Monday, February 8, 2010

Friends in the Law School Appointments Process

How is a junior faculty member supposed to conduct herself when a friend, not necessarily a best friend, but a good friend nonetheless, is being considered for an entry-level position at her law school?
I've been wondering about that question recently. Probably because some of my law school classmates and friends from elsewhere will be on the law teaching market next fall. And I suspect that my school will be interested in interviewing at least some of them because they are, quite frankly, truly outstanding candidates.
What should be my role in the process? Is it proper to be an enthusiastic advocate? Or is it more appropriate to stand apart from the process and let it unfold without my involvement?
These questions of course assume that I am prepared to ignore the advice I have received from many people. Their advice has been straightforward and simple: as a junior faculty member, I should not get involved in discussions about appointments because the internal faculty debate on these matters can get quite heated and pointed, and it is better to avoid those kinds of faculty discussions at least until after I am granted tenure.


  1. I really don't know, but my sense is that if you are poised to ignore the advice of more experienced people (which you probably shouldn't) then there's still a good argument for not intervening. Still, should you decide to speak up on their behalf you should probably disclose your friendship. But really, I have no idea about such things, though being an aspiring academic I like to chime in even (and especially) when I don't really know what I'm talking about.

  2. Ha! Well we have that in common, then: opining about things we know little about. But I do think you're right, Adam. I will definitely make it known that I am acquainted with the candidate(s). Still, I don't intend to disregard the advice I've been given. I will stay out of the appointments process, with two exceptions. First, I will of course continue to vote on faculty hires. And, second, I will have no choice but to get involved if I am assigned to the Faculty Appointments Committee! Yikes.

  3. Well, I think it comes down to what you think: if you truly believe a friend of yours is "outstanding" and thus would be a great contributor to the school's community, then you probably have a responsibility to the school to push for that person, friendship notwithstanding. On the other hand, if your friend sucks, then I would say stand aside; unless that friend is me, then advocate either way. ;)

  4. I think it is basically impossible to reduce interventions to those cases where you´re not aligned or friends with the person. Usually, it´s a small circle anyway (I refrain from the term teaching market): people know each other, and friendship is a broad category. You couldn´t advocate anybody if you stuck to that principle. I think it is justified to assume that all of us can evaluate the abilities and qualities of an applicant aside from our friendly entaglement. My opinion: go for it.

  5. Jon: HAHAHA! Yes!

    Viktor: I've decided to accept the advice I've been given by my colleagues.


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