Legal academia

Former dean Larry Mitchell

Color me disappointed. The parties have reached a settlement in Ku v. Mitchell. We won’t get to hear trial testimony about a law school dean allegedly propositioning students and staff or trying to set up threesomes on a bed with Chinese silk sheets.

Okay, let’s rewind. Last October, Case Western law professor Raymond Ku filed a lawsuit against former Case dean Lawrence Mitchell and against the university. Ku alleged that he suffered retaliation after reporting to university officials that Mitchell had potentially sexually harassed women at the law school, including employees and students. In the wake of the lawsuit, Mitchell took a leave of absence as dean, then resigned the deanship (but remained on the faculty).

Today brings word of the parties settling the case. What are the terms of the settlement, and what do the parties have to say about it?

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The students now are generous, collaborative. They share notes with each other. I regularly ask students what has surprised them about Harvard Law School and almost always the response is how nice everybody is. I think the degree to which the students care about the world is very impressive to me. They are not just concerned about themselves.

– Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School, in an interesting and inspirational interview with the Harvard Gazette. Additional highlights from the interview, plus commentary, after the jump.

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I recently had dinner with the dean of a law school. To give you a sense of this person’s perspective, I’ll say that he (or she, but I’ll use the masculine) is responsible for a law school that U.S. News ranks somewhere between 50 and 100. His school has thus been hammered by the Great Recession and the decrease in applications to law school, but the school is not (yet) thinking of turning out the lights.

I didn’t actually pry into what was happening at his school. He simply volunteered that his life was far different now than it had been a very few years ago. I guess that’s no surprise, given the tumult of the times.

Anyway, what are law school deans doing these days?

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As 2013 draws to a close, let’s look back at the 10 biggest stories in the legal profession over the past year. This is an annual tradition here at Above the Law, which we’ve done in 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. We’ll fire up the old Google Analytics machine to get data on our most popular posts, based on pageviews, and share the results with you.

Before turning to specific stories, let’s look at the top general discussion topics here at ATL. For 2013, our most trafficked category page was Biglaw, which bumped Law Schools out of the top spot — a spot that Law Schools held from 2010 through 2012. Now that the word is out about the perils of getting a law degree, leading to plummeting applications, perhaps it’s time to move on from the “don’t go to law school” narrative.

After Biglaw and Law Schools, our third most-popular category page was, as usual, Bonuses. This wasn’t a terribly exciting year for bonuses — there were no spring bonuses, and Cravath and its many followers paid out the same bonuses as last year — but people still want to know the score.

Our fourth most-popular category page was small law firms. Small firms, including boutiques, are an area of increasing focus and readership for us — and also where many of the job opportunities are these days.

Moving on from the topic pages, what were the 10 most popular individual posts at Above the Law in 2013?

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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).

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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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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Dean Lawrence Mitchell

Dean Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western Reserve University School of Law is not your ordinary law school dean. How many other deans have been the subject of an ATL caption contest?

Case Western is a prominent and well-ranked law school, #68 in the latest U.S. News rankings. It didn’t make the ATL Law School rankings, which stop at the top 50, but Case Western alumni give their alma mater a solid B-plus, as you can see from the school’s ATL Career Center profile.

But Mitchell’s fame comes less from Case Western and more from his national profile as a defender of legal education. Last year, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, Law School Is Worth the Money, that went viral.

Critics of Mitchell’s piece, including my colleague Elie Mystal, accused the dean of screwing over his students. Case Western charges tuition of almost $50,000, but less than 50 percent of its graduates secure full-time, long-term employment as lawyers, according to Law School Transparency.

Today Dean Mitchell is back in the news. A lawsuit filed this morning alleges that he screws his students more literally….

(See the UPDATE added below for the university’s response to the complaint.)

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Would you want The New England Journal of Medicine to be edited by medical students?

Richard A. Wise, a psychologist and lawyer who teaches at the University of North Dakota, quoted in the latest indictment of legal scholarship, a New York Times article by Adam Liptak.

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