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AALS Handbook | Statements of Good Practices

Statement of Good Practices for the Recruitment and Hiring
of Entry-level Faculty Members

The Association of American Law Schools recognizes that the processes used by law schools to recruit new faculty members into the legal academy have important implications for candidates, for schools competing for candidates, and for the culture of legal education. The Association also recognizes that flexibility in the recruitment and hiring process is important. Law schools have different needs and varying internal and external pressures at different times that make it difficult, even for an individual school, to follow the same process for every candidate. These difficulties multiply when one considers the many differences that contribute to each law school being unique. Even simple differences like size, budgetary flexibility, timing of budget cycles, and geographic location have an impact on how each school approaches the hiring process.

Nevertheless, there are some recruitment and hiring practices that raise concerns about fairness to prospective appointees and about the unintended messages these practices might send about the culture of legal education.

I. Offers of Employment to Individuals in the Faculty Appointments Register: When a law school makes an offer to an individual who is listed in the Faculty Appointments Register, it is unfair to the prospective appointee and to other member schools to make an offer of employment that expires sooner than four weeks from the conclusion of the Faculty Recruitment Conference. (This four week timetable applies only to offers made to individuals who listed themselves in the Faculty Appointments Register.)

The Association recognizes that not all entry-level faculty members are found or hired through the Faculty Appointments Register, and that there is significant value added by entry-level recruitment and hiring activities that take place independent of the Faculty Appointments Register and Faculty Recruitment Conference. However, the Faculty Appointments Register and Faculty Recruitment Conference provide an open, vigorous, and competitive market in which recruiting and hiring activities take place. There is value in preserving that market. If a law school makes an offer to an individual listed in the Faculty Appointments Register that expires sooner than four weeks from the conclusion of the Faculty Recruitment Conference, the school may deprive that candidate of the chance to participate fully in the recruiting market impliedly promised to those who entered the Faculty Appointments Register. At the very least, it puts a heavy burden on the candidate to turn down the offer in hand in order to more fully participate in the market. The use of short-fused offers that expire prior to, during, or soon after the Faculty Recruitment Conference is also unfair to member schools. Their dues support the AALS Faculty Recruitment Services and they have an expectation that their support will give them an opportunity to seek interviews with those in the Faculty Appointments Register pool at the Faculty Recruitment Conference. Over time, the use of short-fuse offers would encourage other law schools to engage in similar behavior. Candidates who feel that they were unfairly pressured into accepting an early offer might choose to remain in the market to see what other offers might come their way. The potential for undermining the open and competitive market created by the Faculty Appointments Register and the Faculty Recruitment Conference is obvious.

II. Entry-Level Faculty Member Offers Not Covered by Part I:  In circumstances beyond those governed earlier in Part I, it is a normal and desirable practice that the candidate be given at least two weeks to respond to an offer. Only in rare circumstances should a law school give a candidate less than one week to respond to an offer of employment.

The practice of making offers that expire after a specified date or period of time is common in legal education. When a school has specific hiring needs and a short list of candidates who in the school’s judgment meet those needs, it is often necessary to place a time limit on the offer made to the preferred candidate in order to ensure that if that candidate should decline the offer, other acceptable candidates will still be available. AALS survey data indicates that when schools place time limits on offers, they are typically for periods of two weeks or longer, often with some willingness communicated to the candidate to extend the deadline for responding to the offer if the candidate finds it necessary or helpful to the decision-making process. There are occasions when a school will feel compelled to require a response to an offer in a shorter time frame with less flexibility, particularly if the list of available candidates that fill a specific need is very short and the candidates are highly sought after. However, response periods of less than one week should rarely be utilized because they impose a heavy burden on a candidate trying to make an important decision that will have a significant impact on the candidate’s future.

Adopted by the Executive Committee,
May 2007

Amended May 2012