Monday, April 16, 2012

Future events such as these will affect you in the future

I’ve just read a revealing essay by Christopher Edley, the dean of UC-Berkeley’s law school, which was brought to my attention by Brian Tamanaha.  Dean Edley looks back over the development of his institution on the 100th anniversary of its founding, considers where his law school is today, and tries to peer into the future.  It’s not a long piece, and I encourage people to read the whole thing rather than just relying on my summary of what he has to say. What he has to say includes:

(1)    At least at elite law schools, law professors who try to publish things that might be of practical value to lawyers may well harm their academic careers by doing so -- and they probably shouldn’t be trying to do so anyway, given that they know little or nothing about legal practice:

Those law school academics who believe that our research, even the theoretical genres, can be professionally valuable have largely failed to build bridges to the realm of practicing lawyers. The career payoff for professors who do so is usually nil or negative, and it is difficult to build a bridge when you are almost clueless about the world across the chasm: extensive experience in law practice is not valued when hiring professors nearly as much as a doctoral dissertation or a couple of frame-breaking law review articles.  (p. 320)

(2)    Law schools teach people how to think about tough questions, and about the importance of ethical behavior, and these traits are valuable for many endeavors besides practicing law:

Starting with the first day of class, we train law students to probe beneath the simple or obvious answer, and to work hard at identifying the points of weakness in their analysis, and the strengths in the opposing position. We teach them about the purposes, strengths, and weaknesses of alternative procedures for making decisions; about how it often improves a decision if the competing positions are carefully presented by a motivated advocate, and if decisions are based on evidence and revealed principles. They learn that the answers to complex or important problems are often complex and controvertible, and that simplistic and facile answers are therefore suspect on their face. They learn to anticipate confusion, conflict, and surprise, and to engineer their client’s affairs accordingly. They learn the importance of integrity and ethical behavior, and how to wrestle intelligently with such issues. The value of these professional traits is obvious, and not only in courtrooms or for people who have passed a bar exam. (pp. 323-24)

(3)    Given (2), elite law schools should move from inculcating generally useful habits of mind and ethical sensitivities in their students to actually preparing them to do things besides practice law (since preparing their students to practice law is  something  such schools can’t really do very well anyway given the current composition of their faculties; see (1) supra).

I often say that lawyers are so valuable as leaders and managers because we don’t really know anything; much of the training is, at least implicitly, about learning by asking smart questions. By this I mean that the traditional role of lawyers as problem solvers often requires that they know how to master hitherto unfamiliar things about the client’s world. It could be epidemiology or architecture, the structure of the widget industry or of a genome, the market movements of currency derivatives or the balance sheet of a landlord . . .

The value of legal training in extralegal career patterns can surely be enhanced by a great law school that goes beyond implicit preparation through the inculcation of habits of mind to explicit professional preparation for these wider roles—this in addition to the foundational training for conventional, licensed practice as lawyers.  (p. 324)

(4)     Indeed, when you consider the inherent intellectual value of the law school experience, why shouldn’t law schools alter their curricula in ways that would allow them take over much of what, for example, MBA programs are supposed to be doing?

Concretely, the Great Law School will soon include curricular and co-curricular tracks for students who intend to enter the business world—not as counsel, but as client, entrepreneur, and manager.  The study of business law will be augmented by the study of business strategy and management. We know for a fact that some of our students plan to be real estate developers, investment bankers, or leaders in health care delivery. Our curriculum can easily do more to prepare them, and should. Much of the detail in a traditional M.B.A. curriculum can be elided, while some of the traditional legal doctrine and theory can be retooled or recalibrated to better suit the early stages of the intended career path. (Id).

And there’s no need to stop there. How many people will need to get a Masters in Public Policy or Public Health or Journalism when they will have the Great Law School of the Future at their disposal? After all, law school graduates go on to be not just “investment bankers [but also] community organizers, hospital administrators, journalists, and diplomats. Given this increasingly powerful and varied reality for people trained in the law, just what is the profession for which we are preparing our students?” (p.321).

