How Do I Become a Law School Professor?

Q: I am interested in possibly becoming a law school professor. What resources do you recommend to help land a law professor job?

A: As a starting point, you must have first earned an undergraduate degree, a Juris Doctorate degree from a law school, and have passed the bar examination. Law professors typically had excellent grades, or have established themselves as an authority in the field through their outstanding and successful legal practice. Experience as a mentor guiding others in their career and educational decisions is very helpful. Success at a big-name law school and undergraduate school can be very helpful in finding a position, since the competition for teaching positions is fierce. Participation in law review and publication in legal journals post-graduation can both be helpful in establishing your skill as a writer and demonstrating the industry's recognition of your abilities.

Although many teaching positions require a Masters, LLM, or Doctoral degree this is not typically required for law school professors. However, postgraduate degrees may provide more opportunities for publication, as well as experience teaching, both of which can be helpful when pursuing a permanent teaching position. Scholarship is particularly important in law professors and the additional experience researching and arguing complex legal topics will provide you with the experience and skills that will be needed to secure a position.

If you are still in law school you are surrounded by a significant resource, law professors. Try to establish relationships with as many professors as possible. Ask their advice and seek their mentorship. They understand the market you are looking to enter, know the important people you should meet, and can recount to you their own method for success. Their advice is invaluable.

You should read heavily about the topic that you hope to make your specialty. To become an authority in an area of law it will be necessary to know the history of thinking on the topic, the most recent changes in the discussion, and the figures that have risen to prominence in the area. This can only be accomplished through reading and studying the topic carefully. You should also write articles on the topic and seek to have them published in trade journals. Attending conferences and bar groups focused on your area of specialty can help you effectively network and establish yourself within the field.

If you are interested in becoming a law professor, the first and foremost resource you should check out is the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). They are located in Washington, DC. The AALS holds a major job fair every October where would-be professors interview with different law schools. This is a great job fair, and many schools hire their faculty through the AALS.

The AALS also publishes a job newsletter several times a year with positions in academia. Finally, you might want to consider working as a legal writing instructor or a clinical professor as those positions are sometimes more widely available.