Wednesday, April 04, 2012

I've Been Warned, Thank You

Brian Tamanaha

Following my post last week, which raised questions about a series of anomalies in the employment numbers reported by a few law schools in the new US News rankings, I received the following message from a law professor (not someone I know personally) who teaches at one of the law schools I mentioned:
Re: Be Careful


I have followed your career with admiration and have high hopes for your future. The purpose of this email is to say simply: Be careful. It is valuable to speak thoughtfully about transparency problems. But your latest post could be misread to accuse specific schools of fraud. Should you someday decide to go into the deaning business or be nominated for federal office, everything you write today will be read. Over the past decade, I've watched several folks for whom I had similar high hopes self-destruct. Be careful.

For the record, I have never accused any law school of fraud. I am reprinting this message to let others who might be concerned about my self-destruction know that I am fully aware that my critical posts on law schools will offend legal educators. I have received a couple of warning emails like this in the past (also from professors at law schools I happened to mention in a post), though phrased more subtly and supported by substantive comments.

Let me be personal for a moment and confess that I hate writing posts that talk about specific law schools, and I agonize over each one. I have no desire to alienate colleagues around the country. No matter how politely and carefully I write these posts, however, people will take offense when their school is mentioned in a negative light. I write these critical posts because legal education is in a terrible state in many different ways and I hope that writing about it will somehow help prompt positive change.

To anyone who might share the writer's concern or motivation, please do not send me emails warning me of the harm to my career. I get it already: there is a professional price to be paid for my actions. It is hard enough to keep this up without receiving what, upon first blush, look like thinly veiled attempts to silence me through intimidation. I welcome public and private responses that tell me why I am wrong (I've been persuaded of this more than once), but hold the threats.

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