(5)    Although training people to enter professions other than law will be time consuming, luckily UC-Berkeley law students are bright enough that the school’s faculty have the freedom not to bother  spending too much time preparing their students to pass the bar, let alone trying to teach them how to be lawyers, which again the faculty isn’t really qualified to do anyway:

A principal luxury for the faculty of elite law schools is that our highly competitive admissions process gives us students so capable that we are assured of high bar passage rates almost no matter what we teach. This is liberating and especially comforting for the many professors with little firsthand knowledge of legal practice. Once the admissions committees and job placement offices have done their work, virtually all our students will have fine careers, provided the faculty does them no harm. If only a modest fraction of three years’ coursework is perforce aligned with licensure, there is room for the expansive training mission I propose. Students have time to take several courses in anticipation of careers that make use of the law but do not entail the practice of law. [p. 325]

(6)     To be a great public law school means to be especially dedicated to grappling with difficult public policy issues in a public-regarding way.  What it does not mean is that such a school is or can be less expensive than private law schools, since lower expense is incompatible with a quality legal education:

There is a distinctive responsibility in public law schools to engage a portfolio of the most difficult and important problems of the society with an intentionality and collective effort that I consider essential to its public character. This contrasts with the typically laissez-faire ethos of elite private institutions, even when lightly colored by the public-regarding nature of the legal profession, or the civic leadership expected of wealthy institutions. If this distinction is not apparent in a public law school, at least in its aspiration, then that school’s only raison d’être is to be inexpensive—today an impossible burden if quality is also a priority. [pp. 325-26, emphasis in original]

(7)     The great law school of the future will be a kind of international factory for exporting (American) Rule of Law values to the rest of the world.  This is imperative, because the benefits of exposure to American legal civilization are too important to be left up to the haphazard influence of international business transactions. Rather, those benefits should be pursued directly through the exercise of “soft cultural power” (as opposed to the old colonialist resolve to civilize lesser breeds without the law at gunpoint if necessary). Part of this evangelical enterprise will involve bringing large numbers of foreign students to American law schools so that they may learn our ways first hand:

Imagine Great American Law Schools in which perhaps half of the students are citizens of other nations, and the student experience is structured to exploit that diversity. These might be in LL.M. programs or J.D. programs or something yet to be devised. The consequences for global legal culture could be profound in a matter of just one or two decades. This is a transformation of a wholly different order than simply requiring American law students to take a basic course in some kind of international law—which, though certainly an advance, is just an intellectual tease.

I believe the exporting of American legality should be a priority in the decades immediately ahead, and an effort with lead roles for law schools will be more legitimate and effective than an effort left to multinational commercial interests.  [p. 329]


Dean Edley’s frank admission in the context of (1) and (5) that it doesn’t make sense for the current Berkeley tenure-track faculty (43% of whom have PhDs and very few of whom have any extensive experience practicing law) to spend time trying to write what the likes of John Roberts and Harry Edwards consider “practical” legal scholarship, or for that matter trying to teach people how to be lawyers, is refreshing in its candor.  It does serve as a reminder of what an odd situation has developed in legal academia – one in which the ABA’s accreditation rules prohibit more than 20% of a law school’s teaching to be done by practicing lawyers, while allowing law schools, if they so choose, (as many have) to staff their tenure-track faculties almost exclusively with people who have never really practiced law, and now increasingly don’t even have law degrees.

The claims in (2) are of course the standard fare about the supposed benefits of learning to “think like a lawyer.” The problem with these sorts of claims is that learning “to probe beneath the simple or obvious answer” and that “answers to complex or important problems are often complex and controvertible, and that simplistic and facile answers are therefore suspect on their face” etc., are lessons that are learned in any course of general learning worthy of the name, and most particularly by exposure to a liberal arts education. Indeed it’s difficult to see why anything resembling the standard law school experience would be as intellectually edifying in the general sense (as opposed to the narrowly professional sense that Dean Edley clearly disdains) as a good undergraduate course of study. 

The arguments in (3) and (4) are startling for both their sheer hubris and their deeply implausible character.  There’s something arresting about the claim that precisely because lawyers don’t, in Dean Edley’s words, “really know anything” they are uniquely well qualified to teach people to do just about anything – to, for example, run an investment bank, or a hospital, or a political system, or a magazine, or a diplomatic mission. Noting that this conclusion doesn’t seem to follow from the premise is something of an understatement.

But even this rhetorical gesture seems unremarkable in comparison to (5), where Dean Edley in effect announces that, given both how smart law students at elite schools are, and how many of them are going to do something other than practice law, we need not concern ourselves much regarding the extent to which, if at all, the faculties of “great law schools” are in fact teaching anybody anything about practicing law, and that therefore it makes sense for such faculties to devote their energies to other matters, especially given that these faculties are now better suited to other tasks than teaching people how to be lawyers.  (If this sounds like it must be a caricature of Dean Edley’s argument, that’s only because his argument really is this outlandish.) 

As for (6) this could perhaps be called The Ontological Argument for the Existence of $51,000 Per Year Public Law School Resident Tuition.   Those of a less scholastic bent might be tempted to point out that if you conceptualize the Great Public Law School as a place that’s cranking out quasi-MBA and MPH and MPP graduates who also pick up law degrees in the process, while at the same time making the great globe itself safe for democracy and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, such an institution is naturally going to require an astronomical operating budget to make any pretense of fulfilling this ambitious vision of its role in the world.

