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December 5, 2007

A VAP innovation from Harvard Law School

Thanks to this post from Orin Kerr at Volokh, I saw this notable piece from the Harvard Law Record , headlined "Dean Starts Program to Boost Practicioners Into Academia," which reports on a new Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) program in the works at Harvard Law School.  Here are the basics:

Dean Elena Kagan has initiated a new program to bring practicing lawyers to Harvard Law School and provide them an opportunity to start careers in academia.  While the program is still in its planning stages, Kagan happily met with reporters from the Record to describe the program and her vision for the law school faculty. The program, which is set to begin in the 2008-09 academic year, will bring practitioners who are interested in academia to Harvard for a two-year position, with the tentative title of "Visiting Assistant Professor."  These positions will function much like the Climenko and Houston fellowship positions at Harvard Law and fellowships at other schools that are geared towards recent graduates.

As this post at Concurring Opinions highlights, VAP programs are all the rage.  Indeed, Paul Caron has this lengthy and growing list of schools that have VAP or fellowship programs for aspiring law professors.  To my knowledge, though, the in-development Harvard program is the first that will be intentionally geared toward practitioners.

I suspect this program will end up attracting mostly young practitioners (i.e., folks with only a few years in practice) because of economics and other factors.  Still, Dean Kagan merits props for this intriguing new approach to the VAP model.

Intriguingly, the comments to Orin's post really go after the usual anti-practitioner bias reflected in much of the elite law school academy.

Posted by DAB

December 5, 2007 in Deans and innovations | Permalink


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I suspect money will not be the primary thing that draws people to teaching at HLS, though from my perspective coming in from legal aid the money's not bad! Quite a few of my corporate classmates (class of '01) are at the stage now when they are ready to switch to something they find more meaningful if they haven't found it in the work they do. And more humane work hours and intellectual stimulation are very compelling for people across the career spectrum. I hope it's particularly attractive to those towards the end of a career timeline (perhaps as a half-step towards retirement), as they would have the deepest and most valuable knowledge and the desire to pass it own to a new generation.

Posted by: Gene Koo | Dec 5, 2007 3:57:04 PM

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