Category: Law School (Scholarship)


“The first thing we do, let’s [train] all the lawyers.”

David Segal has a front-page, above-the-fold article in today’s New York Times, What They Don’t Teach Law Students: Lawyering.  Segal blasts legal education for failing to produce prêt-à-porter lawyers sized to fit the needs of everyone from Skadden Arps to solo practitioners.  Segal also denies the value of “pure” research — law review articles and other scholarly output that do not satisfy his requirements for immediate application to daily practice.  Gerard Magliocca and Alex Guerrero already commented on one of his examples.  As with Dick the Butcher’s suggestion in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Segal’s article is wrong on both teaching and research.

First, teaching.  I think that when law schools succeed at their mission they do produce graduates with skills ready for use in any legal environment.  It’s just that developing the skill set that Segal prioritizes (such as his opening example: filing a certificate of merger with a secretary of state) is not the sole, let alone primary, goal of legal education.  Those form-filling and filing skills are important, but best honed by firms that daily engage in those specialized, localized, and technical operations.  Law schools, in contrast, have the advantage in teaching the general skills and knowledge that firms of all sizes (as well as government agencies and corporations) have neither the time, inclination, nor resources to perfect.  But these organizations desperately need these things in the lawyers they hire: critical thinking, professional standards, ethical judgment, and historical perspective (to name a few).

Unlike medical schools and engineering programs, law schools do not set out to create technicians.  (I suspect that the best medical and engineering institutions don’t have this goal either, but this is the common comparison.)  Law schools, especially, should produce graduates comfortably inclined to question the status quo, challenge assumed truths, and think about the long-term implications of their actions as members of a learned profession.  Over time, one hopes that their training will combine with experience to produce in them judgment about when each skill should take a leading role.  Lawyers with these skills are needed in any age, but especially one that produced such colossal fails ranging from Enron to government-sanctioned torture.

Second, research.  I also reject Segal’s essentially anti-intellectual critique of research.  Last spring, I was asked by a high-level Russian official to write a report on a verdict in a criminal case.  That report explored the many departures from Russia’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to be found in that verdict, but it also raised serious questions about fundamental aspects of Russian law.  The report could hardly qualify as research readily useful to the day-to-day activities of a practitioner at the bar of any American state or the present Russian one.  Nevertheless, I found that the research that I conducted, the exercise of drafting my report, and the report itself generated useful starting points for several discussions in classes that I teach on American law.  Those conversations ranged from an aspect of the famous Chenery case in my Administrative Law class to an editing exercise in a seminar on counterterrorism.  Needless to say, I hope it also makes a positive impact in Russia when it is released next month.

Those teaching moments were hard to foresee at the outset of my research.  But anyone who values knowledge for its own sake would not be surprised by the serendipity my Russian law work produced in my American law classrooms.  That the report led to invitations to speak to groups at universities and thinktanks in the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Belgium also suggests that what counts as valuable research might benefit from a less cramped definition than Segal and company provide.


Last Call For Papers — November 15th Deadline

Junior Faculty Interdisciplinary Scholarship Workshop at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis

March 22-23, 2012

The workshop will explore “Objectivity in the Law” and is open to non-tenured academics whose research is interdisciplinary in nature.  The normative value of objectivity runs through the purpose for most law, though social practices influence how laws are implemented.  Submitted papers should focus on a chosen area of law and examine that law’s objective purpose and the relationship between its purpose and its actual implementation.

To ensure each presenter receives extensive feedback, only six papers will be selected for the workshop.  Senior scholars from Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis and other law schools will be paired with presenters and serve as primary or secondary commentators on the papers.  Presenters will receive a small honorarium and will be reimbursed for their travel and hotel expenses.  The Law School will provide lunch and dinner on Friday, as well as breakfast on Saturday.

Interested participants must submit a 500 word abstract to Professor Cynthia Adams at before November 15. Presenters will be notified before December 15. If selected, a participant must submit a full copy of the paper before February 17, 2011.

