Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tabloids,Pathetic Law Professors, and Their Use

Any one reading this is probably aware of the recent study published by the Michigan Law Review on the one hundred most cited law professors.  I wrote in disbelieve , that a reputable law review would publish such garbage.  Not only was the study flawed but the whole subject matter is irrelevant to virtually everyone except a craven group of law professors who truly must not have a life.

Now, low and behold, we have a ranking of the 50  most influential law schools as ranked by the Leiter scale. I do not know Leiter  but do not think highly of anyone with a ranking obsession   There are so many things that are better to do. In fact, if I rank the top 1,000.000 things to do in the world, these silly self indulgent rankings would not be in the ranking. I hasten to add that Leiter, whoever he is, is not an author of this particular ranking but evidently it is one of his "activities."

Why is any of this important? The rankings themselves are not. They are completely unimportant with respect to any measure of human well being,  What is important is that they exist at all and what that tells you about the pathetic people who pore over them and the profession they control.  If you followed any of my previously posts, they have been devoted to law professors, most of whom are what is currently called liberal, and their connection to the Romnesian 1%.  In both cases,  they are beneficiaries of a rigged system. And having benefited from the rigged system they want to make sure it stays that way. At the same time they are 1) desperate to know where they rank and 2) they bank on, live on, and salivate over institutional authority. That is, it's fine with them that they are not actually relevant as long as a rankings says they are. In fact, they actually regard themselves as important or as smart as the rankings say they are.

Does this mean I condemn the authors of such silliness. Not on your life. It is, in fact, pure marketing genius. Check out the number of SSRN downloads for this latest effort -- over 1200 in a short period for an article that has nothing to do with law but is full of name dropping. The authors know what sells to law professors. Yes, law professor cannot get enough of their version of grocery store tabloids. Bless their hearts!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Silver Spoon Twins and the Law Prof 1%

A few commentators have question my sanity for equating most law professors with the Silver Spoons Twins -- Romney and Ryan. They say most law professors are liberal, for choice, support Obama care and so on.

I point out that most law professors have their jobs because of a system rigged by the elites -- call them the 1% -- they want to keep it that way.  In fact, they have a trickle down mentality. -- The rich ones supposedly with the knowledges will discuss it and some of the knowledge will trickle down. It never trickles down enough so that the recipients can be as entitled as the 1% but you get the idea.

Out of touch with real America is another way it presents itself.  Here think about the SSTs and their ideas that one can just borrow money from mom and dad to go to college or that a no capital gains tax will be a big win for those earning under 200K. I will not even get into binders.

Now think about the law prof who invited his class to meet and have a beer. When no minority students joined his conclusion was "I guess they could not afford beer." Huh?? Or the Prof who thoughtlessly assigns a $200 casebook. Or the Prof who has never known anyone on welfare, in jail, hungry,  or who recieves food stamps. Like the SSTs they do not have a fucking clue and they prefer it that way.

So their politics may differ but at a base level the are the same. All of them will still see each other at the Vineyard or some other place like that and the class-based bonds between the SSTs and law professors will overcome all disagreements.

Friday, October 5, 2012

What is Winning for Law Professors?

This is not only about law professors but it is in that context that I see it played out. The" it" here is defining what  it means to win.

For example, in Obama's case, suppose someone said to him, "We have decided to allow you to be President but only for 4 more years." Would he define that as winning? If he were a real law professor the answer might very well be no. For many law professors the symbolism of winning is at least as important as, or more important than, the substance of winning. Letting a law professor do anything is not a win for the law professor. Instead, they like to be asked.  It's really a matter of which party is doing the other a favor.

Another example might be many Romney and Obama voters. Sometimes I think the two candidates could both switch positions on every issue but the Romney people who fight for Romney and the Obama people for Obama. Winning means more than substance again.

In Law school I've seen it play out like this. Someone proposes a new boutique, unnecessarily capped course that  is a luxury to be a permanent addition to the curriculum and it is approved, as is every single new course, by the Committee in charge. They are all  approved  because the law school I am talking about is run for the convenience of the faculty and there is almost uniform cooperation in this effort.

So, now the course comes to the faculty and for the first time in history the faculty decides to only approve the course for 5 years. This is because there are major changes to the curriculum afoot and it makes little sense to put anything in stone.

