Man, I get asked this question a lot. It’s one that has a definite answer.
I’ve been blessed in life by being taught by some great teachers and mentors. I feel an obligation to carry on that tradition. My first article accepted for publication (thank you, John Tredennick!) was about running a summer associate program at a law firm and was titled “Honoring the Tradition of Training.” I haven’t read it in a long time, but I suspect that if I return to it, I’ll find more of my core beliefs in there than I realized I was putting in their at the time.
I taught two classes with Chip Fendell as an adjunct professor at the Washington University School of Law, so I’ve actually done some law school teaching.
If I had a dollar for every lawyer and law student I’ve known who asked me this question over the years, I wouldn’t be spending so much time figuring out how to “monetize” this blog.
That said, let me tell you a story that I don’t usually tell.
In the summer of 2003, I decided to apply for law professor positions through the AALS system. That’s the traditional approach. I did a lot of homework, talked to a lot of people and really tried to understand the process.
When I looked at the ledger sheet, I saw the following positives:
Top law school (barely, I’ve been told) in Georgetown University and law review
Publications galore including two legitimate law review articles in the last few years
Actual teaching experience at a reasonable top-level law school
Legitimate areas of research (Open Source licenses; the intersection of law and technology)
Strong interest in working on university/government/business partnerships, including technology transfer
The ability to teach students about the actual practice of law, especially the use of technology
The whole blogging/web thing that I’ve been involved in for years
The negatives were:
No Federal clerkship after law school (I clerked at the state level)
Twenty years of actual legal experience
The lack of diversity factor (which I agree with and accept as a legitimate factor in the process)
The large number of articles that were “non-academic”
I had several people point out the “negatives” to me. Everyone pointed out to me not to mention that I might like teaching or that students liked me.
In other words, I put together the best possible application I could. I was actually pretty optimistic and was picturing myself strolling the campus in a town like Bloomington, Indiana with a great tweed jacket with elbow patches.
The result: not a single request for an interview.
You don’t have to be a weatherman to know what way that wind blows.
So, there you have the answer to the question. Most people tell me that it’s the actual experience in practicing law that is the disqualifier. Many law schools apparently feel that practicing for more than two or three years “taints” someone’s potential to be an academic. Several people told me that I should make sure not to even mention all of my non-academic articles.
Now, I have an opinion about all of that, which many practicing lawyers and recent law school graduates share, but I’m not going to dwell on that here.
But, in this case, there is actually a definitive answer to why I can’t be your law school professor.
By the way, I’m not bitter about this – it was important for me to chase this idea down because so many people have told me that I should be a professor. It does bother me, however, that the law professor blogs seem to studiously ignore the practicing lawyer blogs. That’s part of the story behind the Matt Homann write-in candidacy for the Top 20 Legal Thinkers Poll by Legal Affairs magazine. Blogging is about connecting and building bridges, after all.