- What will Berkeley Law do for me before I’m ready to go on the law teaching market?
- Do I need stellar grades, a law review position and a top clerkship to go into law teaching?
- What is the usual process for entering full-time law teaching?
- What’s the timing of the AALS process?
- Can I get a law teaching job without going through the AALS faculty recruitment conference?
Primarily for Alumni
- Do legal research and writing positions provide a useful entry to teaching?
- Should I try to get a job on campus as a graduate student instructor (GSI)?
- What about working as a research assistant (RA)?
- How about adjunct teaching?
- How do I know if I am ready to go on the teaching market?
- How can I produce a substantial scholarly article while working full time?
- Are there other ways of finding the time to produce a substantial scholarly article?
- Should I go back to school to get an advanced degree in law or another discipline?
- What should I do to obtain assistance from Berkeley Law?
Primarily for Current Students
- What should a current student do to prepare for a teaching career?
- What do I do if my scholarly interests aren’t taught at Berkeley Law?
- How do I get published as a student (and related faqs)?
- Should I try to present work at a conference (and related faqs)?
Q: What will Berkeley Law do for me before I’m ready to go on the law teaching market?
A: Your main resources, apart from the materials on this page, are the faculty co-chairs of the Academic Placement committee (for 2023-2024: Professor Jonah Gelbach), and any faculty contacts you have at Berkeley Law. The Academic Placement committee members are glad to help discuss general strategy, review cover letters, American Association of Law Schools (AALS) forms, and resumes, and advise on writing samples and job talks. Remember that the better you keep faculty contacts informed of your job search and general writing trajectory since graduation, the better we can help you, for example in telling colleagues at other schools about Berkeley Law’s teaching candidates.
Q: Do I need stellar grades, a law review position and a top clerkship to go into law teaching?
A: No. Excellent performance in law school certainly helps in securing an entry-level job in law teaching but it is not a necessary, nor even the most important, condition. Law school faculty appointments committees look for predictors of scholarly productivity and good teaching. A Berkeley Law graduate with solid grades who writes and publishes a solid article in a good journal and has the backing of one or more faculty mentors is likely to do better on the job market than a student with better grades who clerked for the Ninth Circuit but has no scholarly writing and no professor that knows him or her well. This is not to say that conventional measures of achievement in law school are unimportant, but they may be more valuable as pathways than as ends in themselves. Good grades and law journal experience will help you secure a position as a research assistant, which, if you do a good job, will result in a positive recommendation from a faculty member down the line. Moreover, the longer one has been a practicing attorney, the less relevance law school grades have relative to other factors, especially if the prospective law professor intends to teach and write in an area of practice expertise.
Q: What is the usual process for entering full-time law teaching?
A: A common path into a law teaching career involves participation in the annual recruitment conference sponsored by the American Association of Law Schools (AALS). Prior to that conference, interested candidates fill out a short form outlining their background, publications, teaching and research interests, and references. Based on this information, and each school’s hiring needs, applicants are contacted before the conference and slotted for an interview at the conference. Anywhere from one to seven or eight faculty might be present at the hiring conference interview, which is approximately 30 minutes long. If that conversation goes well, the applicant is invited back to the interested law school for a visit. These visits usually last for a day to a day and a half. In addition to office interviews with faculty members, applicants are expected to give a “job talk” – a formal presentation of some piece of research to which the entire faculty is invited (and sometimes students as well). Following the job talk, the faculty will vote on whether the candidate should receive an offer to join the faculty.
Q: What’s the timing of the AALS process?
A: If at all possible, you should submit the one-page structured resume AALS requires no later than mid-August of the year before the year in which you want to teach. The recruitment conference itself is held in late October or early November of each year, usually in Washington, D.C. AALS sends participating schools a series of collections of resumes, and posts their electronic form for searching, beginning around Labor Day, and the participating law schools then work to fill their dance cards. By the time the third round is sent, if not earlier, the attention your resume will get and the availability of times to talk with you are sharply diminished.
Once the recruitment conference is complete, schools follow a call-back routine that is familiar from other hiring contexts; usually they will have completed their deliberations by mid-March.
Q: Can I get a law teaching job without going through the AALS faculty recruitment conference?
