Education / Schools

It started with “Team Sander.” In November, we told you that some students at UCLA Law School started wearing T-shirts in support of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose scholarship is racially divisive. Some people argued that the shirts were not racially motivated, and even some of my colleagues argued that they needed to “know more” about the intentions behind the shirts before they started calling people racist.

Well… now we know more, and “racist” seems like the only appropriate way to describe at least some students at UCLA Law. Now the question becomes: does the law school administration give a crap?

Read on for the disturbing allegations….

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Recently, a group of Harvard Law professors released the results of their survey of 124 attorneys from 11 large firms, asking what courses Harvard students ought to take to prepare for Biglaw practice. Overall, financial courses such as accounting, financial reporting, and corporate finance, topped the list, as noted by Will Baude over at the Volokh Conspiracy. But the study got me thinking: what courses should lawyers interested in starting a practice — either directly after law school or a few years down the road — study in law school?

If you ask this question of solos or consultants, most will argue that law schools need to teach business-type classes like how to write a business plan or how to market a law practice. And while law schools should certainly make those classes available to interested students, I don’t view them as imperative. Let’s face it, most of this material isn’t rocket-science (high school dropouts open successful businesses, after all), and the web offers a bottomless treasure trove of this type of information. (As an aside, one of my personal faves is Canvarise, a one-page template that pulls together all of the elements of a traditional business plan).

Nor do I believe that substantive courses — bankruptcy, family law, immigration, copyright — are all that important. Substantive law is state-specific, so it’s tough to teach and it’s always changing. What you learn as a second-year law student may no longer be valid a few years down the road. Plus, it’s not difficult to pick up the basics of a new practice area on the fly. Think about it: most students studying for the bar gain a quick understanding of as many as 25 different substantive practice areas in a summer. No reason the same isn’t true in practice.

In my view, law students should focus on studying and acquiring the kinds of skills that aren’t easily found or readily mastered in practice. With that as a guide, here’s my top five list of classes that will help prepare students for solo practice…

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Are porn stars’ rights deserving of strict scrutiny?

[W]hat I ask for is simple. I, like all other sex workers, want to be treated with dignity and respect. I want equal representation under the law and within societal institutions. I want people to acknowledge our humanity.

Lauren A., a freshman at Duke University, defending her decision to perform in pornography to fund her education. In her personal manifesto, posted on xoJane, she rejects her categorization as a “bimbo” and a “whore,” and envisions a world in which sex workers will enjoy the equal protection of the laws.

I think we’ve all noticed how invested the legal academy is in telling us that they produce “practice ready” graduates. But there is scant research on what actually makes one “practice ready” versus “effectively useless.” Some law deans tell us that clinics and “experiential learning” are particularly important. But are they? Or is that just a nice line you can use to fleece prospective law students who don’t know any better?

A new Harvard study takes a look at what law school classes actually helped graduates once they got into Biglaw. I know, I know, every school outside of the top 20 is now screaming about how “there’s more than BIGLAW, stupid Elie.” But if there are schools that just want to ADMIT that they’re not preparing their students for Biglaw jobs that they’re never going to get, please feel free to ignore the lessons of this study. For everybody else who wants to pretend that their students have a reasonable chance at taking the jobs with the highest salaries, there’s some interesting stuff here…

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* The Ed O’Bannon suit against the NCAA will proceed to trial in June barring settlement. Football writer/genius Spencer Hall put it best when he described the hearing as “a judge looks at amateurism and says ‘this is bulls**t’ in legalese.” [Sports Illustrated]

* McCutcheon will usher in even more campaign finance excess, but could alleviate gridlock. Plutocracies are efficient! [Election Law Blog]

* Hold the phone! Coerced confessions aren’t admissible? Next thing you’ll tell us is waterboarding is illegal. Thanks Obama. [New York Law Journal]

