Sunday, September 21, 2014

“The law professor priss factor”

A few years ago I interviewed for a law professor job at a Chicago law school.  During the interview, the panel brought up my “unique background.”  Typically, law professors graduated from one of only three schools (my alma mater is not among them), clerked for a federal judge for a year (I didn’t do that), and then practiced law in a rarefied setting for no more than two years (I had practiced on my own for a decade and had nearly thirty jury trials under my belt).  To make matters worse, the ideal (rather than typical) candidate for a law professor gig actually skipped the one to two years of legal practice altogether, and instead earned a Ph.D. in economics (I hadn’t done that, either).  I assured the hiring committee, however, that my actual trial experience would not be a drawback, and could even be a plus when it came to teaching law.  I also addressed the other elephant in the room:  although I did not go to a “top US News-ranked school” — I intentionally used that phrase instead of “Ivy League school” in order to avoid offending any Stanford grads that might be on the panel — I assured them that I made up for it with a lengthy and high-quality publication record.  Big mistake.

Soon after the interview I got a call from one of the profs on the panel.  He explained that although he had voted to have me back for a second interview, it wasn’t going to happen because I had really offended the other profs.  Surprised, I wondered how I managed to pull off such a feat.  Had I temporarily lost consciousness, somehow insulted their cookie-cutter school or the city of Chicago, and then regained consciousness without realizing my transgression?  No.  (Or if I did, that wasn’t the issue.)  Instead, I was told that my comment about not going to a “top US News-ranked school” was very offensive, and was roughly interpreted by the others as: “you wouldn’t have your sweet law professor gig to begin with if you didn’t graduate from a highfalutin school.”

I know how Jeff Winger would have responded: “I never said that.  You may have heard it.  I may have thought it.  And it may be true.  But I never said it.  Now, can’t you be cool, like me?”

In any case, part of The Dog’s public service mission is to introduce readers to other authors.  And my above story about law professor hypersensitivity is really just a long introduction to Jeffrey Harrison’s blog Class Bias in Higher EducationHarrison, a Florida law prof, writes about a lot of topics, including law professor hiring and what he calls “the law professor priss factor.”

In a Paul Campos-dominated legal-education blogosphere it is easy for other less publicized but equally rogue profs to slip under the radar.  Class Bias is definitely worth the read.


  1. 23, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Good lead-in post to Harrison's blog. Thanks for the tip. I also noted in Harrison's profile that his favorite movie is -- wait for it -- "My Life as a Dog." Does Knightly know this?

  2. Ha! Great catch. This will be news to the K-Dog. He will definitely be adding Harrison to his reading list!