A: Sure. About half the teaching jobs filled are filled from the AALS process, and the others are filled by other means. Here, the support of your own law school’s faculty is especially important. If you are a Berkeley Law graduate proceeding outside the AALS process, it is particularly important that you let us know about your interests and ambitions.
Participation in the AALS process is not free. If you are restricted to a single geographic area, it can make sense for you (or, even better, your mentors) to write the schools directly, sending a full resume, expressing your interest and asking if it would be possible to have a screening interview at the school. Of course you should do this with the AALS’s preferences about resume content and timetable in view. This course is not without risk; the conference interviews may tend to create a focus, from which people who have interviewed outside them can get lost.
If you have developed your interest in teaching too late in the year to participate effectively in the AALS process, writing directly to the schools of interest to you will be the only course open to you. Again, it will be helpful if a mentor is willing to open the dialogue on your behalf. Bear in mind, too, that schools can develop unanticipated needs, too late for their own participation in the process. It is not uncommon, for example, for a school not to learn that one of its professors will be visiting elsewhere the following year, until after mid-March, when AALS guidelines preclude their own offers of visitorship to a person already teaching. Likely these situations will produce only a short-term visitorship, but this can be a useful foot in the door at that school, and also quite useful to have on your resume at the following year’s AALS recruitment conference.
Q: Do legal research and writing positions provide a useful entry to teaching?
A: Teaching legal writing and research, in and of itself, has little to commend it as an avenue to law school teaching unless that is the subject you wish to teach (and a number of schools do have permanent legal writing and research faculty, some tenure-track). A few schools, however, have programs specifically structured to appeal to and assist young scholars who aspire to an academic career, but do not yet have the portfolio of writings (and, perhaps, mentors) that will contribute most to their likelihood of success. For example, the University of Chicago, Columbia, and NYU Law Schools have quite good versions of such programs, which allow teachers the opportunity to get to know the research faculty well. The main point, which cannot be overemphasized, is that any job that allows you to write academic articles is a good one, for writing is your main path to academic employment.
Q. Should I try to get a job on campus as a graduate student instructor (GSI)?
A. If you are otherwise interested in the subject matter of the course and/or the faculty member offering the course, by all means work as a GSI. You can learn a lot from working as a GSI about what the day to day practice of teaching is like and whether it appeals to you. It can also be a terrific way to learn a subject. But it is not necessary to have teaching experience in order to land an academic job, and it may not be the best use of your time – especially if you could be writing publishable papers instead. Bear in mind that being a GSI consumes a lot of time: 6-8 hours per week, plus more when assignments and exams must be graded (which is often when your own work is due).
The same advice applies to working in the Berkeley Law Academic Support Program.
Q. What about working as a research assistant (RA)?
A. A research assistantship is valuable primarily for the opportunity to get to know a faculty member well and to develop an intellectual as well as personal bond with that person. You may also improve your research and writing skills. R.A. jobs vary widely, however. You may sometimes be doing work that is relatively ministerial (cite-checking) rather than helping the professor frame path-breaking insights. Nevertheless, R.A. positions look good on your c.v./resume, and a job recommendation from a professor for whom you worked as a research assistant and who knows you well can be very persuasive to a hiring committee.
Q: How about adjunct teaching?
A: In general, adjunct teaching is not a good way to break into the legal academy, although it can help you learn whether teaching will be a source of gratification for you. Few faculties monitor their adjunct teachers closely, or regard them as a source of future full-time colleagues; adjunct teaching at another school will be of minor interest to a faculty you are applying to, save possibly as a source of teaching evaluations. You should also be aware that adjunct teaching positions, despite their low pay, are hard to get unless you have a great deal of experience or expertise in a specific legal area.
Q: How do I know if I am ready to go on the teaching market?
