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Mediation On-Line

A Newsletter from ADR Resources
Volume 2, No. 3 -- Supplement, December 1998
From: Ethesis@AOL.Com (Ethesis)


Stephen R. Marsh Picture

The topic of this supplement:  Applying to teach ADR

In 1999 I began a position with a nine person b.v. rated litigation firm in Dallas.  I was pleased with them, though I moved on to a captive firm closer to home. I'm very pleased with my job and ended up turning down interviews to teach ADR, including ones where I was the only person solicited. I've had some people ask me what I've learned about applying for teaching positions in ADR.  Everyone knows that I took the time to go through the application process (and was recruited a little by a couple schools) in order to find out how to apply for when I was expecting to be ready to teach.

In that regard (since I was interested in law schools), I should note that if it isn't a law school, you can expect almost any hiring dispute resolution program to hire/train from within using its own graduates (and perhaps its own students) even if the funding for the position expressly indicates otherwise. Simply put, programs are created from within and staffed from within for the most part.  Of course this means that if a school doesn't have a program, you can often start one as part of its continuing education department and you will have a great chance to become the professor for that program when it "grows up."

See Setting up your own Dispute Resolution Program.  See also Academic Links.

For law schools ...

First, publish before you start.  Not only should you publish, but I'd advise you to publish in one of the four or five "best" scholastic journals for your area.  Personally, while I've published a lot so far (over thirty articles), before I committed myself to a serious search, I would attempt to publish at least twice in the big five group.

Second, develop a secondary speciality.  If a school is looking for "just ADR" they'll hire adjunct faculty.  I have background  (and some published work) in civil procedure, litigation, para-clinical approaches to teaching (see, orientation to legal practice (see I also have no problem with teaching undergraduate classes.  See If I were to ever decide to leave my current position, I would start my preparation by writing for publication in a scholastic journal and by working hard on an article or two in a secondary area (probably civil procedure).

Third, decide where in the country you are willing to move. In the past I was limited to locations that have the appropriate CRNA graduate schools for my wife -- which cut out the place I wanted to go and which had called me to ask me to apply. Win would have loved to go there too -- but not when the position was open). Now, I'm limited because I'm happy and don't feel like moving. But it is a serious issue.

Fourth, teach.  Schools are now focusing more and more on the ability of professors to teach.  

For a link to essays and books on the topic, click here >link to resources< (

For one counterpoint
and, for another
and another.

Think through what you really want.

So what would I plan to do if I hadn't found a law firm I was happy with?

I would plan to obtain some additional specialized coursework in dispute resolution -- I had originally applied to start with a doctorate program out of the University of Houston several years ago (they had a distance learning PhD out of the Business School).  While they underwent some changes (so that the program I applied for never materialized), I'd have moved to a community with graduate programs available.  San Francisco, Dallas, St. Paul, Washington, D.C. all have graduate classes I'd enjoy and that fit Win's needs as well.  As of the time of my updating this essay, I'm in Dallas, so ...

Reason:  the day is quickly passing that some exposure to ADR was enough to teach it.

I would plan to focus my legal practice more so that it is more focused than "general litigation" with mild emphasis. Wherever I go I plan to stay the next 3-4 years (at least) and may stay longer -- my employment history has taught me that I just tend to stay put.  Also, for myself, I've realized that I do not need to be faculty at a school, what I need is just their library.

Reason:  that secondary focus or specialty is really important -- and it should be a true focus.  

Finally, I would do more teaching, probably as adjunct faculty -- but mostly to focus in on writing more.  I am going to do it anyway because I enjoy teaching.

Proven ability to teach is now a strong plus rather than something no one cares about -- and I like teaching.

Will I make that serious try at teaching in a graduate setting?  I'm not sure.  I was recruited by a government agency for a position that did not materialize.  It made me think about how much I enjoy litigation and how much I've enjoyed those times when client development wasn't so important.  If what I am doing does not work out, I may very well look for a governmental (Department of Justice or similar branch) position and just teach and write from time to time for enjoyment. I may move on to either a small or large law firm or equivalent. Whatever I do, I will give it serious thought.

Given that I have realized that I don't need to teach, I just need to have a library ... I've really been liberated.

Comment to people who are considering an academic track that includes government sector practice and some additional graduate school:  government sector lawyers are expected to commit to at least three or four years in the positions they are recruited for.  That isn't a problem for me, but it is for many people. If you make that commitment in order to get the job, you need to live up to it.  Everyone who is familiar with the federal system will know you made that commitment by virtue of having that employment on your resume and will (or should) have questions if you did not stay at least three years.

Other notes.

Win grew up in cities from three to twenty million inhabitants in size (Rio, San Paulo, San Francisco).  I spent some time in some large cities myself (I was born and received my B.A. in Los Angeles, for example).  We've also lived in some sparser places (e.g. Wichita Falls, Texas, etc.).  We are much more open to wide variances in weather and population than most people are.  With only one child left at home, and very modest financial needs, we have a lot of flexibility.  We also both enjoy working.

Other than the limiting factor of Win's graduate program, we were a lot more flexible than many people.  I'm willing to teach just about anything (that I'm capable of teaching -- tax is beyond me right now, regardless of how good my grades were in tax classes in law school).  I've an InfoWorld subscription and manage a web site that gets sixty thousand hits or so a week. I'm not afraid of technology.

Keep those points in mind when you read my advice.  If you hate a particular climate, you need to take that into account. If you can't stand to teach a specific topic, that is important.  If you are adamantly against teaching first year or undergraduate students, that makes a difference.  If you can't stand some areas, that is important. (I remember a guy I knew in law school who was interviewed by a New York City firm.  Jim wasn't sure if he'd like New York, but he had loved Washington, D.C.  The firm hired him -- they could compete with D.C.  On the other hand, the guy who wasn't sure if he could leave Salt Lake didn't get an offer).

Footnote1.  Unfortunately, one of the schools did not have the right graduate program near enough for Win (my wife). Another was one where I looked good on paper but really wasn't the right match for their needs (which I realized and pointed out to them).  All the usual things -- though I wonder about several interviews I turned down. I think I made the right honest choice after discussing the issues.  I look at a job in academia sort of the way I would look at marriage or joining a partnership -- you need to be honest about whether or not you are the right fit for the position and whether or not you are the right fit.  One of the universities I was (and still am) interested in decided to widen the search and I may yet survive the screening process if I'm interested next year -- and I may be.

Footnote2.  I guess it helps that there isn't a subject that I really dislike.  I enjoy civil procedure (I know, that is a sin, but I can't help myself.  If you look at law as a contest, mastering civil procedure is just mastering the rules of the game).  I am not locked into "ADR only" or a desire to teach constitutional law or jurisprudence.  I do not mind a serious teaching load (e.g. teaching a first year class, mediation or arbitration, and negotiation/etc. each semester).  I'm hoping for the chance to work with students on publishable papers.  I've worked on projects like that a couple-three times long distance and it didn't  always work out well, but I expect that in a law school setting I expect that co-writing will go much more smoothly. I have a good history of being able to work with co-writers and editors.

Footnote3.  Salaries for professors. (That's a link off of this site).  When my wife gets out of graduate school I might be able to afford to teach.

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