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From Torturing Law Students To Sticking Needles In People

For those who are brilliant (and lucky) enough to get hired, being a law professor is a great job. You get to write and teach about interesting subjects. You get the summers off — yes, we know you have articles to work on, but you have total flexibility about your hours and location. You get to be a public intellectual, writing for newspaper op-ed pages and magazines. And you get paid well, too.

If you have an unusual personality, don’t sweat it. Legal academia is welcoming to sociopaths. And sadists, too.

If you enjoy inflicting pain on others, being a law prof is a great gig. Using the Socratic Method, you get to torture 1Ls — and many of them will eat it up. As a law professor, the winner of multiple teaching awards, once told me, “The students like it when you’re a hard-ass; they like to be challenged.”

Many law students don’t mind verbal victimization, but they’d probably draw the line at physical contact. Which brings us to a high-profile law professor who goes around sticking needles in people….

Meet Clare Dalton, former Harvard and Northeastern law professor turned acupuncturist. If her name rings a bell, it might be because she famously sued Harvard Law for sex discrimination in denying her tenure. She used her settlement money to fund the Domestic Violence Institute at Northeastern Law, whose faculty she joined in 1988. (Dalton is also well-known as one-half of a former power couple, the other half being former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.)

A few years ago, Dalton stepped away from the professorial podium to focus full-time on acupuncture, an interest she had been pursuing while still teaching. She talks about her very interesting journey — and reveals her magnificently patrician British accent — in this interview with Spencer Mazyck of Bloomberg Law:

Isn’t that an amazingly aristocratic accent? The Oxford-educated Dalton makes the incredibly elegant Christine Beshar sound like a pre-Henry-Higgins Eliza Doolittle.

And isn’t that an amazing career path? From academia to Covington & Burling, from Covington back to academia, and from academia to acupuncture. Despite the superficial differences between the ivory tower and the acupuncturist’s table, one can see the similarities as well: throughout her career, from her work on domestic violence to her work as an acupuncturist, Clare Dalton has been committed to helping others and to reducing pain and suffering in the world. Her story reminded me of last week’s profile subject, Karen Krueger, who left the partnership of Wachtell Lipton to teach the Alexander Technique, another popular therapy within the world of alternative medicine.

If you’d like to explore an interest other than law but feel that the time has passed, think again. Clare Dalton earned a master’s degree and passed the national certification exam for acupuncture, which she describes as harder than the bar exam, in her fifties. Let her be an inspiration to you as you embark upon a new path.

Stealth Lawyer: Clare Dalton, Acupuncturist [Bloomberg Law via YouTube]

Earlier: The Author of ‘Confessions of a Sociopath’ Might Be This Law Professor
Sociopath Law Professor Admits To Being A Sociopath
A Wachtell Lipton Partner Leaves the Law For….
Mother-at-Law: Cravath’s First Woman Partner
Some Of You Talk Funny And Don’t Know How To Pronounce Your Own Career

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