A: The short answer is: when you have a scholarly agenda and at least one substantial publishable or better yet, published, scholarly work. Some law schools hire academic tenure-track faculty based on promise alone, but increasingly many appointments committees only look at applicants who have already published one or more law review articles. You are seeking a job as both a teacher and scholar, and appointments committees want to see evidence that you are capable of excelling in both roles. Most faculties believe (perhaps erroneously) that they can evaluate your teaching potential on the basis of your “performance” in interviews and an oral presentation followed by Q & A. Most faculties also believe (generally correctly) that the best measure of future scholarship is past and current scholarship. Accordingly, they look closely at what you’ve written. Student work such as a Note or Case Comment can provide some evidence but is frequently insufficient. In addition to one or more substantial published works, by the time you make it to the AALS appointments conference you should be able to articulate a scholarly agenda, i.e., a general plan for making a distinctive contribution to some field of study. Note: The foregoing does not apply to most clinical positions, although clinical faculty at some law schools are also expected to produce written scholarship. If you are only applying for clinical positions that do not entail scholarly publication, you should, at the least, have a clear conception of how you will translate your work experience into the classroom.
Q: How can I produce a substantial scholarly article while working full time?
A: This is undoubtedly a real challenge to which there are no easy answers. Some prospective law professors enroll in JSD programs that require a measure of teaching in exchange for a stipend and time to write with input from faculty members. However, the competition for these positions is stiff and the opportunity cost of roughly two years is high. If you have the self-discipline and an accommodating employer, you may do better to give yourself a “fellowship,” i.e., to take off roughly three months from work to write an article. If you plan to do something like this, you should develop the idea and do some preliminary research before your leave of absence begins. If this course is not feasible, you may have to write during weekends and evenings, notwithstanding your day job and family obligations. Setting a realistic timetable is essential. The sort of work that a full-time academic could produce in less than a semester may take an aspiring academic a year or two. But given that your writing will play a major role in whether you land a teaching job, you should take the time necessary to produce a paper or papers that showcase your abilities.
Q: Are there other ways of finding the time to produce a substantial scholarly article?
A: Increasingly, law schools offer one- to two-year post-J.D. fellowship programs, similar to “postdoc” programs in disciplines that offer the Ph.D., designed to give future academics the time to write and the opportunity to delve into research. Some of these programs are open to people with any academic interest. Some law schools have programs specifically targeted at potential teachers from under-represented groups. Some fellowship programs are targeted to specific research interests. Links to such programs can be found here:
Q: Should I go back to school to get an advanced degree in law or another discipline?
A: An LL.M might be helpful in particular fields (for example, tax) where specialist learning can be important. Getting one can also provide important assets other than the degree itself — time to do the advanced professional writing that is now a virtual requirement of entry to teaching at many if not most law schools, and an opportunity to develop mentoring relationships with particular faculty members who can be helpful to you in your search. In some countries (e.g., Australia, Canada, Israel), a graduate law degree is virtually required for academic success, but this is not the case in the United States. For that reason, doctoral law degrees are much more common, and probably a much better investment, for foreign students. Masters in Public Policy or Business can be useful, both for their educational value and for the credential. And a Masters in a particular discipline can also be helpful, if technical expertise but not scholarly writing in that discipline would be relevant to legal scholarship (for example, a specialist in environmental law might find a masters in chemistry or biology valuable).
Generally better for North American students is to combine a J.D. with a Ph.D in another discipline — often Economics, but also Anthropology, English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, etc., can be very attractive to a faculty seeking to enhance its interdisciplinarity. Berkeley Law’s interdisciplinary doctorate in Jurisprudence and Social Policy can also be extremely helpful for law teaching, and a number of our JD/JSP graduates have gone on to jobs at law schools. In recent years, elite American law schools have hired holders of Ph.D’s much more frequently than holders of J.S.D’s. This is hardly a reason to set yourself off in that direction, however, unless it independently calls you to it. Many such faculty members came to their Ph.D. first, and sought a law degree at later stages in their careers; joint degree candidacies are possible, but so demanding of time and other resources that one cannot conceive their being undertaken for instrumental reasons. The holder of joint degrees deepens her understanding of particular areas, and consequently also may narrow the range over which she will be interesting to a law faculty.
One really general piece of advice is this: you should only pursue an advanced degree if you have a strong, intrinsic interest in the subject; interest in the credential is not enough, and will not enable you to do work of the quality sufficient to attain your career objective. Second, a great many faculty at top law schools continue to be hired without any degree beyond the JD. The content of your writing, not your academic pedigree, is most important.
