Monday, August 22, 2011

The Prissification of Law Profs: Leiter, the Scam-man, and Commentators

I am feeling ashamed of being a law professor right now. First you have the author of the law scam blog who was too prissy to identify himself. Go figure, you're a fucking law professor. What is another law professor going to do to you? Snub you at one of those meetings at which everyone one is looking over everyone elses' shoulders in case there is someone else in the room whose ass it would be better to kiss.

And there was the prissiness of the discussion about what should be made of his effort to be anonymous and other matters already discussed a zillion times. Just replay tape 54. Really is this high school? And then it is followed by even more.

But Brian Leiter takes the cake in this prissing contest. Evidently he is deeply offended and, thus, has launched an extended ad hominen attack on poor timid Mr. Scam-man. Oh, my goodness! For example, according to Mr. Leiter, Mr Scam-man is "notorious in the legal academy." Ouch, now that is big. It's about as important in the scheme of things as being notorious in a Denny's kitchen. And he notes of Mr. Scam-man's accusations, which admittedly are exaggerated, " "None of this warrants the absurdly offensive description of American legal education as a "'scam.'" When was Mr. Leiter appointed the protector of the virtue of American Legal Education. Where was he when Hester needed him? And then, we find that Mr. Scam-man is a "failed academic." I have never actually followed the logic that a "failed academic," even if that is true, cannot observe and report on what he sees. But, if Mr. Scam-man is a failed academic and his record is the standard, he joins 95% of the other law professors who
few people know and even fewer people give a rat's ass about what they write or say.

And now a personal note. I really want a comment on this post. And this comment must say this: "Jeff, you've been duped. This was all Performance Art." I really want to believe this because if it is not true, Mr. Scam-man has only scratched the surface and everyone in on this kerfuffle, including me, needs to be spanked just enough to get the priss out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Should Law School Grads Teach Law?

In theory they should. After all, they studied it for 3 years and hopefully beyond. So, they have the right information but do they deliver it in a way that can be called teaching? This question occurred to me when I heard that someone had told a beginning professor that "law school scholarship including empirical work is the means to the end of advancing your point of view or opinion."

The problem here is pretty obvious. Law students are schooled on the importance of representing a client as completely as ethically possible. In fact, they are professionals at this. It is, after all, an adversarial system. Can they drop the adversarial/representational mindset when they become scholars and teachers? Many cannot.

When one adopts his or her own point of view or opinion as a client, then the idea of being a teacher hits a wall. The same is true when you are inclined only to hire or tenure people who agree with you. You are not teaching; the exception being if you fess up and say, "my personal politics are too far to the left/right/liberal to personally feel comfortable with that argument." I doubt this happens much because many law profs do not want to engage on meaningful issues. True engagement means the other person may have something to say that is relevant and that cannot be true when you know you are right, no matter what.

So, law grads have the information. That is the good news.

Some more good news. They may have practiced law and may know how.

The bad news is that, although they have a boatload of war stories and talk as though it was yesterday, most have either not practiced at all or only so long ago that there was no internet.

The other bad news is the really bad news. They are also taught to not to be open minded, tolerant, or humble when it comes to what they believe and many, not all, cannot stop representing their personal beliefs. This also means they cannot teach.

Law School Scam and Prissiness

I am sure most readers have seen the law school scam blog or read references to it. I agree with much of Mr. Mystery's observations (yes this is way too hush-hush not to be anonymous) except I don't believe law profs are as work averse as he or she suggests. Don't get me wrong; it is a world of little accountability but some do have a conscience.

One of my friends predicts this will become the new bandwagon for law professors resulting in much hand wringing about "what we have done to the students." Maybe my friend is right but, if so, it goes down as just another well ....bandwagon. By that I mean no one was on board on the basis of principle but only became interested when they were sure the wind was blowing the right way. What can I say? Just another example of individual gutlessness.

There are lots of others. I could count on one hand the number of law professors who have raised the issue of exploitation and its racial bias when it comes to college athletes. I guess that bandwagon is stalled.

Another one is the deep concern about diversity. Yes, faculty will argue and spends gallons of stomach acid on how much diversity counts and who to hire for a full time tenure track position. On the other hand, literally thousands of adjuncts, lecturers, and other teachers are hired without even a nod to publicizing the position in order to attract diverse candidates. That bandwagon is also stuck in a rut. The same goes for the salaries of staff people.

As I have written many times before, the best argument against tenure for law professors is that they waste it. Of all the groups I have observed, law profs, men and women, must have the highest level of average prissiness per person.(APPP).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Priming the Law Review Pump.

Over on PrawfsBlawg there is an interesting essay by Jeff Lipshaw about law review placement in the summer. I think he has it right. It's risky because you may have a hard time bargaining up. Plus, from my own experience the information on Expresso about which law reviews are open for business is terribly inaccurate. But if you are satisficer, you may get just what you need.

But his story he has this: "Two weeks after the submission, I received a publication offer from a top 60 law review. This was a law review as to which I did not try to prime the pump - meaning that, in a couple cases, when I saw the receipt notice on ExpressO, I dropped a note to a friend on that faculty asking him or her to put in a plug for me."

As you can imagine, a fair amount of discussion follows. Let's face it, there are many things worrisome about priming the pump -- the old boy system, appeals to authority -- all of which come down to whether the review by law review editors is actually based on the merits of the piece. Guess which law professors are most likely to have friends at other law schools who can help them out. It's those who graduated from the handful of schools that supply the vast majority of law professors. It's strikes me as rigging no more or less than law schools and USN&WR. I do not mean to pick on Jeff. In fact, based on his thoughtful writings, I have great respect for him. He just happened to put in black and white what I assume is commonplace.

Jeff's response to some of the criticism along the lines found here is: "Can I defend the practice? No more than I can defend all the other proxies that student editors use to select articles. A professor says to the editor, "I know so and so, and she is well respected and this seems to be a pretty good piece." Is that any worse than looking at the author's CV as a proxy for the quality of the piece?" This is the part that does surprise me. What does it mean? I think what it means is that law profs do this because they assume everyone else is doing it and, to stay competitive they do it as well. Sounds like the same arguments law schools make when the try to rig the ratings game -- we don't want to do this but we have to. It's a version of the prisoner's dilemma. If everyone would stop -- schools and professors -- the system would be better off. But neither the schools or the professors can take the risk of deviating from a narrow self-interest perspective unless, in the case of professors, they must because they are not part of the elite fraternity.