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Law schools generally don’t make distinctions among jobs as a practicing lawyer. While there may still be some preference for elite law firms and public interest impact litigation jobs, this variable is in flux. The one important exception is jobs in which applicants have acquired significant substantive knowledge that will be directly relevant to their teaching and writing (e.g., staff member on the Joint Committee on Taxation if you are intending to teach and write in tax; prosecutor or public defender if you are intending to concentrate in criminal justice; a lawyer for the EPA or a public interest environmental organization like the Natural Resources Defense Council if you are intending to concentrate in environmental law). Such experience is not only strategically valuable in securing a teaching job; it can also be very helpful in developing a teaching and research agenda.

It is difficult to switch into teaching after too many years in practice. If you are coming from a private law firm after five years and have not yet made partner, law schools will worry that you are applying only because the writing was on the wall that you weren’t going to make partner. Even if you have made partner or are clearly successful in some other area of practice, after many years in practice it can be difficult to make the mental shift into teaching, just as it can be difficult to make the mental shift in the opposite direction. In particular, law schools worry that you will have trouble starting to write academic articles after so many years in practice, and also find it hard to start over at the bottom of a new career ladder.