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Summary: In pursuing a teaching career, you will have a lot to think about and do. As in any career change, self-assessment, planning, and diligence will be essential.
Why do you want to teach law? That is a threshold question that you will be asked over and over again. In fact, anyone who is making any sort of career change will be asked a similar question. Under all circumstances, whether it is teaching or another career path, potential employers will be expecting you to articulate your reasons. You must be clear and answer with conviction.
Having an understanding of what is involved in teaching law will help you formulate your response. As always, your networking efforts will be a key element in gaining insight into this career path. By discussing your interest with law professors, you can learn about the day-to-day teaching, scholarly research and writing requirements, the courses you would be qualified to teach, hiring criteria, and salary ranges.
Speaking of salary, you will most likely take a substantial cut in your income, and you will have to determine whether, at the very least, you can make ends meet. Even so, unless you are very comfortable, it could very well mean a change in your current lifestyle. In addition, finding a position usually involves a change in geography. You must decide whether these will be obstacles that prevent you from pursuing your dream.
Another potential obstacle is the qualifications that many law schools desire that their professors possess. Some schools will consider graduates of only what they believe to be highly regarded law schools. Aside from requiring membership on law review, schools may also demand some or all of the following accomplishments: scholarly publications; high class standing; a law degree awarded cum laude or better; a judicial clerkship at the highest state court or at the federal level or, in some cases, at the U.S. Supreme Court; and an LL.M. from a well-respected law school.
In light of the competitiveness in obtaining a position as a tenure-track professor at a law school, you may want to consider other teaching alternatives. Within the law school environment, there are several possibilities. Research and writing instructors are often non-tenure track, full-time staff members; in some cases, they may remain in these positions for only a limited number of years. Another option is the clinical faculty, and those positions may or may not be tenured. There are also adjunct professors who teach a course in their area of expertise, while they remain in practice.
Other avenues to explore are teaching law courses at paralegal schools or possibly law-related courses at business schools or at two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Compile a list of these schools and see whether they offer any courses that match your experience and have any openings for which you could apply. If the schools do not offer such courses, use your networking to find out whether they would be interested in a course. Be prepared to discuss the broad outlines of a course and if they express an interest, develop and present a formal proposal.
In pursuing a teaching career, you will have a lot to think about and do. As in any career change, self-assessment, planning, and diligence will be essential.