Category: Law School


Big Mac Attack on Clinical Legal Education

Heather MacDonald, a conservative writer, has launched an attack on clinical legal education. An abbreviated form of the screed surfaced in the Wall Street Journal last week, but a more complete version just came out in the City Journal. Basically, MacDonald argues that law school clinics are stuck in the 1960’s, training students to be social activists, pursuing a left wing agenda on just about every issue.

MacDonald’s claims surely excited some conservatives – and why not? What is juicier than proof, proof, of a vast left wing conspiracy. MacDonald announces a couple of big non-news stories: law school faculties are generally liberal, and clinicians are even more so. And yes, it turns out that these progressive clinicians tend to direct their clinics to serving poor people and non-profits rather than, say, landlords and state prisons (her suggestions, not mine.) If MacDonald’s point was simply to argue for more clinics doing conservative work, I wouldn’t have a beef with her. (As a hiring chair, I might have trouble finding business lawyers looking to leave their million dollar practices for jobs on the clinical tenure track, but that’s another matter.)

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Just Do It: Sports v.s. Academics


So, another sportswriter has gotten under the skin of University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer. Awhile back, Sports Illustrated shined a national spotlight on the football program’s lavish digs.

Here is ESPN’s account of Phil Knight’s (read: NIKE’s) alleged influence on the track program and the university generally, prompting Frohnmayer to fire back.

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The Future of Law Libraries


Via Brian Leiter, I read this post on a controversy at Tulane’s Law Library. The Law Librarian Blog, after detailing recent staff and policy shifts, wonders whether the University administration is using Katrina as an excuse to do away with an independent academic law library:

So my question is do the actions at Tulane reasonably represent a sub rasa determination by relevant powers to subsume the law library into the operations of the University library, demoting it from an independent entity and transforming it into a subordinated department? The recent spate of firings looks to be designed to preshape the structure of the law library for insertion into the main library’s organization.

If this is true, I wonder whether Tulane would defend itself by arguing that in light of recent developments, there is less of a need for an independent law library than there used to be. Or, more provocatively, “Law Libraries. Huh. What are they good for?”

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You find the darndest things in Langdell Hall…


In law school, one of my favorite pass times was to haunt the stacks of Langdell Hall (HLS’s law library) looking for odd books. In time, I graduated to the special collections room, and found excuses for looking at rare and ancient law volumes. (A habit I continued while clerking. My judge has a fabulous collection of medieval and early modern law books.) However, I never came across the law books bound in human skin. According to the Boston Globe:

The Harvard Law School Library bought its copy of a 1605 practice manual for Spanish lawyers decades ago, for $42.50 from an antiquarian books dealer in New Orleans. It sat on a shelf unnoticed until the early 1990s, when curator David Ferris was going through the library catalogue and saw a note, copied from inside the cover, saying it was bound in the skin of a man named Jonas Wright.

DNA tests were inconclusive — the genetic material having been destroyed by the tanning process — but the library had a box made to store the book and now keeps it on a special shelf.

“We felt we couldn’t set it just next to someone else’s law books,” Ferris said.

If I were wittier, I would find some sort of quip, perhaps connecting the book to the travails of law school or Harvard’s rapacious attitude toward alumni, but I can’t think of anything. I will leave it to your imagination.

(Hat tip to danithew at Times & Seasons)


Christine Hurt on Blogging and Gender

female2a.jpgChristine Hurt (law, Marquette) at the Conglomerate discusses the issue of the disparity between male and female law professor bloggers. According to my latest law professor blogger census (November 2005), about 75% are male and 25% are female.

Part of the reason may be that female law professors are still severly under-represented in the legal academy. According to a Legal Times article, about 25% of fully-tenured law professors are female. In total, about 34% of law professors are female. There’s more equality when it comes to more junior female law professors. Over the last ten years or so, about 45% of newly hired law professors have been women.


Blogging Without Tenure

lawprofessor5.jpgAt a panel at the AALS conference this year entitled Blogging: Scholarship or Distraction?, Randy Barnett suggested that blogging may not be wise for untenured legal scholars. [Paul Caron of TaxProf Blog (and overlord of the Caron Law Professor Blogging Empire) has the complete highlights of the panel here.]

