Types of Employment: Academic Positions

Last updated: July 7, 2013

Georgetown University Law Center Career Book
Edited By Abbie Willard, Ph.D.

If you think it is difficult to choose among law school courses, seminars, and clinics wait until you see what is available after law school. A variety of alternatives are open to an individual who seeks to practice law or to combine law with other areas of interest and expertise. Among the more traditional types of practice, the following are most common.

Teaching

In Law Schools. Qualifications for law teaching positions vary somewhat from school to school. Most institutions, in recruiting for their faculties, prefer graduates who have had at least 3 years practice experience, have clerked for a judge or have pursued post-graduate law study. Other criteria considered in the selection of law school faculty are:

  • Law school attended
  • Academic performance
  • Law review experience
  • Publications
  • Teaching experience

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) sponsors an annual November recruitment conference in Washington, D.C. Prior to the Conference, AALS compiles a register of applications which is sent to all law schools planning to recruit at the December conference. Individuals interested in pursuing a teaching career are urged to register with AALS and to attend the Washington Conference. Registration involves contacting the AALS for the materials and standardized forms, and paying a registration fee.

For the best planned job search, you will want to obtain the materials during the summer or early fall so that:

  • you have time to devote to the application. The application form is reproduced, as sent to AALS by the applicant, and mailed to all law school recruitment teams. Your misspellings, typographical errors and cross-outs remain.
  • your application is included in the first mailing to all recruitment teams. Although there is a second and third mailing, by the time supplementary mailings are received, many schools have contacted registrants and filled their interview schedules.
  • you have time to contact individually the schools in which you have a particular interest.
  • you have the opportunity to discuss your career goals with a law school faculty member or dean who can serve as an important reference for you among his/her network of academic colleagues.

Increasing competition makes it necessary for all candidates to be flexible both in courses they are willing to teach and in geographic preference. Unless an applicant has superior credentials, it is difficult to secure an entry level teaching position without such flexibility indicated directly on the AALS forms.

If you plan to attend the November Conference, check with the Placement Office. A staff member from the office often attends the Conference for the purpose of assisting students and alumni/ae.

During the remainder of the academic year positions are announced in the ALS Placement Bulletin, which is on file in the Placement Office. A teaching binder contains announcements from individual law schools who seek to fill available faculty positions. The list of Georgetown alumni/ae who are teaching at law schools throughout the country (available in the Placement Office) is also a valuable resource. Your best resource, however, for information, referrals, and contacts -- will be the faculty members at Georgetown who can advise you about various law schools and serve as your introduction into the halls of academe. Such faculty references are of utmost importance in any academic job search.

In Undergraduate Schools. Various departments, schools, and colleges throughout undergraduate institutions hire individuals with H.D. degrees to teach courses that vary from legal history, political science, and business law to interdisciplinary courses that combine law with such disparate fields as communications, computers, philosophy, medicine, and ethics. In addition to a J.D. degree, most such positions require an advanced degree in a field relevant to the department's domain. Experience in teaching and/or academic research is also a must.

Candidates are advised to apply for teaching positions directly to the deans of the schools that interest them. The Education Directory: Colleges and Universities is a useful guide to colleges within the U.S. The Chronicle of Higher Education, a weekly periodical available in the Placement Office and most libraries, contains "positions available" want ads for the world of higher education.

Administration

Opportunities are available to J.D. graduates in various administrative positions. Law schools employ graduates as Assistant Deans whose duties vary from school to school and range from supervising/teaching legal research and writing to supervising moot court competitions, counseling students, or coordinating continuing legal education programs. Such opportunities are often advertised in either The Chronicle of Higher Education or the AALS Placement Bulletin, published six (6) times a year. In addition, law schools frequently notify the Placement Office of such opportunities, which are then placed in the "Teaching" binder.

University Counsel

The number of in-house counsel at colleges and universities has grown dramatically since the late sixties. In-house staff size is expected to continue growing but at a much slower rate than in the past. The issues today are quite different from those which created the need for such positions, but the challenge remains. University counsels work with the usual legal questions involving contracts, labor relations and tax as well as issues peculiar to educational institutions.

The National Association of College and University Attorneys, located in Washington, D.C., is made up of attorneys who serve as in-house counsel as well as those who work for firms that represent educational institutions. For further information on a career as university counsel, contact this organization at One Dupont Circle, N.W., Suite 620, 202-833-8390.

Law Librarianships

Professional librarians trained in both law and library science have traditionally directed academic law libraries. Today the libraries serving courts, law firms, corporate legal departments, government agencies and local and county bar associations are requiring the services of professionally trained librarians in increasing numbers.

For a professional position in a law library, a master's degree in library science is usually the minimum requirement, with the law degree increasingly sought as an additional requirement. Some schools, such as the University of Denver, offer joint-degree programs in law and library science. Law graduates interested in a career in librarianship could combine work in a law library with pursuit of the library degree without much difficulty. Both Catholic University and the University of Maryland have been amenable to tailoring a master's program for a student enrolled in law school. Students interested in this field should contact the Library Science department in one of these schools.

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