* Juror who couldn’t stop using Facebook didn’t cause a mistrial because he didn’t post any details about the case. In other news, he really needs a goat in FarmVille you guys, so if anyone can hook him up, that’d be great. (Alternative heading for this one: “11 Angry Men, 1 ‘Likes This’”) [IT-Lex]

* Disbarred lawyer mistakenly allowed to serve as a judge. But only for about 16 years, so it’s all cool. [Washington City Paper]

* “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the [Baby Boomer] lawyers.” [Law and More]

* A California lawsuit argues that pro-teacher policies in the state are hurting education. The defendants point to the fact that California’s educational administration and funding in the state is best described as a “sh*tshow.” Experts are fighting it out with some novel metrics. [The Expert Institute]

* * Elie talks about the new ad for cameras in the Supreme Court and the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gases on Legalese It! with Mike Sacks. Video embedded below… [Huffington Post Live]

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It takes a certain kind of personal-injury lawyer to look at the facts of this glittering night and wrest from them a plausible plaintiff and defendant, unless it were possible for Travis Hughes to be sued by his own anus.

Caitlin Flanagan, regaling readers with the tale of Louis Helmberg III v. Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity and Travis Hughes, in a hard-hitting piece documenting her investigation into Greek fraternity houses and their “endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems.”

In the Helmburg case, the plaintiff sued for his injuries after falling off ATO’s deck and becoming wedged between it and an A/C unit. Prior to his fall, Helmsburg reportedly attempted to use his cellphone to film Hughes shooting a bottle rocket out of his ass. Instead of soaring into the air, the bottle rocket exploded in Hughes’s rectum. Helmberg was so startled he tumbled off the deck.

(Special things like this happen at frats regularly. Read on to see the complaint.)

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Senator Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) has often said publicly that he personally still owed more than $100,000 in student loans when he joined the U.S. Senate in 2011. He only paid off his nearly $150,000 in debt after law school with the proceeds of his autobiography in December of 2012. Rubio and fellow senator (and law school graduate) Mike Lee (R – Utah) are young enough to be personally aware of the miasma surrounding higher ed — and especially higher ed funding — in the United States. It makes sense that they would lead the way toward reform. Apparently, they are.

In the past few days, the lawmakers have been popping up in public, touting efforts to reform higher education. Let’s take a look at the reforms they suggest….

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A lot of ink is spilled over whether or not law schools are failing to produce “practice ready” lawyers. What does it mean to be practice ready? There really isn’t a great definition. I mean, do we want law students to walk out prepared to run their own firms? Argue before the Supreme Court? Draft a credit-default swap agreement from memory? Serve as a bankruptcy trustee? How much practical know-how should we demand our law schools instill?

That doesn’t really matter, “practice ready” looks great on a bumper sticker.

For my money, the phrase means lawyers prepared enough not to drool on their desks when a partner (or supervisor or judge) starts showing them the way they want their young lawyers to practice law. Because make no mistake, lawyers are always practice unready in the eyes of their employers until they do the job exactly the employers’ way. This is why clinics serve an important role in law schools. Not that 6 months of being a glorified paralegal builds a wealth of practical legal know-how, but because 6 months of trying to figure out how to deploy what you do happen to know to satisfy a demanding legal boss is the soul of being a junior lawyer.

To that end, there’s a new ranking of the top clinical programs in law schools with some surprising (or not, depending on your point of view) results….

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Let’s play the game where we spot unenforceable contractual clauses and laugh at people who are afraid of modernity.

Actually, let’s play the game where we marvel at how good it must be to be a university president, even at a small school that most people have never heard of. Then we can imagine all the personal freedoms we’d willingly give up if we could in order to have such a life. Because I can think of a number of unmarried women who would cede control of their bedroom to the state in order to have such a sweet job….

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We are not talking about all white people, or you white people in general. We are talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.

– Professor Shannon Gibney, an English professor at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, during an in-class discussion about white privilege. Issues involving Professor Gibney have given rise to student complaints, faculty reprimands, and litigation….)

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