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AALS Recruitment Conference
The vast majority of new law teachers, both academic and clinical, are hired through the annual Faculty Recruitment Conference sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The Conference, also known as the “meat market,” is a gigantic interview marathon held in Washington, DC, in October or early November.
In order to register for the Conference, you must complete the Faculty Appointments Register (“FAR”) form online. You can, and should, attach your full CV to your FAR form. AALS releases FAR forms submitted by candidates to law schools in waves, beginning in early August. We highly recommend that you submit your form in time for it to be included in the first distribution.
After reviewing the FAR forms, schools begin calling candidates to set up interview appointments at the Conference. This process typically begins in early September and continues until, and sometimes even during, the Conference. The interviews at the Conference last thirty minutes, and are usually conducted by some or all of the members of the appointments committee.
Make sure that you receive written confirmation of when and where you are scheduled to be interviewed.
To prepare for your AALS interviews, make sure you know yourself and the schools with which you are interviewing:
- For academic candidates, be prepared to state the thesis of your job talk. You should be able to give a concise and provocative one-sentence description of your central claim. You should also be able to give a one paragraph and a one page description of your job talk. You should write these sound bites down and come back and edit them to make them more powerful. Be prepared to state the stakes of your job talk—that is, to answer the questions “So what?” and “What’s New?”
- For clinical candidates, be prepared to describe your current and recent practice experience, explain why you want to leave practice for clinical teaching and outline the sort of clinic you would hope to teach if you were allowed to create your own (some law schools hire to a particular clinic, others allow the clinician the autonomy to shape their own clinical program). You may want to have a one-sentence and one-paragraph version of your clinic written out in advance. You should also be prepared to state the topic of your job talk paper and your thesis, in a similarly concise and provocative manner as for academic candidates, but you should expect that there will be less time in the interview fully to explore your talk, given that questions will also cover your practice and teaching experience and plans.
- The Law Teaching Placement Committee is happy to provide feedback on your job talk and clinic “pitches.” In order to get their suggestions, email your one-sentence, one-paragraph, and one-page descriptions to email@example.com. Your recommenders are also great resources and are likely to have useful feedback.
- Make sure to re-read your CV and be prepared to talk about any aspect of it. In particular, re-read all of the publications you have listed and be prepared to give a short and interesting synopsis of each, and to respond to questions about them. Faculty interviewers are likely to select papers to read in accordance with their own expertise and interest, not your priorities. Be prepared to engage in substantial conversation about any paper you have included on your CV. For clinical candidates, if you intend to focus on particular practice experiences you may want to review the case or cases you intend to highlight.
- For academic and clinical candidates, be prepared to discuss your ‘scholarly agenda.’ What are you working on now? What do you want to work on next? What ideas or themes shape your work? What questions or concerns are guiding its development?
- Be prepared to discuss what courses you would like to (and are willing to) teach. Clinical candidates should be prepared to discuss what new clinic you would start if given that option. If you can, you might describe any distinctive approach or focus you anticipate employing in the course.
- All candidates, especially clinical candidates, may be asked about teaching methodology. Are you a fan of the Socratic method? Lecture? Seminars? Simulations? In-house live-client clinics vs. externships? You don’t have to have a detailed teaching philosophy, but it is important to show that you’ve given the area some thought. Academic candidates may be asked about what textbook or materials you would use so consider exploring your most desired courses to see what is available.
Know Your Employer
- Visit the law school’s website to understand how the school views itself, its students, and its mission.
- For clinical candidates, note any clinic mission statements and try to discern important structural rules, such as when students may enroll (many schools limit clinics to 2Ls and some to 3Ls, partly as a function of diverse state laws on law student practice); whether clinics are typically one term or year-long; the number and nature (graded v. ungraded) of credits for clinics; and details about the status of clinical faculty (long-term contract; clinical tenure; full tenure). This information may be especially important in shaping how you would describe any new clinic you might launch.
- IMPORTANT: Read the bios of all of the people with whom you will be interviewing. If some are in your field, consider reviewing their recent publications. The hiring committees will often volunteer the names of their AALS interviewing team. If a scheduled school doesn’t volunteer this information, you should ask. The information may help you identify directions the interview may turn. Even if it does not, familiarity with your interviewers helps establish rapport and can motivate conversation.
- Identify YLS alumni on the faculty or administration of the schools in which you are interested, and try to have conversations with them about the school, their hiring process, their curricular needs, etc. If there are YLS alumni at the school who have been hired in the last several years, you may find it especially helpful to speak with them.
- Be prepared with three or more questions about the school. The questions should showcase that you have spent time learning about the school (“I noticed on your website that the school is very involved in X. Could you tell me more about that program?”), your keen interest in scholarship (“Is funding for research assistance available?”), and your interest in the school or area (“I’ve only had the opportunity to visit Colorado a few times and loved it. Can you tell me what you enjoy most about living and working in Denver?”).
NOTE on early interviews with appointments committees: Sometimes schools will invite nearby candidates to campus for a preliminary interview with the appointments committee (although this rarely happens in clinical hiring). This may happen before the AALS Conference. This allows schools to preserve more Conference slots for candidates who would travel greater distances. In recent years this pre-conference interviewing has grown beyond regional candidates as more schools try to move quickly on desirable candidates. You should be prepared for early action. Your job talk paper will be the focal point of this early interview, which is designed to assist the appointments committee in determining whether you are a strong enough candidate to select for interview with the full faculty. The best way to prepare for an early interview of this kind is to solicit feedback on your job talk paper early in the summer and to revise it in accordance with Moot Camp deadlines, even if you don’t participate in Moot Camp. In short, you should prepare a polished, well-vetted version of your job talk paper and practice presenting it as early in the academic year as is possible.