Last week we wrote about how John Jay Osborn, a law professor and author of The Paper Chase, sniffily dismissed One L, by Scott Turow. “One L is competent,” he said. “But it doesn’t have a HEART.”
Now a prominent blogger has come to Turow’s defense. In this Times Select column, grande blogress diva Ann Althouse defends Turow — and, in the words of a tipster, “cattily trashes John Jay Osborn, author of the Paper Chase, for his suggestion that law profs not teach via the Socratic method in order to make students ‘happier.’”
Money quote, comparing Osborn’s “The Paper Chase” to Turow’s “One L”:
I preferred the memoir [of One L], the account of an ordinary man as he encounters some interesting, fallible human beings who did the work that both Osborn and I do now.
Though none of the law professors I know are much at all like Kingsfield, Osborn chided us law professors for making our students so unhappy: stop calling on them; listen only to volunteers; don’t dictate how they should think; let them tell their own stories.
Law should connect to the real world. But that doesn’t mean we ought to devote our classes to the personal expression of law students. The cases we read for class are always based on factual disputes that arose in real life….
So law is not abstract unless one makes the mistake of turning it into an abstraction. We law professors tend to worry about seeming like Professor Kingsfield. But we ought to worry less about that prospect and more about preserving and respecting our own tradition of teaching from the cases.
The students who come into our law schools are adults who have decided that they are ready to spend a tremendous amount of time and money preparing to enter a profession. We show the greatest respect for their individual autonomy if we deny ourselves the comfort of trying to make them happy and teach them what they came to learn: how to think like lawyers.
Good stuff (even it it’s not as catty as we had hoped). It’s worth noting that Professor Althouse, whose own excellent blog is less academic than many other law professor blogs, is not opposed to “personal expression.” It’s just that she believes, and rightly so, that there’s a time and place for everything.
P.S. Random aside: Professor Osborn’s daughter, Meredith, is a Harvard Law grad now clerking on the Ninth Circuit.
P.P.S. We had the pleasure of meeting Professor Althouse at the NYLS conference last week (see photo at right).
More photographs from the conference, of superior quality, are available at Althouse and Soloway.
‘A Skull Full of Mush’ [Times Select]
At the “Writing About the Law” conference [Althouse]
Ripped From the Headlines [Soloway]
Earlier: John Osborn to Scott Turow: “Game On, Bitch”