The program is also open to other scholars wanting to attend, read, and comment on the papers but not present. There is no registration fee.


Associate Dean for Research

I have been appointed as the first Associate Dean for Research at my law school.  I am eager to hear from people with the same position (or the equivalent) at other schools to find out what they do.  Feel free to post comments here or email me, as I would like to learn more about how I can be a useful resource for my colleagues.


NatArtFiMo (National Article Finishing Month)

It’s that time of year again. Your friends on facebook are pledging to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starting tomorrow. The idea is pretty simple:

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved. Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of NaNoWriMo is the community support aspect. Folks post their successes to Twitter and Facebook. There are constant reminders to write. And it works rather well, as tens of thousands of eager amateurs manage to write 50,000 words in a month’s time.

Of course, I’m tempted to join the fun. (NaNoWriMo would be a great time to finish that Twilight fan fiction novel!) But I also know that there is a half-finished article calling my name, occasionally reminding me of its continued existence. What if there were also a National Article Finishing Month?

Now there is. Read More


Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network at Law and Society

The Feminist Legal Theory Collaborative Research Network (CRN) is a newly-constituted group that seeks to bring together scholars across a range of fields who are interested in feminist legal theory.  This year CRN is hoping to organize a number of panels at Law and Society (LSA), which will take place in Honolulu, Hawaii from June 5-8, 2012. 

All are invited to submit paper proposals for these panels. There is no single topic or theme to which paper submissions must conform: they should simply relate to feminist legal theory in some shape or form. CRN particularly welcomes proposals which would permit it to collaborate with other research networks, which have organized around topics such as Critical Research on Race and the Law, or Gender, Sexuality and the Law. Also, because the LSA meeting attracts scholars from other disciplines, multidisciplinary proposals are welcome. CRN’s goal in organizing these panels is to stimulate focused discussion on papers on which scholars are currently working. Thus, while proposals may reference work which is well on the way to publication, CRN is particularly eager to solicit proposals for works-in-progress which are at an earlier stage, and which will benefit from the discussion that the panels will provide.

Paper proposals are due by November 14, 2011.  Instructions for submitting proposals are after the jump.

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Job Talk Alternatives?

The hour-long job talk is the market standard measure of a candidate’s presentation skills.  As Solove explained,  “[i]t begins with the candidate lecturing for about 20 to 30 minutes and is followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A.”  There are advantages to this format: it permits the candidate to get his or her thesis on the table before being interrupted by faculty, who, being who they are, aren’t accustomed to listening to other people talk and who would otherwise interrupt with the first thought that pops into their heads.  There are disadvantages as well — a shorter 20 minute grace period may be insufficient to make any particularly complex argument; a longer 30-40 minute speech risks boring the room.  Plus, to the very limited extent that the job talk is a good predictor of how well a candidate will teach, longer talks are particularly unrepresentative of a well-functioning and open classroom.

I thought I’d ask the audience whether they know of truly different models.  I know that in 2004, when I was on the market, Lewis and Clark had candidates speak to a full room of students and faculty (75+), with no constraints that I can recall on the Q&A.  (My god did I bombed that talk!)  Conversely, I’ve heard that some schools permit questioning from the first minute, but insist that all comments until the 30 minute mark be merely clarifying.  Whether and how that rule is enforceable is beyond my ken.  Some schools are rumored to entirely ban powerpoint.  Others, I hear, ask the candidates to teach as if they were talking to a classroom of law students.

But these are largely rumors.  Does anyone know of different models and have thoughts about what works particularly well?

I’ll add that I’d prefer that the thread not devolve into a criticism of the idea of job talks — though I agree with the critique in many respects.


A Cite for Sore Eyes

A picture of books For most of my academic career, my research and citation model has been relatively low-tech: I’ve simply typed my citations into Word documents (or sometimes found a research assistant to type them for me). And sometimes I paste in common sources from the footnotes in my older articles. That’s it. It’s pretty basic — not quite writing-it-out-longhand, but probably not a particularly effective method, given advances in technology.

