By Elizabeth Keyes
Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law

Having led the faculty hiring process at University of Baltimore School of Law for several years, I have had the challenge and the delight of identifying people whom we see as having great potential for educating the next generations of lawyers. In my role, many people have sought advice about how to become a law professor, and I am happy to share my insights here as well.

First, do you really want to be a law professor?

One necessary pre-step is considering why you want to be a law professor. Many of us, myself included, will say it is the best job in the world. As a law professor, you have a chance to shape and mentor future lawyers, to engage in vital community service, to share deep thinking with academics within and beyond my institution, and much more. When something interesting in criminal law happens in Maryland, chances are that NPR is asking my colleague David Jaros for insights. Gilda Daniels has become a nationally recognized leader on voting rights law and policy. While helping our law students put out issue after issue of the school’s Law Review, Bob Lande shaped the future of antitrust law nationally. Jaime Lee has made the human right to water in Baltimore a signature issue for her clinic, but also for her community service and scholarship. Who could fail to be inspired by all of them?

But there is more to all of them beyond these public facing roles. Law faculties, like all academic faculties, are self-governing, which means we do quite a lot of service institutionally (everything from admissions and hiring decisions, to curricular reform and strategic planning, to aforementioned supervision of the Law Review, and more). Service in the community is also strongly encouraged, and indeed, an aspect of the job that is hugely rewarding. We also engage in scholarship—our own, of course, and also reviewing scholarship for others, formally and informally, and mentoring new faculty as they develop their scholarship. And significantly, the teaching itself requires not just expertise in doctrinal areas, but expertise in pedagogy. No matter how expert I am in litigating immigration cases, for example, that expertise means nothing unless I have thought about how to reach my students effectively. As excellent law schools like ours focus on analysis, everything we do in the classroom must enhance the students’ analytical skills, which requires an ongoing commitment to the craft of teaching itself. All of this is wonderful, and all of this also takes a lot of time.

Yes, this sounds wonderful—how do I pursue this career path?

When I was a law student, people told me that only graduates of Top Ten law schools who pursued federal circuit court (or Supreme Court) clerkships could become law professors. That was certainly not my own path, and indeed, there is a tremendous variety in our many paths into law teaching. If, like me, you followed a different path, focus instead on the advice below.

First, teach.1

Gain experience as an adjunct, as a teaching fellow, or even as a guest teacher. This demonstrates your interest in teaching, which hiring committees want to see. But more than that, especially as an adjunct or fellow, you will know from that experience how to construct a syllabus and how to think about evaluation of student learning. You may not have all the answers to the common hiring question “how do you reach students who are at different levels of achievement,” but you will certainly have confronted it and experimented a bit.

Many schools also offer teaching fellowships. These are typically two-to-three year contract positions oriented toward either clinical law teaching, or legal writing and analysis. Depending on the school and the program, these can be excellent chances to learn the craft of teaching, develop your resume as a teacher, and begin engaging in both legal scholarship and the life of the law school. The UBalt clinical fellowship program, a three-year richly supervised program, has launched many, many thriving careers in legal academia, for example.2 If you have geographic limitations, though, be sure to check whether the school hires its own fellows or not, and what that process looks like.

Second, write.

A significant portion of a law faculty member’s job is legal scholarship. A publication is not required to be hired, especially if you have been a successful adjunct, but it is increasingly common—and many candidates have two or more publications. So having something, even an essay, gives you an important leg-up in a highly competitive process.

Wondering what to write about? Think about a case you have had that you thought was wrongly decided. Why did the law go in that direction? Or was there a procedural issue that speaks to a bigger problem? Have courts in other states (or nations) thought about these issues differently? There are usually excellent topics to be found in some of our largest frustrations. Is there a pending legal challenge in the world (climate change, artificial intelligence, etc.) where you see a specific unaddressed issue? As I turned to climate change, for example, I immediately spotted critical gaps in our immigration laws, and have been writing on that for several years now. Perhaps you see something unique in real estate law, or bankruptcy, or another area of law, where you wonder why people aren’t talking enough about an issue that intrigues you. Be the person who talks about the issue, and let your scholarship flow from that.3

Finally, apply.

This is the most routinized part of the process. The American Association of Law Schools operates a program for hiring nationally each summer, known as the Faculty Appointments Register (FAR).4 Law schools list available positions, individual applicants complete a form—usually in July each year—about their teaching interests and qualifications, and from there, the schools and applicants can find each other. Filling in the FAR form is an art; some of it is obvious and objective (e.g. degrees obtained, publications—if any), but some is not. Consider carefully what subjects you list as your top preferences. What in your resume suggests those would be a reasonable fit? At the same time, you should also include some required courses, as those are very much in-demand. Might your environmental law practice suit you to Torts? Could you parlay your work as a Social Security administrative judge into Administrative Law? Have you served on your firm’s ethics committee, to list Professional Responsibility? And so forth. Schools’ hiring needs vary year-to-year, so cast as wide a curricular net as is plausible.

Once the hiring cycle begins in late summer, it certainly helps to write directly to any school where you have genuine interest (because of geography, for example, or particular colleagues you would have at the school, or something unique about the school’s mission). After all this, If the school is interested in your candidacy, they will schedule a short screening interview (usually a 20–25 minute interview with the appointments committee).

After that, a subset of candidates will be invited for a callback (usually a day on campus during the fall semester), and then the faculty will vote (typically in late fall, or very early in the spring semester). I am under-emphasizing that process in this piece, because there is much available about this on the internet5 , and because the earlier stages—making yourself hirable—can feel more opaque. The path is not easy, but it is, indeed, worth the journey.


1 The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) has resources on every step of this process, available on their Becoming a Law Teacher website: tenure-track/ .

2 For more information on this fellowship, see Professor Jennifer Koh has written about immigration fellowships in particular, but her wisdom applies to many different doctrinal areas. Jennifer Koh, Breaking Into Clinical Teaching, Immigration Prof Blog (Aug. 24, 2016), at https://lawprofessors.typepad. com/immigration/2016/08/breaking-in-to-immigration-clinical-teaching.html.

3 For more tips on the mechanics of law scholarship, see Robert Luther III, Practical Tips for Writing and Placing Your First Law Review Article, 50 U. Rich. L. Rev. 63 (2016), available at

4 See AALS, FAR Information, at