Category: Law School


Leiter, Caron and Hodnicki and a Typology of Successful Academics

It has been well-reported that Brian Leiter, Paul Caron and Joe Hodnicki have teamed up to produce the latest non-USNews law school ranking data. One part of their project measures faculty quality using the proxy of the citations of the more productive members of each faculty. The list is here.

I know our legal readers are way (way) beyond rankings, so they might not actually visit the site. That would be a shame, because the trio wrote a fascinating introductory section discussing six ways in which citation studies may be distorted. The basic theme seems to be that although we would normally assume that work that is cited more often is “better” than work that isn’t, some folks’ work will get cited more often than quality alone would dictate. Those distorted writers are (to paraphrase):

1. Drudges.

2. Treatise writers.

3. Flash-in-the pans faddists.

4. The very wrong.

5. “[O]nce-productive dinosaurs.”

6. Public law scholars, constitutionalists and crits.

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Teaching Information Privacy Law

privacy1a.jpgThis post was originally posted on PrawfsBlawg on May 10, 2005. I have made a few small edits to this post.

For the law professor readers of this blog, especially newer professors (or professors-to-be) who are still figuring out the courses they want to teach, I thought I’d recommend information privacy law as a course you might consider teaching. (I have a casebook in the field, so this is really a thinly-disguised self-plug.)

Information privacy law remains a fairly young field, and it has yet to take hold as a course taught consistently in most law schools. I’m hoping to change all that. So if you’re interested in exploring issues involving information technology, criminal procedure, or free speech, here are a few reasons why you should consider adding information privacy law to your course mix:

1. It’s new and fresh. Lots of media attention on privacy law issues these days. Students are very interested in the topic.

2. Lively cases and fascinating issues abound. There’s barely a dull moment in the course. Every topic is interesting; there is no rule against perpetuities to cover!

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Law Professors and Consulting

A question for lawprofs out there: what role, if any, does consulting play in your life as a professor? My sense is that lawprofs have widely diverging experiences on this score, and I’d be interested in hearing about some of them.

Because of the whole tenure-thing, I’ve made very little time for consulting. Yet on a couple of occasions, I’ve helped out on litigation raising interesting issues in my area of expertise. And those experiences have, on the whole, been extremely positive, informing my understanding of these areas in important ways (and sometimes helping to pay the bills, to boot).

Yet this has largely been the result of happenstance, without any concrete plan. Do other folks approach this more systematically? What considerations go into deciding whether to consult? Do you view consulting as an integral part of your research agenda? Or more like a side-activity?


Unusual Law School Classes: Quiz Answer Key

lawgavel.jpgIf you attempted to take the quiz I set out in my post earlier this week about unusual law school classes, I just posted the answer key in the comments to the post. Please continue to submit comments about your unusual law school courses and course descriptions. I may collect some of my favorite entries from the comments and emails I received and post them sometime soon.


Death of the Casebook?


Predictions about the death of the book have so far been premature and it’s not hard to see why. Books are a very nice technology. Portable, durable, easy-to-read, stable – people like books, and they aren’t going away any time soon.

But what about casebooks? They’re heavy, inconvenient, not terribly portable – and no one really has warm fuzzy feelings about curling up with the latest edition of Gunther. (Co-Blogger Nate may be an exception). Can we safely make a prediction about the death (or at least transformation) of the casebook?

I can see a number of advantages to a purely electronic casebook: (1) weight, or lack thereof (bits are light); (2) ease of updating (no more supplements); (3) customizability (no need to buy all those extra chapters); (4) ability for students to cut and paste into outlines; (5) multimedia, etc.

I can also see several disadvantages: (1) lack of access to computers; (2) dislike of reading material on a computer screen; (3) lack of portability. But it seems to me that two of these disadvantages are becoming less significant as (1) computers become ubiquitous in law school; and (2) people seem increasingly comfortable reading material off of computer screens.

So, is anyone ready to predict the death of the casebook? Are we stuck with casebooks? Or is there some interesting hybrid we should be looking forward to? (Note this is not a purely disinterested question, as I’m currently working on a casebook).


