Back up the van, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Somebody wrote an entire book entitled “What the Best Law Teachers Do,” and two Cooley Law professors made the list of 26 profiles. Two. Cooley was the only school to have two professors on this list, a fact that the school is crowing about online like they’re promoing a James Spader drama.
I can take cheap shots at the list, like “I guess the best law teachers do NOT help people get jobs.” Or I can launch substantive complaints, like pointing out that professors had to be nominated and then jump through a lot of hoops to be included, almost like a glorified Super Lawyers process.
But really, I’m just sitting here watching legal academics circle-jerk other academics with no regard for cost or jobs, and I’m just thinking “screw you guys, I’m going home”…
The best law teachers book was written by Michael Hunter Schwartz, Dean and Professor of the law school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and professors Gerry Hess from Gonzaga Law, and Sophie Sparrow from New Hampshire School of Law. Here’s how Inside Higher Education explains the book’s methodology:
First, the authors solicited nominations for their “best” subjects on law-related electronic mailing lists and at every U.S. law school (of course, some law professors couldn’t help nominating themselves, Hess said, but names mostly came from colleagues and students). They defined “best” as developing students on two levels, to an exceptional degree: intellectual and personal. Not only do the best teachers help their students understand a sizeable body of material, learn to ask sophisticated questions and hone their legal skills, the authors said, they’ll also help students better understand themselves and others.
Next, the authors asked for evidence of such learning. More qualitative than quantitative, much of that evidence came from files for teaching awards given by the 250 nominees’ home institutions, rather than measures such as bar exam passage rates. The authors also asked each nominee for two years’ worth of student evaluations and a teaching philosophy statement.
The authors narrowed their subject pool based on that evidence and observed most of the professors teaching in person. They followed up their observations with extensive interviews, and also talked to professors’ current students and alumni.
You see what I’m talking about? “[T]he authors asked for evidence of such learning. More qualitative than quantitative, much of that evidence came from files for teaching awards given by the 250 nominees’ home institutions, rather than measures such as bar exam passage rates.” Like, what can men do against such reckless hate? This must be how Bill James feels every time someone argues that pitcher wins is a relevant factor in the Cy Young award. Here, we have people willfully ignoring objective empirical data so that they can instead focus on soft factor like “teacher awards” and student evaluations.
Of course, all of that is lost on Cooley:
“It comes as no surprise that Cooley has two professors listed as the best in their profession. Cooley is extremely fortunate to have Nelson Miller and Phil Prygoski named as two of the ‘best law faculty’ in the country,” said Cooley Law School Associate Dean of Faculty Charles Cercone. “Cooley has strived to bring only the best practitioners into the ranks of the school’s professors since its beginning in 1973. We are honored to have both Phil and Nelson on our team.”
And of course Cooley students are as taken by these irrelevant arguments as anybody:
A student of Miller’s is quoted in the book as saying, “At the end of the term he gave this 20-minute talk about the importance of torts and the relevance today, and I left feeling really fired up because he was fired up about it . . . It’s like, here’s something to get excited about; here’s a way to make a difference in the world.”
Yeah. Let’s get fired up! Woohoo. I’m so goddamn fired up. Let’s make a difference. Because we all know that the only thing holding back Cooley kids from getting a job that makes a world-changing difference is getting really, really fired up.
Whatever. Good job, Cooley profs. Let me just pack up my Darth Vader lamp and Optimus Prime paper weight, and get out of your way. I’m done waiting for the legal academy to take seriously its responsibility for student outcomes.
‘What the Best Law Teachers Do’ [Inside Higher Ed]