The proponents of the course win, right? Not to them. The substance is that the course will be taught most likely until the the faculty member teaching it retires or leaves. (BTW should any course be offered that will sunset with the retirement of a specific professor?)  Does this matter? Not really because substance is second to victory.

I'd like to provide an explanation for this behavior but I cannot. Maybe it is just the sense of entitlement -- you want people to give you what you ask for AND act happy about it. Maybe it means that the faculty has done a favor for the proponents and that suggests a quid pro quo is requrired. Or perhaps it violates the "volunteer" theory I have written about. Law professors never want to appear to ask for things they but want to appear to "volunteer" to do things. You've seen examples -- "oh yes I will volunteer to take that round the world trip to scout foreign student opportunities."

Actually, maybe I have figured it out. Law professors view life as a negotiation. It would be bad negotiating to appear to be satisfied even when you get more than you deserve.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Faculty Governance or Faculty Capture?

I have written repeatedly and evidently unconvincingly about faculty capture of law schools. What that means is that law schools are run by the faculty for their convenience. The law school exists for ends of faculty and everything else is a means or nothing.  Think of it as police officers deciding that their only job is protect their own safety. The pecking order is like this:

1. Faculty.
2. Faculty.
3. Faculty.

You get the idea. Nothing is in second place and this includes students and others who have a stake in the school. Faculty capture represents the corruption of the broader idea of faculty governance. Nothing about faculty governance means that capture must occur. I really depends on the ability of faculty to, from time to time, do something that is not in its self interest but which makes the institution better.  Saying no to yourself is difficult but not impossible.  I was thinking of a ten question test so you can determine if your faculty has captured the law school.

1. If you have a curriculum committee, can you point to 3 times in the past ten years in which it turned down a request by a professor to offer a new course?

2. When a new course is proposed to the faculty, can you point to three times in the past ten years in which the faculty voted no?

3. Has your faculty ever voted not to approve a new program -- foreign program, specialization?

4. Has your faculty ever discontinued a program the discontinuance of which was opposed  by at least one person.

5. Are most of your courses uncapped meaning limited in enrollment only by the size of the room.

6. In faculty meetings  is reasoning like "the students like it," "other schools are doing it" or "why do you want to punish me" rejected and the person using that reasoning sent to stand in a corner.

7. Over the past ten years, have faculty reviewers of the teaching of untenured faculty been anything but glowing more than once?

8.  Over the past ten years, have internal reviews of untenured faculty scholarship been negative more than once.

9. Are machine graded multiple choice exams rare?

10. Is it rare for faculty to teach 4 credit courses over two days in order to decrease the number of days they are in the classroom?

So, how did your school do?  If you answered no 7-10 times, your faculty has completely captured the school. They run it for their welfare and nothing else. If you said no less than 4 times, you have a principled, ethical and amazing faculty.  Your students should be thankful and so should you.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Corporate Wefare and the Complicity of Law Schools

It's a bit different from the lyrics of the song but it means the same --if you've got nothing, you've got nothing to protect.

My hunch is that this provides all the insight one needs to explain the existence of  publicly supported law schools.  That hunch is that if you had money and property back in the day you needed a lawyer. And what could be better than a lawyer you do not fully have to pay for because someone else has been required to train that lawyer.  Thus, the state law school -- almost certainly the creation of the privileged classes so they could tax the general population in order to train people to take care of their wealth. [Did any of them think a public service requirment might be appropriate?]  My definition of welfare would be paying for something at a price that does not reflect the costs of production. And, if you are a corporation hiring public law school graduates (at least from schools that still get public support), you are on the dole. Unlike private law firms that have to compete with the glut of young lawyers, you probably have not heard any corporations express concern. After all, supply increases, price goes down for an already subsidized input.  The subsidization always meant oil companies were collecting welfare but the glut makes it even better.

The new form of corporate welfare which my faculty (full of "liberals") adopted is the corporate extern. Goes like this. The school collects tuition from students who then work for corporations but then get credit from the school. And to make sure it works, the faculty get a kick back for all the externs they can hand out to corporations. According to one proponent "Other schools do it?" So what? Some also report false figures to the ABA.

And then the case is made that  "we are doing this for the students." Really, oh come on! I guess the $20,000 a faculty member makes for facilitating these handouts has no role in the process. After all, it is for the students but only as long as they pony up big bucks that find their way into faculty bank accounts. If it is for the students,  then hire specialists to do it and cut the costs of the entire effort by eliminating faculty payola. With the money saved maybe something could actually be done for the students.

