An Outline of Academic Employment Opportunities for
Attorneys choose to pursue academic careers, to be defined in a
moment, for a variety of reasons. While salaries are generally not
as high as they might be in private practice, the opportunity to work in
an intellectually exciting environment and the possibility of
maintaining an easier work-life balance, makes academic life very
attractive. While law schools are the most obvious environments in
which to teach, colleges, business schools, and paralegal programs, for
example, may also hire attorneys to teach relevant courses.
Academic careers can be broken down roughly into two areas - teaching
and administration. Within the faculty category, there are tenure-track,
clinical and adjunct positions.
A tenure-track position is a full-time position that, in addition to
teaching, also generally also includes serving on one or more law school
committees, conducting research and publishing scholarly articles.
These positions are considered to be highly prestigious and, as a
result, they are very, very competitive. More often than not, in
addition to his/her J.D., a full-time professor will have an LL.M. or
S.J.D., (Doctor of Juridical Science), judicial clerkship and/or a
Another category of teaching has come with the rise of clinical
courses as part of law school curricula - clinical teaching.
Typically, a clinical professor will supervise students in their
representation of actual clients through a clinical program at the law
school. For these types of positions, strong practice experience
in the area being taught is of paramount importance.
Some practicing attorneys, in addition to their practices, serve as
adjunct, or part-time, professors or instructors. They typically teach a
course or two in their area of specialty or, perhaps, a legal research
and writing course. For attorneys who want to continue their
practice, yet are also interested in teaching, this is a good, (and to
some extent, "easier") route to consider.
Another avenue for working in academia is law school (or higher
education) administration. Lawyers serve in a number of different
positions in law schools and other institutions. Law schools in
particular prefer to hire someone with a law degree for these positions,
as they have a keen understanding of legal education and the legal
profession. Some examples of these positions are career services,
admissions, student services, alumni and development, academic support,
and law librarians. In addition, law schools, colleges and
universities may have a general counsel's office which hires attorneys
to advise the institution on a wide range of legal issues.