Law School Deans

In battles between university presidents and law deans, the university president always wins. The university presidents have the backing of boards of trustees who barely know what is going on. Law deans usually don’t have the ear of the powerful people who actually make decisions about how universities are run.

But not this time; this time everybody loses. The dean who challenged his president is no longer the dean, but the president is now no longer a university president. And the law students… well, they were probably screwed a long time ago…

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Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He’s currently sharing some of his thoughts about legal education and other topics here on Above the Law.

Legal education does not suffer from a problem. It suffers from multiple problems.

In law school, before students learn anything else, they must understand the importance of issue spotting. One cannot analyze a case or a line of cases, without being able to see the multiple potential issues that are raised and then recognizing which warrant consideration. In actual practice, this skill remains a pre-requisite for offering an opinion or fashioning an argument. It becomes a matter of course.

Legal education faces at least three problems. They are related but not the same. What might help with respect to one problem might hurt with respect to another problem….

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Dean Lawrence Mitchell

These are not rhetorical questions. We expect candor from the university we hired to educate us. As future lawyers, we won’t accept a Potemkin village and will see through any façade erected to make us feel that all is well. Reminding us that there is a new curriculum (which doesn’t seem to amount to more than shifting around the furniture on the Titanic) will not make us look away from the real issues.

– Editors of The Docket, the student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, in an editorial entitled Some Hard Questions for President Snyder, posing queries to university administrators about the retaliation lawsuit filed by Professor Raymond Ku against Dean Lawrence Mitchell (who is now on leave).

Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of the music stopping. It’s the sound of a tap running dry. Law schools are living in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and the party is wrapping up.

Professor Paul Campos estimates that 80 to 85 percent of law school are operating at a loss right now. Cratering law school applications put a stop on federally backed loan money that has been used to prop up outrageous law school tuition for years. In most industries, such realities would spur creative and substantive reform. Smart people would try to do something to fix the industry. Instead, people running law schools don’t think like that even when they have an opportunity for clarity.

As Fitzgerald writes: “arid for a moment people set down their glasses in country clubs and speak-easies and thought of their old best dreams. Maybe there was a way out by flying, maybe our restless blood could find frontiers in the illimitable air. But by that time we were all pretty well committed; and the Jazz Age continued; we would all have one more.”

Maybe all deans can do now is to play it out to the bitter end….

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Dean Lawrence Mitchell

When Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law announced earlier this week that he was taking a temporary leave of absence, we offered two theories about why. The first was that the university wanted to remove him from his post so it could conduct an independent investigation of the allegations made against him in a lawsuit by Professor Raymond Ku. The second was that Dean Mitchell wanted to devote his full time and energy to fighting Professor Ku’s lawsuit, which claims that the dean retaliated against Professor Ku after Ku reported alleged sexual harassment by the dean to university officials.

Of these two theories, the second is probably closer to the truth. Through his lawyers, Dean Mitchell is fighting back — hard — and the university seems to be supporting him all the way.

Since we’ve devoted extensive coverage to the allegations of the lawsuit against Dean Mitchell, let’s now hear the arguments defending him (and attacking Professor Ku). Some of them have been made by Dean Mitchell’s lawyers and the university, and some come from Case Western students and faculty members with whom we have communicated. They paint a most interesting picture….

(Please note the UPDATE added to the end of this post, a message just sent out to Case alumni by President Barbara R. Snyder.)

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‘Don’t Tase these, bro!’

* A proposal to raise the retirement age for judges in New York was crushed by voters, but Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has vowed to continue fighting the requirement — just like a stubborn old man. [New York Law Journal]

* Which law schools have the highest percentage of graduates working as corporate directors or executive officers of companies? You might be surprised by some of the results. Or you might not. [National Law Journal]

* Dean Lawrence Mitchell of Case Western Reserve Law wants parts of the retaliation suit that’s been filed against him tossed for being “scandalous” and “salacious.” But those are the best parts. :( [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* Thanks to a $25 million donation from an alumnus and his wife, Yale Law School is going to be getting dormitories for law students in the very near future. The thought of all of those coed nerdgasms between future SCOTUS clerks is a thing of beauty. [Fox News]

* Clark Calvin Griffith, the former adjunct professor at William Mitchell Law, has been suspended from practicing law for 90 days after exposing his penis to a law student. Stiff punishment. [Pioneer Press]

* If you were thinking of giving away guns on Facebook, then you should think again. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun on the internet is with slideshows of the 572 best kitty cat gifs. [Corporate Counsel]

* A police officer in Arkansas ordered a woman to flash him her boobs while she was at work, and when she refused, he allegedly Tasered her repeatedly. She’s obviously suing now. [New York Daily News]

V is for ‘victory’?

Critics of Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell won’t have Dean Mitchell to kick around any more — at least for now. The embattled dean of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, accused in a lawsuit of retaliating against a Case faculty member who blew the whistle on alleged sexual harassment by Dean Mitchell, is taking a temporary leave of absence.

Dean Mitchell and the university haven’t commented much on the allegations of Professor Raymond Ku’s complaint (which was recently amended to add some juicier allegations). The university did issue a statement denying that retaliation occurred, and the dean told the Case community to keep calm and carry on.

To make that process easier, he’s stepping away from his deanly duties for a time. Let’s check out his announcement….

(Please note the UPDATE added at the end of this post.)

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I recently participated in an excellent symposium about the future of legal education that was sponsored by the Seton Hall Law Review. Congratulations to the law review editors on putting on a great event, and thanks to them for inviting me to be a part of it.

Most of the presentations took the form of detailed papers that will be published in the law school’s symposium issue. But there were a few moments of levity, represented by the following seven notable quotations (comments that I found either amusing or interesting):

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Yet another law dean blows the whistle.

Whenever a law dean goes out in a blaze of glory, it’s news. And by “blaze of glory,” I mean “resigns with a hyper-critical message to the larger university.” Law deans might be insensitive to the cost concerns of their students, but university presidents are generally clueless. A university president looking at a law school entering class is like Cypher looking at the Matrix. They don’t even see the code anymore, they just see “dollar sign, federally guaranteed loan, potential future donor.”

Obviously, law deans usually only resign in a huff when they’re not getting enough money from the university, and “we need more money” isn’t necessarily helpful to students since often the solution is to “jack up tuition.” But in today’s story, we have a dean who might have resigned for reasons beyond more than money.

It’s possible that this dean wanted to run a law school, while the university wanted to run a Tea Party training ground…

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Did you say threesome, Dean?

* The Magic Circle isn’t very magical across the pond in New York City. Four out of five firms from the U.K. — Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters — have yet to pull rabbits out of their hats in the Big Apple. [Am Law Daily]

* Dewey know how much this failed firm’s old domain name sold for at auction? At the conclusion of the sale, it ended up going for $210,689, which was just a shade over the initial asking price of $200,000. Someone just got ripped off. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* The judge on this case against Skadden Arps isn’t sure that document review should count as anything other than practicing law, “even if it’s not the most glamorous.” Ahh, the luxurious life of a contract attorney. [Am Law Daily]

* Professor Raymond Ku has filed an amended complaint against Case Western Law Dean Larry Mitchell, and now the allegations are even juicier, including a possible ménage à trois. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

* The number of people who took the LSAT in October has dropped for the fourth year in a row, this time by 11 percent. “This is a big deal” for law professors interested in keeping their jobs. [National Law Journal]

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