The following article about the FAR and the FRC was published in the Journal of Legal Education in 1988, but much of the advice is still pertinent. Some information has been updated with notes in brackets. The article has been separated into eight parts for the website.Uncloaking Law School Hiring: A Recruit’s Guide to the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference
For those yearning to be a law professor, who would gladly trade clients and collectibles for students and scholarship, the main "hiring hall" is the Association of American Law Schools' (AALS) annual fall Faculty Recruitment Conference. The "Meatmarket," as it is ingloriously known, can be an opaque, exhausting, and sometimes disappointing experience, both for candidates and for recruiters.
Several of us who have been recruiters-ranging from a rank neophyte of one conference to a veteran of a dozen-thought we might break through the seeming but unintentional "conspiracy of silence" surrounding this bizarre tribal ritual. Our article, then, is an attempt at "full disclosure" for the newcomer who wants to break into legal education. All standard disclaimers apply. We all have idiosyncratic perspectives. All schools may not look for the same things. In our experience, however, there are common, predictable patterns.
As we exchanged ideas, experiences, and endless redrafts of this article, two themes emerged. This first is how poorly some very well-credentialed candidates handle the hiring process. The second is how little guidance is available on what is expected of candidates. Naturally, we suspect that a postconference gathering of candidates would also agree on how poorly most faculty recruiters interviewed and how little sense many faculty members had of what they should be doing. We cannot write that article. But we can write the first.
Chapter 1. Thinking Seriously About a Teaching Career
Chapter 2. The AALS Hiring Process
Chapter 3. The AALS Résumé
Chapter 4. The Interview Selections
Chapter 5. The Interviews
Chapter 6. Support Services at the Conference
Chapter 7. Preparations for a Visit to Campus
Thinking Seriously About a Teaching Career
Before doing anything else, a candidate should ask seriously "Why Teaching?" Our suspicion is that at least half of the candidates we interview at the conference have not done this. Their interviews reflect their failure to their discredit. A candidate who wants to use the event as a first introduction to legal education does so at peril. We doubt many recruiters are excited about selling a candidate on teaching in half an hour at the conference.
The best sources of information on "Why Teaching?" are probably current law professors and deans, most likely one's former teachers in law school. Borrow an hour of their time or buy them lunch and ask them about what they do, how they like it, and what advice they have for you. If the relationship permits, you may even explore such things as salary, work hours, tenure, and faculty politics. Meetings with two or three faculty members should inspire or discourage you. Moreover, keep in touch with your mentors as you go through the conference process; they can be a great source of information and advice. Your alma mater's contingent at the conference also may provide help. (Some schools come to sell as well as to buy.)
The professors will tell you that their work revolves around teaching and scholarship. Both are hard work. Teaching is not just getting up before a group and talking. Most new teachers, including practitioners very familiar with the field they teach, underestimate significantly the preparation time needed to make fifty minutes with a class a valuable learning experience. Scholarship is vastly more than just polishing ideas that may have sufficed for a local newspaper's page, a Bar committee report, or your last Second Circuit brief. Take a realistic look at your strengths, weaknesses, needs, and desires. How well do you like public speaking? How well do you enjoy counseling persons less legally knowledgeable and experienced than yourself? Are you comfortable in a less adversarial role when speaking or writing? Are you comfortable in a less structured work environment in which you may get limited guidance from "above" and be able to give very few orders "below?" Are you (and your "significant other") really prepared to relocate? If you have not thought through these questions, you are not ready for the conference or for an academic career.
Even if you are comfortable about other aspects of teaching, you should weigh salary now. Is a comfortable but hardly upscale wage acceptable for the rest of your career? Practitioners with three years of experience may face a halving of their paychecks on entering teaching. Are you prepared for graduates' starting salaries to exceed your own? Will you need to do consulting work in order to close the gap (a practice some schools forbid and most schools restrict)?
