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Law School Hiring Committee Member: Practical Experience? 'Scratch That.'

It is probably, at best, a footnote in the ongoing debate about law professor skills and qualifications (see here for some of our prior coverage), but I couldn't help but notice it.

In a post yesterday on the Faculty Lounge blog, Professor Michael Lewyn of Florida Coastal School of Law ran through a "mock email exchange" with a would-be law professor concerned that he hadn't gotten enough interviews. Now, I don't claim to know the first thing about the academic hiring process. I don't know an AALS Form from a TPS Report.

But I recognize how quickly Lewyn dismissed the significance of experience with the actual practice of law as a factor in assessing candidates. Read:

I can’t speak for other law schools. But I can speak for myself. There are four major factors I look at (leaving aside affirmative action considerations): teaching experience, subject matter fit, publications, and practice experience. Most applicants have practice experience, so let’s scratch that factor.

No, Professor. Let's not scratch that factor. Even assuming it's true that "most applicants" for law teaching jobs have practice experience, not all practice experience is equal. The applicant who spent 10 years as an ADA should not start on the same footing as the applicant who "practiced" by way of a one-year circuit court clerkship. It matters.

I don't take issue with Professor Lewyn's other criteria, and I have no idea what, if any, practice experience he had prior to seeking asylum in academia. And maybe it's worth considering the point made by commenter "ja" on Lewyn's post:

Don't think anyone should be taking advice from someone who teaches at Florida Coastal.

But it irked me to see that casual a dismissal of the factor that should arguably be paramount in comparing law school faculty candidates. Readers: if you have further thoughts (other than the suggestion that Prof. Lewyn buy a new suit), chime in in the comments.

Posted by Eric Lipman on October 15, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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