Yes, greed is not limited to corporations.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Anacronism: C'est Moi


I strongly oppose the corporate extern proposal for a variety of reasons that you can imagine a lefty dinosaur would come up with. I’ll save you all of that since, in the aftermath of Citizens United, I suppose there is no distinction to be made between public and private interests and rights. To me, we will be the instrument of corporate welfare in the sense of providing free labor, which means lower costs and, wow, more money to spend on greed, avoiding regulation, taxation, or  lobbying to downgrade environmental standards. Or maybe the little boost we will provide will go right to the Presidental Campaigns of the silver spoon twins. In fact, I think  we are neglecting our public interest duties (which I suppose dwindle as the State become less supportive) by giving credit to students who work for corporations.  Ok, so I am voted down 60-1 and do understand our financial reasons for doing this (although I have  never understood paying people based on externships supervised but not on the basis of how many students we teach. ) And, since it is not distinguishable I suppose the vote would be the same if the proposal were for a new Corporate Law Clinic. 

More realistically, I do wonder if it would be possible to request these corporate entities to pay the extern’s tuition that we now collect from the students for the credit we award them.

And I also wonder if there is a conflict of interest issue to be addressed. As it stands now, faculty are governed by a number of conflict of interest regulations. When we start arranging and supervising externships with for profit entities I am not sure I see how we distinguish, at least in principle, the conflict of interest issues. No matter how interpreted, the for profit externship mean a student pays us for credit and then lowers the costs of the corporation. In addition, the faulty member is paid to broker or make this subsidization possible.  In effect, a faculty member favors a particular profit making entity by arranging or supervising,  and it seems that is only proper if the faculty member has no financial connection to that entity.  I am not sure how to put this in law-professor-as-indirect-as-possible language but suppose Professor A does corporation B a favor because he has consulted with them in the past or hopes to in the future.  Or, he may be in the process of asking for a grant or would like to make a talk there. Maybe this is just mutual back scratching but it is also a process that clouds the faculty member’s judgment about a placement.

I suppose we could have sponsors of corporate externships sign something that prevents them from personally contracting with the corporation. Something that might get at it indirectly is not allowing corporate externship supervision to count toward the award we give those supervising externship.

Two final and most likely annoying points. In a principled context, faculty who stand to benefit from this program should recuse themselves.  But I know that kind of principle is just not part of our culture and that goes back much further than externships. Second, in terms of public interest I think a better case can be made for law firms some of whom from time to time may actually have a needy client as opposed to corporations.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mitt, the Humility Problem, and Law Profs.

In the last two posts I have mentioned the similarity of Mitt Romney to many law professors. Some commentators have noted that Mitt and most law professors do not share the same political positions. I think that is correct on a very superficial level. What they both stand for is a class system in which those in control feel completely justified maintaining the status quo.  And, of course, that status quo, just coincidentially, favors them.  The other similarity is an ability to describe what others should do but an inability to actually adhere to those rules themselves. These are values that transcend tax rates and similar policies.

The Economist captured the essense of Mitt with this:"WHEN Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favoured keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35% to 28% for the richest Americans."

 Compare that with today's Mitt and you have no choice but to conclude he is an unprincipled person and a hypocrite. The Economist only calls it world championship flip flopping. In 30 years of law teaching I've seen similar flip-flopping and principles based on which way the wind is blowing. I can count on two hands the number of times someone actually stood up for principle as in; "We should not be doing this." I've seen people hate programs until they began to benefit them. I've seen people teach cooperation, mediation or ADR berate those lower in the pecking order. And, of course, like Mitt, law profs are often masters of "not technically a lie."

The catch is this: Their arrogance and sense of entitlement,  like Mitt's, cancels out even the smallest possibility of humility. They would not regard any of this as hypocritical or dishonest or even flip flopping. Why? Because since birth they have been told they are special, the regular rules do not apply to them.  This is different than simply being sleazy. Clinton was sleazy at times, Nixon was sleazy too. A bit of sleaze, unfortunately, is part of being an effective politician.  The shamelessness (and I mean literally an inability to experience a sense of shame) of people like Mitt, like that of too many law professors I have known, makes a person dangerous regardless of their political views.