With the announcement of a new Guggenheim in Constitutional Studies, more law faculty may try their hand at applications for major national fellowships and grants. This would be a good thing. But special hurdles face many law professors because publishing expectations are different in law than in most fields. It is a good idea to anticipate this, and consider how your superb law c.v. will look to a non-law reviewer before preparing your application.
The issue is books, or lack thereof, for law faculty. Most of the scholars you'll be competing against are likely to have published scholarly books. It's true that some other fields tend to stress articles, rather than books. But in those fields often the articles are much shorter, and the number greater. And even those scholars will often publish books. If you have a substantial body of work, and it's published in law reviews, what do you do?
1. If the reason you are applying for fellowships is that you want to move from articles to a book, get an advance book contract before you apply for fellowships. This way, it's clear that a book will be produced from the work funded by the fellowship. You can approach presses with a proposal and a sample chapter, so you can do that first. (More on that elsewhere.)
2. Do something on your list of publications or c.v. to make clear that your body of work is substantial and has had an impact (especially if you are not a junior scholar). List first and last page numbers in your article citations, or the number of pages. Say something about the impact of a particularly important article (but not your SSRN download figures, or things like that).
3. If your proposal is not for a book...it's not likely to be successful. If you want try anyway, I'd recommend outlining a very concrete series of articles, making clear why publishing the work as articles will have more of an impact than publishing it as a book. Justify the genre.
4. Warning to JD/Ph.D.'s: It's great to have a JD/Ph.D. But if you have a JD/Ph.D. and no book already, fellowship evaluators are going to think that you're applying for their fellowship to turn your dissertation into a book. That will work for a PostDoc, and for many of the fellowships targeted toward junior scholars. For the major national fellowships, you are more likely to be successful on a proposal for book #2. If you apply for book #1, it will help to have a book contract in hand. This holds even if you are senior. To evaluators in other fields, when they look at your c.v., they'll ask where that dissertation book is.
5. What goes in that proposal? Pay attention to the specifics instructions on the application, obviously, but generally, be sure to do this:
a. the proposal has a thesis (or hypothesis), clearly stated.
b. the proposal outlines research that will produce, or has produced, evidence to support or refute the thesis. Include a timeline for research.
c. the proposal makes clear that the researcher is qualified to accomplish this project, and has a track record of getting work like this done.
d. briefly describe the relevant literature, and explain why your project is original and what contribution you are making.
e. the proposal helps the non-specialist reader to see why this project is important, and why this foundation should want to fund it.
f. the proposal is well-written, so that the proposal itself demonstrates the researcher's skills at communicating her/his ideas.
g. request letters of recommendation from people who can speak to your talents and the impact of your work, but who are not your current colleagues.
6. This goes for everyone: don't expect to be successful the first time. Keep trying.
More fellowship advice is here.