Want to Be a Law Prof? Data on Whether You Should Do a Doctorate

As suggested here, I am in the midst of a giant data gathering exercise reviewing the professional profiles of Canada's 614 common law profs.  In my prior post, I shared data on where these profs went to grad school.  In this post, I examine the question of the "teaching degree" -- that is, the highest degree profs obtain before being hired as an Assistant Professor.  (NB: These data are preliminary, and subject to double-checking as I write my article.)

I will discuss this more in the article I am writing, but in 1981, only 12.6% of Canada's common law profs had doctorates in law, with another 4.3% possessing doctorates in other disciplines.

Today, 49.8% of those in common law law schools for which data were available (564 of the 614 profs in my data set) have a doctorate.  An LLM is the highest degree for 42.6%, while 5.5% have undergraduate law degrees as their highest law degree.  Another 2.1% have other highest degrees (MA, MBA, MLS, M.Litt).  The proportion of profs with doctorates in each academic rank are interesting:

Full: 42.7%

Associate: 59.2%

Assistant: 51.0%

The Assistant figure is misleading -- my data captured the highest degree obtained by the professor as of June/July 2014.  It does not include the many instances in which the Assistant Prof is still a doctoral candidate.  On an anecdotal review of the data, the latter is a common status (that is, profs are hired on their LLMs with their doctorates "in progress").  It stands to reason that by the time that today's Assistant Profs are promoted to Associate, the proportion holding a doctorate will look more like the current figure for Associates than that for the older Full Professors.

I won't breakout the data here, but there are notable institutional differences as well.  Some schools are predominantly staffed by doctorate-holding profs (with the highest proportion 77.1%) while other schools are dominated by profs whose highest degree is an LLM (the lowest proportion of doctorates is 24%).  It is a generalization, but most (but certainly not all of the) Ontario schools and McGill seem to place a higher premium on doctorates among their full-time profs.  Obviously, there are "cultural" differences in hiring.

Putting all these data together is starting to make me feel insecure.  Can't wait to do the number crunching on publication tempo.