The AALS Hiring Process
If your soul-searching persuades you teaching is worth exploring, what are the entrées to a faculty position? The AALS hiring process is not the only method. If you are interested in a single law school in the town in which you have your professional and personal roots, the AALS Registry is unnecessary. You probably know the dean or several faculty members. Approach them and see if they are interested. Even if you do not wish to restrict your search to a single school, you can use former professors or other law faculty contacts to get your résumé to other schools that may be looking for new faculty. If your credentials (primarily law school performance) are outstanding and recommendations compelling, you may receive an offer to interview without intermediate steps. If your credentials are very good but not outstanding, the reference will at least get you in the consideration stack of unsolicited applications for teaching positions every law school recruitment committee receives. Finally, you can simply make a "cold" contact by letter and résumé to a school at which you are not known and see if anything results. Bonne chance. Yours will be one among scores or hundreds of applications.
The AALS Résumé
The most structured way of making known your interest in teaching is through the AALS Faculty Appointments Register. For a fee, you can have the AALS supply your one-page résumé-along with some 700+ others-to all accredited law schools in the country and to some unaccredited schools.
The one-page limitation is provided by the AALS in the interests of uniformity and brevity. Give some real thought to résumé preparation: it makes or breaks the vast majority of candidates. Make a few dry runs before preparing the final version. Although it is hard to gain points for a stylish résumé, it is possible to lose points for a handwritten résumé or one that jumbles items together in an attempt to appear so qualified as to overwhelm the form.
The ideal AALS résumé is readable, factually accurate (later checking will catch errors and exaggerations, usually with devastating consequences), specific (class rank, writings, law review position), and avoids trivia (sadly, at the first screening, no one cares about your treasurership of the Student Bar or your Young-Lawyer-of-the-Year award).
AALS résumés arrive at law schools in stacks of several hundred at a time. Most recruitment committees approach the résumés with certain expectations and certain curricular needs, and they will cull the résumés very quickly with those needs in mind. (One of us has scanned two hundred résumés in an hour during a particularly pressured time.)
What do we look for? What lines are crucial? Although they disclaim uniformity, recruiters tend to follow patterns. A sweep of law school, class rank, honors, and law review seems to be a dominant pattern. Publications may be an equally important "make or break" for a number of recruiters. The reading often ends there if the baseline expectations are not met. The next categories of significance are law employment, judicial clerkship, teaching interests, and prior law school teaching-depending on the school's or recruiter's biases. One or more of these factors may also end the scanning process with a decision against the applicant. Minority or gender status may also be significant. Candidates who survive the first scanning will typically receive fuller consideration of their résumé, in which undergraduate honors, chairing of the Bar Ethics Committee, pre-law stint as a foreign-service officer, and a reference from Sandra Day O'Connor may be noted.
The one-page AALS form and the nature of the screening process limit your ability for "creative résumé writing." Nonetheless, several suggestions are in order. First, be specific on the items that are likely to be significant to résumé scanners. "Third in class" may be better than "top five percent." The "name" of your references may be crucial. Law review "articles editor" may be more or less prestigious than "senior editor" to screeners.
Second, give some thought to your teaching interests. When seeking entry-level faculty, hiring committees are usually looking for good generalists who have the potential to teach in several of the "bread and butter" first-year and large advanced courses. They may also have specific curricular gaps they would like to fill. Position yourself to respond both ways. Unless you rule it out, you are presumed to be able to handle a variety of courses. An expression of subject-area interest is requested on the AALS form; fill it in carefully. Unless you are quite rigid on only teaching certain subjects, give yourself flexibility and rule out very little. If you insist you can only teach Advanced Health Law or Chinese Environmental Law, your chances of employment are slight to nonexistent. If you have a clearly focused area, make sure you highlight the area or areas for schools that are subject-matter shopping. Describe your area clearly enough to catch the attention of all schools interested in it. Consult with faculty friends about the proper terminology. "Labor Law" may not include "Employment Discrimination." "Environmental Law" may not encompass "Natural Resources Law" or "Energy Law." "All Criminal Law" may not suggest "Juvenile Law." If time permits, have a faculty friend review your resume before you send it to the AALS.
Third, take seriously the geographic location questions. On the one hand, leave the "preferred"/"not preferred" lines blank if you truly would consider an invitation from a school in the Deep South, in Giant Metropolis, or Smallburg, U.S.A., or 2,000 miles from your family or from your spouse's current job. On the other hand, if there are indeed locales you would not seriously consider, be forthright and save everyone the embarrassment and time and money drain of finding out the hard way. Both of you should assess locational preferences and mismatches. You should recognize that dual careers have become something of a norm in faculty interviewing. Unless you are serious about a bicoastal relationship, a geographic veto from either party should control your geographic preference line.
