Thursday, February 12, 2015

On the absurdity of law schools and law reviews

I’ve written several times about the low hours and great pay enjoyed by law professors (many of whom can’t appreciate their situation because they’ve never experienced the intense stress, crazy hours, and low pay enjoyed by most lawyers).  Add on the usual law prof benefits (e.g., health insurance, sabbaticals, summers off, research stipends, etc.) and its no wonder that “law professor” has appeared near the top of several “best-jobs” lists.  And I’ve also written about how some profs launched themselves into the financial stratosphere with creative benefits called “forgivable loans.”  But there’s yet another benefit that, although I had never heard of it, turns out to be relatively common for those in the academy: spousal hiring.

The Outside the Law School Scam blog hilariously describes it this way (emphasis mine):

One law professor who bragged about having used his influence with his law school dean to find his wife a teaching/administrative job in the University is Professor Howard Wasserman of Florida International School of Law. Moreover, according to Howard Wasserman, the school should be grateful for his indulgence in cronyism. You know, because as a result, Wasserman turned down other tempting opportunities — allowing Florida International University School of Law to retain for the benefit of its students a professor who has thought deeply about the infield fly rule and who can boast one whole year of [legal] practice experience . . .

That is an absolute side-splitter!  But more importantly, it leads us nicely into my next topic: law review publishing.  It may not be obvious from the above quote, but the prof’s deep thought about the infield fly rule actually refers to his published law review article titled The Economics of the Infield Fly Rule.

Yes, an article about economics and baseball was published in a law journal.  (If you can’t believe it — and I don’t blame you if you can’t — click this link and read the article’s abstract.) 

Anyway, law review submission season is now in full swing, and I just submitted for publication my own article titled On the Absurdity of Model Rule 1.9.  It’s an article that is both theoretical and practical, as it involves an ethics rule that governs nearly every lawyer in the country.  Where will my article land for publication?  I don’t yet know.  It’s bad enough that many of the so-called “top” journals strongly prefer professor-written pieces to practitioner pieces.  But now, in addition to competing for journal spots with highly favored law profs who are unsullied by the courtroom, I also have to compete with America’s pastime?  This is an outrage, I say! 

So what else are the top journals publishing?  Well, there’s The Open Road and the Traffic Stop.  In this piece, the author argues that “books, movies, [and] songs” have given us an “abiding national fantasy” in the open road, conjuring up thoughts of “escape, friendship, [and] romance.”  But the “mundane reality of the traffic stop” has robbed many of us of our “open road” delusions.  (Again, I’m not kidding.  Click this link and read the article’s abstract if you don’t believe me; click this link for a criticism / parody of the article.)

And then there are the articles that prove Paul Campos’s point: law professors are “people who are neither lawyers nor academics but who are expected to pretend to be both.”  For example, the author of Rationality and the Taming of Complexity argues: “The entire system thus acts as a complex parallel processing system that permits perturbations in the status quo from one node to ripple through the system with whatever effects result, and the system then eventually returns to a new equilibrium.”  (Yes, that too was published in a law review.  If the full article is too much, read the abstract.)

So that’s what I’m up against this law review submission season.  How can my article on an ethics rule that affects nearly every attorney in the country possibly compete with baseball’s infield fly rule, or our nation's movie-induced collective cultural fantasy of the open road, or parallel processing / perturbations?

As John Roberts stated: “Pick up a copy of any law review that you see, and the first article is likely to be, you know, the influence of Immanuel Kant on evidentiary approaches in 18th Century Bulgaria, or something, which I’m sure was of great interest to the academic that wrote it, but isn’t of much help to the bar.”

So c’mon, law review editors around the country!  Let’s change the Chief Justice’s view of law reviews: publish my article!


  1. Michael
    My all-time favorite inane law review article remains Christopher Fairman's off-the-wall, barely justifiable scholarship albeit somewhat entertaining examination of "Fuck," which he describes in his 2007 Cardozo Law Review article as his exploration of "the intersection of the word fuck, taboo, and the law."

    As Fairman further elaborates his lofty objectives, his is the examination of "First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. This survey of the legal implications of the use of fuck reveals both inconsistencies in its treatment and tension with other identifiable legal rights. The power of taboo explains these inconsistencies. It also highlights why attempts to curtail the use of fuck through law are doomed to fail. Fundamentally, fuck persists because it is taboo, not in spite of it. Understanding these relationships ultimately yields fuck jurisprudence."

    To which all I can say is, "WTF?"

    So given Fairman's publication success, surely you will find a law review editor happy to accept "The Absurdity of Model Rule 1.9"?

    1. Mo, as always, great comment. How embarrassing, though, to title an article that way. At least call it "F-Bombs, Taboos, and the Law," or something like that. Absolutely unbelievable.