Law Professors

Many prominent people, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Harry Edwards, have raised their voices about the increasing irrelevance of academic writing to practicing lawyers and judges. Yet, despite railing at the academy, those judges — and law firms, and sophisticated purchasers of legal services — all rely on the academics to identify talented lawyers. Law schools brand the beef, and purchasers buy based on the brand. What do I mean, and why is that process natural and appropriate?

Let’s start with an example for people coming right out of law school: How should judges pick law clerks? One way — perhaps even the “fair” way — would be for judges to assume that each of the 45,000 people graduating from law school is equally likely to make a fine clerk. Judges would solicit applications from all 45,000 and then start the process of sorting the good from the bad.

That cannot work, of course. Judges don’t have the resources (or, necessarily, the ability) to study transcripts, read writing samples, conduct interviews, and do the other spadework needed to assess all of those candidates comprehensively. And judges can’t externalize the cost of the screening process; there’s no person or institution that would play that role for an acceptable price.

What are judges to do? They rely on law schools to brand the beef.

Rant as they may about scholars producing unhelpful scholarship, most judges rely essentially unthinkingly on those same scholars to have separated the potentially gifted lawyers from the crowd. Judges assume that the best students went to the best law schools; that, after arriving, the more talented law students outperformed the less talented ones; and thus that the best performers at the best law schools will make the best clerks. Judges typically pick their clerks from among the top graduates of the elite schools. Judges may think that professors are insane when they’re selecting topics for their scholarship and then devoting months to researching and writing on those subjects, but those same judges rely on the same professors to brand the beef astutely. Whatever criteria law schools are using within the asylum to rank their students, the outside world seems quite happy with it.

Is that fair?

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Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi: both said politically incorrect things.

* The Kardashians may be “America’s rightful overlords,” as Marin so memorably put it, but even they must respect intellectual-property laws. [Fashionista]

* Congratulations to the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 (class of 2011). Perhaps you know some of the inductees? [National LGBT Bar Association]

* In less cheerful LGBT news… another day, another Republican politician allegedly trolling the internet for paid male companionship. Stay classy, Phil Hinkle. [Indianapolis Star]

* Tyler Clementi joked about Dharun Ravi’s parents owning a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. [New York Magazine]

Must lobster salad contain lobster?

* So just who is behind Inside the Law School Scam? Con Daily got an interview with LawProf, and breaks down a list of schools where LawProf may be employed. [Constitutional Daily]

* The SEC is sniffing around S&P; Matt Levine explains why. [Dealbreaker]

* When it comes to taking “reasonable” steps to prevent disclosure of privileged materials, perfection is not required, according to Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm. [Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog (Bob Ambrogi)]

* A popular grocery store on the Upper West Side thought that it could get away with mislabeling its lobster salad. Not so fast… where’s Kash when you need her? [New York Times]

A blogging law professor essentially agrees with the scambloggers.

It’s one thing for the loser of a game to complain that the rules are unfair. It’s quite another for a winner to admit the same thing.

We’ve written before about law school scamblogs. According to the scambloggers, law schools rip off their students by (1) misrepresenting the employment outcomes of law school graduates, (2) taking students’ money (much of it borrowed), and (3) spitting students out into a grim legal job market, saddled with six figures of debt that they didn’t have before they became JDs.

It’s not surprising that many of these unemployed or underemployed graduates have taken to the internet with complaints about legal education; they are, after all, victims of the alleged scam. What would be more surprising is if a law professor — say, a tenured professor at a first-tier law school, a clear winner under the status quo — joined them in admitting that law school is something of a scam.

Which apparently just happened, earlier this week….