The key fact about (7) is that, beneath the all-too-familiar idea that Americans ought to be telling the rest of the world how to live, lurks the economic base that is supposed to support all this ideological superstructure, in the form of enormous numbers of rich foreigners who will pay to buy their children the prestige associated with the names of America’s great universities.  (Apparently just as the Chinese have bought our bonds they will now bail us out by buying our $225,000 law degrees.)

Finally, note that Dean Edley’s whole argument is premised on the idea that so many Berkeley law grads are making or at least will make good livings doing something other than practicing law that it makes sense to organize law schools – or at least “great public law schools” – around this supposed fact.  But he provides no evidence for this claim, while a glance at Berkeley’s employment outcomes for its last two graduating classes reveals that no less than 94% of the school’s graduates who got jobs acquired employment for which bar admission was required.   Note too that about half of Berkeley’s 2011 graduating class was making less than $62,000 per year – i.e., a figure equal to perhaps half the average 2011 graduate’s total educational debt. This seems like a problematic equation, given Dean Edley’s confident assertion that “virtually all” of the school’s graduates will go on to have “fine careers.”  

In sum, this essay illustrates the extent to which some powerful people in elite legal academia remain in something close to total denial about the actual situation facing their graduates.   And it should be unnecessary to point out that, when one moves from the context of a handful of elite law schools to that of the social and economic space which 95% of American law schools occupy, the essay’s vision of what The Law School of the Future will look like moves from the category of the deeply implausible to that of the truly bizarre.


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  2. If you want to think like a lawyer, practice law and get your teeth kicked in by a few worthy opponents in your first 10 years. You'll be pretty good by then, but it's a tough course for you and your clients.

    If you want to use law to be good in business, use it this way. See the horrible, vanilla personalities that most lawyers have (or the abrasive know-it-all attitude that most New York lawyers have) and reject it. Be personable, avoid being a jerk, and learn how to sell, sell, sell, and you could have a 1 year degree from correspondents school and be a terrific manager.

    There you go. I just saved you $150,000 and law school. Go out and do something valuable with your life.

  3. What is the modern phrase for something/someone simply sounding like a "broken record"?

  4. "Plan 9 from OuTTTer Space!"

  5. Might be a good time to bring this up again:

  6. the "trophy child" model of education that is supporting much of the american higher education model is now moving overseas, and the law school cartel is right on top of that scam, ready to exploit the nouveau riche of asia.


  7. In law school, I learned about the history of witchcraft and how it relates to law somehow in a jurisprudence class.

    Red hot scholarship and, gosh darn it, I thought it was rootin-tootin daddy oh cool and worth the taxpayer's dime!

    Let me put it another way: It was the bees knees and high kickin, click your heels three times fun!

    Hot stuff:

  8. When I was a junior officer, one of my superiors observed that an officer should be able to provide leadership in any unit, while getting as much subject matter expertise from required from the senior enlisted members who handled the unit's day-to-day business. This was typical of most mid-grade officers, who read things like "The 3-Minute Manager" and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" with total credulity.

    It was then that I learned my service's cultural understanding of leadership: the provision of one's uninformed opinion as law to people who in all likelihood know better. I would venture to guess that most corporate managers responsible for hiring outside counsel are probably looking for more than a smart person asking good questions when they sign invoices authorizing $500 per hour billed, so hopefully not too many non-lawyers find out how detail-light and skills-free our education really is.


    In 2010, Edley received Temporary Attorney's Pig of the Year award, for demanding millions more in pension benefits.

  10. Let's see if I can apply my "thinking like a lawyer" skills to this one.

    Dean Edley admits that law faculty don't really know anything about practicing law, but argues that smart people (elite law schools) are good questioners and thinkers and are above average ethically. Therefore, let's expand the naval gazing to train people for other professions.

    Here's the problem with that line of reasoning, Dean Edley is about 3,000 years behind the curve. We already have such a course of training and study. We call it "philosophy."

    I'm a firm believer that a major, or minor, or extensive course study in philosophy is worthwhile for undergraduates. Even post-college, reading classic philosophical texts keep the brain tuned and advance Aristotelian ideals. But that is not what law school, or MBA programs, or public administration, or medical programs, or dental programs are all about.

    These are professional schools. They are meant to train professionals. If they do a lousy job of it, the solution isn't mission creep -- it's cutbacks! Leave the deep thinking to those good at deep thinking: philosophers. Go with your core, or shut down.

    I'm sure academics thought this was just a fine law review article. It's useless tripe with no practical application. Who's teaching tomorrow's lawyers and what will they learn?

