Author: Stephen Galoob

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LSA Retro-Recap Day 0: I Miss My Friend

Hello from Seattle! Over the next few days, I will describe some of the best things I saw at the 2015 annual meeting of the Law and Society Association (which was held from May 28-31). As I did back in 2013, my plan is to discuss one or two papers with high VOSFOTWOAS— Value Over Season Four Of The Wire Or A Separation.

Before getting to the recap, though, I want to remember Dan Markel. I did not know Dan very well, nowhere near as well as many other law professors or most of the folks who blog here. I met Dan in person exactly 5 LSA’s ago, in Chicago. I can remember the moment when I first saw him. He walked into a conference room with what I instantly recognized as the sleep deprivation that affects all new parents (and the glow that demarks the good ones). His hand was the first in the air during the questioning period then, as it was in nearly every other session I saw him at. I made a game to myself of trying to beat him to the punch in asking a question; I always lost.

I once read a piece in the New Yorker that, to my memory, said something like: people worry that caffeine will interfere with the real you, but after a while the person you are on caffeine is the real you.* I like to imagine (perhaps without warrant) that the person Dan was at conferences, Conference Dan, was the real Dan. Intense. Reveling in the attention of friends. Generous in facilitating connections. Enthusiastic about your ideas to the point of disregarding the rules of social comportment.

As the yahrzeit of his death approaches and I sit in a bustling hotel lobby, I miss Conference Dan, although this sense loss is infinitesimal compared to the ache that I feel for his family. I wish I had been able to better know Dan outside of these conferences. I still flip through the conference program to see what he is presenting. I schedule time for a Prawsblog happy hour that will not happen. I rush to raise my hand after the chair asks for questions, only to realize that it is alone in the air.

 

*A quick Googling suggests that the line closest line to the one I (mis-)remembered is this one by Malcolm Gladwell: “Part of what it means to be human in the modern age is that we have come to construct our emotional and cognitive states not merely from the inside out–with thought and intention–but from the outside in, with chemical additives. The modern personality is, in this sense, a synthetic creation: skillfully regulated and medicated and dosed with caffeine so that we can always be awake and alert and focused when we need to be.”

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Scene from the AALS New Law Teacher’s Conference

Thanks to everyone at AALS for an enlightening and inspiring conference. This year’s version was held at the Mayflower Hotel. Yes, that Mayflower Hotel. Which makes the following sign rather curious:

Mayflower

Given the Spitzer tie, this might be a delicious coincidence. Or else someone has a subversive sense of humor. (I miss living in D.C., the best place I have ever lived for nerd humor like this!)

Responses from conference attendees were divided, so I’ll throw it open to the CoOp readership. Is this sign (intentionally) a joke?

 

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LSA Retro-Recap Days 2-3: Leisure, Law & Econ, and Liberalism

Day 2 of the conference saw a spirited panel (featuring Scott Shaprio, Ken Ehrenberg, Michael Guidice, and Brian Tamanaha) about the (ir)reconcilability of legal anthropology and sociolegal studies with analytic jurisprudence. Much of the discussion (not to mention the spirit) here concerned the appropriate definition of a “concept.” If that kind of question does not induce somnolence for you, then read on! Read More

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LSA Retro-Recap Day 1: Two Papers on Punishment Theory and Practice

I saw a lot of interesting presentations and met many interesting folks on Day 1. I note a spirited (and sparsely attended) panel on Corey Brettschneider’s When the State Speaks, What Should it Say? that, for some inexplicable reason, was held 8:15 am.

Here are two projects to keep an eye on. Both have extremely high VOSFOTWOAS. Read More

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LSA Retro-Recap Day 0: Introducing VOSFOTWOAS

Greetings from (a plane on the way home from) Boston! In the past I really enjoyed Dave’s recap of CELS. I thought I’d carry things on with this retro diary (h/t Bill Simmons) of the Law and Society Association meeting.

