There are many law professor jobs nowadays, and projections show that this interesting occupation will continue to be sought after in the future. Law professors have different obligations. However, these esteemed individuals mostly teach courses in various areas of law. Moreover, they typically provide academic counseling and tutoring to students, grade student coursework, and keep records related to different classes.
Those aiming for a law school professor job also need a terminal degree or Ph.D. relevant to their field. As you can guess, obtaining this job position is not an easy task. In addition to a high level of formal education, considerable experience is required.
The reason for this particular requirement is that law professors need to have a specific skill set to teach a class of undergraduate and graduate students. Nevertheless, there are several different law professor careers you can opt for nowadays, so keep reading to learn more about some of them.
- Visiting professor
- Adjunct professor
- Legal researcher and writing instructor
- Alternative positions
Law Professor Job Description in Detail
Law professors specialize in many different fields, depending on personal preference, e.g., commercial law, civil law, corporate law, property law, etc. When it comes to large universities or colleges, professors typically have several activities. Law school jobs include supervising graduate teaching assistants who teach classes, applying for grants as a means of funding their research, conducting experiments or research, or teaching students.
Professors holding a legal studies job in community colleges, or small universities and colleges, typically work with students and teach classes. While such legal professionals usually do research to some extent, they have less time for it, unlike their counterparts working at large universities and colleges.
Additionally, professors can also work full-time or part-time (adjunct professors). The former type usually spends time on research, particularly those with tenure. Professors with tenure can’t be fired without a just cause. They typically work for several different universities and sit on college committees. Those having adjunct law professor jobs (the latter) teach students as the main part of their professional duties.
As far as classes go, as a law professor, you may expect to teach different groups. Most commonly, classes of several hundred students require the help of graduate teaching assistants. Conversely, smaller classes usually number 40 to 50 individuals. The third most common group, involving just a few students, takes place in the form of seminars.
Law school professor jobs also mean you’ll need to participate in professional conferences and communicate with colleagues and read scholarly articles. That’s because law professors need to be up to date with the latest developments in their respective fields. Additionally, as a professor with tenure, you need to conduct original research (such as critical reviews, document analysis, or experiments), and then publish your findings.
The great thing about living in this day and age is that there are also opportunities for online law professor jobs. There are many online universities nowadays, so teaching online classes has become a thing. Not only do online professors present information and lessons to students via websites, but they also enable course discussions and assign tasks to students. Interestingly enough, those who have online legal professor jobs might never meet their students in person, as they mostly communicate via emails and communication software.
Becoming a Law Professor
It’s important to consider the type of educational institution and the field of expertise, as educational requirements typically vary. In the vast majority of cases, a Ph.D. is a must for those aiming for law professor job openings. Alternatively, some community colleges may accept those with a master’s degree (we advise checking thoroughly before applying for such job positions). At the same time, work experience is likely essential for getting a job in technical and vocational schools.
As far as legal studies jobs go, becoming a law professor requires candidates to have certain qualities. For instance, having excellent writing skills is very important, as most law professors need to publish original analyses and research continuously. Writing skills often go hand in hand with oral skills, which makes sense as giving lectures requires great communication skills. If you have such skills, you might consider looking for legal writing professor jobs, for example.
Resourcefulness is yet another very important skill that law professors need to have. That’s because presenting information in a way that students can easily understand and absorb is vital to teaching. Furthermore, law professors will find themselves in a variety of situations when teaching. Examples include giving lectures to students who have no or very little knowledge about a subject and adapting to different students’ learning styles. This skill is probably the most essential to have (or learn) if you’re looking for law school teaching jobs.
Next on the list are interpersonal skills. Ideally, you need to be capable of working well with others due to the nature of your job. At the same time, giving lectures and sitting on committees require you to have not just good, but rather excellent communication skills.
Last but not least, all teachers and professors, not just ones interested in law teacher jobs, need to be capable of critical thinking. It’s essential for a variety of activities you’ll need to perform as a law professor. Some of these activities include challenging theories that already exist, as well as designing and conducting experiments, but also conducting original and unique research.
In terms of formal education, you’ll most commonly need a doctoral degree in your respective field to teach at four-year universities and colleges. Still, some schools accept doctoral degree candidates or master’s degree holders for law professor positions. These positions will mostly be part-time or very specialized.
Generally speaking, it’ll take several years after completing a bachelor’s degree program to obtain your doctorate. The process involves completing a master’s degree program, after which you’ll write a doctoral dissertation. The dissertation is your original research that focuses on your field of study. It’s a common practice for doctoral program candidates to specialize in a narrow subfield before seeking jobs at law schools.
When looking for legal studies professor jobs, it’s vital to keep in mind the following—as already mentioned, hiring those with only a master’s degree is a common practice among technical or career schools and community colleges. But, there are situations and fields in which the number of available positions is lower than the number of applicants for those positions. Institutions can often become more selective in such situations and prefer to offer legal teaching jobs to those with a Ph.D. rather than those with a master’s degree.
Getting tenure represents a major goal for law professors with a doctoral degree. As previously mentioned, tenure represents a guarantee that a professor can’t be fired without a just cause. It’s somewhat considered to be a job for life. However, attaining it is no quick and easy process. When it comes to moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions, achieving this goal can take up to seven years.
