Sunday, September 21, 2014

“The law professor priss factor”

A few years ago I interviewed for a law professor job at a Chicago 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 had nearly thirty jury trials under my belt).  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 could even 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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Legal education and sloppy thinking

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.