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Advanced Degrees

A growing number of law professors now enter the academy with advanced degrees in allied disciplines like economics, history, philosophy or political science.  Such training can be immensely valuable, particularly if your scholarly interests are interdisciplinary, but it is by no means necessary.  The primary advantage of an advanced degree is not the credential itself, but the skills you learn, as well as the time, resources, and support that a degree program can provide for the production of scholarship.

Remember that law school hiring committees will evaluate you based on your legal scholarship.  An advanced degree will require you to produce scholarship, but it may not be legal scholarship.  Some law graduates who pursue advanced degrees in other fields may actually become so acculturated to the new discipline that they lose touch with the distinctive questions and the distinctive forms of argument that characterize legal scholarship.  Before embarking on interdisciplinary training as a foundation for law teaching, therefore, it is important to consider whether and how you will be able to integrate such training with distinctively legal inquiry, so you are able to produce a portfolio of writing that can demonstrate your potential as a legal scholar.   

One way to ensure that an advanced degree facilitates, rather than impedes, your ability to become a law professor is to remain connected to the legal academy while you are in graduate school.   Select a graduate program at an institution with a strong law school and regularly attend lectures and workshops at the law school. Identify mentors in the institution who can support your engagement with interdisciplinary scholarship. Keep in touch with your mentors from law school.  Read law review articles in the field(s) in which you are interested.  Develop your degree research into a law review article.  It is a contraindication if you are approaching the law teaching market, but can’t think of law review articles or law professors you admire or if your own writing never engages legal materials (such as judicial decisions, statutes and legal scholarship).