Fourth, give careful attention to selecting your references. Contact them before including their names. The best reference is a person who (1) will impress law faculty members, (2) has recent, close experience with your ability to think, write, and speak, and (3) can give a firm "yes" to the crucial question: "Should we hire this candidate?" Law school professors and judges with whom you have worked are the best references. Members of your firm or office may be useful if they can provide significant information on your thinking, writing, and speaking skills. If they can only speak to your billable-hours reputation or your ability to service clients, they should not be listed. A few references can be positively harmful. This is particularly true of the "prestige" reference who knows you only slightly. The U.S. Senator in whose local office you worked as an undergraduate intern or the chaired professor who knew you only as a student in a hundred-person class has little useful to say about why you would be a good law professor. The hiring-committee member making the contact is likely to come away with a negative impression of you.
The subject is delicate, but it is appropriate to ask your references whether they feel comfortable providing a recommendation for you. The obvious (possibly unspoken) question is: "Can you provide an excellent recommendation?" If the answer is less than an enthusiastic "yes," consider another reference. A negative or lukewarm report from a listed reference can be devastating to a candidacy. Do not assume the faculty member who has written glowing letters for you to the bar examiners or law firms will dust off the same letter. Most faculty take their teaching recommendations even more seriously. Often they will be providing them to valued colleagues at other schools. Also, the jobs are different.
Fifth, the brevity of the AALS résumé should encourage you to prepare a separate full résumé. This may be more than a single page but should not be more than three or four pages. Highlight your strong points, whether academic excellence, publications, or practice. Things you may want to include but that are not essential, such as marital status, birthday, hobbies, or foreign languages, can go at the end. When you describe your practice experience, use words that will ring bells for law school recruiters, words such as "contracts," not just GATT, or "domestic relations," not just "spouse abuse." Send the full résumé to schools in which you have a special interest. The detailed résumé and compelling cover letter will allow you to expand on your experiences and highlight matters that may be of particular interest to a school. Certainly, you should send the full résumé to any school that invites you to interview at the conference. Bring extra copies to hand out in interviews. Finally, get started early. The AALS résumés are distributed to the law schools in September and October. Get yours in the first distribution. The AALS deadline is usually August. Contact AALS during the summer to obtain the form and the exact deadlines. (Current address: AALS, Suite 800, 1201 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20036.) Plan to return it by mid-August.
The Interview Selections
You have submitted your AALS résumé. You wait anxiously. The phone rings. Acme Law School's recruitment committee has seen your résumé and would like to interview you at the Conference. With luck several dozen other Acmes will also phone or write. Your sense of worth fluctuates accordingly. But you suddenly have a problem. Do you take everyone or are you selective?
A word about the interviewing format should help your decision. The conference is spread over three days (Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon) with interviews from early morning until late afternoon. Evenings may also be used. Most schools will book interviews every half hour throughout the day. In theory, you could accept forty offers to interview. In theory, you can also run ultramarathons, prepare appellate briefs on no sleep for a week, and bend steel in your bare hands. Take a good look at your capabilities and interests. An interview for which you are too late, fatigued, or stressed may be worse than no interview. Chances are nothing will come of it, and you may harm your performance at other interviews.
Here it is worth emphasizing a crucial point. Law faculty interviews should not be viewed as another version of the law firm interviewing process you remember from law school. In the latter, your excellent credentials charmed interviewers who had similar excellent credentials as they emerged as young generalists from law school. The half-hour first interviews in the law school placement office were often little more than a validation of your high academic performance and a demonstration that you probably would not insult the important client at the firm's cocktail party. Those were "easy" interviews.
For interviewing at the conference, forget those largely pleasant memories. For the most part, you are competing with equals or near equals, and your paper résumé will not insure success. Your performance in the thirty minutes with the recruiting team decides whether anything else takes place. Ivy League law-review editors crash in bad interviews. Their State U competitors shine and receive the "call back" invitations. Most interviewing schools probably can pursue further negotiations with no more than one in four candidates they meet. Many pursue a far smaller percentage. This suggests that you are far better off to do ten or fifteen interviews well than twenty-five in adequate but unspectacular fashion.