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Sheryl Sandberg

* Shocker: tenured law professors are well-paid (check out their median salaries), and they enjoy high job satisfaction. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to David Boies and Ted Olson on winning the American Bar Association Medal, for their remarkable work on Perry v. Schwarzenegger (aka the Prop 8 case). [American Foundation for Equal Rights]

* In other LGBT news, lawyer turned pundit Ann Coulter makes nice with the gays, claiming her crown as the “Queen of Fabulous.” [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Meanwhile, the Queen of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, gets profiled by the New Yorker. Here is Professor Christine Hurt’s take. [The Conglomerate]

* In the law firm world, beauty contests pit one law firm against another. In the strip-club world, beauty contests pit one vajayjay against another. [Fashionista]

Harry Wellington

* If you leave your bag of meth at the tanning salon, don’t go back for it. [Legal Blog Watch]

* The London riots show how technology and social media can be used to commit or to combat criminal activity. [Associate's Mind]

* Obama is taking his time on judicial nominations but at least he’s promoting diversity, reports John Schwartz. [New York Times]

* The ideas that Zach Shemtob and I discussed in our NYT op-ed are explored in greater detail in this (mercifully short) piece for the Tennessee Law Review. [SSRN]

* Harry Wellington, former dean of Yale Law School and New York Law School, RIP. [Yale Law School]

Almost a year ago, David Van Zandt, one of the most admired figures within legal education, announced his departure as dean of Northwestern Law School. Van Zandt moved to New York, leaving behind his multimillion-dollar mansion in Chicago, to assume the presidency of the New School (a move that made headlines here in NYC).

A search committee went to work, to try and find someone to fill Dean Van Zandt’s large shoes. Today the law school announced its new leader.

The new Northwestern Law dean, like his predecessor, is a distinguished scholar. He also comes with a strong track record as a law school administrator.

Who is he? Let’s find out….

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We recently imagined a scenario in which Professor Goodwin Liu, the controversial Boalt Hall law prof whose Ninth Circuit nomination was successfully filibustered, became Justice Goodwin Liu. It now looks like this might happen earlier than we had expected.

But he would be a justice on a non-SCOTUS court (for now). California Governor Jerry Brown just nominated Professor Liu, 40, to serve on the California Supreme Court.

How might Goodwin Liu’s nomination be received by the people of California? He’s smart, he’s liberal — er, progressive — but there’s one potential rub….

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She’s an enormously affable, accessible person. I don’t think she would come with the baggage that someone from an elite university might sometimes have.

– Professor Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School, discussing the possibility that his colleague, Professor Elizabeth Warren, might run to represent Massachusetts in the United States Senate.

Yale Law School

Here at Above the Law, we’ve been discussing problems with the current law school model for quite some time now. My colleague Elie Mystal, for example, has railed against the high cost of law school, the crippling debt taken on by many law students, and the scarcity of jobs waiting for them on the other side.

By now we’re all aware of the problems. What about possible solutions?

In the wake of David Segal’s most recent New York Times exposé on law school shenanigans, the Times’s Room for Debate section solicited perspectives from a number of experts — including yours truly — on whether and how to reform legal education.

The responses are quite interesting. Let’s check them out, shall we?

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* TLC’s Sister Wives are challenging Utah’s bigamy laws. More power to these polygamist people, especially the men. They deserve some credit for tolerating a handful of wives. [Jonathan Turley]

* Screw law students, we need to keep our professors employed. This is definitely the most important thing the ABA needs to worry about right now. [TaxProf Blog]

* Even though the fan who caught the ball on Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit is swimming in student loans, he may still have to pony up taxes on all of his new Yankees loot. [Going Concern]

* We all know Julian Assange doesn’t want to get extradited to Sweden because no one understands zeeur phuenteec lungooege-a boollsheet. Börk, börk, börk! [Constitutional Daily]

* A PA restaurant is banning kids under 6 because they are LOUD, NOISY a-holes. Parents, WHY do you think it’s okay to bring your kids to a restaurant if they can’t behave? I’ll never get this. [CNN]

* Crackpot Law, starring Herb Titus and Michele Bachmann. You better get armed and dangerous in God’s Law and “normal people values” if you know what’s good for you. [Religion Dispatches]

* If you think that your law school loans ruined your credit, you should try being “dead.” [ABA Journal]

The verdict in the Casey Anthony case reflected the lack of forensic evidence and heavy reliance on circumstantial inferences. There was no evidence of a cause of death, the time of death, or the circumstances surrounding the actual death of this young girl. There was sufficient circumstantial evidence from which the jury could have inferred homicide. But a reasonable jury could also have rejected that conclusion, as this jury apparently did.

Alan Dershowitz, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece about the Casey Anthony verdict. (For thoughts along similar lines in defense of fair Casey, see Elie’s recent post.)

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