Sunday, May 25, 2014

Associate’s degree in law?

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 attachment.”

Jeff Winger is just a fictional character on NBC’s amazing but recently canceled television show Community (DVDs available here), but his situation got me thinking: aren’t law degrees really just associate’s degrees? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Law: “Jealous Mistress” or Ignored Spouse?

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

Legal education potluck: judges, lawyers, law schools, law profs, and law reviews

I can’t quite explain my morbid fascination with the state of legal education — well, maybe I could, but it would take too long and require way too much introspection.  In any case, I’ve often blamed law schools for judges’ lack of understanding of basic legal principles.  But that’s not to say that practicing lawyers, on average, know the law any better than the judges.  It’s just that lawyers’ ignorance of the law is not as obvious to me.  For example, when a prosecutor misstates the law, there is no way to know if: (1) he/she really doesn’t understand the law; or (2) he/she is intentionally misstating the law to try to trick the judge — something I’ve suspected, and prosecutors have even gleefully confessed to me, on several occasions.  But regardless, the point remains: the judiciary’s utter indifference to the rule of law is still traceable to the law school industrial complex.  And a recent article by law school prof (and law school-basher) Paul Campos may have identified some root causes within the law schools.

Monday, May 12, 2014

“Public service” in Massachusetts

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.