymous. You're rarely anonymous to blog owners because of IP logging. You're anonymous to blog readers, but as I pointed out, someone who wants to can put together facts and make some guesses about who an anonymous commenter was. Hard to do, but not in all circumstances. (e.g. "Interview with ___ school in tax and jurisprudence" narrows it down pretty quickly). Okay, so with all of that said let me expand on point #7 a little bit. You're a candidate competing for a coveted, nearly impossible to land position. The hiring process is sometimes irrational, insular, and fraught with all kinds of biases. In DC there are 40 candidates interviewing with the school you are interviewing with. At the call back there may be as many as a dozen candidates, usually less. It's competitive and it's complicated by all kinds of variables that are beyond your control. Part of landing the position is a combination of being the best candidate you can, while also minimizing the number of reasons someone might vote against you (e.g. the things within your control). Sometimes what gets you is a section in one of your articles that wasn't very well reasoned. Other times it's a recommender who inadvertently un-recommends you. It could be a response to a question during your job talk that someone thought was snide. It could be you don't meet one faculty member's demographic criteria. It might be that someone just doesn't like you for whatever reason. In short, there are lots of justifications for any given faculty member to rank you higher or lower or advocate for or against you. Little things can make a difference at the margin. Knowing this, why risk alienating even one faculty member (even a kooky one) at any point in this process? I think it's insane that a faculty member would frown upon blog comments by a prospective candidate, I personally would never be that insane (I have my own very specific yet different insane tendencies)...but there are all kinds of irrational reasons why faculty members speak out or vote against or vote to rank a candidate lower than others. It's smart to minimize the reasons. Let me frame it this way: What is your expected gain from posting a comment to a blog? What is the potential harm? The biggest gain I see is that you will have anonymously earned the admiration of other AnonLawProfCandidates, and perhaps the good feeling that comes from knowing that you contributed information to the blog comment marketplace. You're one part of a collective effort that won't survive without you. That feels nice, I get it, I blog, I comment on blogs, but if you're on the market I'd be a bit cautious from August to January. That stinks, the system shouldn't be that way, etc., but remember that on the other side of the benefit ledger is the potential loss. The biggest loss you could face is the kooky irrational professor out there who votes on your candidacy and ranks you lower. Or worse, decides to more closely scrutinize your C.V. and finds a non-blog comment related reason to speak out against you in a hiring meeting... Unlikely, sure, but what's the benefit and what's the possible albeit unlikely cost? In a sometimes irrational process, discretion is the better part of valor.
Taking a cue from Tim, I've posted 10 (more!) tips here:
Great comment, thanks Paul. Hopefully we will get some feedback from our other readers.
Thanks Eric, it is now working.
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Aug 30, 2010