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After SLS

Research & Write

Increasingly, prospective applicants are seeking one- to two-year teaching or research positions at law schools, either straight out of law school or after a few years in practice. One traditional route is to get a job as a Legal Research and Writing (LRW) Instructor. Some LRW programs, including Stanford’s and the Bigelow Program at Chicago, are specifically designed to assist aspiring law professors. More recently, a number of law schools have begun to offer one- or two-year fellowships for a small number of recent J.D.s who are planning to go on the academic market, but need time to get more writing done before they do. These positions go by a variety of names; “Visiting Assistant Professor” (VAP) and Fellow are the most common.

LRWs, VAPs and Fellowships typically pay a salary one can live on (modestly) and require some teaching. But the teaching load is relatively light, at least in VAPs and Fellowships, and the expectation is that you will spend much of your time on scholarship.

In addition to giving you time to write, these positions provide an academic environment to do it in, with access to faculty, libraries, etc. If you are wavering about an academic career, they also give you an opportunity to find out whether you like teaching and research, without precluding you from obtaining a good position as a practicing lawyer if you decide the academic life is not for you.

The list of schools providing post-JD opportunities of this sort is growing yearly. Stanford itself offers many such opportunities, including fellowships in Centers that are associated with particular substantive areas and the Gaither Fellowship for Aspiring Law Teachers, for which preference is given to Stanford graduates.

A fairly comprehensive list of schools with formal programs as of 2012 can be found here: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2012/02/fellowships-for.html.  But new programs are added every year, so you should not assume this list is exhaustive. In addition, you may be able to work out an ad hoc arrangement with a school that has no formal program yet, particularly if you can cover some of its teaching needs.

Finally, some people try teaching on a part-time basis as an adjunct. While this is unlikely to give you much time to write, it will give you teaching experience, and bring you into some contact with faculty members who may be useful to you as you prepare to go on the full-time teaching market. At many schools, however, that contact will be very limited, and it is relatively rare for adjunct teaching to lead to a tenure-track position at the same school.