Law academia: tell me about entering it and what it's like when you're there! How similar is it to humanities academia? How difficult are the jobs to get, compared both to academia and to law firms?
I'm in the process of reconsidering my career possibilities, as anyone who read my last question
has doubtless surmised (I'm feeling slightly less panicked this week, thank you!). I'm currently 2-3 years away from an Oxbridge PhD in the humanities. What I would like most is to become an academic in the humanities, but I am only too acutely aware of how competitive it is and what the odds are. If that doesn't work, I'm trying to figure out a solid Plan B (and Plan C and Plan D) that I can have at the ready, as I think knowing concrete possibilities that I'm prepared to move forward with would decrease my anxiety about the situation significantly.
One of the things I have been considering is law - possibly working at a law firm, but especially law academia. My PhD deals with post-WWII American religion, the Religious Right, church-state issues, reproductive rights controversies, etc. I was thinking that if I entered law academia, perhaps I could keep researching and teaching the topics I'm currently working on, or something closely related, but with a bit more focus on the law, specifically. Things I have been wondering particularly are:
1. How competitive is law academia to enter, compared to humanities academia, both now and in, say, six years' time? Assume I have degrees from top schools, a few articles published, and a 300-page book published or about to be on a topic reasonably related. Would I have an advantage with a PhD and a JD, or is that typical? What else are the jobs being decided on? Do most law academics practice first, or do a post-doc, or can you go straight into academia? (I'd be doing more theoretical stuff like church-state.)
2. What is the teaching load like? How much scope is there for teaching in your area of interest, rather than general courses? Are there TAs who grade, or is that up to the professor?
3. Could I research topics in religious/legal history, as my work (something similar or identical to the sorts of issues that my PhD addresses)?
4. What is the environment like for academics there, especially compared to the humanities? Is it collegial?
5. What is the proportion of tenure-track jobs versus adjunct jobs? How does this differ from humanities academia? Are the jobs generally stable? Is there the same big push to publish? Is it mostly articles or books?
6. What are the salaries like? I stumbled online across estimates suggesting around $100,000 to start, and up to $180,000 for full professors (my sense is that regular academic is more like $40,000 to start and $80,000 for full professors, although I'm not entirely sure). This seems unbelievably high. What is it actually?
7. I'd love to know the answers to anything else that I should be asking about that I've missed!