There are mornings when I confess this project -- meaning not just this blog, but the whole effort to do anything at all about the current state of legal education -- feels like a complete waste of time. This is one of them. Basically I hate politics: prior to 2008 the sum total of my participation in electoral politics had consisted of voting intermittently in national elections. I hate petitions and marches and rallies, and I especially hate meetings and committees and trying to organize anything. I don't like to join groups and I'm bad with details. At bottom I'm a socially irresponsible person who would like to be left alone. (In other words the only jobs I'm suited for are being an academic and a writer.)
In short I'm pretty much exactly the wrong person to be doing this kind of thing, which in its own way is a nice little comment on how screwed up legal academia is -- if somebody like me is carrying the flag for law school reform, then the law school reform movement needs way more help than its currently getting from legal academics, which obviously it does.
But hey, it's like rain on your wedding day: it turns out that all my academic work has ended up being about how you can't get away from politics, whether in law or medicine or really anything else in this crazy mixed world of ours where the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans. And even though I hate politics and don't believe in politicians and would rather think esoteric thoughts about obscure subjects I somehow ended up writing a syndicated column every week for ten years, which naturally had to be mostly about politics. It all sounds rather neurotic when I write it down, but such is life.
Of course the really screwed up guy is your uber-wanker law professor, who has so little self-awareness that he would die of shock if he ever had an inkling that his whole career can be explained by the fact he had the crap beat out of him in high school, and so he's spent the last 30 years trying to get back at the cool kids, by becoming one himself, in the one place in the universe where someone like him could be mistaken for somebody who matters. (Just kidding! Sort of).
So now I'm all tangled up with the politics of law school, which are particularly annoying and distasteful, precisely because people in the legal academy go to great lengths to deny those politics, which is to say they deny the political nature of what they do every day. Ironically --again! -- a huge amount of what goes on in law school is a futile attempt to patrol the non-existent border between law and politics, for the purposes of legitimation (in law, politics is something that's always supposed to be happening somewhere else, but somehow always ends up happening right here and now).
And obviously this just doesn't apply to the material we teach: it applies to our jobs, which have now become political in what should be an extremely obvious and disturbing way. We are cogs in a machine that is now doing way more damage to our students and graduates than it was doing not that long ago (not that everything was all ponies and rainbows in 1990), because of decisions that we've made, or more often stood by passively while they were being made by others.
Which brings me to the issue of the Law School Transparency Petition. A couple of people have asked for updates on how it's going, and the answer is, at least as far as legal academics go, not very well. Now it's true that only about a third of the 200 ABA law schools have been contacted directly about it so far -- the rest should get it by the end of the week -- and I'm sure that, despite various mentions in the media, and even on a law professor's blog, the vast majority of legal academics haven't heard about it yet (Of course one reason they haven't heard about it is that they don't want to hear about things like this, so they -- we -- go out of our way not to).
Still. Signing this thing is, to be fair, about the least burdensome, least controversial thing somebody in this business could do, to signal that they're not OK with the status quo. Look I hate petitions too (see supra). They accomplish almost nothing. But you know what's worse than doing almost nothing? Doing nothing.
So if you're reading this and think that maybe it would be a good thing for more people in the law school business to make a tiny gesture that they recognize everything really isn't so great in our little world, send a link to the petition to somebody in legal academia, and ask them to sign it and pass it on. And if they won't, you might even ask them why.
On a cheerier note, it appears this project may keep one or two kids in Hong Kong from making a bad mistake (the linked article is behind a pay wall, but it explains why American law schools are bad investments for a large proportion of people who go to them right now, with citations to me as an authority figure on the subject, LOL). So that's something.