Category: General Law


So You Wanna Be a Law Professor, Part II

First, thanks so much to everyone who made comments to my previous post, which asked for things you’d like to see in a book about the faculty hiring process. I’m knee-deep in summer school, so while I can’t respond individually to each comment, please know that I appreciate each one and all will be helpful as we continue writing the book. I am pleased to see that we have, so far, anticipated many of the topics that you wanted to see covered.

Many comments asked what the chances are for someone who attended a non-elite law school to break into the teaching market. Since that seemed to be a common theme, I thought I’d offer “Becoming a Law Professor: The Nutshell.”

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So You Wanna Be a Law Professor?

Okay, I’m back. [You were gone?–ed] I had to run home for the weekend to dogsit, while the rest of my family was out of town. One of my projects this summer is to keep working on a book that my colleague, Marcia McCormick, and I are writing together: a guide for those who want to be law professors. Our intent is to write a soup-to-nuts guide, covering what law professors do, describing the job search process, the call-back, negotiating the offer, down to what to do if you don’t succeed at first.

We have several chapters written, but I thought I’d take this month’s opportunity to ask readers who are interested in becoming law professors and law professors who care to give the matter some thought, “What would you like to see in a book like this?” What information do you have now that you wish you had when you starting thinking about jumping into this business? Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments, or e-mail me directly bpdennin at


86 Pages Later, Some Early Reactions to al-Marri

Admittedly, this is after a very quick read, but here are my three big reactions to the Fourth Circuit’s decision today in al-Marri (on which, unsurprisingly, Lyle and Marty beat me to the punch):

1) This is, perhaps surprisingly, not a surprise. Given the panel, and given how the oral argument went, I’m surprised only that the court didn’t strike down the MCA…

2) The jurisdictional holding is sui generis, and almost completely unhelpful to the Guantanamo cases. Everything turns on the fact that al-Marri was “awaiting” a CSRT, and so nothing in the court’s analysis seems to apply to cases where petitioners have had a CSRT, thus triggering section 7 of the MCA.

2) The holding on the merits is perhaps the most important decision in any war on terrorism case to date, or at least on par with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Hamdi and Hamdan.

Let me try to explain why:

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Waiting for Harry Potter?

Ever since he was a baby, I have read to my son as part of his bedtime routine. One of the great parts of his getting older has been being able to read longer chapter books, like The Hobbit, the Wind in the Willows, etc. Last year we read the entire Potter opus through the Half-Blood Prince. We are both eager awaiting the Deathly Hallows. If you, too, are waiting for your HP fix, you might be interested in Brian Jaques’ Redwall. If you’re not familiar with the book, or the series, Redwall is about a young mouse, Matthias, who is a novice at Redwall Abbey who is forced to undertake an epic quest for the sword of the Abbey’s ancient hero, Martin the Warrior, in defense of his Abbey and the creatures who live there against Cluny the Scourge, an evil rat warlord and his army, who have laid siege to it. The writing is very evocative and the characters most entertaining. In particular my son thought that a character named Basil Stag Hare—a loveable old British sergeant-major type (but a hare)—was hysterical. There is a fare amount of bloodshed and some characters that you come to love are killed off, so if you have sensitive children you might want to read it through yourself first. We enjoyed it so much that we’ve already begun the third book (the second, Mossflower, is a prequel to Redwall), which features Matthias’s son, Mattemeo.


Advice for New Law Professors

Last summer, I had fun offering a few pieces of advice to incoming law students. I thought that I’d give some thought to advice for new law professors. As I look back, there really wasn’t much to go on; my first job was teaching in a school that had not made a new hire in several years. Consequently, I had to learn by making mistakes, and I made a lot of them! So, here are a few things I thought of; I may add to the list throughout the month.

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Books for New Law Students

Though I’m a little late to the game, I thought that I’d weigh in on Eugene’s thread about books to read before law school. My initial reaction is to advise folks to read any but books about the law, but as I was putting together my course materials, I thought about this book by Harvard law professor Richard Fallon. At many schools (not at Cumberland, though) constitutional law has become a first-year course; I always have students who find the subject confusing because they didn’t have any undergraduate courses in the Supreme Court or constitutional law and find the first several weeks rough going. Even excellent treatises like Erwin Chemerinsky’s can provide too much detail for these students. Fallon’s book is a great introduction to the Court and to the doctrine of American constitutional law.


Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself . . . .

Thanks to Dave, Dan, and the rest of the Concurring Opinions folks for the kind invitation to spend some time here. I apologize for the delayed first post, but I’m getting settled in this week to my summer gig at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where I’m teaching a constitutional law class in the law school’s summer session. As Dave mentioned, I write primarily on dormant Commerce Clause issues, and intend to begin a series of posts today articulating a new theory that I’ve developed . . . Wait. Where are you going? I was just kidding. I look forward to my time here, and, again, appreciate the invitation.


Fantasy’s Apocalyptic Turn


[To our regular readers. This post falls largely in “the Universe, and Everything” aspect of Concurring Opinions’ topic mix. It is going on summer, and I thought that you might enjoy a review of some fiction in case you get to the beach. Plus, I’m tired of packing]

Hi, my name is Dave, and I read epic fantasy books. In my defense, other other corporate law professors do it too. But it is still sort of hard to be a public fan of a genre that produces badly written tripe on a regular basis, serialized over multiple volumes in an apparent attempt to squeeze every last cent out of the fan base, recycling old themes over the course of many new “worlds”, which is sometimes just plain embarrassing to buy in a store. It’s no help that the “literary” writers in the genre are pretentious and extremely difficult to read. If I wanted dialog without attribution, I’d read A Frolic of His Own. At least it is about law.

Still, I consume a fair bit of this stuff over the course of the year. And I’ve noticed that authors in recent years have taken a real turn for the darker shades of grey. On the whole, this is a good thing. Adult themes mean better writing, which legitimizes my reading. George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series is the best and most popular example of the trend. Martin’s method is to drive the story forward through the eyes of multiple protagonists. The novelty (for fantasy, that is) is that he regularly kills off these starring characters. There is pretty graphic sex and violence. He also refuses to make any character totally good or totally evil; almost every member of the cast is tarnished. The magic in the series is mostly an afterthought to character development and politics.

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Bye All!

I just wanted to echo Kim and Alice and thank everyone here for letting me guest-blog this month! It was a fun experience, even though I didn’t end up getting the chance to post as much as I’d have liked to. And it was a rewarding experience, reminding me how far we’ve come since the early days of plopping everything into html; the level and vigor of the discussions extended well beyond that of the posts, into the comments and discussions themselves, which were thorough and thought-provoking. So thanks, and keep up the great work!