By Craig Forcese

Full Professor
Faculty of Law

Email: cforcese[at]

Twitter: @cforcese


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Bleaching Law

Welcome to my blog on teaching law.  I have entitled it "bleaching law". This is an obvious contraction of "blog" and "teaching".  It is also a play  on words capturing the endless struggle of a law professor to convey as neat, tidy, proper and well-starched things that are emphatically not, like the standard of review in administrative law.  All opinions are my own and do not reflect on anyone else who I work with, for or around. 


Want to Teach Law in Canada? How many pubs do you need to be competitive?

I receive variants of the above question from prospective job candidates all the time.  My totally off the cuff response is usually "aim for 5 articles", based on three years sitting on our (uOttawa) hiring committee and another 8 years of being attentive to the hiring process (and the cvs of candidates).  But I have never actually measured it. 

In my collection of data for my article on common law prof public engagement (see my prior blog posts on this topic), I have pulled together the publicly available info on Canada's 600 full, associate and assistant common law profs.  I have collected data on the publication tempo of these profs, where available (the amount of information varies from website to website).  I shall report on that in due course.

But in this, the fourth in my series on "the Canadian common law prof", I can report on a subset of those data.  Ten assistant professors post their complete cvs, and from those cvs one can determine the number of publications each had as of the year they were hired.  (Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but it's better than holding the finger up to the wind. I could include other ranks who post cvs, and back out their pubs according to the date of their appointment, but that would take some time and all this is collateral to my article.  Moreover, those data would be "stale" reflecting the (probably less competitive) hiring market of bygone years, rather than the more recent markets in which today's Assistant Profs were hired.)

The results: an average of 4.64 journal articles (a median of 3) for the 10 individuals, and two professors had 1 book each when hired (so I suppose that's an average of 0.2 per prof, an obviously meaningless number).

So I suppose I haven't been that far off in telling candidates to shoot for 5 journal articles.

Of course, there are lots of other qualities that go into being competitive in the job market -- but pubs are undoubtedly important in my experience.

Thanks for those providing feedback and asking questions about my dataset on twitter @cforcese.  This is turning into a fun article to write (although a gruelling exercise in data collection) and it may, gasp, even be useful.


Gender Breakdown for Cdn Common Law Profs: Prelim Data

This is the third post in a series drawn from data collected for an article I am writing on public engagement by Canadian common law profs.  In support of that article, I collected publicly-available data from the websites of full, associate and assistant law profs at Canadian common law schools. (Yes, it took me literally weeks). For my prior posts, scroll through this blog.

I am "serializing" my analysis as I go -- feedback on twitter (@cforcese) has suggested other lines of inquiry that are fruitful and which help my thinking process.

Since my first postings, I have fully eliminated emeritus profs from my sample and have focused strictly on full, associate and assistant profs.  I found 600 persons at that rank on the websites of Canadian common law schools.

In this post, I want to break down these numbers by gender, a particularly important issue given recent (less than edifying) rationalizations of the federal government's poor appointment rate for federal judges.  So how are the law schools doing?

In 1981, only 10.1% of common law profs were women. 

Today, that figure is 44.5%, or 267.

Categorized by rank, the numbers of female law professors are: Full (35.9%); Associate (47.6%); Assistant (60.7%). (Not every prof included rank on their website, so my data set here included 259 entries).

These figures suggest that female hiring now exceeds male hiring, as Assistant Professors will be the most recent hires.  But there is, of course, another prospect: that these data also reflect gendered promotion processes.  There is at least a hint in the prelim data that this is a real concern, but I shall report on that once I have crunched the numbers more (and perhaps hold back that analysis for the final article).

Notably, there also appears to be significant institutional variation in the proportion of women law professors: there are some schools above the norm and a few well below the norm. The range for average number of women on faculty is 62.5% on the high end and 27% on the low end.  The median proportion of women at Canadian common law schools is 47.4%.   

I am debating whether to reproduce the full institutional breakdown -- demographic data are collateral to my article's purpose of discussing (and measuring) public engagement by Canadian common law profs.  Still, if you sit on a hiring committee, you can do your own internal headcount and then take note of the average figures reported here. (Incidentally, a prelim analysis suggests no correlation between average number of years teaching in faculties and proportion of female professors.  In other words, this does not appear to be a case of some schools doing less hiring and having older profs and a gender composition reflecting bygone gender patterns).

So overall, progress since 1981.  But there seem to be differences in institutional culture.  And as noted, I am concerned that some of the data seem to suggest differences in the way men and women's careers then develop.  Back to the Excel datasheet!


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.


Thinking about Teaching Law in a Cdn Law School (Common Law): Read This

(Revised Thurs July 10, 2014)

I am in the midst of a massive data collection and crunching process, in support of an article I am writing on public engagement by law profs in Canadian common law schools (that is, LLB and JD granting schools).  To this end, I have collected demographic and career data from the public web profiles on the people listed on the websites of these law schools as Assistant, Associate or Full professors (and occasionally emeritus). 

The results are fascinating, especially on some of the gender issues.  I am writing up the article now.  But as a teaser, here are provisional data on the education of Canada's common law professors.  Table 1 below shows the top 15 institutions from which Canadian law professors obtained their highest degree (an LLM or increasingly a doctorate -- more on that in the article) and the proportion of profs who received degrees from each institution.  I had data for 572 profs (a number that includes a number of emeritus profs). Table 2 represents the top 15 institutions, at the Assistant professor level.  It reflects, in other words, more recent hiring trends.  (Here, I had data for 102 profs.)

Table 1: Highest Degree By Institution, All Profs

Toronto 12.8%
Harvard 11.0%
Osgoode/York 9.4%
Oxford 8.2%
Columbia 6.6%
Yale 5.4%
Cambridge 4.9%
UBC 4.2%
McGill 3.8%
Dal 3.3%
London 3.0%
Queens 1.7%
NYU 1.7%
Michigan 1.4%
Berkeley 1.4%


Table 2: Highest Degree by Institution, Assistant Profs

Toronto 13.7%
Osgoode/York 13.7%
Harvard 12.7%
McGill 9.8%
Columbia 5.9%
UBC 4.9%
Dal 4.9%
Oxford 3.9%
Yale 3.9%
Ottawa 3.9%
Cambridge 2.9%
Sask 2.0%
Chicago 2.0%
Sydney 2.0%
Montreal 2.0%


These top 15 schools account for 79% of all of the highest degrees of all profs, and 88% of all of the highest degrees of Assistant Profs. 

These data suggest that UK schools have lost ground relative to Canadian schools, while US schools continue to figure prominently (although perhaps not as prominently).  In fact, a more general analysis confirms this inference.  Table 3 shows the region in which Canada's common law professors earned their highest degree. 

Table 3: Region Where Canadian Common Law Profs Earned their Highest Degree

All Profs Assistant Profs
Canada 42.0% 55.9%
US 34.3% 31.4%
UK 17.7% 8.8%
Aus/NZ 3.0% 2.0%
Eur 3.0% 2.0%


Canadian origin higher degrees have swelled among Assistant professors.  These data are heartening to those of us labouring in Canadian law schools to produce competitive graduate students .  We may be overcoming the "neocolonialism" of academic hiring -- the bias in favour of foreign credentials.

Special credit goes to Toronto, Osgoode and McGill for their success in producing graduate degree holders securing positions in Canadian law faculties.