Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I have written so often about the racket of being law professor that I get sick of myself. Sometimes I hear myself saying "Oh just shut up!" "Oh come on" and other things.  Sometimes, though, you come across a gem of an article that sums it up in a  way you never could. In this case, it is an article by elites about elites. Here is the scaled down version as I have not been able to crack to code to get into the full article in Science.

Anyone generally familiar with behavioral economics (or has taken a decent course in law and economics not taught by an ideologue) knows about the dictator game. Basically it tests whether you are selfish or not or, in more specific terms, do you exhibit self-interested behavior as economists predict, or at least assume.

Ray Fisman, Dan Markovits and other authors varied the game a bit and applied the test to three groups -- Yale Law Students, Berkeley undergraduates, and a panel selected to represent average folks.

The test revealed two things. One was greed as opposed to fair-mindedness and the other was an interest in efficiency as opposed equality.

It will not be a surprise to anyone on a law faculty but the Yale law students and Berkeley undergraduates were far less fair-minded and greedier than the panel of regular folks. Yale law students were efficiency obsessed, even more than the Berkeley students and both were more efficiency oriented than the panel of average people.

I know if no reason the same result would not be found among students of other elite law schools. [I do have one reservation in that they do not appear to have tested law students at schools other than elite ones. This leaves open the possibility that, on average, all law students fall in the greed/efficiency category.]

Look at the law schools most law professors attended and you know the reason law schools are bastions of greed, self-promotion, self-interest, bogus conferences that are vacations, misleading resumes, demands to teach vanity courses, demands for special treatment including two day teaching schedules, truncated semesters, and extra pay for just doing the job.

It was never a mystery to anyone who thought about it but law school hiring committees fish only in the ponds of the greedy and hypocritical.

Best of all is the final part of the article that I think is wishful thinking more than anything else:
"Elites—in both parties—remain baffled by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ appeal; and they prayerfully insist that both campaigns will soon fade away. Our study suggests a different interpretation, however. These bipartisan disruptions of elite political control are no flash in the pan, or flings born of summer silliness. They are early skirmishes in a coming class war."


Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone write more about the fact that with a couple of exceptions, professors have never spent any real time outside of academia (or clerkships) and really look down on and never wanted to be lawyers in the first place. Once that fact is appreciated, it's not surprising that law school has turned into a mere vehicle to support irrelevant research rather than training future lawyers.

Anonymous said...

"They are early skirmishes in a coming class war."

Let's hope.

Athena Stafyla said...

I studied the law with target to be creative in that area of science. I like writing and thinking on societal and legal problems.

Earning much much money played no role in my choice to study the law, maybe because my family was wealthy enough to provide me with all learning facilities(like books, time, computers, practical experiences, networking with professionals from the first year of my studies and so on). I protect myself of being idealistic and overcritical to others. I was born under a lucky star and i could be creative in law since my family could afford it to me.

On the other side you are absolutely right in your critic that learning processes in legal studies and the whole set of learning goals become more and more degenerated in the recent times through the massive fear of unemployment and the lure of consumption. I think that students and all legal practitioners dance under the general motto of our times, which is "Someone IS what he/she can consume and not what he/she can do and give to the others, to the society." That brings the money immediately ins epicenter and the ideas and ideals on the margin.

This is a nice video clip which refers to the lure of money and the law careers. The video is entitled "Why law school is a waste of money unless you get into a top school"

The video refers to the problems with the rankings and the meaningless competition for a good ranking. I think you will enjoy really this video because it shows very clearly the logic you try to criticize in many articles. Have a look at:

best regards

Athena Stafyla

Athena Stafyla said...


Did you delete the video link at the end of my letter intentionally or something went wrong from a technical point of view. I sent the video link once but it did not appear at the end of my letter. I sent it twice and the comment is not published in your blog.

I send it again here, and i would really like to know, was there a technical error and the video link was not published or you censored that video? In case you censored the video, why you did it?

The video "Why law school is a waste of money unless you get into a top school" is at the web page of businessinsider.com in the UK and in their web page in Singapore.


best regards

Athena Stafyla

Jeffrey Harrison said...

I cannot imagine censoring anything or whether "censoring" is even the right word. All I can do is tell the blog to publish or not.