Strahilevitz: "Waiting out the Professor and Clerkship Markets"

Waiting out the Professor and Clerkship Markets
Lior Strahilevitz
May 3, 2012

Prawfsblawg's entry-level hiring report is about to shut down, so my last post as a guest blogger seems like a good time to discuss a strategy that I suspect is underemployed by both faculties hiring assistant professors and judges hiring law clerks.  The strategy is waiting for the market to "clear" and then hiring the most talented people who have fallen through the cracks.  I want to posit here that the strategy is underutilized in both the law professor and clerkship hiring markets.

Chicago is the relatively rare elite law school that does a lot of entry-level hiring.   In a typical year we will interview 20-25 candidates and read work by perhaps 80 more candidates. As a result, we vet almost all of the very strongest candidates on the market each year.  Sometimes, our own assessments of someone's work or our tastes will differ sharply from those of a peer school.  Sometimes, a school will hire someone who isn't officially on the market.  But even accounting for those cases we will usually vet most of the entry-level candidates who are getting hired at the "top" schools (however defined).  Every year we will also interview talented candidates who aren't offered tenure track positions at any law school.  And those folks are the ones I want to focus on.

To the best of my knowledge, there are very few non-elite schools that try to wait out the market, figure out who is unjustifiably "dropping on draft boards," and snap that person up.   Instead, a number of non-elite schools shy away from candidates who look high-end at the outset.  Other schools set up interviews with bullet-proof candidates very early in the process and then suffer cancellations when the candidates get too many great AALS interview requests.