Although people enter law teaching at many different stages of their career, law school is a great time to explore this professional option. All the scholarly resources of the law school are at your disposal; you have engaging colleagues with whom to test ideas; and you have a relatively high degree of control over your time.
If you think you might want to become an academic (as distinguished from a clinical) law professor, there are some things you can do while still in law school. Traditional indicia of achievement (e.g. grades, law journal membership, clerkships) matter. But far more important than any of these factors is the production of scholarship. Therefore, to help you determine whether academic law teaching is the career for you, and to prepare yourself to go on the job market in the future, law students should:
If you want to be a law professor—or think you might—perhaps the most important thing you can do in law school is write. Producing legal scholarship is the core of the job of an academic law professor. The best way to figure out if academia is for you—and to prepare for the academic job market—is to write. Use your substantial and SAW as opportunities to determine whether you enjoy legal scholarship, and if so, whether there are particular fields, questions, or ideas in the law that you might be interested in exploring. Take seminars or supervised research with a professor. Writing through law school will allow you to evaluate whether you would like a career that centers on scholarship; to develop a writing process that works for you; and to begin to build a portfolio of work that you can use on the job market.
- Develop Relationships with Faculty
Law school is also a great opportunity to develop relationships with professors who can serve as mentors and recommenders. There are several ways to develop these relationships. One way is to serve as a professor’s research assistant. This will provide you opportunities to participate in the development of scholarship and it will enable you to build a working relationship with a mentor who may one day assist you in securing a teaching position. Another way is to take a seminar in which you can write with the assistance of a professor. Or you can develop your own paper proposal and ask a professor to supervise your project.
- Develop Relationships with Peers
While in law school, you are surrounded by incredibly talented legal thinkers—your classmates. Legal scholarship can be a difficult process. Your peers can serve as an important source of support and guidance. Consider having a “half-baked” idea lunch with some of your classmates, where each person shares, and receives feedback on an undeveloped paper idea. Or perhaps you might arrange a weekly writing date with a friend or group of friends; this might help you stick to a writing schedule. Or maybe there is a classmate with whom you can exchange paper drafts to get feedback before showing your paper to a professor.
- Attend the Law Teaching Series
The Law Teaching Series, held throughout the academic year, is a series of panels, talks, and workshops in which YLS professors and alumni discuss topics ranging from how to decide whether to pursue an academic career, to how to publish scholarship, to the nuts and bolts of the law teaching market. In addition to receiving useful information about legal scholarship and law teaching, the Law Teaching Series will enable you to begin to identify a community of your peers who are, like you, considering law teaching. They will be your fellow audience members at Law Teaching Series events.