Friday, June 09, 2006

My Deanship

Mark Graber

On behalf of the University of Maryland School of Law, I would like to invite all Balkanization readers (and everyone else) attending the annual conference of Law and Society Association to attend our reception from 6:45 to 8:00 PM on Friday night, July 7, 2006, at the law school. Transportation from the conference hotel will be provided and it is an easy walk. The reception promises to be a particularly momentous occasion for me because, owing to other engagements, none of our deans will be present, so I will be serving as Acting Dean of the Law School during that time. I intend my reign to be activist. Indeed, with cooperation from Balkanization readers, I believe I can completely makeover the law school in my 75 minutes of power.

As is the case with most state law schools, we are the University of Maryland School of Law are striving to be an elite, national institutions. My analysis of recent law school recruitment patterns (see the Leiter and Solum blogs) demonstrates clearly that the central difference between national and local law schools is that national law schools are increasingly recruiting scholars who have no clue about the actual practice of law. One survey of the most elite law schools in the country found that more than 3/4s of recent hires could not give directions to any courthouse other than the Supreme Court of the United States, the European Court of Justice, and the house of the judge in Mali who fixes drunk driving tickets for tourists. Fortunately, the Law and Society meeting provides unparalleled opportunities to identify and recruit those legal thinkers most committed to avoiding anything of relevance to a law student committed to the actual practice of law. With a little advance preparation, I believe an hour and 15 minutes is all we need to acquire a faculty second to none in the hermeneutics of law, legal esoterics, and other arts of absolutely no use to any client, real or imagined.

I am in the process of assembling a search committee that will comb the law and society meeting for those scholars who best meet the increasingly demanding criterion of practical irrelevance. While the competition will be intense, I believe the following criteria will yield a manageable short list.

1. The paper or presentation refers to "semiotics" at least three times.
2. The paper or presentation contains enough Greek letters that, when rearranged, can be used to spell out the first chapter of Plato's republic.
3. The paper or presenter refers to the contributions students of the new historical institutionalism are making to the study of law (any reference to my work should suffice to identify a scholar with no understanding or interest in actual legal practice).
4. The paper or presenter, after pointing out that conservatives control the national legislature, executive and judiciary, seriously urges liberals to pass constitutional amendments as the best means for securing their constitutional vision.
5. The paper or presenter, after noting the new conservative majority on the supreme court, insists that scholars must now take history (as opposed to "originalism") seriously.
6. The paper or presenter frequently refers to Proust, Nietzsche or any other German romantic of the nineteenth century.
7. The author admits that in order to purchase the best dish network subscription, numerous movie or concert tickets, or dinners at Tex-Mex restaurants (see Levinson and Balkin’s article in Penn about a decade ago) necessary to study pop culture or law in everyday life, they were forced to cancel their subscription to Westlaw or Lexis-Nexis.
8. The paper or presentation does not contain a single sentence that can be diagramed as noun-verb or noun-verb-noun, and is more likely to be cited by an AP English student looking to use fifteen multisyllabic words in a sentence than a lawyer preparing a legal brief (especially important for those teaching legal writing).
9. The paper or presenter demonstrates vast knowledge of the scholarship on empirical research design and no evidence of any actual empirical research.
10. Most important, the presenter holds the audience at rapt attention, even though it is clear that no one has the remotest idea of what is being said.

Assuming the short list is in place by the time my deanship begins at 6:45 Friday night, we will have more than enough time to wrap things up by 8:00. Everyone on the short list will be interviewed from 6:45 to 7:15 at the Maryland reception. During these interviews, the appointments committee will be able to assess whether our candidates have truly no conception of legal practice or whether, as is probably the case with many, the otherworldliness of their Law and Society paper and presentation reflected only their expectation that this was the sort of thing one did at law and society from those who genuinely have nothing to say aboutlegal practice. A top school faculty, after all, should be incomprehensible across the board, and not merely in their scholarship. From 7:15 to 7:45, the faculty will vote on candidates. I do not expect any trouble, given that alcohol will be freely distributed at the reception. I recognize that there is some risk in having a bar near law professors, but I am in the process of obtaining a grant from the NEH cover expenses and do not expect the costs to more than double the national debt. All offers will explode at 8:00PM, when my deanship ends. Although 15 minutes may be a short time to make such an important decision, I have scientific proof that our approach is more humane that the "take your time" practiced by other institutions. A recent study done by law and economics faculty demonstrates that law professors making personal decisions consistent agonize for months and then make the wrong choice. While general agreement exists that nothing can be done the propensity of law professors to screw up their lives, offers which explode in 15 minutes at least reduce decision costs.