Q: What should I do to obtain assistance from Berkeley Law?
A: Once you have decided to enter the teaching market, you should let us know of that decision. When you submit your AALS form, send us both it and a full resume – more detailed than the one-page form AALS uses permits, but structured to respond to the same predictable law school questions and interests – and we will do what we can to make them available to the law school community. Don’t hesitate to keep us abreast of the progress of your search, and to ask for guidance, counseling and support as the process unfolds.
Q. I’m a 1L about to start course planning for my second year. I think I’d like to be an academic, or at least consider academia as a career. Are there specific courses I should take to prepare myself?
A. Look for small classes and classes that require final papers, rather than large-enrollment courses and exam courses. You want to get as much writing experience as you can while a student, since writing is such an important part of a professor’s job. You also want the chance to get to know your professors personally.
The substance of the courses you take depends on your intellectual interests. Follow your heart and your sense of intellectual engagement; you should use your three years in law school to find out what issues you really care about.
A seminar experience that can be useful for students interested in academic careers is the workshop organized around scholars from other schools who come to Berkeley Law to present their works in progress. These workshops are often attended by faculty as well as students, and they give students an opportunity to see how scholarly papers evolve and what academic debates look like. Look for subject-matter-specific workshops in law and economics, international law, law and technology, and law and philosophy.
Finally, there are a number of Berkeley Law workshops that are specifically geared to those who are considering an academic career. The Center for Social Justice sponsors a number of “writing workshops,” which are meant to help students complete a paper that will satisfy the Berkeley Law writing requirement. Boalt’s environmental law and policy program has also offered writing workshops.
Q. I’m really interested in admiralty law, but looking at the course schedule for next semester I don’t see any courses offered in it. Is there anything I can do about this?
A. In addition to what’s in the course schedule, there are two kinds of student-organized courses you can schedule yourself. The “299″ course series gives you credit for independent study with a faculty advisor. Many students take a 299 for one or two credits to turn a course paper into a paper of publishable quality in order to satisfy the Berkeley Law writing requirement. You can also organize a 299 for yourself in any area in which you’d like to spend some time researching and writing. You just need a faculty member to sponsor you. Don’t be shy about asking; supervising these writing projects is part of their job.
The 298 course series is for group projects. Thus, four or five students who are interested in a particular topic can organize a 298 and create their own course. Again, all you need is a faculty advisor. Be aware that faculty are not usually interested in adding overload teaching units to their busy schedules. You’ll have more luck finding a faculty advisor for a 298 if you assure her that you, the students, are going to do all the work of putting together a bibliography and running the discussions. (You might also want to have the course be credit/no credit, in order to relieve the advisor’s grading burden.)
Q. I know that it’s important to have a portfolio of published work in order to break into the law teaching market. How do I go about getting published as a student?
A. There are two basic routes toward publication as a student. First, you can have your paper published as a “comment” with the California Law Review or another student journal. Second, you can get your paper published by an external law review.
While you’re a student, getting your paper published in a Berkeley Lawstudent journal will be easier than getting a paper published elsewhere. Most of the Berkeley Law journals publish “notes and comments” and hence have slots set aside for student work. At CLR, comments are usually accepted from students up until October of the student’s third year. Before you send anything out, however, be sure to check with the Senior Notes and Comments Editor of the journal(s) you’re interested in. Remember that if you have your piece published by the California Law Review, you get the additional bonus of becoming a member automatically and being able to put that on your resume.
Each Berkeley Law journal has its own schedule, but in general notes and comments editors begin slotting comments in mid-March and are done for the year by November. As you might expect, not much happens during the summer. April tends to be a busy time for the California Law Review, since most students who are on the journal submit their comments around then. If you submit a paper to CLR in March, you will likely get a jump on others. Mid-August, when students are coming back from their summer jobs, is another good period for submissions.
