Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mitt, the Humility Problem, and Law Profs.

In the last two posts I have mentioned the similarity of Mitt Romney to many law professors. Some commentators have noted that Mitt and most law professors do not share the same political positions. I think that is correct on a very superficial level. What they both stand for is a class system in which those in control feel completely justified maintaining the status quo.  And, of course, that status quo, just coincidentially, favors them.  The other similarity is an ability to describe what others should do but an inability to actually adhere to those rules themselves. These are values that transcend tax rates and similar policies.

The Economist captured the essense of Mitt with this:"WHEN Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans."

 Compare that with today's Mitt and you have no choice but to conclude he is an unprincipled person and a hypocrite. The Economist only calls it world championship flip flopping. In 30 years of law teaching I've seen similar flip-flopping and principles based on which way the wind is blowing. I can count on two hands the number of times someone actually stood up for principle as in; "We should not be doing this." I've seen people hate programs until they began to benefit them. I've seen people teach cooperation, mediation or ADR berate those lower in the pecking order. And, of course, like Mitt, law profs are often masters of "not technically a lie."

The catch is this: Their arrogance and sense of entitlement,  like Mitt's, cancels out even the smallest possibility of humility. They would not regard any of this as hypocritical or dishonest or even flip flopping. Why? Because since birth they have been told they are special, the regular rules do not apply to them.  This is different than simply being sleazy. Clinton was sleazy at times, Nixon was sleazy too. A bit of sleaze, unfortunately, is part of being an effective politician.  The shamelessness (and I mean literally an inability to experience a sense of shame) of people like Mitt, like that of too many law professors I have known, makes a person dangerous regardless of their political views.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Entitlement Quiz: Find Out Who You Really Are

Here is a little quiz I ran across in a Scandinavian publication. You are supposed to answer each question with the appropriate number.  You've done it before. There are 8 questions and you add up your score at the end.

I. When meeting new people I generally let them know in one way or another I went to an Ivy League school within an hour.

1. Strongly disagree
 2. Disagree
3. Huh?
 4. Agree,
 5 Strongly agree.

[On number 1 double your score if you make a point of telling students.]

II. You attended two Ivy League Schools and ended up  with less than $40,000 in debt. If you attended Exeter, you are automatically in the "Yep, that's me" category.

1. NOT ME.
 (No in between possibilities here)
5. YEP, that's Me. 

 III.  Your Dean announces as a budgetary matter the school will not supply toner for individual office-kept printers.

1. You do not have an office printer,
2. You have a printer but use  it rarely
3. You see no problem buying your own toner.
4. You are offended because it will slow down your work
5. You view the decision as punitive because the nearest community printer is several feet away and you are way too important to walk that far.

IV. At the beginning of each year your Dean gives each person a travel budget.
1. You rarely use the budget.
2. You use some of the budget but only if there are professionally meaningful events.
3. You use all the budget and when it runs out, you pay.
4. You use over half of the budget and, at the end of they year, try to figure out a way to spend anything that is left.
5. You don't really pay attention to the budget, If you go over the school better pay because, after all, you are world class.

V. Which of these would you consider a legitimate event on which to spend school funds.
1. Giving a Paper at the AALS convention.
2. Giving a Paper at the annual meeting of a national organization.
3. Attending a meeting of an organization that you know something about in NYC
4. Serving on a one hour long panel with 6 others in Rio.
5. Traveling to Quebec city to confer with a coauthor whose office is actually three doors down from yours.

VI.  You post office hours for student drop ins for
1. 10 hours a week
2. 8 hours a week
3. 6 hours a week
4. 4 hours a week
5. less than 4 hours a week.

VII. What would you cancel class for?
1. Death in family or serious illness
2. Nuclear fallout.
3. Did not get prepared enough.
4. Got an invitation to teach in Rome for a week.
5. I sneezed a few hours ago and could be getting a head cold.

VIII. The Dean notes you teach about 80 students a year, well below the faculty average. He or she asks you to teach more. You.
1. Say you are concerned about pulling your weight and volunteer to teach another section.
2. add writing assignments to the usual class material because the small classes are an opportunity.
3. explain that you have pressing other duties.
4. explain that the material is hard and you spend time with the students outside of class.
5. say, "I am teaching 9 hours and that is the average load."

Total Score: 41 and up. Retake the test. That score is not possible but the highly entitled person may feel deserving of numbers over 5.
30-40  You are insufferable.
20-30  You should take good look at yourself. If your smile is out of place. Well, you know the rest.
10-20 Are you sure? If so, get ready to be appalled by the activities of some of your colleagues.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yale Don't Wanna Hear From No Dumb Ass Legal Writing Teachers and Paul Ryan

Give me your hungry, your tired your poor I'll piss on 'em,
Lou Reed

This (below, not up there)  is lifted from a  post on Prawfblawg   that quoted another blog which quoted a letter of advice from the Director of Admission at Yale to a transfer student wannabe.  I really don't like putting in all the links but you can find it. It's quite creepy but don't blame the Director. She is telling it the way it is.

 "The other part of your application that is going to carry a significant amount of weight is your law school recommendations (we require two).  We use these references to place your grades in context and also to determine what kind of student you are.  A common mistake on this front is to make one of your two required recommendations from a legal writing instructor -- most students do this because they've usually had much more one-on-one interaction with their legal writing instructor than with their other professors, and so the instructor usually knows them well.  There's nothing wrong with this per se, but the Admissions Committee generally likes to have at least two letters from one of your first year core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts (a third letter from your legal writing instructor is fine).  Letters from professors who went to YLS -- who as you probably know are ubiquitous in the legal academy-- are often especially helpful, since they usually discuss why the applicant would fit into the academic and cultural experience here.  But don't go stalking a Yale alum just for this purpose -- just pick professors from classes in which you have performed very well and you'll be on the right track."