Law books just want to be free

One of the things that has suprised me most about becoming a law professor is the quantity of free material everybody suddenly wants to send me. Representatives from every imaginable legal publisher send me copies of a dozen different books or supplements each month.

Not that I’m complaining. I enjoy being catered to, the free books are nice, and I even manage to read a few of them. But a large (and growing) stack of them are ones that I’ll probably seldom, or never, even open. And like Christine, I’m starting to wonder just how much my own stack of never-gonna-open-em books contributes to the $100 price tag of law books. Is it more than Ian Ayres’ $10?


Win A Dream Getaway to the AALS Annual Meeting!!

vacation2a.jpgI couldn’t believe my eyes. It was just too good to be true. Just a few minutes ago, I got this email from the law school casebook publishing company, Foundation Press:

Tell me who you are and enter to win a trip to AALS: In order to bring you the most current and valuable information on Foundation Press publications in your subject areas, please take a moment to complete a short questionnaire to help me better understand your needs. When you do, you will be entered into a drawing for a trip for two to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) 2006 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., January 3-7, 2006. The winner will be chosen from all law school faculty that complete the survey by November 11, 2005 – so hurry! For more information, see complete contest details.

Wow! A dream vacation. A trip to the AALS annual meeting — perhaps the world’s most exciting event! At the Marriott Wardman Park hotel, which evokes so many wonderful memories of the days when law professors were interviewing for jobs. And Washington, DC in January! I’m visualizing the sandy beaches, palm trees, warm tropical breezes, and glorious sunsets. It just can’t get any better. This is a prize truly too good to pass up.


Unusual Law School Classes

lawgavel.jpgI recently posted about a law school course about wine, only to discover that it’s not all that unusual. That got me thinking fondly of my days in law school, where there were many unusual courses – probably due to the fact I went to Yale. I located my old course bulletins, and here are 10 of my favorite unusual courses from those bulletins.

I also thought I’d invite readers who went to law school, are now in law school, or who are teaching in law school, to post in the comments their favorite unusual law school classes. And I thought I’d make a quiz out of this too.

· Favorite Unusual Courses: Please post in the comments some of the unusual courses from where you teach or where you went to school. Please be sure to indicate the law school where the course is taught. Any links to online course listings, if available, would be helpful to verify that the courses are indeed real. In the alternative, feel free to email the courses and descriptions to me.

· Quiz: A bit of puzzleblogging (inspired by the Volokh Conspiracy): Can you guess who taught these courses? Below the courses, I provide a list of instructors to select from. Extra credit: I took two of the ten courses below — guess which ones. Winner’s Prize: A whole lot of nothing.

Courses from the Yale Law School Bulletin


If morality is defined as recognition of the limits imposed upon one, then good law is an effective moral force. This seminar will explicate such a view and apply it to U.S. society.


In many law school courses, the primary focus is on law itself. In others, one or more of the law’s dramatis personae take center stage—the judge, the jury, the lawyer, the legislature, and occasionally even the litigant. This seminar will focus on an oft overlooked player – the witness – and on the very idea of witnessing.

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Some Wine With Your Law? A Law School Course in Wine

wine4.jpgBoalt Hall (Berkeley Law School) is offering a course about wine law, accompanied by extensive wine tasting:

Most students at Boalt Hall School of Law learn by reading class materials and listening to lectures.

But in Room 110, the lessons are sipped.

Glasses of pinot noir are part of Boalt Hall’s first ever wine law class, where students are learning the legal complexities of the wine industry. Lessons include tasting wines to examine the significance and differences between wine appellations, which have become a thorny legal issue.

If any student thought a class involving wine tasting would be a cakewalk, they were disappointed.

“It’s substantive. It’s hard,” said Mano Sheik, a third-year Boalt Hall law student. “We’re not just drinking wine.”

And that’s the point, according to the class’ instructor, Richard Mendelson. The Napa attorney, who has both worked in and concentrated his practice on the wine industry, said the law surrounding it is rife with issues involving the 21st Amendment, intellectual property, land use planning and international trade.

Perhaps Professor Bainbridge will soon be offering such a course at UCLA.