Who am I anyway?
Am I my resume?
That is a picture of a person I don't know.
What does he want from me?
What should I try to be?
So many faces all around, and here we go.
I need this job, oh God, I need this show.
"I Hope I Get It" from A Chorus Line, book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and music by Marvin Hamlisch.
Jeff laments that the best candidates systematically do not get the chance to teach law because their "looks" are lacking. Too tall, too round, not the right look -- out you go. Thank you. Next. Hundreds of people apply for every job. A few get to dance for a few minutes. The ones who are "right" -- well connected, polished, and with the Broadway look --get the job. The rest go home. Looks matter in the law teaching market. If your law degree is from Snowshoe U, you'll never be a Rockette, kid.
Jeff thinks that pervasive class bias in the legal academy is the culprit. We know that elite law school credentials do not necessarily correlate with valuable qualities in law teachers. Pedigree is not on the Money Law school audition sheet. Character is. Unlike a candidate's J.D. issuing institution, or last season's earned run average, character is hard to detect on a piece of paper or a thirty minute interview. Finding character in the pool of candidates, if we were serious about it, would be hugely expensive. Worse, it would be a powder keg for faculties who do not share common values. Law schools relegate faculty hiring to a committee and ultimately to the entire faculty. The faculties I have known take hiring seriously. No other governance issue has such potential to foment bitter dispute.
The culprit may not be invidious class bias as Jeff suspects. The limits of J.D. "looks" as a heuristic for quality are a price of pluralism. We use the relative eliteness of a candidates' J.D.'s because we cannot stomach the inevitable fight about what should count for quality. We make nice, know better and do nothing. We look to "looks" to avoid introspection.