Consider the offer of an interview time "negotiable." It is good to have a thirty-minute gap between interviews, to "come down," take notes, and cope with overloaded elevators. Recruiters would prefer an up-front "I have a problem with 11:30 a.m., Friday," than a request to reschedule later, when their schedules are full.
If some selection seems necessary, do your homework . We are constantly amazed at candidates' lack of knowledge about the schools they are interviewing. Ask each school for some literature about itself and the community. Often a school will send this in any case. The catalog and dean's annual report are two common documents. Less obvious material could include enrollment demographics and the most recent list of faculty publications and activities. Some schools may be sensitive about sending these. Inquire politely but make clear your interest in learning more about the school. A second source of information will be faculty friends. Often their information may be more current than general ratings of law schools or the obviously self-serving statements in college catalogs or dean's reports.
Your inquiries should give you a basis for narrowing your selections. Comments from faculty friends are most useful for getting a sense of the overall quality of a school. A school's literature gives a sense of the place. What things does the school emphasize? Heavy clinical experience? Specialized seminars? Small first-year classes? Particular subject matter or programs? What is the general makeup of the faculty you seek to join? Are there many new faculty? Colleagues in your field of interest? The facts you gather can be positive or negative depending on your needs and can help you make an initial ranking of schools.
When you have set your priorities and decided how many interviews you feel you can handle at top efficiency, pare down your list. If you have already accepted an invitation by phone or letter and wish to cancel, inform the school at least two weeks before the conference. Although it may seem bad form because the unspoken message to the school may be "I've got too many better offers," the alternative is worse-forcing parties to sit through half an hour at the conference that neither wants to waste. Adequate notice of cancellation is essential. The school may wish to place another candidate in the precious (and now vacated) timeslot. The day-before cancellation does not afford that opportunity.
Suppose your luck on invitations has not been good. You have a low quantity or quality of interviews. (Many candidates whose résumés are distributed obtain no interviews at all.) The AALS advises that you consider not coming to the conference if you have "few or no pre-arranged interviews." Its advice has merit. Most schools have filled their interview calendars (often beyond their capacity to interview well) before they reach the conference. Most plan to see only previously invited candidates. Opportunities for contact at cocktail parties, lunch, and in the halls and elevators are limited, overrated, and only rarely conducive to more than brief pleasantries. With few exceptions, faculty recruiters do not want to see candidates other than those they have selected before coming to the conference.
However, if you do go to the conference with fewer interviewers than you want, or if you have not heard from a school in which you are particularly interested, leave a copy of your résumé and a compelling cover note (with room and phone numbers) for the school at the conference message center. Be sure to check your own room-phone and message-center messages frequently. Do not hesitate to prevail on faculty friends at the conference to call colleagues at the school of your choice to tell them what they are missing. Do use the cocktail parties and halls to introduce yourself to schools in which you are particularly interested and to say hello again to favorites you have already interviewed.
If you have received few invitations, consider them carefully. If some are from schools in which you would have a definite interest, the conference may be worth the time and expense. It is a near certainty that it will be your best chance to meet in person with faculty members from New York, California, and Kansas. Schools are almost certainly going to be unwilling to pay for your trip to campus without a prior meeting. Should your "serious interest" list reduce to one or two schools in the same area, consider whether you are better off buying a plane ticket to visit them rather than buying one for the conference. Before choosing between the conference and a direct visit, a call to the recruiting committee may let you discover how serious their interest is in you.
Many of the rules of standard interviewing practice apply to the conference interviews. Dress conservatively. Arrive well ahead of time, both for the conference (winter air travel is notoriously tricky) and for each interview. Scout out the time needed to move from one room to another (if elevators are unlucky for you, consider the stairs). Try to learn something about the interviewers.
Keep track of time. If an interview is going well, but you are running into a conflict with another interview, mention the time crunch. You might call the school next on your schedule to let them know you will be a few minutes late. This is a proper courtesy to Interviewer No. 2 and a nice way of suggesting your interest in staying with Interviewer No. 1 as long as possible.
What are the faculty recruiters looking for? In one way or another all want answers to three critical questions. How well will this person teach a class and do work that goes with it.? What are the candidate's interests in published scholarship and how good will it be? What sort of faculty colleague will the candidate be and what sort of impression will he or she make on the variety of groups that interact with the law school (alumni, members of the bar, other University faculty and administrators)? You want to impress the recruiters that you will do well on all counts.
