Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Poor Pitiful Me.

Since it is the Holiday season I tend to think about those less fortunate. Oh, you might think I mean people with these problems:

My boss may lay me off.
I hope I can make this month's car payment.
I hope that check does not clear before payday.
I am not sure what I can put under the tree for the kids.
My tooth aches but the dentist would cost $100.
I have no health insurance and Billy's earache has been going of for two weeks.
If it gets cold this winter, how will I pay for heat?
Judy needs new shoes but that will have to last until after the first of the year.
I wonder if I will have to work the night shift.
Where will I sleep tonight.

Or, then there are the truly needy whose unfortunate lives have lead to an obsession that is close to physical pain. Their problems go like this: (you will get more of if this if you also listen to this

1. I may have to teach my class on Friday.
2. What if not enough students do not sign up for my course, "All about Law and Me."
3. Was Jim disrespectful to me in the faculty meeting?
4. How can I get by without my own personal really fast printer next to my desk?
5. What if I have to be on campus more than two days a week?
6. How can I convince the Dean to get the school to pay for my trip to Honolulu.
7. As I walked by Jack's office did I see he now has a triple monitor set up?
8. If  have to teach 50 students it will interfere with my very very important "work."

For the first group there is never enough under the tree, For the second group there is too much and they want more, more, more. (you are supposed to click on that underlined part)

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Best v. the Most Useful Scholarship

I've had my say on the huge wasted investment in fancy scholarship. On the other hand, if  I had to rank scholarship in the basis of difficulty it would go something like this. There are caveats and another bigger problem.

1. Single authored full length books that are not primarily descriptive. (This assumes carefully done research, not advocacy dressed up as scholarship, and certainly not a compilation of previously published articles.

2.  Single authored full length articles that are not primarily descriptive. (This assumes carefully done research, not advocacy dressed up as scholarship, and certainly not a compilation of previously published articles.)

3. Treatises. Purely descriptive I know but there is something to be said for the ability to fit it together in a meaningful way. (I do not mean yearly updates, supplements, and the like)

4. Single authored casebooks that are widely accepted. Actually, I've only seen two casebooks I would regard as scholarship at all -- the old Kessler and Gilmore Contracts book and the Areeda and Turner Antitrust book.  On this, though, I have  seen only a few casebooks and certainly there may be more that can be regarded as scholarship.  I  rule out casebooks that have multiple authors since this is mainly a marketing tool. It guarantees multiple adoptions and the casebook publishers will publish (and have published) even the worse casebooks if the adoptions are guaranteed. Also ruled out are editions beyond the first.

5. Articles that are advocacy. The equivalent of briefs only with far more irrelevant material.

6. Nutshells and all the new versions of Nutshells. I have to admit, though, that some are quite good at doing what they are intended to do.

7. Edited books of readings. I do not mean any essays by the editors but otherwise it is an administrative task.

This is pretty simplistic because within each category there will be variations in quality and low quality may mean a work in a higher category is no better than works in a lower category.

I do not know if anyone agrees with this list. Nevertheless,  now I will list the same works in terms of the actual impact or influence they have on others.

1. Treatises

2. Casebooks

3. Nutshells and all the new versions of Nutshells

4. Articles that are advocacy.

5. Single authored books.

6. Single authored articles.

7. Edited books of reading.

So here is the problem. First, focus on a law school The first ranking is probably the ranking one would go by if the goal were the enhance the reputation of a law school. The second ranking is the one to go by if the goal were to increase the actual impact of a law school.

Now focus on faculty rankings within a law school.  If you go by the first list, you will rank highest the most difficult and the most useless work.  If you go by the second list, virtually everyone in the law school is the same -- none of the top impact types of "scholarship" are difficult.

It's  a problem. What does a law school want to be? How do you rate faculty?

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Letter From Home

Dear Jack:

I just thought I would write and let you know what is going on in my life. I am still teaching law and living in a small Southern town. We have Fresh Market but not Whole Foods. We make up for that by having more Walmarts per capita than any other city in the world.

Things used to be fine at the law school but now we have fallen under the rule of a new dean who makes ridiculous demands. Just listen to this. He expects us to do research when we have research grants and actually have something to show for our efforts.  Well, so much for academic freedom! I really may file a grievance because our old dean never really asked for anything. I guess his view was that part of our job might entail doing nothing because, evidently, that was his job definition.

And then there are the forms we have to fill out. Oh my God. Some take as long as ten minutes to fill out which means that is time I could be devoted to my very, very important research. In fact, this semester alone I had to fill out a form to explain what I do for the money the school pays me and to indicate what classes I will teach. OK, I know it is probably OK to ask what I want to teach but, GET THIS -- I am asked to only list courses that students sign up for. Really, that is so over the top. People like me who teach in highly specialized courses may only have 5 or 6 students. I fear for what will become of those students who will now be deprived of my expertise.

Some of our best work comes out of various centers, foreign programs, and advanced degree programs. We have had all of these for years. Eleven years ago they were all studied very closely and it was determined that they were all first rate. That was good enough for me. Yes,  in some cases we have several faculty devoting all their time to a hand full of students while the remaining faculty teach several hundred students in massive impersonal sections,  that is just they way to goes when you want to have quality.

The changes are really upsetting. Teaching more students and writing. When exactly did that become part of our jobs. It is so discouraging and I am feeling so very sad that we cannot go back to the day of being true intellectuals.


Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Brad Paisley: Social Scientist

I like Brad Paisley and the song Online: You probably never heard of him. Some of  lyrics to "online" are as follows:

I work down at the pizza pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I'm 5'3 and overweight

I'm a Sci-Fi fanatic
Mild asthmatic
Never been to 2nd base
But there's a whole nother me
That you need to see
Go check out MySpace

'cause online I'm out in Hollywood
I'm 6'5 and I look damn good
I drive a Maserati
I'm a black belt in Karate
And I love a good glass of wine

It turns girls on that I'm mysterious
I tell 'em I don't want nothing serious
'cause even on a slow day I can have a three way
Chat with two women at one time

I'm so much cooler online
So much cooler online

I get home, I kiss my mom
And she fixes me a snack
I head down to my basement bedroom

And fire up my Mac

You get the drift. This guy lives in a fantasy world in which he is a star. Sound familiar? Well let's change a few words and see how law professors have built a similar fantasy world. Just sing it to the tune of "Online."

I work at the law school.
I drive a sensible car
I'm a big deal in the sec pool
I scoff at being member of the Bar.

I am a Harvard fanantic
A little out of shape
Often feel I am taken for granted
But there's a whole nother me
Check my law School bio
And you will agree

cause in my head I am so intellectual
I'm well known and influential
People consult me at the highest levels
My work is so important
Excuse me I'm off the to airport. 

My articles are read by everyone 
Especially students when I test on them
I know others read it too
Or at least I claim they do.

I am so much more important in my head
Partly because I am so well bred.

I have no sense of humor.
My irreverence  is nil.
I love a juicy rumor.
No courts ever cite me
But  I am important still.

In the real song,  opposed to this admittedly pathetic attempt at satire (not parody, a different thing), it goes on and on to explain with great insight how people lose sight of where they are in the scheme of things and take the "self justification" remedy. 

Brad Paisley -- keen observer of the fantasy life.