  11. The article is actually quite thoughtful, and I think people should read the whole thing. The block quotes do not really do justice to what he is saying. It's interesting that BT would point it out, don't know if he is critical of it or not, but it speaks directly to his position that not all law schools need to be the same. I thought I read somewhere that he was a proponent of having different types of law schools to serve different constituencies. Edley's vision is for a particular type of law school. He speaks of a "great law school', and I think it's pretty clear what he means by that. Not every law school has to-- or can-- have this mission. He's talking about a particular kind of school that would continue to exist even in a world where there were different types of law programs for students to choose.

    It's also clear that he's talking about develops over time. There is no question that the economic outlook for current students is worse than it was in the those few years that firms were over hiring and created the mistaken impression that what they were doing would continue forever. That never made any sense, and anyone thinking about it knew that those days would not last. But schools like Berkeley, or the leadership in those schools, can think about the way forward over the long term. Actually, that's what they are supposed to do-- even when in the middle of difficult times.

  12. LawProf-- what percentage number of graduates with adequate employment did you come up with for Berkley?

  13. On the question at 7:52, what does it look like over, say, a ten year period? Focusing on one or two years (good or bad ones) will not do. It was the focus on extraordinarily good years that blinded many people to structural problems. I'm sure there will be declines in the last three years because everything has declined.

  14. I skimmed the article -

    Pretentious, tedious and silly - and deeply deluded.

    The article reflected a desire for law school to be a farm for highly subsidized dilletantes.

  15. I cannot imagine paying $150,000 for 3 years of Edley's nonsense and yet learning no more than "frame breaking" legal arguments--you know---the type most judges deem as frivolous and "not well grounded in fact or law". You can run a hospital with this foolishness? You can't run a two person law office with this idiocy. Is he gone? Is this silly man really as divorced from reality as he sounds? I cannot imagine any practicing lawyer possessing any respect for this craven little man.

    Perhaps I misunderstood, but is Edley suggesting law students should augment their law degree with another expensive grad degree? If so, it staggers the imagination.

    Tricia Dennis

  16. Lolwhat?!

    1) We can't teach you to be a lawyer

    2) Anyway, our student are so awesome that they don't need us anyway

    3) Therefore we'll try to teach you a bunch of other stuff

    4) But we'll still be wanting that money

    Is this really what he's saying?

  17. FOARP: That's a very nice summary for the benefit of the tl;dr crowd.

    7:52: 59.9%

  18. The answer is, if you do not want that kind of education, do not go. Only a handful of law schools could do this anyway. It will not apply to the vast majority of people going to law schools. The answer is easy. I do not see why people are sweating this.

  19. 59% of LawProf's determination of what is acceptable employment.

  20. What is this? I don't even.

  21. I cant wait til ATL parses this one out.

  22. Tricia

    The only use of the frame breaking legal argument is as a citation when defending a Rule 11 motion - as in "look judge, this law professor wrote it - it has some basis."

  23. " in addition to the foundational training for conventional, licensed practice as lawyers."

    I'm a conventional, licensed lawyer. I had no problems figuring what my clients needed when I was doing M&A. What is he saying..ooh derivates and genomes are big,scary things! How can lawyers possibly know about this stuff. I know we will teach them ....what again exactly?

    You can tell this guy has never talked to a hiring attorney at a biglaw firm about what it takes to be a good associate.

  24. Hell, Jerry Brown knows it: ""These executives seem very out of touch..."

    To echo others, in their disdain for Edley:

  25. Someone’s kid at work is paying upenn 90K a year to do a 2year/full time mba program. 90K/year, straight-up front “cash”. Who in their right mind would pay that much. The education industry makes me laugh.

  26. This is it folks. Guys like this took over the country, and we are finished as a result.

  27. Well.....that was one depressing read. Could the dean of a law school be any more delusional, out of touch, exceedingly irresponsible (in my mind)?

    LawProf (or anyone): What does "tl;dr" refer to (as in Law Prof's reference to the "tk;dr" crowd)?

  28. I have met Berkeley grads doing doc review.

  29. Oops.....I mean "as in LawProf's reference to the tl;dr crowd." What does that stand for?

    Thanks so much for keeping this blog rolling, everyone.

  30. This is it folks. Guys like this took over the country, and we are finished as a result.

    Between boomer greed and the bizarre consumerism/sloth exhibited on reality television (e.g., toddlers and tiaras, bridezillas), I don't know why the Chinese have held off on the invasion. At this point our leaders are so virulently corrupt, and our populace so docile from high fructose corn syrup, I doubt we could put up much resistance. Maybe they don't have American Cable in China. I hope they never get wise.