The interview format varies considerably and the best advice is to be prepared for different approaches, even within one interview. Expect three types of questions or comments. First, some portion of the interview may be the small talk of members of a shared profession or an attempt to find areas of common ground. Did you enjoy the Moot Court competition at your law school? Is Joe Bftsplk still managing partner at the firm? Are they still doing the court clerks' lunches out in the park? These questions typically give you a chance to establish rapport and reinforce your credentials.
Second, another segment (almost all of the interview for some schools) may consist of a rigorous examination of your intellectual abilities. The interviewer wants to know if you are as good as or better than your paper record. The conversation also gives the recruiter a little sense of your skill in a classroom, your potential for scholarship, your collegiality, and your intellectual spark. Clearly, this is a crucial part of the interview. Styles vary, but a common approach is to take a topic the candidate knows and explore it. It may be your law-review note, the topic of your latest brief, the subject on which you want to pursue research, or just the hot topic in a recent issue of the National Law Journal. An interviewer may start with: "Tell us your theory…" "What do you think about…?" "Do you agree with…?" and the discussion is under way.
As in law school exams, typically it is not the conclusion you reach as much as the knowledge and analytic ability you display that counts. A few questioners may be probing your values and beliefs. "What do you think of the Critical Legal Studies movement? Law and Economics? The Takings Clause? Roe v. Wade ?" On these questions you take the chance that honesty may kill your candidacy. If it does, you almost certainly are well rid of that school. In the large majority of cases, candor will help more than hurt. Good intellectual disagreement is one of the joys of law teaching. Stridency may not be popular, but well-reasoned dissent should be.
Occasionally, you may find some out-and-out game playing. Members of the recruiting team will take different sides of the argument to draw you out. Use of big words or obscure references may be thought useful to catch the dishonest or merely glib candidate, "What do you think of Goombah's theory of stasis?" Respond to these as you would to a legitimate question that hits an area of ignorance. "I'm not familiar with that. Fill me in on the basics of the theory." That lets you pursue the line of conversation if the questioner wishes.
Even if you are familiar with the subject, be cautious about the generality you cannot back up. If you opine that "I find Bushwah's conclusions flawed in several major aspects," be ready for the logical response: "Name two." In this intellectual exercise, you are probably at the mercy of the questioners. If it is what is most useful to the interviewer, be prepared to spend the entire interview discussing your views of the consequences of corporate antitakeover laws. Normally, however, this will not happen.
The "intellectual power" portion of the interview has real risks. Your ignorance of matters that you should know can be fatal. Your analytic capacity may be shown to be inadequate. The narrowness of your intellectual interests may be held against you. Your answers may be thought "unthoughtful" or, worse, factually wrong. The recruiters' reaction to your comments may be the single most important part of the interview. Regardless of your paper credentials, a bad or mediocre performance probably ends your chance of future consideration. As a norm, you will be competing with persons whose credentials match yours, and a good interview can jump you to the top of the list.
In a sense, your whole life has been the preparation for the discussion described. Nonetheless, more preparation helps. Reread all of your listed written works shortly before the interview. Many interviewers will use the topic of one of your writings or areas of practice as the springboard for this portion of the interview. It is embarrassing to stumble in recollecting your own past work. Also, brush up on recent developments in areas in which you have written; your interviewers may have. Spend some time thinking about further research you might want to do. (And be sure to know something about it, if you bring it up.) Beyond that, be ready to engage in intellectual exchanges. Do not be afraid to disagree or to probe the questioners' theories.
The third part of the interview (and again, one that may be the major portion for some schools) considers your interest in teaching and the general work of a faculty member. The questions are predictable. "Why do you want to leave practice for teaching?" "What makes you think you would be a good teacher?" "How would you teach (your favorite subject)?" "What research do you have in progress?" "Where do you see your career in ten years?"
These may tempt the answers "I'm looking for something easier"; "Damned, if I know"; "None"; and "I'm not sure where my career will be in two weeks." Such answers are unlikely to excite recruiters about your candidacy. As mentioned earlier, you should have thought through the issues before coming to the conference. Is there a pat answer to any of these questions? Not really. The answers should be honest and reflect thoughtfulness. It is quite legitimate to say that you are still weighing the benefits of practice and teaching or that you have just begun to consider the direction of your scholarly endeavors. It is crucial to stress that you recognize the significance of teaching and research and you have given some thought to how you would advance your career in each field.
