Educating The Next Generation of Law Faculty: Part 2

Many routes to the same goal

Columbia's new alumni professors illustrate that there are different routes to securing a teaching position.

Victor Fleischer '96 got a job at UCLA after a two-year appointment at the Law School as a research fellow in the Transactional Studies Program under the supervision of Professor David Schizer. Prof. Fleischer helped update and teach a course called the "Deals Workshop," which built on the Law School's "Deals" course by exposing students to negotiation and drafting simulations.

Teaching experience also helped Ric Simmons '94, a new professor at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law. Between 2000-03, he was an acting assistant professor of law at New York University teaching a first-year seminar in lawyering. The course covered legal method, negotiation, clinical work, and oral advocacy. Prof. Simmons also spent four years as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, an experience that will no doubt enhance his teaching of criminal law.

"The key experience for me at Columbia was teaching the Introduction to American Law course and the American Contract Law course, both of which are aimed at civil law LL.M. students," says Chris Gosnell '02 LL.M.."This is exactly what I'll be teaching at the University of Montreal, and I'm sure it's one of the reasons I was hired."

Carol M. Suzuki '91 was a visiting professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, as well as a Robert M. Cover Clinical Teaching Fellow at Yale from 2001-03. She also entered the job market having had solid practical experience. Prof. Suzuki, who is now teaching the Community Lawyering Clinic at the University of New Mexico, was previously a staff attorney for The Legal Aid Society in New York and director of the HIV Law Project.

"Students should also know something about the models at different schools for clinical teaching, such as status [including tenure, voting rights, and availability of summer research stipends], and opportunities for leave and research," said Professor Philip Genty, a member of the task force that created the Program on Careers in Law Teaching. "They should be well-informed about the positions for which they're applying."

Professor Philip Genty

At times, a mix of traditional and non-traditional experience can set a candidate apart from the competition. Like many students, Thomas Healy '99 clerked for a judge — Michael Hawkins on the Ninth Circuit. In addition, Prof. Healy, who is teaching constitutional and First Amendment Law at Seton Hall Law School, was a reporter for the Baltimore Sun whose beat was the U.S. Supreme Court.

Finally, there is the importance of having published work or a paper close to acceptance in an academic journal. Trevor Morrison '98, now teaching at Cornell Law School, co-authored a Yale Law Journal article on federal officers' immunity from state criminal prosecution, while Chris Gulinello '03 LL.M., a professor at the Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, found that an article on corporate law in Taiwan published in the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law made him stand out among candidates.

"While some students come to Columbia knowing they want to teach, others have never considered an academic career until attending one of our meetings," says Prof. Sanger. "Being a professor who loves teaching, I find it very satisfying to help people decide whether they have a gift and desire for teaching and to help them realize that goal."

The Associates-in-Law Program
The Law School offers teaching opportunities through its Associates-in-Law program, which provides fellowships to law school graduates who teach legal writing and research while pursuing an advanced degree. Roughly half of Columbia associates go on to teaching careers.

According to Professor Peter Strauss, who has overseen the program for the past 20 years, the Law School has a preference for hiring recent graduates who have practiced law for a couple of years. Associateships are generally only open to graduates of law schools in the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, or the United Kingdom. Initially attracting primarily graduates of American law schools, the program has evolved to the point where two-thirds of associates are now from outside the United States.

Prof. Strauss explained the shift toward foreign law graduates: "Given the way American law schools hire, it's becoming harder to find young Americans who want to enter the program. Often the quality of their law school work is such that they can go directly into teaching. As world legal markets [have emerged], a number of Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders, in particular - who are interested in teaching in their home countries, where a graduate degree is a prerequisite to teaching law - have come to Columbia for the associates program."

Six of Columbia's nine associates are assigned to teach legal writing and research to about 60 first-year law students each. The other three associates bring with them some civil law background and co-teach a course with Professor George Fletcher on U.S. Legal Methods and Problems, which introduces U.S. law and common law legal reasoning to LL.M. students whose initial law degrees are from civil law jurisdictions.