By 8:01 we should have a law faculty in place, whose commitment to legal education without law should vault us to the top of U.S. World News Report. Some of our older faculty may worry that no one will be left to supervise the clinicals, but, I believe that given the direction of law school recruitment, clinicals are antiquated, likely to be replaced by mandatory courses in legal conscious, run on the model of a Quaker meeting. Such courses will provide students with unique opportunities to contemplate the issues associated with thinking about what thinking about thinking like a lawyer must be like. Graduates may not know who to write a complaint or contract, but they will feel more personally fulfilled, which is increasingly seen as the object of higher education. Universities are committed to exposing students to a variety of experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Most of our students will spend 20-40 years practicing law. Any commitment to diversity entails that they should do something else when in law school.


Hey, I'm gonna tell Volokh on you!!

"Proust, Nietzsche or any other German romantic of the nineteenth century". The name of the author of "In search of timewasting" was of course Markus Prüst.

national law schools are increasingly recruiting scholars who have no clue about the actual practice of law

I enjoyed the entire post.

i are be happy to tech in yur klass.

The reception promises to be a particularly momentous occasion for me because, owing to other engagements, none of our deans will be present, so I will be serving as Acting Dean of the Law School during that time. I intend my reign to be activist. Indeed, with cooperation from Balkanization readers, I believe I can completely makeover the law school in my 75 minutes of power.

With all due respect, I think the plan needs work.

Lets say you do “completely makeover the law school in [your] 75 minutes of power.” Then you’re out, though, right? And with the ancien regime back in power, the forces of reaction will “unmake” your makeover in 5 seconds. Better spend your 75 minutes securing your position so you don’t have to relinquish it when the 75 minutes are over, to any alleged “deans” purportedly returning from “other engagements.“ I don’t have to draw you a picture, you’re a smart guy. The generic situation be won’t unprecedented nor even unusual. The academic setting may be novel-I’m not sure. Remember the old maxim about possession being 9/10 of the law. And “justice delayed is justice denied.” (Heh)

i read your piece first smiling, then grinning, then i said "enough!"

i must talk to this fellow

none of the professors at my school had ever been to court( i had one guy now a dear friend and now a dean who did one traffic court appearance for a friend). the school hired lawyers to come out from town and teach.... called them associate professors..."rentals"...we called them.

i remember arguing with the fellow who taught family law about an exam question: what advice would you give a client?

my kind of question.

my answer filled 7 or 8 lines of the foolscap booklet. i noticed others filled several booklets.

puzzling. the law is get this, and you get this.the trick ( the crux ) is to get everyone to agree on what defines fairness.

my crime was not "discussing the law " but..... the question was what advice would you give a client.
perhaps because i am an asshole, or because i am abrasive, arrogant, and obnoxious i said to the fellow : you have never been in court...have you!....(in my mind i was thinking: he has never spoken to a client, he does not know shit from fuck).

it turns out i got the lowest mark in family law IN THE HISTORY OF THE LAW SCHOOL...hey, we all have our 15 minutes.

and after practising family law for 15 years, i assert the world would be a better place if law teachers had clients to face, and if scotus members had to explain their judgements to their mothers...or at least explain their paragraphs, their diction, their arguments to a high school english teacher...say grade 11 or 12.

i have yet to meet a judge who wants to have any counsel "discuss the law"

it has been 15 years of "what do you want, and what is your evidence/reasons?

when you are luxury seat of power for 75 minutes....please make edict number one: speak so the 14 year old kid beside me (waiting for me to play some hoops) can understand you...or shut up

may i suggest edict two be: if you are not contributing to making the world ( you know.... the hungry, the poor, the powerless and the children) a better place, then you have nothing to sit down

just after all these years, so little has changed.


All God does is watch us and kill us when we get boring. We must never, ever be boring.
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