The ranks go as follows: assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Therefore, aiming for assistant professor law jobs is a great first step toward tenure. Attaining tenure is the result of reviewing a candidate’s teaching, contribution to the institution, and their research.
However, you should note that institutions rely much more on part-time faculty. As a result, there is a noticeable decline in tenure track and tenure positions. Regardless, if you’re able to attain tenure, you’re looking at advancement opportunities that go as high as president or dean, in addition to other similar administrative positions.
While most candidates consider law professor salary to be a very significant factor when choosing their employment, it varies depending on several factors, such as the level of expertise, type of school, and geographical location. The Society of American Law Teachers surveys law schools annually for median salaries.
Assistant professors are typically hired as entry-level professors who move through the ranks. They make between $72,100 and $138,108. Associate professors’ median salary is anywhere between $87,718 and $152,220. Last but not least, tenured professors make between $102,622 and $198,519 annually. This figure puts law professors among the most attractive higher ed legal jobs category for consideration.
Academic Law Jobs
When looking at law schools, there are many different positions available that vary in voting status, salary, permanence, and other factors. Since we’ve explained how and why most applicants look for law professor jobs (tenure), here are more positions of a similar nature.
There are tenure-track teaching positions, such as clinical law professor jobs, where applicants aim to move from assistant professors to associate professors, and then to full professors. On the other hand, entry-level law teachers may also aim to become visitors (visiting professors), adjuncts, or legal research and writing instructors.
A visiting professor usually works as a tenured professor at one law school and then receives a temporary (year- or semester-long) position at another law school. Individuals interested in legal studies degree jobs may want to consider such positions.
There are various reasons for hiring visiting professors. One example includes covering a sabbatical leave, while another is filling a temporary job position. Another reason for hiring a visiting professor is testing whether the individual would eventually serve as a good permanent hire. This particular type of visit is colloquially called a “look-see” visit.
More recently, VAP programs have become very interesting when it comes to assistant professor jobs in law colleges. VAP stands for “visiting assistant professor,” and such programs focus exclusively on those legal professionals who are currently not working at a law school. More and more schools have been creating these programs, making them a great opportunity for those aspiring to either temporary or permanent law professor openings.
In a broad sense, there is no promise of full-time or future employment for adjuncts. In other words, adjunct professors typically find employment teaching specific courses only for a single semester. If you’re looking to have a “trial run” to learn whether you enjoy teaching, there’s no better option than an adjunct teaching position, at least as far as academic legal jobs go.
Another benefit of working temporarily as an adjunct is access to contacts in legal academia, many of which can serve as recommenders or mentors, and even help in your publication efforts. At the same time, this temporary position is ideal in the sense that it provides access to a good academic law library.
Generally speaking, law schools tend to be very focused on publications and scholarship. As far as teaching law jobs go, adjunct positions may or may not be the best choice for you. How so? Let’s see.
An adjunct position will serve you well if it allows you to develop a cadre of supporters in academia, gain input, and focus on publishing. On the other hand, having law school adjunct professor jobs is probably not the best choice if it offers little opportunity to become a part of faculty academic life or prevents you from publishing because of the time you spend in the classroom.
Moreover, adjuncts typically receive a few thousand dollars per course, meaning that the adjunct law professor salary is less than ideal. At the same time, this position doesn’t normally come with other benefits.
Legal Researcher and Writing Instructor
Legal researchers and writing instructors have no problem finding employment in most law schools today. Aside from additional duties in the area, these legal professionals mostly spend their time teaching research and writing to first-year students. Most often, becoming a legal researcher and writing instructor is a good way to enter the field for individuals primarily interested in a law school professor job.
However, you should note that most factors related to adjunct teaching positions also apply to legal research and writing instructors.
On the one hand, one of the benefits of such law school faculty jobs includes building relationships with faculty mentors. Additionally, you can gain access to great online and library resources and show your interest in academia. Lastly, you’re also able to gain a valuable skill when it comes to reviewing student writing.
Conversely, there are also several concerns you’ll need to address. Firstly, there’s a chance your less-than-great integration into the faculty might impede your chances of finding adequate faculty mentors. There’s also a chance you won’t have any time for your research and writing due to being so busy with your new job.
Additionally, research and writing instruction is quite different from being a candidate for an academic position, which is what most appointment committees look for. As far as law faculty jobs for legal research and writing instruction go, we advise that you carefully evaluate your personal goal and specific situation before deciding.
Alternative Law Professor Jobs
If you’re seeking employment as a law professor outside of academia, you also have a plethora of options at your disposal. Some of the most popular options nowadays include business law professor jobs, tax law professor jobs, environmental law professor jobs, criminal law professor jobs, constitutional law professor jobs, labor law professor jobs, family law professor jobs, and many others.
You can also consider law professor jobs overseas if you feel like changing your scenery more permanently. However, it’s important to note that duties, responsibilities, and job descriptions of all of the aforementioned positions heavily vary depending on the specific organization/institution.
Irrespective of the job or position, becoming a law professor takes a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication, and ability to overcome challenges. It makes perfect sense that individuals who accomplish such a feat deserve respect and admiration.
Law professors are responsible for teaching aspiring students all about the rights and wrongs they will encounter daily. This responsibility is enormous, and it comes as no surprise that there are so many law professor jobs available today. Think carefully before you make your decision, and choose your teaching opportunity wisely. Good luck!