There are so many things wrong with this that I do not know where to begin. First, it is a tremendous dis of Legal Writing instructors many of whom are excellent, are grads of elite schools, and are teaching legal writing because they have limited geographic options due to one factor or another.  In fact, one of the people in the chain through which I received this quote teaches legal writing, went to an elite school, and could teach the pants off most people I know. So, Yale elites cannot even get it straight when trying to make sure no riff-raff gets through.

That riff-raff, by the way, would be students at non elite schools  who, according to the author of the letter, must have had the misfortune of having Yale grad profs. Why misfortune? Yale professors must be awful teachers because none of their students at those schools, when they become legal writing teachers, are good enough for a letter of recommendation that counts.

Second, it tells you what Yale folks think of writing. They don't want to hear from the person most informed about writing and speaking. Opps, isn't that what lawyers do?! Not all Yale grads can find  jobs writing incomprehensible law review articles that are never read.

Third, there is the "get Yale prof letters if you can" suggestion. Why? The answer is because they know whether you will fit into Yale's "academic and cultural experience." (Excuse me for a sec. I am barfing as I type this. . . . Ok, I am fine now.)  Now talk about a disaster. Is she saying what I think? We sure as hell do not want any diversity here. We want people who fit.  Only a Yale grad now in law teaching would know  if the candidate is sufficiently boring, one-dimensional,  Yale ass kissing, grade grubbing, and underachieving enough to fit in at Yale.

What does this have to do with Paul Ryan. It's easy, the Director's letter describes classism in full bloom. We do not trust someone who is not already in our cozy little class. And what do we know about huge numbers of people in that class. They're always circling the wagons because they know that they got there through connections and mommy and daddy's money. They are largely privileged people with an insatiable sense of entitlement. Actually, they are Paul except for some superficial political views.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Law Professors for Romney/Ryan

Finally, a ticket that many, if not most, law professors can get behind. Here are two silver spoon candidates whose hands were probably never dirty. Opps, correction. Ryan does like to sneak around in the woods with his bow and arrow and try to kill unsuspecting animals and sometimes there is dirt on his super duper big boy bow. What bravery! One of those chipmunks could charge you.

It's just perfect, both are in their jobs because their parents and connections. There is no sign that either could have made it on their own intellects and work ethic.  Ryan, it appears, actually never worked a real job other than part time stints. He does list "marketing consultant for family business" but, come one, if you wanted to make sure little Rye could get a cut of the take and you could write it off this is exactly what you would do.

If they were in the AALS sheets and had gone the law schools their parents could afford and made decent grades they would be scooped up faster than a Supreme Court Clerk. In fact, they would have been Supreme Court clerks. No one on a hiring committee would ask:

1. What have you actually done in your life?
2. Have you overcome anything that was difficult?
3. Who do you know who has helped you?
4. What do your mommy and daddy do? (Ok I know Ryan's dad died early but here I am talking about the status they were born into.)
5. What do you bring to the table that every other privileged person does not bring, other than dressage experience.

The dominant culture in legal education hire these people every year and I assume they will vote for them. They have finally found their political and social counterparts. I am surprised the law professor vote is regarded as so important to result in such an obvious appeal.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

WTF, The Wonderful World of Won't: Summer Rerun

Sorry if the letters offend you but it really is the phrase running around in my head when I think of this: One of my first jobs was a laborer. Unionized but still low pay. Florida sun, 8 hours often in the mud and so tired at the end of the day it was a beer and bed. The only disagreements were between the foreman and the union steward over how many cinder blocks I should carry at a time. I kept my mouth shut and needed the job. Just like being a law professor, I knew if the truth were out, a zillion of people could do what I did. I did not say when I would come to work, how long I would stay, what I would do, when I would do it. I just did it every day to get a check.
If anyone has had that type of job -- the type most Americans have had or do have then their only reaction to law professors has to be WFT?

Like the meeting I was in the other day in which the question came up of why someone only taught a handful of students each year. The answer? "I talked to her and she won't teach more than that." WTF?? WON'T?? When did won't become an employee's response. Yes, working Americans, law professors get to say that and no one gives them a spanking or fires them.

"Dude, gotta be out of town for a couple weeks to teach somewhere else. Don't worry, I'll work when I can (or not), a little extra here and there or maybe 5 days straight at end." Law professors reading this know I am not kidding but this is fair game if you have a job in which you "won't" do things and the only response from the person nominally in charge is "oh." WTF

How about this one. Don't want to teach your classes at 9 or 4 or on Friday,Monday or Wednesday (or at all). OK, my dear what would work for you in the world of "won't." WTF?

OK, how about not really teaching in person but taping an entire course and them picking your your check as usual. Tape for two days and semester is done. Is this the same as phoning it in? I wish I could have phoned it in the day my finger was almost taken off while I was hooking a giant bucket of cement to a crane. WFT?

You don't really want to teach what the law is but what you wish it were. No problem, if you are in the world of "won't." No one knows and so what if the students' clients are blindsided by the attorney on the other side who actually does know the law. WTF?

What? me grade exams? Don't worry, just use that recycled machine graded multiple choice one. WFT?

I think one of the qualifications for being a law professor is to do hard labor (not in jail although that is a thought) in order to get just a taste of reality and humility. As best I can tell those who do not make use of the "won't" culture, in John Lennon's words are "still fucking peasents as far as I can see" or they will be treated that way.