Thursday, April 14, 2016

Law Prof Advocacy, Entitlement, and I: A Really Good Example

One in a while my posts get reposted over on Paul Caron's Tax Prof blog and usually there are very few comments but this one caught me eye. The post it is commenting on is the one three down about law profs and their sense of entitlement. Here is the comment: [oh, it is good idea to have Toby Keith's "I Wanna Talk About Me" playing on your favorite country station.]

"For each of the past five years, I have taught an average of 20 semester units -- primarily to make possible new programs that I view as valuable to students. During the same period, I have developed and implemented new programs, helped my school negotiate financial rapids, chaired major committees, written a first and second edition of a casebook and 400+ page teacher's manual, presented and published multiple articles, and co-hosted our school's Tax Policy Colloquium. For this, I am paid a small fraction of what I could be earning as a partner in a major firm. My choice, and I'm happy with it. But I wish Prof. Harrison would speak for himself, and not for all of legal academia. I know that many of my colleagues, at Loyola and elsewhere, work their hearts out for their students and their schools."

Ok, so it's a tad defensive or maybe a lot defensive but I admit I am old fashion about self promotion. I think the author just needs a big group hug. [I'll bet the signature on his email mentions all of this like a colleague of mine whose below the signature  information includes everything from when he was potty trained (a record young age) to his last talk where the very top people sat spellbound.] Still it  reflects a high level of productivity which actually makes my point for me. I wonder how many other law teachers are teaching 20 credit hours, and writing casebooks and major articles. I do not think there are many and I know there are none on my faculty although some work just as hard.  So what the commentator tells us is that at full capacity law profs can be enormously productivity.

But it also includes more information about a sense of entitlement and advocacy [and, I might add, the lack of humility that seems to be a pathology associated with attending Harvard (think Ted Cruz)]

1. He is teaching what I think is 20 hours a year. That really is huge but notice it is for programs "I" think are important. What about any one else? Are they vanity courses? Suppose he were asked teach something that "he" did not think was important.

2. I'm not going to scoff at completing a huge casebook. It is hard work. On the other hand, to judge whether it was time well spent or just something "he" thinks is important, I'd like to know the market share or number of adoptions. That would give the reader something to evaluate in terms of using one's time productively. Advocates do not give out this information unless it favors them; scholars do. Of course one could just say "many adoptions." See below.

3. He says he has written multiple articles. There is not doubt that he is a productive scholar. In 25 years in the business, though, I could find but 2 judicial citations and 250 in secondary sources. I am sure I am missing some since I just put the name in westlaw and, in his field, I am sure there are other outlets. Let's put it this way. I'd be happy to argue that he has worked his butt off . . . .  but was he writing about what "he" thought was important? Does that account for the seemingly low reliance on his work but others even though he graduated from you know where? Somehow the law prof entitlement of "doing what I think is important seems to come through again and this is my entitlement point.

4. By the way, "many" people at his schools work their hearts out. Same at my school but the system still stinks as long an others can cruise,there is no accountability, and everyone does what he or she thinks is important.  And what about that word "many." It's a law professor favorite because it has no meaning.  It sounds like you are saying something but you have complete deniability. I have heard law professors invoke "many," "most," and "a bunch" typically when it is a handful but they need to make it sound, in the words of the Presidential candidate whose hair looks like an Afghan puppy fell asleep on his head, HUGE.

5. Finally there is the straw man. The writer must know better. I agree that I cannot opine on "all of legal academia." How could I?

So, as I have written so many times that I am really getting pissed off at me, we have a system in which people do exactly what they want to do. They teach what they deem to be "important" and write what they want to write regardless of of whether anyone listens.

Thanks for your support commentator!

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