Scholarship is a crucial issue. Regular published scholarship (law-review articles, treatises, book chapters, etc.) is a general requirement for tenure and an expectation of a professional career. If you feel strongly that all you want to do is teach and engage in Bar or pro bono activities, indicate that when the schools first contact you. Almost all will make clear that published scholarship is a requirement, and they would waste their time and yours by talking further.
Candidates should recognize that some law schools may insist on prior publications. The excuse "I was so busy in school/practice I didn't have time to write" may look rather lame as you compete against others who did. In addition, "scholarship" has a rather peculiar meaning to most law professors. It assuredly does not equate with "any legal writing done since law school." The recruiter typically is most impressed with writing that is exhaustive in research, analytic rather than merely descriptive in its approach, and balanced rather than adversarial in its treatment of issues. Typically, this will mean law-review articles or analytic books or chapters of books. Ordinarily, it will not mean appellate briefs, government committee reports, or bar journal notes. Further there are definite pecking orders among law reviews or book publishers. An article in a major law review will be more valuable than ten articles in a bar association or practitioners' journal.
You may be asked if you are interested in "clinical" teaching or a "legal research and writing" position. Beware. If clinical or skills education is the great love of your life, say so. But find out if the position is a tenure-track one, and, if so, whether the school has tenured any clinicians. Probe to see if this is a school that has "two tracks," one for clinicians and one for regular professors, and proceed with eyes open.
During most of the interview you will be answering questions that the recruiters want answered. Typically, however, you will be given (or can make) an opportunity to ask your own questions. Your chance often comes late in the interview: "Is there anything else we can tell you about the school?" You should be prepared for this question and have something you wish to explore. We always are surprised by the number of blank responses the question draws. They show either lack of interest or preparation and can be the kiss of death. Some questions ("How large is your faculty?") suggest lack of preparation. Still others may appear so inane as to reflect on the candidate's general intellectual powers ("How often do you have faculty meetings?") or interest in teaching ("How much private practice can I do?"). Ideally, your best questions arise out of a relatively careful reading of literature about the school and expand on matters not stated in the literature. They also focus on your needs and desires. "What goals do you have for the school?" "Is there a faculty consensus about the importance of research?" "I see that you have several instructors in the labor-law field; what does that mean for my chances of teaching an advanced labor-law course?" "Tell me more about your summer research grants for young faculty. I would like to do research on inner-city police-department practices." "When are faculty eligible to teach in your overseas summer program?" Don't expect firm promises out of these inquiries. But you want to alert schools to your legitimate needs and interests. Also, you may find out matters that excite you about the school or remove it from your further consideration.
Appreciate that certain matters may be too sensitive or premature to discuss in this short, initial interview. "Do I understand that your most recent appointment is in serious danger of being denied tenure?" is unlikely to bring a candid or a friendly answer. Firm promises of salary, rank, tenure procedures, and your exact "package" of courses are generally premature before the on-campus visit, unless the interviews raise them. You should find out at the interview, however, if the position is a regular professorship (a renewable contract of several years leading up to a tenure decision) or a "visiting" position. If the latter, find out if it is for a one-year nonrenewable term (typically to replace a tenured faculty member who is on leave for a year and scheduled to return) or a "look-see" visitorship (for an opening that could turn into a tenure-track position after a year).
Your half hour nears its end. How do you close the interview? Obviously, with thanks and enthusiasm. If you have a particular interest in the school that has not surfaced, you may want to express it. "I think the ability to work on my research around a major medical center is a strong attraction to me."
You hope that the recruiters say something about their further plans for your candidacy. If not, you may ask. Do not be surprised if, when the interview ends, you do not get any real sense of how it went. Typically, the interviewers will want to compare notes with each other, then with the rest of the school's recruitment committee at the conference. The "call back" interview at the conference is used by many but not all schools for the most promising candidates. If the school uses the "call back" (or cocktail party, meal, or other "reencounter" technique) and you have impressed them, usually some indication will occur at the end of the first interview. ("How can we get hold of you again, while we're all here at the conference?")