The second route to publication is placing an article in a non-Berkeley Law journal. In general, this is a more difficult route because (although it shouldn’t be the case) articles editors are status-conscious and would prefer to publish professors. However, all is not lost! Even though landing the lead article in the Harvard Law Review is unlikely as a student or recent graduate (or even actual faculty member), there are over five hundred law journals in the United States , and many of them are so-called “specialty” journals that are hungry for content. The yearly articles cycle begins in late February, when new boards come in and are eager to begin filling up their issues. Articles editors continue to slot pieces until late April or early May; then not much happens until late August or early September, when additional slots often open up. So the best time to send out an article is in late February or early March, and the second best time is late August or early September.
Q. Can I send out my article to more than one journal at a time?
A. Yes. In other disciplines it is the custom to submit to only one journal and wait for that journal to accept or reject your piece before moving on. In the law review world, though, multiple simultaneous submissions are the norm. Law review submissions have become much easier, thanks to electronic submission protocols.
Q. How many journals should I send my article to?
A. As many as you think could conceivably be interested, subject to your financial situation. Avoid, however, sending your article to journals that seem clearly far-fetched given their specialties. This annoys the editors and is a waste of everyone’s time.
Q. Is there a prestige “pecking order” for law journals?
A. In general, the pecking order of law journals follows the pecking order of the school to which they’re attached. So the Harvard Women’s Law Review is considered more prestigious than the Buffalo Women’s Law Journal. What gets tricky is when you are comparing a “specialty” journal at a more prestigious law review to a “general” law review at a less prestigious school, or a specialty journal at a less prestigious school to a general review at a more prestigious one. If you would like to worry about this further, there are a great many articles and websites devoted to this kind of question. Check out the Links to this site for some leads. Your faculty mentors may have advice as well.
Q. How do I find out about all these law journals?
A. A good source is the Directory of Law Reviews compiled for LexisNexis. A paper version of this directory may be available in the library. The Directory contains contact information for all the major law reviews in the United States , grouped by “general” versus “special focus,” and the “special focus” reviews are organized by specialty. At the back of the directory there is also a bibliography of articles that discuss how to get published. These are mostly geared toward junior faculty, but you can learn a lot from them about the psychology of a law review editor.
Q. Can I submit my paper electronically, or do I have to pay for postage and copying?
A. Most law journals accept electronic submissions, but it would be good to contact them to make sure. Journals also have other manuscript requirements you should abide by, such as format (Word is more popular than WordPerfect); whether the cover page should reveal your identity or not; and so forth. Some journals still require hard copy submissions as well.
An electronic resource for sending articles out is “Express-O,” of Be-Press, a private company owned by two Berkeley Law professors. This service will manage electronic submissions for you at the cost of approximately $2 per article, and will also generate hard copy submissions for a slightly larger fee. For more information, go to http://law.bepress.com/expresso/. Note that a number of law journals require electronic submission through their own web portals as well.
Q. But my paper still needs a lot of work! Am I really ready to send it out?
A. Remember that getting accepted by a journal is only the first step; there will be an editing process that follows. So you do not want to send an article out with blank footnotes, for example, but you also should not wait until you think your paper is completely perfect before sending it out, or it might stay in your computer forever. As with dating, you must “put yourself out there” if you are going to have any results. Rejection is always possible, but the rewards of acceptance far outweigh the risks.
Q. My paper’s pretty long. Are there any length limits?
A. Law journals, especially at the top schools, have begun to rebel against the super-long “tenure piece” that junior faculty used to be expected to produce. In general, no submission should be more than 100 double-spaced pages and should include no more than 300 footnotes. Journals are increasingly encouraging “essay” length submissions as well, of about 50 manuscript pages. Your supervising professor is your best resource for reining you in and making sure your argument is as concise as possible without sacrificing depth.
Q. Should I include my resume or other documents with my article?
A. A resume (or “c.v.,” short for curriculum vitae, as they call it in the academic world) is sometimes requested by the editors. It would also be helpful to include a succinct cover letter (no more than a page) that explains your argument and why your piece is original and important. A short “abstract” (one paragraph) that summarizes your argument at the beginning of your article can also be very useful, especially if your piece is technically complex. Remember that you are submitting your work to other students, who may or may not have any exposure to the issues you’re discussing. Students also seldom have a sense of what’s original in the field and what is derivative. A cover letter that calls attention to the originality and importance of your piece can be very valuable. Similarly, a well-written abstract can be a roadmap for editors, who may be wading through many articles in a short period of time.
