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The James Bond of Columbia Law School: Philip Bobbitt

Philip Bobbitt law professor Columbia Texas.jpgWe have a soft spot for Columbia Law School, especially after our excellent visit there on Wednesday (“our” = Lat + Kash). Thanks to the CLS Federalist Society, the sponsor of our talk, for the warm welcome.

We also have a soft spot for celebrity professors. Meet Columbia law prof Philip Bobbitt — no relation to John and Lorena Bobbitt, presumably — who was recently profiled in the New York Observer:

Through some combination of gossip, online stalking, hounding their teaching assistants and perusing the Facebook group “Phillip [sic] Bobbitt is Our Hero,” students piece together the following:

Professor Bobbitt, who is 60, arrived at Columbia only 18 months ago, after three decades at the University of Texas. He is an eminent scholar of the Constitution and used to teach modern history at Oxford. He’s a former member of the Carter, Bush I and Clinton administrations and an adviser to foreign heads of state.

Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair blurbed his latest book on terrorism, which both current presidential candidates have reportedly read. He’s the nephew of Lyndon B. Johnson. He can blow smoke rings, and sponsors a national poetry prize in honor of his late mother. Also: He rotates seasonally among his homes, and can’t shake his habit of a nightly cigar and scotch-and-soda.

Read more, including words of wisdom from the worldly-wise professor, after the jump.

Here’s why the Observer, in the front-page teaser about the article, describes Professor Bobbitt as “the James Bond of Columbia Law”:

Most students see him as a dedicated teacher who happens to lead an impossibly cultured and glamorous life.

“His mannerisms just kind of ooze a James Bondian kind of quality,” says Vishal Agraharkar, a former LLM student and a teaching assistant for this year’s class. “Someone who acts like that in class and outside class we assumed must have just an incredible personal life. James Bond has a hell of a personal life, so he must as well.”

“You turn around and you realize that he teaches class on Monday and Tuesday and flies around the world solving the world’s problems Wednesday through Sunday,” said [Craig] Greiwe, who has been a teaching assistant for three of Mr. Bobbitt’s classes.

To lead “an impossibly cultured and glamorous life,” it helps to have Professor Bobbitt’s matinee-idol looks. It also helps to come from money — which we’re guessing the good professor does, in light of his famous relatives and what the Observer describes as a “grand” apartment on Park Avenue.

(Columbia Law School profs are used to having fancy pads. E.g., Hans Smit, who’s selling his $30 million mansion; Sarah Cleveland, who purchased a $2.4 million townhouse last year.)

UPDATE: Upon information and belief, Professor Bobbitt resides at the Beekman (aka 575 Park Avenue), a prewar coop building.

The impressively credentialed Professor Bobbitt — a graduate of Princeton (A.B.), Yale (J.D.), and Oxford (Ph.D.), and a law clerk to the legendary Judge Henry Friendly — offers the following pearls of wisdom to his students:

Have a life outside law school. Share notes. In the middle of a take-home exam, take a walk or a nap.

On the final day of Legal Methods this year, he shared a pearl from “my celebrated uncle,” meaning President Johnson. Every afternoon at 4:30, go into a dark room, change into your pajamas and lie down. After half an hour or so, start working again.

And on that note, we’re going to take a nap.

Professor Bobbitt [New York Observer]

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