If you do not hear from a school again at the conference, either they do not use call backs or, if they do, you are not high on their list. Do not call them; wait for them to call you. (Check your phone messages and the AALS message center repeatedly.) If you receive a call back and have no real interest in that school, politely decline. If you fail to respond to a call-back message, the school may persist in trying to reach you.
A further hiatus typically occurs after the conference. (Some schools go into winter recess shortly after the conference ends.) You can assume the recruitment committee is now meeting with the faculty and administration to iron out on-campus interview invitations. If you have heard nothing from a school after two months, it is a reasonably safe assumption that the school is not interested and lacks the courtesy to let you know. Put them down as louts not worthy of your interest and resolve that as a recruitment committee chair in a future year you will do better.
Support Services at the Conference
There are sources of assistance available during the conference. Besides the message center, the AALS maintains a candidates' room in which you may relax, share information, and take advantage of the ever-helpful and -knowledgeable AALS staff. The AALS also plans a briefing conference for candidates on Thursday afternoon. In recent years, special hospitality rooms have been provided for women candidates, generally with experienced law professors available who will be glad to talk to you. Your law school may be among the limited number ("seller schools") that maintains a hospitality suite for its own alumni/ae and/or sponsors a cocktail party for "buyer school" interviewers to meet its protégés on a more convivial basis. Find out and take advantage of the service your school provides. Also, on Friday night the AALS sponsors a massive cocktail party for recruiters and candidates. View it as a "must-go" to affirm your interest in schools you have already seen or would like to see.
Preparations for a Visit to Campus
You have survived the conference. You return home. The phone rings. Acme Law School was impressed with you and wants to fly you out to visit the campus. In the next few days, several more schools join Acme. You are elated but again face some hard decisions. Now the odds have moved considerably in your favor. Unlike the conference, for which the marginal costs of another interview are relatively trivial from the point of view of the school or the candidate, you need to decide whether to invest several days away from work and considerable emotional capital. The school operating on a limited recruiting budget is also making a considerable investment in the invitation.
It is not bad form to accept the invitation on the spot, but you are entitled to a few days to think about it. You are entitled to ask some pointed questions about the nature of the faculty positions for which you are being considered. You should ask what expectations, if any, the school has for you. Your mention of "international law" on your résumé may have been inflated into the assumption that you would teach two courses in the area, supervise the student International Law Society, and administer the overseas summer program. Get such assumptions on the table early.
It is also appropriate to ask whether other candidates are being considered for "your" position. Some schools limit themselves to their first choice and hope they make a match. Others ask several candidates and try to sell the one who shows best in the on-campus interview. If the school will tell you, that is useful to know. Inquire as well whether the invitation includes your spouse. Generally it does not, but practices vary and you do not want to be left uncertain as to whether the school will arrange a program for her or him and pay for the visit.
Further pursue the issue of dual careers. Obviously, the school is not expected to find a job for your spouse, although most schools try to be helpful. At a minimum, the school should be able to answer questions that may be crucial to your mutual decision ("Yes, we have an M.A. program in Counseling") and to help with information that at least gives a sense of the job market in the area.
You should inquire about the format of the on-campus interview process. A particular concern is whether you will be asked to make a "presentation" to the faculty. If so, find out what topics might be of interest, how long you have, and what the "Q&A" practice is (nil or a "roast"?). The safest presentations stem from your most recent publication, if still current, or the one on which you are working, if sufficiently advanced to keep you ahead of your audience. Ideally, the topic should match the teaching area(s) the school is interested in your filling. Ask.
With these facts in hand you should gather any further information you need and then accept or decline the invitation as promptly as you can. Obviously, the more invitations you have, the more selective you can be. Regardless of the number of invitations, however, do not agree to visit a school from whom you are quite sure you would not accept an offer. It is unfair to the school, which will pour significant resources and energies into an effort that hindsight will confirm was futile from the start. It will foreclose a visit from a candidate who very much wants a job at the school. It will make for two of the longest days of your life. And it will definitely not "make friends." On the other hand, if you are genuinely undecided about locale or school, go explore. Many of us are teaching happily at schools we barely knew when we first started interviewing.
You have used the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference to good advantage. You now have the chance to sell yourself to a school whose faculty you will illuminate. The on-campus visit is the next rite of passage-but that is another article in itself. Enjoy the visit. Good luck.