AALS Handbook: Statement of Good Practices

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, some recruitment and hiring practices 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 offers a teaching position to an individual listed in the Faculty Appointments Register, it is unfair to the prospective appointee and to other member schools to make an offer 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 Register and 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 Register that expires sooner than four weeks from the conclusion of the Conference, the school may deprive that candidate of the chance to participate fully in the recruiting market impliedly promised to those who entered the Register. At the very least, it puts a heavy burden on the candidate to turn down the offer in hand to participate more fully in the market. Using short-fused offers that expire before, during, or soon after the Faculty Recruitment Conference is also unfair to member schools. Their dues help to support the AALS Faculty Recruitment Services, and they reasonably expect that their support will give them an opportunity to seek interviews with those in the Register at the Conference. Over time, using 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 a candidate’s ability to accept the offer to ensure that if the preferred candidate declines the offer, other acceptable candidates will still be available. AALS survey data indicate 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 that the deadline might be extended at the candidate’s request. But situations exist 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 can fill a specific need is very short and the candidates are highly sought after. Response periods of less than one week should rarely be used, however, 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 July 12, 2017