  31. Even assuming for the sake of argument, that this essay with magical thinking applies to say Yale, Harvard, Stamford, Columbia and Chicago, the vast majority of law school graduates from TT, TTT, and TTTTs have no such opportunity to flighty gibber off to the wonderful worlds of public policy and Baine Capital when such jobs are not available to them.

  32. Michigan law just released NALP details for the last 3 years. Oh boy does it look bad for even a really great law school.

    Others are doomed. Frankly, Cameron and Abigail should drop out now while they still have their lives/credit ahead of them.

  33. 9:16: "I cant wait til ATL parses this one out."

    for the lulz

  34. @10:03-- You are right. That's exactly the point. This has nothing to do with the majority of law students, and Edley never said it did. In fact, he pretty much explicitly said it did not apply to them. The fixation on what the elite schools are doing makes no sense. That is part of why the academy has run into problems. No matter how inapposite their situations are, people in lower ranked schools cannot take their eyes off the elites. No one has to do what they do. Talking about the law school scam becomes just another excuse to spend time talking about what the elites are doing, as if they stand in for all 200 law schools.

  35. What does "tl;dr" refer to?

    If only there were a simple, fast, and easy way to research answers to factual questions about stuff one reads on the internet, especially facts about internet lingo!!

  36. @9.56 - The entire reason that US law school deans are licking their chops at the prospect of selling legal education cost in excess of 20 times the average income of a resident of Shanghai is because China's political system is so hopefully corrupt that Chinese Communist Party officials with published monthly salaries of no more than 1-2,000 US dollars can pay straight cash to send their kids to the US to study at such schools. A good portion of Chinese students studying overseas are the offspring of such officials. The case of Bo Xilai, the corrupt politburo official who sent his son to expensive schools in the US and the UK despite his modest official salary, is typical.

    Whatever the problems of the US, they are dwarfed by those of China. China is a glorified mafia state.

  37. "costing in excess of", "hopelessly corrupt"

  38. @10:23

    Glorified mafia state, to which the United States owes over 1.2 trillion dollars. Gulp.

    As an aside, i read that Bo Xilai's wife had a UK banker killed for charging too much to smuggle money out of china. Yikes!

  39. As The Chronicle’s Nanette Asimov reported Wednesday, three dozen of UC’s highest-paid swells are threatening to sue unless the system agrees to increase retirement benefits for academics earning more than $245,000. In a letter to the Board of Regents, the 36 petitioners cited “University’s legal, moral and ethical obligation” to pay more toward their pensions.

    One of the letter signers is UC Berkeley Boalt School of Law dean Christopher Edley, Jr.

    It may interest you to watch this video in which Edley discusses “social justice.”:

  40. 9:56:

    "Between boomer greed and the bizarre consumerism/sloth exhibited on reality television (e.g., toddlers and tiaras, bridezillas), I don't know why the Chinese have held off on the invasion."

    What the hell are you talking about? Put down the fucking bong. I think this talk of blaming the baby boomers is hogwash. As if there was some sort of vast baby boomer conspiracy to take all the resources of this nation and keep it to themselves. The bottom line: The baby boomers told our generation what to do because it worked for them. College, good job, retirement. This paradigm changed because the world changed. While I think there are many baby boomers who are selfish and greedy, I think a big chunk of them want to understand what our generation is going through-the smart ones at least. The educated and professional baby boomers seem to understand that the student loans we took out are not the same ones they took out. They know and understand the job market these days because many of them SUPERVISE and HIRE Generation Xers and Yers.

    Put in the simplest way, if we want to solve the problems our generations face, we need the baby boomers. The powers that be want us to be divided between generations in much the same way they want Dems to hate Repubs. The divisiveness is what holds us back.

    Again, I know plenty of baby boomers who are useless and selfish but I also know many who care about this problem and want to help. I have found those that have little sympathy are those who strategically defaulted on their home loans and who don't care about anything but their little corner of the world. However, I think it is wrong to despise a whole generation because of that group. Again, we need the baby boomers. They may become our best allies in this mess because they are nearing retirement and need good little taxpayers to fund their social security. Student loan debt is inhibiting that. The NAR, run by baby boomers, needs people to buy houses, not happening because of student loan debt. These are potential allies in this mess.

    Finally, I read last week that Baby Boomers owe 36 billion in student loans. Chump change in comparison to what the Gen Xers and Yers owe but enough to make headlines because the Boomers vote. Since that article came out a few weeks ago, I have seen more talk in mainstream publications about the education scam and student loan bubble than the six months prior. Think there is a connection? I think so....

