Friday, October 08, 2010

Grooming or Substance

One of the things that turn the heads of law school hiring committees is good grooming. I do not mean brushing your teeth or wearing clean clothes. I mean the grooming that takes place at elite schools. These finishing schools equip people with correct mannerisms, socially strategic instincts, the right references, a close to the vest style and the ability to talk about various theories that only some people know about. In many ways I increasing think this described Obama. I voted for him but so far all I can see is someone who did well in the grooming system.

The same is true for some law faculty. They can be charming and seem to have a great depth of knowledge until you scratch the surface. It a bit like someone impressing you by being fluent in a foreign language. Then when you get to know the language yourself you find out that they are actually reciting a menu.


Anonymous said...

This is sadly true. I went on the market three times. I'm a non-traditional candidate, first in my family to go to college let alone law school, and didn't go to a "Top School." I like to research and write and I like teaching. I didn't get the lingo until the third time, things like how to politely and "thoughtfully" respond to obnoxious about who I know or read, talk about how I like to research (leave out the part about teaching) etc. I now have a friend on the market from the same background as me and I'm trying so hard to groom him, but its one of those things that is hard to teach. Harvard and Yale are the finishing schools for our elitist profession.

Anonymous said...

Is it more advantageous to be able to fake having a great depth of knowledge, or to have that knowledge and not flaunt it? If someone won't play the grooming game how can they find a job or be successful in the legal profession? Furthermore, if "grooming" is necessary to succeed in this profession, should I even want to succeed?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

If you have the right grooming it is covers a lack of substance. This not just because of the grooming but also a result institutional authority. I have many a candidate who was groomed have to bend over backwards to demonstate a lack of substance and many state educated people of great substance have to overcome the burden of showing the are not substantive.

Law professors are easy to fool. The want so badly for people who were groomed like themselves to succeed. So, faking will work when not faking but being substantive may not work.

If you will not play the grooming game there is virtually no chance of getting a law prof job but you should still want one because it's a pretty good job.

By the way, one thing that seems common to those groomed and substative is that they have very narrow interests and have little to say about anything but law.