"We're really looking for an interesting mix of associates," added Prof. Genty, who runs the associates program with Prof. Strauss. "They must show superior scholarly ambition, skill, and focus, as well as very strong interpersonal skills and a commitment to intense teaching."

Mark Drumbl '98 LL.M. describes his own experience at Columbia as "tremendously positive."Now teaching at Washington & Lee University School of Law, Prof. Drumbl was an associate from 1997-99 assigned to teach civil law LL.M. students.

"The experience…was of tremendous assistance down the road in designing international courses to make non-U.S. legal systems understandable to a U.S. student body," recalled Prof. Drumbl, who earned his J.D. at the University of Toronto and is now a J.S.D. candidate at Columbia.

Some 175 graduate students are enrolled each year at Columbia Law School - the vast majority of them in the LL.M. program. The LL.M. students generally come to Columbia to advance professional careers other than teaching, according to Prof. Strauss, while a handful enter the J.S.D. program, invariably with the goal of teaching. Students also are permitted to work on both degrees at the same time.

Graeme W. Austin '01 J.S.D. already was a tenured faculty member at the University of Auckland School of Law in New Zealand when he applied to Columbia. He was drawn to the program because of his interest in private international law and copyright.

"Professor Jane Ginsburg is a renowned world leader in this area of legal scholarship, and I was really honored that she agreed to supervise my thesis," said Prof. Austin, who received the 1997-98 Burton Fellowship in Intellectual Property Law at Columbia and is now on faculty at the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law.

Columbia's J.S.D. program is particularly rigorous, with students supervised by a committee of three faculty members and required to produce three substantive law review articles within a few years after their time in residence. "Many law schools require neither that intensity of writing nor that intensity of supervision," added Prof. Strauss.

"One of my favorite memories was sitting on a bench in Riverside Park in the spring of 1999 with Professor Ginsburg discussing my writing," said Prof. Austin. "The opportunity to have Columbia faculty rigorously critique my scholarship was one of the most exciting things about the J.S.D. program."

"Doing a J.S.D. and having a post-J.D. fellowship at Columbia were essential in enabling me to make a successful transition from legal practice to academia," added Eric W. Orts '94 J.S.D., a former litigation associate at Paul, Weiss and now director of the Environmental Management Program and professor of Legal Studies and Management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. "I was looking for an opportunity to concentrate on the field of corporate law from an academic perspective after working on the high-profile United Airlines merger case."  

Most J.S.D. students - along with the associates-in-law, and some LL.M. and J.D. students - participate in the Seminar in Legal Education.  According to Prof. Strauss, who created and co-teaches the seminar: "I get to be in a room with a group of people who I know want just the career that I have. There's a commonality of purpose that's much less likely to be present in a regular law school classroom, where maybe 5 percent will ever go on to teaching."

The seminar begins with an overview of the issues and tensions of legal education, continues with educational theory and the pedagogic characteristics of the Socratic method, discusses pedagogic objectives and techniques through observing Columbia teachers in their classrooms, and requires students to produce two short papers. The class also includes practical exercises, with each seminar member videotaped teaching a class, followed by detailed critique from classmates and Prof. Strauss.

"In a seminar of 14 people, two or three papers [often] end up being published in the legal education literature," added Prof. Strauss. "That's a rate of contribution one wouldn't normally expect to find."

"The Seminar in Legal Education is one of the unique aspects of the Columbia program," said Shauna van Praagh '92 LL.M., '00 J.S.D., associate professor at McGill University. "Most students don't ever have the opportunity to study pedagogy and to practice teaching with other students. I still think about that seminar when I teach now."

A number of reading materials for the course are from works by previous students of the seminar, including University of Arkansas Professor Stephen M. Sheppard's LL.M. '01 "An Introductory History of Law in the Lecture Hall" and "‘Transsystemic' Teaching of Law at McGill: Radical Changes, Old and New Hats" by Julie Bédard, J.S.D. candidate and an associate-in-law from 1999-2001.

A forum for J.D. students covered the pros
and cons of a teaching career, the mechnics of entering the job
market, and what steps students can take now to become
more attractive as candidates.