    The rest of your statement about consumerism and reality television is just a distraction. Soon, this country will realize that the years 1945-2008 were a broad exception to the realities of the true norm-which we are returning to as a people. This conspicuous consumerism will die a horrible death when the public gets turned off by these idiotic TV programs showing the lifestyles of these ingrates.

  41. @10.35 - Or the murder investigation (which was only opened after Bo's downfall) is just part of a plan to discredit him. There's no way of knowing for sure.

  42. 10:38, it's not a conspiracy if we all know about it. Please check out this post by a Berkeley professor about how the Baby-Boomers got the benefits of all the investment of their parents' generation and decided to stop paying it forward:

    It's definitely had an effect on my thinking.

    Then, there's Ed at Gin & Tacos:

    Take from them what ye will.


  43. 11:14:

    I don't doubt it, not at all I just think we do need 'em. Many of them worked hard, saved, and did what was required of them. I think blaming them as a group and condemning them all is not the way to go. They could be powerful allies against a system that operates on greed, deception, and corruption.

  44. Maybe these clowns can have Dean Edley represent them in their lawsuit. Oh wait, he doesn't know what it is to be a lawyer. Well then maybe they can hire on of his alums, oh that's right, he also doesn't train people to be lawyers.

  45. The essay appears to be a justification for institutional obsolescence masquerading as progressive thought.

    Thankfully, because of Google Scholar everyone can ignore him because the greatest public law school already exists--and it's free!

  46. @10:38-Your observation that “the world has changed” is spot on, but the “boomers” are far from blameless.

    A bit of historical context-most boomers were born into a post-WWII world where the U.S. and Canada were the only industrialized economies that were not either in ruins or Red Army-occupied (occupy!). They experienced a growth phenomenon from 1948-circa 1999 that has never occurred before and probably will never occur (at least at such a rapid rate). It is understandable that many in this generation thought this pattern, including Big Law hiring habits, was the norm. Hard work, education credentials, and investment in housing equaled a paradigm that made sense for them.

    As you say, all of that has changed. What I cannot understand is why many boomers will not admit that their formula is tragically flawed. Contrary to your assertion that “the educated and professional baby boomers seem to understand that the student loans we took out are not the same ones they took out”, it is these educated boomers (i.e. law professors, higher ed administrators) playing the role of the alcoholics resisting any admission of a problem. See the 10:38 post immediately above yours citing UC faculty lawsuits seeking increased pension benefits. Where does the faculty think the increased benefits will come from? It will originate from higher tuition and fees, student loans, and, ultimately, from taxpayers.

    These boomers are delusional, willfully blind, and probably both. Every one of their answers involves doubling down on their formula of more education for everyone on credit to fund those who teach and their staff army. They do not wish to admit that their world is gone because it is in their self-interest not to admit as much. For this reason, I can absolutely blame them.


  47. Jim:

    This group: "these educated boomers (i.e. law professors, higher ed administrators)" are the enemy, on many levels. However, there are plenty other educated BBs who are not in these professions. I think you can see that. Isn't Lawprof a Baby Boomer law professor? He seems to get it. I am sure there are more.

    While there is enough blame to go around, I think it is very important not to lash out at one group entirely. This country is looking at a systemic shift in the way it lives. This fact should be our focus. The Baby Boomers merely enjoyed those spoils. Many of them, being so spoiled, have failed to see past themselves. However not ALL are like that. Your historical context is correct. I could describe more detail in my theory regarding that historical context but I think it is a discussion for another day.

    In the end, many institutions that worked from 1945-1999 (Social Security, Medicare, Education, Mortgage Industry) are failing us or have already done so because those models don't work now. We are at the point now where the people who benefit from that system are trying to hold onto it with lies, propaganda, and other bullshit. The people doing that speaking and trying to hold onto this soon-to-be failed system are mostly Baby Boomers (we are now in our 20th year of Baby Boomer Presidents) but those days are coming to an end whether voluntary or by collapse.

    Again, I think it is a bad idea to place it all at the feet of all Baby Boomers. There are many who care about this problem, who vote, and would make excellent allies. What I am really saying here is that we need to avoid black and white thinking. Like life, there is plenty of gray area. The gray area will help us to find the right answers and deal with the problems.

  48. Law professors are incapable of effectively teaching law students to be practicing lawyers, but they are qualified to teach us how to be I-bankers and hedge fund managers? Am I missing something?

  49. @1:39-- What school do you attend?

  50. 1:39: Rather of being able to effectively teach one thing, law professors are instead equipped to ineffectively teach everything.

    This may sound like a joke, but it is a trend I've noticed among elite law school professors at my school. They seem to think that because of their raw intelligence they are equipped to BS about all sorts of topics that they have only a cursory understanding of- hence a ton of "Law and" type articles. Because their work is reviewed by 3L Law Review staffers, they can get away with it. However, peer reviewed journals would give them a much harder time.