Before getting to the presentations, here’s a post with some general thoughts on LSA. Like many of the most enjoyable things in life, this conference is a beautiful mess. Fully developed research programs are mashed together with provocative conjectures. Paradigm-shifting ideas comingle with stuff that would get a “good effort” if presented as an undergraduate term paper. How can you determine the formers from the latters? Read More

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Book Review: Levin & Mather’s Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context

Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context, edited by Leslie C. Levin & Lynn Mather. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2012. pp. 370. $39.00

What is the best way to study the ethical world of lawyers? On a “top-down” approach, this study proceeds in two steps: first, we start with the rules of legal ethics (or, perhaps, the moral, legal or political principles that underlie those rules); second, we apply these rules and principles to particular cases that lawyers confront.

The infirmities of the top-down approach are a recurring theme of the essays collected in Lawyers in Practice. Most of the authors in this collection either champion or practice an alternative method, one that is inductive, or “bottom-up.” On this method, when studying the ethical world of lawyers, we should first examine how real-world lawyers confront real-life ethical challenges. In analyzing these responses, we should consider a variety of factors other than the rules or principles of legal ethics that drive lawyers to act in the ways that they do.

Thus, we can restate our opening question more precisely. When studying legal ethics, should we be top-downers, bottom-uppers, or both? Which is the more fundamental task: justifying the rules of legal ethics or explaining how lawyers behave when confronted with ethical challenges? Lawyers in Practice makes these broader questions salient. In this review, I want to offer a chastened case for a top-down approach, while recognizing the important (but ultimately complementary) role that bottom-up methods can play in studying the ethical world of lawyers.

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Before exploring this broader topic, here are some vitals on the book. Lawyers in Practice is a collection of essays that were originally presented at a conference at the University of Buffalo Law School. Levin and Mather provide an introductory essay and short epilogue summarizing some main themes, and essays by David Wilkins and Elizabeth Chambliss explore some methodological issues for the sociolegal study of lawyers’ ethics.

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Book Review: Daniel Markovits, A Modern Legal Ethics

A Modern Legal Ethics, by Daniel Markovits.  Princeton University Press: New York 2008.  Pp. 361.  $29.95

Daniel Markovits’s A Modern Legal Ethics could change the way we think about legal ethics, although not necessarily far enough or in only the right directions.

The main argument is elegant and provocative.  Markovits contends that a central issue in legal ethics should be the “problem of integrity.”  Lawyers must be able to integrate their professional commitments into their moral lives.  This is the most important insight of the book.  Other commentators have noted the problem of integrity, but Markovits offers the most sustained and nuanced discussion.  His argument opens up new avenues for thinking about the rules governing lawyers.

On Markovits’s telling, the lawyer’s integrity is directly challenged by her professional obligations.  Good lawyering requires what, on ordinary morality, would be considered lying and cheating.  These “lawyerly vices” are endemic to the adversarial system, so they can’t be cured by tailoring the rules governing lawyers.  Neither is avoiding these vices an option, given their incompatibility with integrity.

For Markovits, there are better and worse ways to solve this problem.  Most theories of legal ethics utilize what he calls (after David Luban) the “adversarial system excuse,” or the consequentialist view that the lawyerly vices are justified as part of a legal system that is just overall.  Here, if the overall practice is justified, then the integrity issues fall away.  Impersonal approaches can only accidentally or incidentally resolve integrity problems.

Interpersonal theories of legal ethics (which he calls “Kantian” approaches) don’t fare any better.  On these approaches, principles of legal ethics are acceptable only if they fulfill specified criteria (e.g., that they could be reasonably consented to, that they could not be reasonably rejected, etc.).  Yet, Markovits argues, concentrating on fulfilling such criteria raises the same problem as with impersonal approaches: any resolution to the problem of integrity is a byproduct, rather than an important end in itself.

Markovits thinks we must take the “lawyer’s point of view” in order to solve the problem of integrity in the right way, which requires a “first-personal” approach to morality.  Markovits calls his version “role-based redescription.”  If there were a distinctive, morally worthy role for lawyering, then the lawyer could preserve her integrity by redescribing her professional obligations to lie and cheat as requirements of fulfilling this role.

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