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How Do Lawyers Become Adjunct Professors?

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 29, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you've thought about becoming a law professor, you probably know that it's hard to become a full, tenured professor. You have to go to the right school (cough, Yale, cough) and then spend the next several years writing articles and doing research.

If you're a practitioner, that's not a likely sequence of events. But what you can do is become an adjunct -- an untenured "guest" professor who teaches courses here and there (though, increasingly, more than just here and there).

Want to teach young minds, and make a little extra money on the side? Here are a few potential ways to do it:

Many legal writing programs use practitioners from the community to teach first-year legal writing. This is partly due to cost. Because first-year legal writing classes are small seminars, it's more cost-effective to have adjuncts teach them instead of professors. But it's also partly because legal writing has to be practical, and no one knows better than practitioners what effective writing looks like.

2. Consider Community College.

You don't have to teach at just a law school. Community colleges, also known as junior colleges, typically need adjuncts to teach various courses. Depending on your background, you might be able to teach something as simple as legal studies or a criminal law primer for non-lawyers. If you have a master's degree, you might even be able to parlay that into a non-legal adjunct job.

3. Keep Your Day Job.

Many associate professors don't even make a living wage -- to say nothing of adjuncts. Being an adjunct augments what you make, but doesn't replace it. (Most adjuncts make a few thousand dollars per course.) Also, don't assume that being an adjunct will lead to a tenure-track job. Schools don't hire that way, and the job duties of adjuncts versus tenure-track professors are quite different.

4. Check Out Your Law School.

If you live and work close to where you obtained your law degree, ask if your school has any openings for adjuncts -- or go do some networking. It's a good little bit of alumni relations and it lets current students know that, hey, graduates do get jobs!

5. Just Apply for It.

On PrawfsBlag, the late Prof. Dan Markel advised the curious to just do it. "It is likely no problem to simply submit a resume to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and indicate your interest," he wrote. And, he says, you may not be relegated to legal writing; full-time faculty members may be away for a variety of reasons, and you might be able to fill in for them.

Any adjuncts out there have other advice? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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