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November 7, 2007

The Best "Promotional Brochure" of the Year?

Given my views about these mailings, it won't be surprising that I thought that the State University of New York at Buffalo's brochure about its new hires was one of the best I've seen this year.  (What I grew up knowing as the "SUNY" campuses have now rebranded, so that, officially, it's "the University at Buffalo Law School," part of the State University of New York.)  First, it was easy to open and read.  Second, there was no embarrasing hyperbole.  Third, it was substantive, with each new faculty member describing his or her  scholarly work.  Reading it, I see I also missed a lateral move, namely, Winnifred Sullivan (law & religion), who joined the Buffalo faculty from Washington & Lee.

Anyway, I hope other schools will take note!  I, at least, would enjoy getting more brochures like this. 

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 7, 2007 in Faculty News, Professional Advice, Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack

November 6, 2007

Finalists for U of Minnesota Law Deanship

Here.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 6, 2007 in Faculty News | Permalink | TrackBack

Professor Bainbridge: "Hippie Libertarian"

Who knew?

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 6, 2007 in Legal Humor | Permalink | TrackBack

November 4, 2007

Is the Rack torture?

Courtesy of philosopher Gerald Dworkin (UC Davis), here are the answers of some eminent experts:

Statements by various individuals as to whether the Rack is torture.

Mukasey: I haven’t been read into the details of the Rack, and I
understand that these details are classified. I am firmly opposed to
torture, torture is illegal, but I do not know whether the Rack is
torture. To comment further would be to expose sincere and loyal
Inquisitors to the possibility of retro-active condemnation.

Bush: I am not going to give aid to our enemies by disclosing details of
our interrogation techniques. But if we do expose detainees to the Rack
it is not torture, because we do not torture.

Cheney: A little stretching never hurt anybody. I understand it’s
actually recommended before exercising.

John Yoo: It is well established that torture involves inflicting pain
equivalent to that of the pain accompanying serious physical injury,
such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. No
one stretched on the Rack has ever suffered fromkidney, lung, or spleen
failure nor, to the best of my recollection, has died. As to impairment
of bodily function, it would be a stretch to include deformed limbs
under this heading.

David Addington: Congress may no more regulate the president's ability
to use the Rack as an interrogation technique than it may regulate his
ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield. Decisions about
whether to stretch or not require the unity in purpose and energy in
action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress.

Gonzalez: I cannot recall what the Rack was. Nor do I have any
recollection about whether I ever discussed it with the President. The
testimony of some that they heard me mention the Rack in a meeting on
March 23rd -- a meeting which I do not remember --may have been a
confusion of Rack with Iraq.

Daniel Levin: I cannot say since I have never been exposed to the Rack.
I do have an appointment next Friday for a 50 minute session in Seville.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 4, 2007 in Legal Humor | Permalink | TrackBack

Do you ever get the feeling that Jeffrey Harrison is unhappy with the University of Florida College of Law?

One might.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 4, 2007 in Legal Humor | Permalink | TrackBack

November 2, 2007

"Training Law Students for Real-Life Careers"...or Deja Vu All Over Again

That's the title of a New York Times story from a couple of days ago concerning the latest round of ill-researched and probably largely pointless curricular reform going on at some law schools; an excerpt:

"When you haven’t changed your curriculum in 150 years, at some point you look around,” said Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law.

The impetus for the changes is the sense that what has been taught and how it has been taught may be “embarrassingly disconnected from what anybody does,” Ms. Kagan said.

Those concerns were highlighted in a report on legal education published this year by the Carnegie Foundation. The report found that law schools generally stressed analytic training over ethical, interpersonal and other skills that could help them practice law after graduation.

“What certainly stands out is that the dominant model in law school education is focused almost entirely on the development of thinking like a lawyer,” said William Sullivan, a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation and the lead author of the report. “And by that, what they mean is being able to be good at legal analysis....”

For years, law students have focused on judicial opinions, explaining why a case was decided in a particular way. But many lawyers today must read laws and regulations that have not been explained by a judge and advise clients on how to comply with them.

So both Harvard Law and Vanderbilt University Law School have modified their traditional first-year requirements, like contracts, civil procedures and torts, to include a class that teaches students how to interpret statutes and regulations.

Stanford Law and other schools are also making it easier for students to take courses in other graduate-level programs at their universities, recognizing that lawyers often need specialized knowledge in areas like business, technology, biology, international relations, engineering and medicine. Many lawyers today practice across international borders and must be familiar with foreign laws and legal systems....

Happily, Orin Kerr (George Washington) shares the perspective of his senior colleague Richard Pierce, Jr. (of administrative-law-treatise fame, among many other scholarly contributions), who has taught at many different law schools during his 30-year career:

The Times story is a laugher for those of us who have been around for a while. It reports on "curricular innovations" that are being adopted by many schools. Number one is a required first year course in legislative and administrative law. Jerry Mashaw and I were just yuching it up about this innovation. Jerry, Dick Merrill, and I were victims of this new idea when UVA adopted it in 1969. UVA abandoned it after 5 years. Students hated it, and profs complained that students learned much less ad law when they were required to take the course and when they lacked basic building blocks like civ pro and con law.

I was victimized a second time by a variation on this theme when Columbia hired me in 1989 to teach its new required first year course in foundations of the regulatory state. That was one of 3 new required first year courses Columbia introduced that year. None of the 3 survive today. A student poll ranked them 3 of the 4 courses students disliked the most. (Thank God for Trusts & Estates)....

When I was at Tulane, we had a fascinating debate about a proposed externship program. The ABA had just concluded an investigation of externships that found that most students were not supervised and were assigned tasks like copying documents or acting as messengers. Moreover, two student externs at a Florida law school had just been indicted for playing minor roles (basically bagmen) in extensive operations run by high-ranking state officials who were engaged in narcotics distribution. Our debate at Tulane focused on nice questions like: how could we explain a decision to refuse to provide externs to various important state agencies that we had reason to believe would use the externs to participate in criminal conduct? We concluded that we could not adequately explain such decisions, and we rejected the proposal to create an extern program.

The fact is that (1) being "trained to think like a lawyer"--which really means (a) honing analytical and argumentative skills of general applicability (legal reasoning is distinguished only by the fact that arguments from authority are not fallacious) in the context of (b) law-specific institutions, rhetoric, and categories--and (2) learning substantive rules and principles in different areas of the law, are tasks that law schools can actually discharge, and that good law schools do discharge.  Certainly there should be substantial clinical opportunities (and a variety of them) and the like, but the perennial idea that law schools need curricular reform strikes me as being ill-motivated by any actual evidence.

Posted by Brian Leiter on November 2, 2007 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack