The Right Coast

June 25, 2005
Politics of faculty hiring
By Tom Smith

I think Gordon Smith is recommending to law school teaching applicants that they fly their colors, whatever they happen to be, when applying for law school jobs.

There may be philosophical reasons for doing this, but I don't think it's the way to maximize your chances of getting hired somewhere. As Gordon must know, all it takes is a little prejudice on the margin to keep you out, in a hyper-competitive market. This is all the more true if you are gunning for a top 20 law school, need to be in a certain city or region, or want to teach some popular subject.

I think I could have gotten a Supreme Court clerkship if I had just given Justice White the answer he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that I didn't like technical, analytical philosophy. I knew that's what he wanted to hear, but I just couldn't bring myself to say it. It would have just been a little, White lie (get it?!). He was supposedly a difficult man to work for. Might not have been fun. But probably would have been helpful to the old career. I regret not having at least changed the subject, or something.

There's a lot of prejudice out there, and not just against Republicans, Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals and various others. Being gay will help you some places, but hurt you others. Being a dyed in the wool Marxist is probably a problem, but being on the left is just fine. Federalist Society associations probably hurt well more than they help, at least that used to be the case. Jewish is good, but religious Jewish, I'm not so sure. Israeli-American, I can well imagine being an issue. You don't want to deny who you are, but it's not really the University's business, is it, where you worship? Most of the prejudices are unconscious, so it's meaningless to be assured, oh no, we're happy to have applications regardless of, etc. Moreover, it's not as if people annouce they are being swayed by prejudice, even when they are. Many people think they're doing the world a favor by keeping conservatives out of law teaching; it's sort of a radical, subversive thing to do, to certain way of thinking. It's what you call invidious. You will be judged fairly. But that's after you die. In the meantime, discretion is the better part of valor. Go ahead and send your application here, though. None of these shortcomings aflict us.