January 27, 2004

Teaching law

Today I went to a lunch meeting about becoming a law professor. Since I still have no idea whether or not I want to be a law professor, the discussion about the pros and cons of law professoring was particularly interesting. According to at least one law professor, the pros are:

  1. Autonomy. i.e. no one really tells you what to do from hour to hour, aside from incidental stuff like requiring you to show up for class a few hours each week, and occasional administrative work.
  2. Solitude. I list this as a pro, but that's because I'm introverted. An extrovert might consider it a con and call it "loneliness."
  3. Little structure. I dislike most kinds of structure, so for me this is also a pro.
  4. Intellectual challenge. This wasn't addressed explicitly, but it was implicit in what was said. Apparently, you get to write about legal problems, publish what you write, and then take boatloads of criticism for it. This sounds like, on a larger scale, writing a blog.
  5. Teaching. For me, this is a big pro. As fish like to swim and cats like to scratch, I like to teach. Perhaps it's the pedantic nature of the enterprise. . .

The cons are:

  1. Little control over where you live. It seems that in the competitive world of law professoring (all kinds of professoring?), you have to take what you can get. If you want to live in Wyoming, or in Durango, Colorado, you're pretty much screwed.
  2. Long-term projects. When I was in medical school, I liked emergency medicine because all my projects (patients) were short-term (in the ED, you work on them for a while and then send them home or give them to another service). I didn't like internal medicine because the same patient would be hospitalized for weeks, constituting, for me, a "long-term project."

So far, the pros are more numerous than the cons, but that's not enough to make up my mind. After all, I would, in addition to many other things, have to write "The Paper" if I wanted to have any success at all becoming a law professor. What should this "paper" be about? What legal field am I interested in? I don't know. Liking the subject matter in all of my 1L classes so far isn't enough to go on.

If I'm lucky, perhaps I'll even wind up liking Bankruptcy. I was told the supply of potential bankruptcy teachers relative to the demand is more favorable for getting hired. . .

Posted by Carey at January 27, 2004 04:39 PM

I don't think this is a case where "the pros are more numerous than the cons" works. I think almost all the issues are mostly dispositive. If you don't like thinking by yourself, you probably shouldn't be a law professor. Et cetera.

As for the long term project thing, I think the problem with long term projects is that it really sucks if they aren't your long term project. If you're calling the shots, I don't think it's quite as bad.

Plus it seems that all long-term projects are composed of short-term projects, to some extent. And if you work on two simultaneously, it might break up the monotony.

Posted by: Heidi at January 27, 2004 05:45 PM

P.S. I hope the bankruptcy jab is a joke.

Posted by: Heidi at January 27, 2004 05:45 PM

Pardon my cynicism, but based on my experience of law teaching (as a consumer thereof), and my experience in non-legal academia, but consider the fact that straight "legal scholarship" is pretty much a joke (Brian Leiter did a pretty good post on that a few months back; forgive me for not having a link to it handy). For Ghod's sake, the so-called scholarly journals are edited by friggin' students.

If you feel an academic urge, you should consider a career in interdisciplinary legal scholarship, which is very much not a joke (the journals there are peer-reviewed, for instance). Certainly a background in law and medicine qualifies you nicely.

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