  51. My crappy state government law office just hired one of Edley's 2011 grads. This person had stellar credentials, yet our miserable sweatshop was the best they could do, given the terrible market. Oh--and the annual starting salary is $67,000.

  52. There is a push for more team teaching at the most elite schools--law profs and business profs working together, for example. Stanford has opened up the second and third year to allow students to take classes from any part of the university. So, students interested in business can go to the business school to take classes. There are lots of things to be done at that level.

  53. MacK

    You knew just what I was thinking when I wrote that, didn't you? Which is why law students could benefit from having more than a few faculty with your experience. But except for trial advocacy, the ABA won't allow it, will they?

    And before MacK and I get flamed for stifling the development of the law, we are not suggesting that a novel argument may not be appropriate once in a blue moon. But in the present legal environment, one better have the real world experience to know the difference between a novel argument grounded in reality and one grounded in fancy. I just don't believe the majority of academia have the necessary experience to tell the difference.

    Tricia Dennis

  54. We've all heard of the proverbial argument that is "so stupid that only an intellectual could believe it."

    Edley's piece is an article so stupid only a legal academic could've written it.

  55. It's pretty clear what the response from the academy is going to be: Double down and force them to actually shut the law school down in order to remove us from our sinecures.

    Berkeley might be safe. My guess is that many, many other law schools will not be so lucky.

    Of course, the big problem is not Berkeley and similar schools. The big problem is that the ABA regs essentially back up this model, and only this model.

  56. It's them's Boomers is who did it!

    Them's Boomers, oooh them's Boomers!

  57. Speaking of Philosophy majors, I was one of them. That's a major reason I went to law school - to learn to be practical and to earn a living.

    15 years after graduating college I still owe $20,000 in undergraduate debt - PLUS $140,000 in law school debt.

    But hey I have a shot at sounding pretty smart at a cocktail party discussing Nietzche...and don't forget "I'm a lawyer' just like TMZ says at the signoff of every episode, speaking of reality TV..


    This is an article about a HBO piece asking the question.. Should parents support their adult children financially....

    I say YES!

  59. 3:18--exactly. Let the elite schools do what they want. If people want to go to them,fine. People who want something else should have the choice.

  60. Disclosure: I haven't read Edley's article yet, although I plan to.

    But I have to say: The strongest example I know of a law school and its dean affecting public policy is the role of Howard Law School and Dean Charles Hamilton Houston in ending racial segregation. How much did Howard Law charge its students while working for that goal? How much was Houston paid? How many "law and" courses did Thurgood Marshall take at Howard before becoming the attorney who would win Brown v. Board of Education?

    Let's think seriously about the roles law professors have played in pathbreaking policy changes--and the type of work they have done to achieve those results.

  61. DJM--Christopher Edley knows this history this very well. His father, Christopher,Sr. was a protege of Marshall's and a noted civil rights leader himself. He was the head of the United Negro College Fund for many years. Read the article with an open mind, think about his history, and the history you just cited.

  62. 3.18, 6.16, - Problem: the taxpayer is ultimately going to end up paying for this guy's bullshit.

  63. Better that than more trillions on other pointless foreign entanglements.

  64. By stretching several weeks of doctrine into three long years, law schools are actually providing their students with super-special mental abilities that everybody recognizes; therefore, law school can dispense with mere legal training. Or so the story goes. We have heard this self-serving bullshit from Linda Greene, Brian Leiter, and others.

    One little potential problem is that Edley's model depends on the credulity of employers, legal and nonlegal. The employer is supposed to look at a resume and gasp: "Wow, this kid has a law degree from a name school! He or she must be such a subtle and advanced thinker that he or she is ABOVE mere skills or training or experience!"

    It is interesting that Edley looks hopefully to foreign students. Maybe, he thinks that the bright young kids in China and India will fall for his bullshit, and seek out an American law degree to obtain status and rewards in their own society. I doubt it.


  65. @3:18, 6:16

    You guys are wrong. People will still chase prestige. Schools like NYLS only get away with charging $50,000 for tuition and Northwestern (which isn't elite) can charge about $80,000 for COA, because the elite schools have convinced people they are worth that amount. Schools will follow the elite model or they will be considered to be on the level of the current online law schools.

    No law school is going to aspire to be non-elite. And no elite school is going to give up the pretense that they are training lawyers.

    And even if this does happen - it won't be cheaper. The bottom of the barrel schools still charge as much or more than the elite schools.

  66. Law prof-

    If law schools didn't provide a theoretical education, how would we all know what was or was not a winning argument? I'm all for having practical educational opportunities at law school, but I believe theory is important. From the tone of your blog I am not sure if you agree with me.