Is blogging advisable for untenured scholars? I bet that the answer differs in each specific discipline, and I’ll focus my observations on the law. I believe that blogging can be great for untenured legal scholars, but it must be done in the right way.


Why is blogging good for the younger legal scholar?

1. Exposure and Name-Recognition. Blogging brings a level of exposure that junior scholars often do not achieve until much later on in their careers. More people will get exposed to their ideas, read their work, and recognize their name. It often takes years of networking and publishing to develop name recognition in legal academia. Blogging provides a head start.

2. Symposium Invitations. When law reviews or professors are planning symposia, they often brainstorm about whom to invite, and those who most readily come to mind often wind up on the list of presenters. Junior scholar bloggers are at an advantage since there names are more likely to be known.

3. Exposure Beyond One’s Field. Blogging enables scholars to get exposure outside of their fields. There are many scholars whose work I generally won’t be familiar with because I’m not researching or writing in their area. Unless those scholars are particularly well-known, I won’t be too familiar with them. But I may know about them from the blogosphere. When somebody asks me who writes about corporate law, a field I know little about, I immediately think of the folks at the Conglomerate or of Dave Hoffman or Nate Oman here at Concurring Opinions.

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A Typical Day at the AALS Conference

aals1a.jpgFriends I Caught Up With: Many

Food: Lots

Drinks: A Few

Panels I Attended: None

Day 1 at AALS: Success!

I hope to see many readers at the happy hour tonight at 9:30 PM at Cloud. Details at this post. Remember, you need not have RSVP’d to attend.



I’m in D.C. for the AALS conference currently, and hoping to see at least a few of our readers at tonight’s happy hour. I’m also pleased to report that I’ve finished the hard part of grading (I’ve still got to do error-checking) so I’m free to return to blogging/teaching/writing full time (in no particular order).

Although I know that only a few of you are lawyers, I thought I’d share my delight that my students did real well on the exam, which was a tough, 24-hour, take home. A few of them even spotted and dealt with what I think is a very interesting (although on the test marginal) issue: whether a merger clause precludes judicial consideration of pre-contract notification (under Hadley) of otherwise unforseeable damages.

In other news, the WJS blog broke this spicy securities law story. Think that perhaps the relationship discussed is in trouble?


New Survey: Law Students Slack Off More in the Third Year


It is surprising that they needed to conduct a survey to find out this shocking news, but I guess now it’s official: students slack off more in their third year of law school. According to a Inside Higher Ed article, the data for the study is as follows:

Activity First-Year Students Second-Year Students Third-Year Students
Came to class with readings and assignments completed 93% 84% 74%
Worked on paper requiring integration of multiple sources 80% 66% 71%
Prepared two or more drafts of paper before turning it in 69% 56% 55%
Worked harder than necessary to meet professor’s expectations 61% 49% 46%
Had serious talk with students with different political, religious or

social views

70% 68% 65%
Had serious talk with students of different race and ethnicity 61% 59% 58%
Contributed to class discussions 46% 48% 51%
Worked with faculty members on non-class activities (committees, student

life, etc.)

64% 49% 47%
Participated in clinical or pro bono project 91% 69% 46%

Insider Higher Ed states that the “survey suggests a serious third-year slump afflicts them as they are about to finish their law degrees.” Although the survey’s results definitely show some slacking off in the third year, I quarrel with characterizing it as a “serious” slacking off. If anything, the slacking off isn’t as pronounced as I had expected. Indeed, the study reveals that only a small percentage of students — typically around 10% to 15% are doing the slacking. And I’m puzzled by what the survey indicates as the most significant decline: 91% participated in clinical or pro bono work in their first year and only 46% did so in their third year. That doesn’t make sense since the first year at most law schools is filled with required courses, and students don’t get a chance to try out a clinic until their second or third years of law school.

The study is available here.

Despite the slacking off, I still believe that the third year of law school is a valuable experience. In the fall of 2005, I debated with Laura Appleman whether the third year of law school should be scrapped on Legal Affairs Debate Club. I still stand by my position. Condensing law school to two years would have a very negative impact on the law school experience. I wrote:

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