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What do you think about becoming a law professor? Is it a good gig? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that I have an appropriate resume to get hired as a law professor (summa cum laude from a tier-1 school, federal clerkship, have several publications in law journals, etc.).
I’m currently a junior associate at a V50 BigLaw firm, but I’m sick of the crushing hours. However, I enjoy legal research, writing law review papers, and teaching. Also, I enjoy being condescending to nubile coeds.
But is the pay cut worth it all? I know Elie hates everything about law schools, so I’ll ignore his advice. Marin, what do you think?
Future Professor Emeritus
Dear Future Professor Emeritus,
Merely loving the sound of your own voice does not a law school professor make. I’m sure your law review note was the single most influential piece of legal analysis since the Magna Carta, but I wouldn’t be so confident that you can just flash some publications or a federal clerkship at law schools and expect them to s**t themselves. I mean, I graduated from a tier-1 school without honors (robbed, obv) and have been published on The Frisky, and you don’t see me applying for professorships.
And that’s assuming you actually want to be a professor…
I’ll say this: being a professor these days is not what it used to be. Obviously there are some things that never change – the sexy teacher/student dynamic, the pressure to publish boring papers about nerdy topics, the annual stipend for elbow patches. But the teaching aspect of a professor’s role has changed dramatically.
In the olden days, people had to pay attention in class because there was nothing better to do. There was no Gchat, no Craigslist Missed Connections. Thankfully someone invented wifi, and now there is no reason to pay attention. Good news for students, but shitty for professors. If you can handle that, plus the fact that you will be surrounded by young, fresh faces that remind you of your inexorable creep toward death, I say go for it. The starting pay is pretty good (starts at around $80K depending on your résumé and how good the law school is, but I don’t really know because I just made that up), you get access to the faculty lounge, and the two times a year you have to grade, you can just throw exams down stairs and assign grades depending on where they fall.
You’ll also get to hold the fates of hundreds of people in your hands… so if you’re tired of partners running your life, this could be a great opportunity to let your inner vindictive prick run free.
I hope this helps.
Hate everything about law schools, do I? Your assumptions reveal a critical gap in your reasoning abilities that might make you ill-suited to enter the hallowed halls of academia.
Being a law school professor might well be the best thing you can do with a law degree in the world. It is an awesome gig, if you can get it. The pay is obviously not on the level of private practice, but you can make a decent living (especially if you have a spouse that can match or better your earnings). There’s always some erudite aspect of the law that hasn’t been fully explored, and the only special skill you need to become an expert is “literacy.”
Meanwhile, you get to interact with young people — which will keep your mind young. And you get your summers off. And if you make tenure, I mean dear God is there anything better than the lifestyle of a tenured professor?
Law school is a scam for the students. But as a professor you are benefiting from that scam. You’re the winner! Yay. People will give you money for no reason, and all you have to do is come up with an hour of material on real property a few times a week.
Now you can’t get a job at one of the top schools until you’ve actually accomplished something. But there are so many law schools out there, and I’m not even counting the unaccredited ones. Do you think a professor sitting on his veranda in some sleepy college town with nothing to do but watch Battlestar Galactica reruns all summer gives a frack that some people call the school “TTT”?
If you have the opportunity to make millions of dollars, fine, maybe you should stay in private practice. But if you’re making a couple hundred thousand while being worked to death and think you have a reasonable opportunity to get a professorial gig, take it. If someone asks if you’re a God, you say yes!
– Winston Zeddemore
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