    See in you in Property.

    Derrick Dooley

  67. Desperate lawyers are scamming small businesses under the ADA:

    It's funny because none of the comments on the piece remotely even recognize the law school scam as the cause.

  68. "If law schools didn't provide a theoretical education, how would we all know what was or was not a winning argument?"

    If your me and you're doing the kind of arguing I usually do (drafting responses to patent office rejections) it's because you've read up on the all the relevant documents and sources of law and made your arguments accordingly, tailoring it to your audience, looked at what the other side has said and worked out what their likely response to any given argument is going to be and taken this into account in your arguments. Studying law didn't teach me to do this, although it did give me a pretty good line in looking for the right things in agreements and knowing how to CYA. Like nearly everyone in patenting I have a technical background, and I found studying science just as good a way of teaching critical thinking as law.

  69. When the reality of your profession is so grim, I guess the only recourse is to escape into fantasyland.

    In the past, I have wondered how Law School profs can live with themselves whilst making money off the backs of taxpayers and naive 20-somethings. Now I know how they do it: they use their high IQs and fancy educations to build imaginary worlds out of words. They are eloquent enough that they can build fairytale castles that almost seem real.

    Most people probably aren't fooled, but these law school deans convince *themselves* and that is enough for them to keep on doing what they are doing...

  70. @Derrick - And in case you're wondering, I learned to do that by talking over cases with people with more experience, having them going over my arguments with a red marker and chewing me out if they thought I wasn't up to speed, all with the ever-present threat that if I did fall behind (or if they just didn't like me, or if I screwed up) I was going to get shit-canned.

  71. @ 6:16
    "If people want to go to [elite schools], fine."

    That would be fine, if law weren't the hierarchical, status-obsessed, credentialist viper pit that it is. Unfortunately, if the jobs are all going to go to graduates of the elite schools, then all schools will claim to be elite and all remotely informed students will insist on the most elite school that will have them.

    Whereas the problem with Edley's article is that the "education" model he's laying out is completely useless, and if anything should be considered a disqualification from legal practice.

    But even if employers acknowledged the uselessness of the Edley model, they'd still snap up YSH graduates like Easter candy, just from the name. The only way we'll get useful law instruction is if the trendsetting elite schools actually take a turn in that direction themselves... which is funny, because they're the only ones who stand any chance of having some legitimate grounds for treating the law school as part of the research university, i.e. producing scholarship and, incidentally, lawyers.

  72. Tiercelet

    I disagree with you about the uselessness of the model. But we will never convince each other, so there is no point in going into all of that. What I will say is that you cannot do anything about employers’ desire to snap up what they perceive, rightly or wrongly, to be talent. They will continue to want to hire talent (meaning what they consider to be intelligence) over people who have been "trained" any day. Given the choice between someone who has done things that demonstrate a certain level of intelligence, and someone who has not, but who has been trained to do the first level of work at a given task – and that is really all any law school could hope to do, the deeper training is on the job when real things are at stake—I think most people would pick what they consider, by whatever measure, to be the smarter person. There is evidence that this does not serve them (firms, I mean) well all the time. Bill Henderson, and others, have written about the fact that even though students from elite schools get into Big Law in greater numbers, they make partner at a lower rate than students who come to them from regional schools. There are lots of theories about why that is, but it is a pretty consistent pattern. But as things stand, firms fixate on the proxy of school and grades as indicators of intelligence/talent.

    I think there is a place for the kind of school that Edley is talking about—the most elite institutions are already moving toward some of his positions, which he well knows. This is more “me too” than anything else. These schools are doing this even as they attempt to bring more practical training to students. Stanford has gone the interdisciplinary route, letting people wander all over the university catalogue, but is constantly seeking to improve its already strong clinical program. Actually, some of those people may wander over to the business school and learn management and business skills that will serve them well in their practice. HLS pays a lot of attention to globalization of the law, and is attracting more and more foreign students. At the same time it has instituted a requirement that first year students take a problem -solving class taught by professors and partners from Boston firms and a few NY firms that come down for the class. They prepare memos, do interviews, make presentations to partners and are critiqued by the lawyers. So, there is a blend of lots of different things going on.

    It will be up to other law schools to be innovative in ways that suit their resources. They have responsibilities, too. Some of these schools have to step up and do things in a different way that benefits the kind of students who enroll there.

  73. 6:16 here, I stand by my comment that if the program the elite schools decide upon is what some students want, enough for them to remain viable institutions, then they should be free to set their own programs. I do not see the point in spending so much energy trying to dictate what we may think other people ought to want to do with their lives.

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