Blogging, Law Professors, Minority Issues, Vicious Infighting

In Defense of Professor Donald North and Southern University Law Center (SULC)

Courtney Horne

You can’t keep a good story down. And the case of Courtney Horne v. Donald North, currently being tried in the court of public opinion, is a good story.

We first mentioned this ugly spat between a former law student at Southern University Law Center and her former criminal law professor in passing. Readers clamored for more coverage. So we did a follow-up post, a quick Quote of the Day — which racked up thousands upon thousands of pageviews.

So let’s give you what you want: more discussion of Courtney Horne, Professor North, and Southern University Law Center (SULC)….

Professor Donald North

If you’re not familiar with the backstory, read this prior post. The upshot is that Courtney Horne dropped out of Southern University Law Center just a few weeks into her first year, complaining on her blog of the “soul crushing” law school experience. Many of her complaints focused on Professor Donald North, who she claims held Saturday morning classes that students were not previously advised of. According to Horne, after she raised questions about the Saturday sessions with the administration, North “threw a literal tantrum in class” — and then saddled the class with additional work.

What did Professor North have to say for himself? In a lengthy comment that he reportedly posted on Horne’s blog, he suggested that Horne “chose to participate in a Profession with an undergraduate attitude” and that, if he was guilty of anything, it was “for trying to have Standards and Expectations.” (Here’s his full response.)

Readers posted more than 100 comments to our story. Some criticized North as an “a**hat” and a “d-bag” with a “massive ego,” and others had negative comments about SULC, which is not highly ranked — in U.S. News parlance, “rank not published” (i.e., in the bottom 25 percent of law schools).

But were the commenters perhaps too harsh on Professor North and Southern University Law Center? We recently received a detailed, thoughtful, and heartfelt defense of both the professor and the law school. We have posted it below in full, without interruption or commentary. (We have learned from our past mistakes; sometimes less is more, especially in a case of res ipsa loquitur.)

Of course, if you have views, you are welcome to share them in the comments. Thanks.

AN OPEN LETTER FROM AN ALUMNUS OF THE SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER

I am a graduate (nay veteran) of the esteemed Professor Donald North’s Criminal Law course. I just thought I could add some additional color to your portrait of a person who is a already quite a colorful man.

Taking his class is a unique experience, as is the experience at SULC as a whole. Every year approximately 1/3-1/4th of the 1L class takes him for Criminal Law. And, despite the fact that he has worked there over a decade, every single year some less-than-bright student thinks that they are bringing to the school’s attention his behavior for the first time.

The man is literally a drill instructor, and has served in the military for most of his adult life. He lives his life by a strict code, and it catches some people off-guard. Personally, I grew up around members of the military, so his behavior and mannerisms were familiar to me. I can see why this might seem unreasonable to some who are unfamiliar with these types of people, but the thing is that the longer I work in this field, the happier I am that I had him as my teacher.

What Prof. North does is make it clear that to succeed in this business as an SULC graduate, you’re going to have to expect the unexpected, be ready to drop everything you planned to do to take on work, and hustle on a daily basis to keep some jerk (whether it be a client, partner, or a judge) happy. And he’s right, because let’s face it: SULC isn’t Harvard. It isn’t even Tulane, for that matter. No one cuts us any breaks. When SULC graduates get finished with Law School there’s not going to be a cushy job awaiting most of us. In order to survive in this business we are going to need the work ethic that this man’s class instills in you. As with anything else in life, an SULC law degree is what you make it. It will take you as a far as you are willing to work. Prof. North’s methods teach us the hard lesson in this profession early, so that we get the most out of our JD. If you cannot handle his class, then you will not be a successful SULC graduate.

I have seen some disparaging remarks about SULC in the comments, and my first instinct is to defend the school by citing its history of serving underpriviledged communities, especially in light of it being an HBCU. However, such words will fall upon deaf ears to the daily Klan meeting (Tea Party?) that takes place in the ATL comments, so I’ll make my argument very short. SULC’s ranking is not great, but it only cost me $4,000 a semester to attend the school. I managed to graduate and find a job as an associate at a Vault 15 firm in New York. I was not the only one in my class who made it to my firm, nor were we the only SULC graduates that ended up as associates in V50 firms. I graduated with less than $20,000 in law school debt, and because I did not have a big debt burden, I had the flexibility to leave and find a new job that I would enjoy more but would pay me less when I decided I did not want to stay past my fifth year. Today, I am at a regional MidLaw firm in the Midwest. I am still pulling in six figures, and have less than $10,000 left in law school debt. I would not be where I am today without SULC, and the lessons I learned from Prof. North.

Go Jags!

Wading into it… (against my better judgement) [A Nerd Girl’s Perspective]
Why I Left Law School [A Nerd Girl’s Perspective]

Earlier: Quote of the Day: A ‘Toxic’ Law School Environment?
Non-Sequiturs: 10.04.12

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