Category: Law School


Does Scholarly Writing Have to Be Tedious?

book5a.jpgOver at the new and very engaging blog, LawCulture, Rosa Brooks writes:

As a junior professor, I dutifully churned out law review articles to fill my tenure file. Some of those articles, I think, may even have contained a few good ideas and a few good lines, but all of them suffered, to one degree or another, from the contraints of the genre. Worse yet, I’m fairly sure that practically no one outside my tenure committee and my mother has actually read the damn things (and I have my doubts about my mom). Not that this makes me unusual: the vast majority of law review articles are read by few people, and cited by even fewer. So… what’s it all for?

Now, since I’m devoutly hoping my colleagues won’t actually revoke that tenure vote, I’m awfully tempted to echo Rodell and say goodbye to law reviews. From now on: books, absolutely. Magazine and newspaper articles? Sure. Blogs? We’re trying. Even, perhaps, the occasional law review symposium piece or essay, since those are fairly harmless. But as for those ponderous, still-much-too-long, ludicrously over-footnoted things we call Articles, with that portentously capitalized “A”? No, no, no.

No more going through perfectly good prose and inserting pointless qualifiers and parentheticals; no more searching for vaguely on point articles and cases to fill out footnotes; no more going through the ludicrous and humiliation rituals of submitting pieces to law reviews then playing the expedited review/trading up game.

Over at PrawfsBlawg, Paul Horwitz responds by observing:

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The Best Thing About Being a Law Professor

Certainly there are more than a few great potential responses, most of which we have rehearsed anticipating the meat market question, “So why do you want to teach?” The fantastic schedule, the opportunity to introduce law students to the excitement of law study and the legal profession, and the chance to explore one’s area of scholarly interest in depth and, perhaps, influence public debate are all important factors making this a terrific job.

For me, however, the best aspect of law teaching has been a more general one: Being in legal academia gives me the opportunity to learn simply out of interest in the subject. This occupation gives me the opportunity to develop courses relating to my academic interests, and the freedom to pursue those interests without worrying about billable hours, even if they never materialize into scholarly production or courses. This opportunity to learn means that the intellectually curious professor can avoid the tedium that affects so many others, resulting in low job satisfaction (or so I hope).

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Law School Recruiting: Location, Location, Location

Law school recruiting season is in full swing. This means, not surprisingly, that our faculty is waiting to hear back from a candidate to whom we’ve extended a job offer. What’s the delay? As is often the case, when you’re recruiting to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, geography can be an significant issue. Many lawyers-turned-aspiring-profs make significant compromises – school quality, package, salary, etc – in order to land in a desirable city. This makes sense, but it is my impression – grounded only in anecdotes – that geography drives the hiring process more in law teaching than in other academic disciplines. Compared to law teaching candidates, aspiring liberal arts profs appear to weigh department quality more heavily, and geography less so.

If I’m right – and I’m curious whether others think I am – why is this so? Two reasons come to mind initially. First, those who attend graduate school for the express purpose of finding an academic job spend more time buying into the education hierarchy and coming to grips with the geographic compromises they are likely to face. Law teaching is often an afterthought for law students and, in any case, they certainly don’t spend three years kvetching about how they’ll have to move to Stillwater once they graduate.

Second, because profs in most fields make less than law profs, perhaps they prefer less popular (read: cheaper) locations. A salary of $35,000 a year gets you a good life in Tuscaloosa. In Boston, it buys a load of ramen.


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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