Law Professor Lateraling 101: Part 2 (Where Does One Find the Lateral Market Exactly?)
Ok, so yesterday I introduced this law professor lateraling series and started with some thoughts about what it might take to make you lateral material. I might have added BTW that there is much disagreement over whether it is better to go on the lateral market pre-tenure or post-tenure. I think post-tenure for reasons I’ll explain when I get to the offer phase of this series.
The next issue to consider is: where in the heck does one find this mythical lateral market? Especially during my first year on the lateral market, I received conflicting advice about how one puts oneself “out there” to be considered. Should you send letters to school appointment committees you wish to target? Should you fill out a FAR form and relive glorious meat market days? Or should simply wait to be called by those who are interested in having you come to their schools?
Unfortunately, there is no right answer on this one both because lateral candidates have succeeded in following all of the above methods and because there is no obvious meat market the way entry-levels have the AALS meat market.
So here’s my best advice.
Step one: get to know the people you need to know in your field and in other forums in which you participate. I know that is oblique, but really what you should do is find out who are the movers and shakers in your field and overall and get to know them and have them get to know you. Why? Because when hiring committees start lateral searches, they not only canvass people on their committee about prospects, but also reach out and call those whose opinion is most respected on these matters. When that call is made to Madame Mover and Shaker in your field or to Monsieur Big Wig Blogger and they are asked who is good and upcoming in their field or in general, you want your name to be one of three or five names on their lips. And preferably the first one they mention with some enthusiasm and knowledge.
Unfortunately, it is hard today to get people to recognize junior scholars merely by publications alone. Again, it is important to self-promote (hopefully in a tasteful way) by blogging or guest-blogging, asking scholars in your field to give comments on your articles (don’t be shy, only one person has ever told me no), and by attending and speaking at conferences and symposia with adequate time to get to know your elders. Nothing like a one-on-one lunch with someone whose writings you used to admire in law school. This is especially important for those of you who wish to lateral from lower ranked schools. No offense against Mississippi, but sometimes you need to shout to let people know that you exist outside of Dixie. My blogging at Workplace Prof Blog was key, but also was my friendship with fellow bloggers here and at other blogs like Volokh Conspiracy, PrawfsBlawg (where I guest blogged in August 2006), Feminist Law Professors, Leiter’s Law School Reports, Conglomerate, Legal Theory Blog, and TaxProf (home of the Blog Emperor).
Having said that getting known is really the most important way to get on the lateral market and so people will contact you instead of vice versa, there are other ways that junior professors have found their way to the Promise Land.
I know of a number of professors who have filled out the FAR form and gone back to the meat market. Of course, the downside of this is for those of you who do not want their home schools to know that they are looking (and, of course, the lack of comments to my last post by people tends to suggest that a lot of people care about this). In my second year of looking to lateral, I had a good reason to be looking as there was a sickness in the family and we wanted to move for geographical reasons. As a result, I told my Dean and Associate Dean that I was looking and they were extremely supportive. Interestingly, although I received about 5 or 6 meat market interviews, I did not go to the meat market that year. Instead, I visited some of those schools in person and declined interviews that were not good geographical fits. As it turned out, I did receive a lateral offer in my second year of looking, but not through the meat market, but because of being known to a big name in my field and because I reached out to friends in the blogosphere on that faculty.
On the other hand, the person we hired this year at Mississippi while I was on the appointments committee was a lateral who we knew of both inside and outside of the FAR process. We actually reviewed her FAR Form and did an initial interview in Washington. I know another person who used the FAR process to move from a Fourth Tier school to a First Tier school this year. All this seems to suggest that as long as you do not have concerns about people knowing your looking, you might as well go forward with all the approaches: get known, file a FAR, and target letters/emails to appointment committees. Although I think letters are by far the least effective method (no one wants to be added to a long stack of paper), you just never know.
And that, my friends, sums up the lateral market in general: you just never know – sometimes you try to put yourself “out there” without actually being “out there,” and other times you do nothing proactive and are “out there” anyway.