Nice try but no cigar…

By Legal Eagle

No, it’s not a post about Havana or Bill Clinton. Just an update to say that, as I suspected would be the case, I did not get an ongoing position at university next year. I know that I said I wouldn’t hope for anything, but despite my best efforts, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed when I got the letter. You know the spiel, sorry that we couldn’t hire you: “there was an unusually high quality of applications this year” but “we appreciate your efforts in teaching this year and hope that you will be interested in applying for sessional work again next year.”

I’m trying not to feel bitter and twisted about teaching in the coming semester. I must confess that I agreed to teach and coordinate (despite the fact I’ll be five and a half months pregnant when semester starts) in the hope that it would prove my usefulness to the university and tip the balance in favour of ongoing employment. Now that the balance hasn’t been tipped, I’m wishing I hadn’t accepted. I guess a bit of extra money is always welcome in these times of increasing interest rates, so I can’t afford to look a gift horse in the mouth, but is the extra stress and work worth it? Time to do some sums, and maybe consider whether I’d be better off concentrating on the PhD instead. They did mention in the letter that I would have done rather better in the application process if I had the PhD under my belt already.

I’m also wondering what the demand for teachers of the happy trinity of Property Law, Equity and Restitution is like at other universities around Melbourne. I think I’ll make some phone calls over the next few weeks. Just so I know.


  1. Posted July 1, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Bugger. And yes, they always want the DPhil first. It places you in the position where you have to say ‘sod the students, I’m looking after number one’.

  2. Jacques Chester
    Posted July 1, 2008 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    I reckon Charles Darwin Uni would take you on 🙂

  3. Sinclair Davidson
    Posted July 1, 2008 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to hear that. When it comes to getting the doctorate – you need to think about number one, nobody else is going to.

  4. Posted July 1, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    Best of luck with the PhD and enquiries at other universities. The short term contract system of employment is a bit of a bugger. It caused a lot of stupidity in state education under Kennett before it was wound back since Labor got in. Even minimized, it still catches the unlucky in its web.

  5. Martha Maus
    Posted July 2, 2008 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Consider it their bad luck.
    I agree with Davidson, look after yourself first.
    I suppose saying it is the system won’t
    t make you feel any better but consider it said. As a permanent staffer ( junior) it was very hard to ask for budgets that allowed for sessional staff continuity. Money varied with enrolments which weren’t finalised until 3 weeks into the semester and as a sessional, in another state, my colleagues and I felt exploited to the hilt.

  6. saint
    Posted July 3, 2008 at 2:07 am | Permalink


  7. Posted July 5, 2008 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry to hear this, but I have been on enough hiring committees to know the score. And it’s cruel, but here’s how it works. First, the most important thing is research. How much have you published? Where? What are your future research plans? How many research grants have you got? How many are you applying for? Second, how highly is your research rated? By whom? How many downloads do you have on your SSRN page. Third, of course you can teach: we all can. It’s taken for granted. Now what were you saying about your research…..? I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but it is the reality of academia today. So finish your PhD, find a publisher for it as well, and indeed treat the thesis as a book which gets you a degree along the way. See which two or three chapters you can publish as articles before the book comes out. Start thinking about the next project after the PhD and/or join a research team. Good luck.

  8. Posted July 16, 2008 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Yes, international publications are important, but not always in law. It depends how “contextual” or interdisciplinary your work is. For example, in my area–legal profession and globalization–there are not many scholars, so good work can stand out. I didn’t pick this field because it was underpopulated but because I liked it. This makes me slightly marginal to the mainstream. That’s not a bad place to be.

    Challenging the mainstream/status quo is GOOD. It gets you noticed and even if people don’t like it immediately, in 5 years time they will be saying how prescient you were. Believe me anyone can go with the flow and it’s boring. I once had a professor who said every piece of work should upset someone in power somewhere. He was right.

    I reiterate my key point: your research is what is going to make you desirable by institutions. Good teachers are all around; great researchers are scarce.

    Good luck

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