Practice experience is extremely important for clinical law teaching candidates, who typically practice for at least three or four years before taking a clinical fellowship or going on the job market. For academic law professors, the emphasis on practice experience varies among schools and even between fields at the same school. If you are interested in teaching Commercial Law, for example, you could reasonably expect more interest in your practice experience than if you were interested in teaching Jurisprudence.
In most cases, work experience is desirable as it informs your research agenda and your writing and gives you more credibility in the classroom. Yet it is often difficult for practitioners to find time to write, and sometimes practitioners can lose touch with the distinctive perspectives required for scholarship, which is why candidates who have practiced for more than five years often find the transition to academia challenging. To maintain your connection with legal academics while you are in practice, you can:
- Attend Moot Camp as an audience member.
- Join the YLS law teaching email list, which provides alumni information about preparing for careers in law teaching as well as advice about the teaching market. To join the email list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Affiliate with a law school in the area where you are practicing. This can be a great way to gain additional faculty mentors as well as access to resources (library, speakers, workshops, etc.) that can aid you in producing scholarship while you practice.
- Read recent law review articles in your field. Challenge yourself to formulate responses to articles in your field.
- Develop an evolving list of possible writing projects. Pitch your ideas to your mentors, friends and family seeking their and your own reactions to these half-baked ideas. A chief anxiety of many prospective law teaching applicants is whether they will be able to generate scholarly claims. Nurturing a list of possible paper topics is an excellent way of assessing whether law teaching is a good fit.
Email your mentors from law school at least once or twice a year to update them on what you are doing and, when appropriate, to discuss decisions or activities bearing on your future plans.