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Who makes a good law professor?

My dear friend Steve Bainbridge has an outstanding post on the criteria used by law schools in hiring faculty.  Drawing upon comments from Brent E. Newton, Deputy Staff Director, U.S. Sentencing Commission, and, like yours truly, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Steve opines that “[m]aybe 20 years ago law schools valued things like high grades, law review membership, and prestigious clerkships.” But, he continues, this is no longer the case:

As far as I can tell, what is valued these days are:

  • Ability to network with people you knew in graduate school that got hired last year
  • Having a PhD
  • Having multiple publications, even if they demonstrate the author’s utter lack of doctrinal knowledge or inability to do basic legal research
  • Knowing what Rawls (or Dworkin) would think of X
  • Being able to run linear regressions
  • Being able to run regressions about what Rawls would think about X

As Steve goes on to note, these criteria really don’t have anything to do with the practice of law. He then reflects on the importance of having clinical professors who are valued equally with the non-clinical faculty– as is the case at UCLA (and, I would argue, at Georgetown as well.) His bottom line: “To my way of thinking, whatever flaws the old criteria may have had, at least they valued basic legal skills, something the new criteria utterly ignore.”

I agree. It worries me that we can have law professors that actually know very little about law and basic legal research!

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Welcome! Who am I?



Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.