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Who Could Be Hired Today?

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6 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    Very good post. Two thoughts in response:

    First, I think it’s worth noting that the percentage of entry-level law professors with Ph.Ds is still quite low: About 15% of the total. Granted, some specific schools hire lots of Ph.Ds, and the credential is a very desirable one these days on the law hiring front — leading to many placements at top schools. Still, it’s still very much in the minority market-wide.

    Second, it seems to me that the value of a Ph.D. degree to get hired at the entry level is clear, but that the long run connection between the degree and top scholarship remains somewhat uncertain. My sense is that, at present, a certain amount of Ph.D. hiring is based on an expectation that a candidate with a Ph.D. will on average have a greater scholarly impact than those without. That expectation may or may not be fulfilled: We just don’t know yet, as it’s just too early to tell.

    In 20 or 30 years, it may turn out that the really important scholars in particular subfields have Ph.D.s. On the other hand, it may turn out that they don’t. If, over time, hires with Ph.Ds end up having no more scholarly impact than hires that don’t have them (or less, on average), I suspect that will lead to a rethinking of the value of the degree for candidates in that particular area of law.

  2. bill says:

    I don’t understand the craze for hiring JD/Ph.D’s relative to say, JD/M.A.s, particularly in certain fields (economics, psychology) where mastering the basic method might be the real advantage to doing legal scholarship.

    It’s not clear that the additional several years on a dissertation is a better use of time than alternative uses such as legal practice, judicial clerkships, government service, VAPing, etc., once one is done with graduate classwork.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the M.A. is undervalued in the market.

  3. Anon says:

    I think the Ph.D. requirement only applies to white, heterosexual males. . .

  4. The best professor I had in my entire legal education had a Ph.D, and didn’t even have a JD.

    Nevertheless, that anecdote aside, it seems quite asinine that an industry whose job it is to train future lawyers is trending toward a requirement that all but ensures that the teacher has never actually done the job that he is supposed to be showing others how to do.

    IMO, there should be a rebuttable presumption that a Ph.D. is UNqualified to teach in a law school.

  5. ohwilleke says:

    Interestingly, the people who write a majority of the text of the casebooks that American law students buy (and sometimes even read), i.e. American judges, are almost universally individuals with a J.D. but not other degree, who enter their current profession of judging after long and successful careers as practicing attorneys.

    Also notably, in Europe, where judicial opinions are not as influential in intepreting the law relative to academic treatises, which are more influential in Europe, judging is a first career where you typically start in traffic court and work your way up, while most law professors maintain part-time private law practices until they finally earn their full professorships.

    Apparently, a disconnect from private practice is a path to irrelevance and reduced power in the larger society.