A few years ago I interviewed for a law professor job at a
law school. During the interview, the
panel brought up my “unique background.”
Typically, law professors graduated from one of only three schools (my alma mater is not among them), clerked
for a federal judge for a year (I didn’t do that), and then practiced law in a
rarefied setting for no more than two years (I had practiced on my own for a
decade and actually had nearly thirty jury trials). To make matters worse, the ideal (rather than
typical) candidate for a law professor gig actually skipped the one to two
years of legal practice altogether, and instead earned a Ph.D. in economics (I
hadn’t done that, either). I assured the
hiring committee, however, that my actual trial experience would not be a
drawback, and in fact could be a plus when it came to teaching law. I also addressed the other elephant in the
room: although I did
not go to a “top US News-ranked school” — I intentionally used that phrase
instead of “Ivy League school” in order to avoid offending any Stanford grads
that might be on the panel — I assured them that I made up for it with a lengthy and high-quality
publication record. Big mistake.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
For the first few years of my law practice, I was amazed at how emotional prosecutors and judges could be. That’s not to say that these two groups yell and scream in court — well, they often do, but that’s not my point. Rather, what I mean is that they decide ahead of time what they want, and then will offend logic and reason, and even ignore basic facts and law, in reaching their predetermined outcome. When the prosecutor does this, it’s just bad argument from an overzealous advocate hell-bent on winning at all costs; when the judge does this — well, I don’t know what you’d call it, but it’s even more offensive. In any case, I’ve often said that the willingness and ability to function this way flows naturally from law school — the place where, in most classes, there is never a wrong answer and every point of view, no matter how absurd, is treated as equally valid. And I just love it when law school deans say things that prove my point.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
If memory serves, first-year contract law teaches that specific, factual misrepresentations are bad and legally actionable, whereas mere “puffery” (e.g., “We are the world’s best; hurry and come to us before it’s too late!”) is just bad. I even remember one law school professor wryly telling the class that daytime television ads by personal injury lawyers were “quite unsettling.” Yet, despite this anti-puffery attitude inside the classroom, law schools are among the biggest puffers when it comes to selling their own services.
Friday, August 8, 2014
|"This is delicious!"|
Lawyer ethics rules — particularly those regarding confidentiality — are supposed to protect clients. But sometimes the bureaucrats are so obsessed with giving the impression that they are protecting the public that they actually lose sight of that goal. For example, when doing research for a new law review article, I came across several articles discussing the California Bar’s “Formal Opinion 1986-87.” This opinion is now quite old, but it is so absurd that it is still being discussed and debated in legal publications as recently as 2013. In short, the opinion deals with
version of the bizarre ethics rule that prohibits an attorney from revealing any information relating to the
representation of a client. And the word
“information” includes not only confidential client communications and other secrets, but all
information, including information that is widely and publicly available. (If you are a Wisconsin
lawyer and think this is ridiculous, you might be surprised to learn that we,
along with most states, have similarly absurd rules in the form of SCRs 1.6 and
Monday, August 4, 2014
I’ve often criticized government officials for completely botching nearly every aspect of the criminal justice system. (Until my recent spate of legal education-related posts, government-bashing is pretty much what this blog has been about since I took to the keyboard with the inaugural post on judicial incompetence in 2010.) If fact, the negligence, complete ineptitude, and even intentional wrongdoing of many police, prosecutors, and judges makes for a compelling argument against the death penalty. But now there is a better argument: government officials aren’t even capable of killing someone properly.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
This graph nicely illustrates the
Friday, July 4, 2014
|TV viewing with Knight|
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
A group of college football players at Northwestern recently won the right to unionize and negotiate for better working conditions, health insurance, scholarship terms, and other forms of pay and benefits. Essentially, the athletes were deemed to be “employees.” This makes sense, of course, as they are under the university’s control, provide a service to the university, produce millions of dollars in revenue for the university, and receive benefits, including tuition and books, in return. (The fact that they’re paid in goods and services, instead of cash, shouldn’t turn them into non-employees.) According to this ESPN report, however, the Big Ten’s Jim Delany says that if the schools actually have to pay their athletes, the conference will dissolve and it will also bring an end to the traditional Rose Bowl matchup between the Big Ten and Pac Twelve champions. Really, Jim?
Friday, June 20, 2014
I recently read an interview of
Daniel Rodriguez. In it, he said that
Northwestern Law has taken a page from the business schools and requires—or,
more accurately, strongly prefers—that its incoming
law students have two years of work experience before reentering academia’s
bubble. A double check on the school’s website confirms this: ninety percent of the incoming students have worked at
least one year, and more than seventy percent have worked at least two years. Fair enough.
But then I wondered: does Northwestern
impose a comparable, two-year legal work experience preference on its law professors? Northwestern
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
here. (All of my articles are available here.) On a related note, for a discussion of my second book "Tried and Convicted" check out The Irreverent Lawyer, here, where he ties-in the book's theme with the recent judicial misconduct in Florida. The Dog's readers have probably seen the video by now, but if you haven't, it's included in the irreverent one's post. Hopefully the defense lawyer has a civil suit against the judge. It would be great if some of the judge's huge salary and benefits could be transferred to the lawyer in the form of compensatory and punitive damages. But it would be interesting to see how far the doctrine of judicial immunity could be stretched. I think that threatening the lawyer, challenging him to a fight, and then leaving the bench to go outside might be a bit outside the scope of "his honor's" judicial duties.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
|Jeff Winger (photo by Alan Light)|
Attorney Jeff Winger got caught. After he graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and launched a successful career at a law firm, the Colorado Bar Association found out about his fake bachelor’s degree. The punishment: disbarment. The light at the end of the tunnel: go back to college and earn a post-J.D. bachelor’s degree and be readmitted to the bar.
When Winger arrived on campus, one of the professors—a former drunk-driving client of Winger’s—asked: “I thought you had a bachelor’s from
Columbia?” Winger responded: “And now I have to get one
from America. And it can’t be an email
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Back in the Paper Chase era, law school deans would tell their incoming classes: “Look to your left, look to your right—one of you won’t be here next year.” Along with this scare tactic came the now-famous warning that “the law is a jealous mistress,” and will require nearly all of a student’s time and attention if he or she hopes to graduate from law school. Oh, how times have changed. And for proof, look no further than the University of Texas Law School.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Monday, May 12, 2014
In March I wrote a post titled “the public service mantra.” The upshot was that when our next judicial election rolls around, we voters shouldn’t buy into the candidates’ inevitable cries that they are seeking the job to “serve the community.” Instead, I argued, the more likely explanation is that candidates seek judgeships for the huge pay raise and incredible benefits. More specifically, the median salary for Kenosha households is $53k, for Kenosha attorneys is $77k, and for Wisconsin judges (in all counties including Kenosha) is $129k plus a host of benefits that few others enjoy. But does this hold true in other parts of the country? The short answer: yes.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
|"Somebody's watching me."|
A single, now-famous whistleblower and countless journalists have exposed widespread NSA operations that invade our privacy and violate the Fourth Amendment. But the NSA, the police, and other government agents are only part of the problem. The bigger problem is that the judiciary—the supposedly neutral and detached group to whom we look for protection from the NSA and its ilk—has reduced the Fourth Amendment to meaningless jargon. In reality, every day in nearly every community across the country, state-court judges are allowing government agents to violate the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement at the expense of our privacy rights.