A former California Law Review articles editor remarks that “theory” papers and extremely practical papers are the hardest sell to editors. Editors may not understand the significance of a theory article, and they may not understand why a concrete, problem-solving paper should be of general interest. Make sure you gear your cover letter and abstract toward educating the reader.
Q. I got a publication offer from the Northern South Texas Journal of Law and Agricultural Research, and I’m thrilled, but I haven’t heard anything from the Stanford Law Review yet. What should I do?
A. It is common in the law review world upon receiving an offer to request an “expedited” review of your article from journals you think you’d prefer but which haven’t gotten back to you yet. You call up the articles editors (or send them an email) and tell them you have an offer in hand and would like to get an expedited review. They will tell you whether that’s possible and what their decision timeframe is.
Q. One of my professors went to Stanford. Is it OK to ask her to call them up and talk to the editors about my article?
A. Another common practice in the law review world is to have a professor at the school where you are submitting your work contact the editors on your behalf. This doesn’t guarantee publication, but it can help (assuming your professor is on good terms with the editors). Some professors have also written cover letters for their students in order to help them break in.
Q. Should I consider attending and/or presenting my work at an academic conference as a student? Or are students not welcome?
A. Faculty conferences range from those that tolerate a student or two (as long as they know their place) to those that love and embrace student participation. When in doubt, ask a faculty member about whether your participation would be welcome.
Two annual conferences that are very student-friendly are the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association (which has the added benefit of being run by Berkeley Law and JSP folks), and the annual “LatCrit” (Latino Critical Theory) conference. “Law and Society,” as it’s called, is usually held in June; “LatCrit” is held over the Indigenous People’s Day (Columbus Day) weekend. Both Law and Society and LatCrit usually have workshops geared for graduate and professional students and for junior faculty.
Law and Society is quite large and its focus is on interdisciplinary work involving law and the social sciences. LatCrit is smaller and its focus is on race, ethnicity, and other forms of subordination. The location of both conferences varies from year to year; you can Google the organizations for more details. LatCrit also has an annual “Student Scholar Program.” The winners of this paper competition are entitled to a slot in the program to present their work, and receive a financial subsidy to attend the conference. Check out for details.
Q. How should I prepare for presenting my paper at a conference?
A. The main thing to remember is that conference presentations are generally about twenty minutes long, and if you go on too long you’ll be cut off by the moderator. Twenty minutes seems like a long time in the abstract, but it can pass very fast when you are actually up there speaking. Don’t plan to simply read your paper aloud! A talk must present your argument in a form that is compressed, colorful, and clear to keep the audience’s attention. if you are not an experienced speaker you would do well to practice your talk at least once in front of somebody else. A friend or a friendly professor can give you tips on how you did and how to improve.
Q. There’s a conference I’d love to attend, and I submitted a paper proposal that was accepted! But I’m living on a student budget. How do I get the funds to go?
A. There are several resources available to Berkeley Law students who would like to attend conferences. First, check with the conference organizers to see if there is a student discount on lodging, meals, and registration fees. If more than one Berkeley Law student is attending the conference, consider sharing a hotel room to reduce costs.
Second, the Berkeley Law Student Services Office provides a stipend for travel to or participation in academic or professional conferences. You should meet with Student Services well before the planned event to find out about the application process.
Third, the Berkeley campus Graduate Assembly (GA) also has a travel fund for students wishing to attend conferences and seminars. GA provides up to $300 for presenters and up to $150 for non-presenters; this amount goes up to $400 for those with dependent care expenses if they are presenting a paper and $250 for those with dependent care expenses who are not presenting a paper. You can only be funded by GA once per year. In order to receive these funds you have to fill out a form and submit a letter by a professor stating that this conference is relevant to your academic development. There are three application rounds, with deadlines of October 1, February 1, and May 1. Contact the GA office on campus for the guidelines.
Q. I’ve been accepted as a presenter at Law and Society and would love to go, but I am a 3L and by the time the conference happens in June, I won’t technically be a student anymore. What can I do?
A. There is a small pot of money available to students in this situation available at the assistant dean’s discretion. You should speak to Dean of Students Annik Hirshen to find out more.