After recently conversations with colleagues who seem enamored of one or more of the citation-management programs available, I’m dipping my toe into this area. I’m also wondering how widely used these programs are. Some law library and other websites have collected links and information on some of the available programs, or offer specific tips on how to use them. I’m still a neophyte, but some of these programs look intriguing — provided I can figure out how to use them. Read More


Our Bar . . . is . . . an asylum for the lame, and the halt, and the blind from the law schools of this country. And they are still coming.

This guy has seen the same debate so many times it broke his back

Sorry for the blogging hiatus.  I’ve been writing.  I’m sorry also to have missed the latest NYT attack on legal education — in the form of a misleading hatchet job on NYLS.  The article – one of a shoddy series by David Segal – struck an academic nerve already made sensitive by Justice Roberts’ dismissal of legal scholarship.

Of course, arguments about law school’s worth and scholarship’s consequence are evergreen – they drive blogging traffic and comments & promise to motivate engagement between blogs by practicing lawyers and the academy.  But quite often, unfortunately, these discussions go nowhere.

On law professor blogs, there’s a tone of tetchy defensiveness: “the market tells us that we’re worthwhile – just look at the continuing number of lemmings pounding at the gate!”, or “of course our scholarship is consequential, let’s count the citations”; or, “no one ever promised that a JD was a job guarantee!”; or, “what’s their BATLS?” [The last is a truly obscure negotiation joke if there ever was one.]

For reporters, it feels like the scene in the Wire when they are talking about what to cover in the coming year. Sure, you could talk about complexity and globalization and economic markets and the changing nature of legal practice.  Or you might talk about the relationship between ABA regulation, thoughtless paternalism, and resulting distributional inequalities in education.  But that’s a set of sprawling stories – lacking an obvious villain to muckrake.  Rather, then, the news blames the dickensian aspect of law schools.  Reporters write articles that stir the pot, but aren’t recognizable to insiders, making them less likely to actually motivate change.

Last, not least, the practicing lawyers often articulate resentment toward ivory tower academics who ignore the realities of “trench lawyering”. (This happens even when the “academics” in question are actually practicing lawyers.)  Basically: impractical law professors versus practical lawyers.

Why does this “debate” feel so tired?  I have a partial hypothesis: because we ignore history. I had a great research assistant, Alex Radus, collect quotes about the ferment about legal education in the 1930s-1940s.  (Which is highlighted in Prosser’s famous 1948 speech to Temple’s law faculty, Lighthouse No Good.“)  After the jump, you’ll see some fantastic quotes from that era and before, which remind us that “what has been will be again / what has been done will be done again /there is nothing new under the sun.”

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Outside Reviewers Stay Anonymous!

Outside reviews of manuscripts are important to many publishing enterprises, from scholarly books and articles to general interest works of nonfiction.  Honest, objective and impersonal assessments are vital. 

That is best promoted when the identity of the reviewers is held strictly confidential, by editors and reviewers alike, with editors sharing only the substance of reviews to enable improving a manuscript. 

Contrary to this normative ideal, reviewers often seem to feel free to identify themselves, and even editors are sometimes sloppy in leaking identifiying data.   In just the past year, I have personally had several different unfortunate examples.  The upshot is the same: outside reviewers must stay anonymous.

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Don’t Quote Me.

In honor of the former speaker of the house, I’d like to preemptively suggest that anyone who quotes anything from my early work “The Duty to be a Rational Shareholder,” might be considered to be a liar in light of my later recantation in “Docketology, District Courts, and Doctrine.”  Further, those students of mine who quoted my own words back to me on their corporations and civil procedure exams are possibly in trouble, to the extent I’ve ever suggested, said or hinted that “those [words said in class] were inaccurate and unfortunate.”

I’ll let this serve as an open thread for other pre-recantations.