Law School Deans

There’s an email going around from Thomas Guernsey, the new dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. In a letter to the alumni, Guernsey admits that some of the school’s policies have been unhelpful to current and former students. It then lists various reforms that the school is looking at.

But let’s not start licking TJSL’s popsicle just yet. Guernsey’s reforms do not address Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental price problem. The school costs way too much for the meager job prospects it provides. And it’s possible that Guernsey just doesn’t understand that or, more likely, simply isn’t willing to admit that. He says, “I do not know how Thomas Jefferson became the whipping boy for critics of legal education.”

I don’t know if that is supposed to mean “Thomas Jefferson is clearly a great school undeserving of all this hate,” which would be demonstrably false. Or if he simply means “Thomas Jefferson is no worse than 50 or so other ‘accredited’ ABA schools in the way it uses the misplaced hope of its students to turn a quick profit,” which is also probably false, but less obviously so.

Still, this is about as much honesty as we can expect from a person in Guernsey’s position. Anything more and he would have had to end with, “And so we’re shutting down, sorry about all that stuff we did.”

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* Good news if you’re a better golfer than your buddies: if you play in New Jersey, you’re not liable when another member of your group injures someone with an errant ball hit into the proverbial lumber yard. On the other hand, you’ll have to be in New Jersey. [The Legal Blitz]

* Hank Greenberg continues his effort to throw roadblocks in the way of the NY AG investigation into AIG. Now he’s accusing the AAG on the case of ethical lapses, which is only fair since that’s what everyone else is accusing Greenberg of. [NY Daily News]

* It’s official: Biglaw fees are unreasonable. At least by South Florida standards. [South Florida Lawyers]

* A Nevada judge was charged with misdemeanor manslaughter in the death of a bicyclist. If convicted, he could spend up to six months in jail. I’d like to imagine this would play out a lot like when Rorschach went to prison. [Associated Press]

* Congratulations to Jennifer J. Johnson on being named the new dean of Lewis & Clark. Try to avoid any censorship scandals! [Lewis & Clark]

* If you’re in NYC tomorrow evening, the New York City Bar Association is hosting a free event titled “The First Amendment in an Age of Terror” featuring Professor Jonathan Hafetz of Seton Hall University School of Law; James Goodale of Debevoise & Plimpton; Judge Robert D. Sack; Spencer Ackerman, the U.S. National Security Editor for The Guardian; and Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union. [New York City Bar Association]

* Syracuse College of Law students have an early Law Revue video for us. Strap in for a Mariah Carey parody that involves a baby getting a hatchet to the face. That sounds way darker than it really is. Video embedded below….

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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.

Whether teaching is an art or a science, it requires much more than knowledge of the substantive subject. An understanding of the material is necessary but not sufficient. Effective teaching also demands that the teacher and the students as a group develop a relationship of mutual respect and trust. The classroom dynamic is paramount.

This semester, I co-taught a class with Professor Roger Park. I mean a single class session, not the whole course.

It was terrific to be back in the classroom. That is the point of the entire enterprise in which we are engaged. A law school exists to train people to become advocates and counselors.

The experience reminded me of the importance of rapport based on the implicit pledge that the teacher is on the same side as the students. I have an opinion about effective pedagogy that may seem radical but is not really upon reflection. My hypothesis is that there is not much correlation between knowledge of a subject and success in communicating it to others…

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* You’d think that when discussing major reforms to the patent system, the director of the USPTO would be there, but you’d be wrong. You’d also be wrong if you thought we had a director right now. [National Law Journal]

* Welcome to the future of Biglaw: Allen & Overy has realized that it’s a waste of money to keep hiring in a weak market, so the firm is recruiting its alumni to serve as contract attorneys in times of higher legal demand. [Legal Week]

* Dean Gregory Maggs, the interim leader of George Washington University Law, is being lauded for increasing first-year enrollment by 22 percent in a time of crisis. Excellent work, sir. You flood that job market. [GW Hatchet]

* Just because you have a law degree doesn’t mean you’re “entitled to rise up and become partner.” Getting a job in the new normal involves having a good attitude and social graces. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Ladies, if you get pregnant after a fling with an Olympic medalist and move out of state, please know your “appropriation of the child while in utero [will be deemed] irresponsible, reprehensible.” [New York Times]

* GTL stands for “Gym, Tan, Laundry,” but the owner of these Jersey Shore clubs thinks it stands for “Gym, Tan, Lawsuit” — thanks to losses uncovered by its insurer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. [Newark Star-Ledger]

Sorry, Patton Boggs…

* The right to choose… to drive out of state? SCOTUS rejected an application to block Texas from enforcing a law requiring abortion doctors to have privileges at nearby hospitals. [New York Times]

* Patton Boggs should prepare for the day when Locke Lord is too busy washing its hair to go on a date. The would-be merger is just one of many “interesting opportunities” the firm is considering. [Am Law Daily]

* In case you were wondering about the type of people who are accepted into Greenberg Traurig’s residency program, the recent law grad profiled in this article went to Nova Southeastern. [Sun Sentinel]

* Law firm merger mania, mid-size Midwest edition: Chi-Town law firm Shefsky & Froelich merges with Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister. [Crain's Chicago Business]

* When it comes to law faculty hiring, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is or what you’ve got between your legs, so long as your résumé is covered in Ivy and you’re dripping with prestige. [National Law Journal]

* Ave Maria School of Law is in need of a new dean. It seems the man who created the school’s “Advanced Critical Thinking Department” engaged in deep thought before deciding to call it quits. [Naples Daily News]

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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