Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

February 28, 2013

Paul Campos's final bit of revisionist history

Several readers have written to alert me to the fact that apparently even Paul Campos has realized that his blog didn't have much content, apart from insulting and deriding Deans, faculty and anyone else who contested his claims.   But, true to form, he can't say goodbye without just making things up out of whole cloth.  He writes:

I started [the blog] because I had something to say, and this seemed a good way of saying it. For a few days I wrote anonymously – something I had never done before – more as a stylistic experiment than anything else.  But naturally people in legal academia instantly became more concerned with Who Was Saying These Outrageous Things than in whether those things might actually be true.  
In fact, it was Campos himself who made a big deal out of "who was saying these things":  namely, as prominently advertised on his blog at the start, "a tenured law professor at a Tier 1 law school".  He made a big deal out of that because it was meant to lend his claims, including his false ones, credibility, and thus it was precisely he who made his identity the issue.  The fact that his initial posts, deriding allegedly lazy law faculty who produce lousy scholarship--a transparent case of projection, as I noted at the start, and which accounted for the hostile response he got--were false, inflammatory and, at best, misleading is what annoyed even those who didn't know Campos and his history of trying to garner media attention by any means possible.

But true to form, Campos now declares that "the core message" of his blog was diferent, namely,
that legal academia is operating on the basis of an unsustainable economic model, which requires most law students to borrow more money to get law degrees than it makes sense for them to borrow, given their career prospects, and that for many years law schools worked hard, wittingly or unwittingly, to hide this increasingly inconvenient truth from both themselves and their potential matriculants.
But, of course, that message (the bit in bold)--which was Brian Tamanaha's and Bill Henderson's, and was widely covered and discussed on this blog long before Campos ever came to it (though in all three cases with more nuance and accuracy than Campos ever mustered)--was a late arrival for Campos, and even when he got to it, he still muddied it with smears and insults of prospective students and professional colleagues.  (He even interfered with the operations of his own school, quite remarkably, and went so far as to exploit a student's suicide.)   The facts about the cost of legal education and the state of the job market are now widely known thanks to David Segal's New York Times series in 2011-12 which, notwithstanding, a lot of inaccuracies, made the debacle of the legal job market common knowledge, and Senators Coburn and Boxer pressuring the ABA to force law schools to report job statistics more accurately.  Sometimes Campos managed to stay on that message, once he discovered it, but much of the time he spent insulting and deriding Deans and law school administrators as sociopaths, conmen, and liars.

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February 28, 2013 in Law in Cyberspace, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

February 20, 2013

Paul Campos admits he doesn't "even [know] what it means" to think like a lawyer

This probably explains a lot.  Fortunately, Fred Schauer has recently written a book that could help him with his questions, like, "What does it mean to teach people to think like lawyers?  How is thinking like a lawyer different from ordinary thinking?" 

(Thanks to Nick Smith for the pointer.)

UPDATE:  A senior legal academic, who has been involved extensively with legal education reform, writes:  "Keep up the Campos bashing.  I think that some of the law school critics have done a good service.  Even when I don't agree with everything, it was necessary for legal educators to give up a bit of complacency.  I've never met Campos, but he is disgraceful."  It's hard to disagree with any of that, but I don't really plan to keep up the "bashing," since, as we saw a few weeks back, by Campos's own admission, there really isn't much content to his routine. 


February 20, 2013 in Jurisprudence, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Humor, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

December 28, 2012

The case against law schools

Several readers called my attention to the fact that Paul Campos has finally offered a "shorter Paul Campos," i.e., an 'executive summary' of what he's apparrently been blogging about to the tune of hundreds of posts and hundreds of thousands of words for the past 15 months, during which time other law professors might have chosen to do some actual work.  It provides a useful occasion to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the substance from the utter nonsense, emanating from Campos and others in cyberspace.   So here we go with Campos's "executive summary":

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.  -- Upton Sinclair --

This is why your law school charges what it charges.  This is why your professors believe sincerely in the “value proposition” of what they have to offer.  This is why nothing ever changes, until it does.

The famous Upton Sinclair quote has many applications, but it doesn't explain the things that Campos suggests it does.  Law schools charge what they charge because the market can bear it.  Now that the market can not bear it, law schools are effectively cutting tuition by offering discounts and more financial aid.   I assume some professors believe that they are providing value because they are, through their teaching and scholarly work.  Some professors, like Campos, obviously aren't, and perhaps they are motivated by a kind of self-interested self-deception to believe otherwise.  The last sentence--"This is why nothing ever changes, until it does"--is a non-sequitur on the preceding points.

If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.  -- Herbert Stein --

When the price of something increases and its value decreases, at some point people will not pay for that thing any longer.

That's true, which is why, as just noted, law schools are now effectively cutting tuition, and why, as we have noted before, many law schools will contract and some may even close.

Debts that can’t be repaid won’t be.  -- Michael Hudson --

That someone lends you money does not mean there is a reasonable probability that you will be able to repay that money.  It only means that someone is making money from loaning you money.

This is almost right:  the key fact is that the loans for higher education are backed by the federal government.  Under those conditions, the observation holds.

Your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of your class are ten percent.

Working harder than everybody else is not a plan if everybody else has the same plan.

This would only be true if class rank were assigned randomly.  In fact, your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of the class may be much higher or much lower depending on your academic peer group at the school you attend.  Someone who gets into Yale, but decides to go to Colorado is going to finish in the top ten percent of the class if they do the work.  It is fair to say that having the same plan as everyone else is not a good plan if those against whom you are competing have a similar skill set coming in. 

There is no such thing as international law.

Or environmental law. Or human rights law. Or sports law.  Basic rule: If some form of legal practice sounds interesting to non-lawyers, it does not exist.

This is obviously silly, since, in fact, lawyers work in all these areas.  Perhaps what is meant is that one should not go to a law school simply because it advertises a specialty in one of those areas, and without regard for its overall reputation, and that is probably correct, but then that's what he should have said.

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December 28, 2012 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

December 15, 2012

Another one for the Volokh hall of shame

Eugene's response to the mass murder in Connecticut.  Response of the first commenter:  "This is just a gussied up, fancy law professor version of 'give everybody a gun!' The idea that adding more guns to elementary schools  will, in the aggregate, reduce shootings seems plainly insane."  This is also apt.   Earlier winners from the hall of shame

ADDENDUM:  More morally deranged law professors in the updates here.

December 15, 2012 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things | Permalink

November 26, 2012

Todd Zywicki is obviously still smarting...

...from being whacked last Spring.  How else to explain why he would post a link to a not very substantive, but critical, review of my book from an obscure blog?  I guess he thinks it harms me!  (If so, I guess my re-linking it is a failure of prudence on my part!) 

The review itself elicits a pretty good response in the first comment from another libertarian reader of the website, who concludes, "Leiter’s book is one that is worthy of a real response. A review of his book, especially in a high quality site like this one, should be written by somebody with the professional and intellectual competence to do this."  I can agree with all that!  The reviewer, Mr. Anderson, is, for the record, co-author of a rather notoriously silly (Thomist-inspired) paper on the metaphysics of marriage, that I noted on my philosophy blog here in 2011.  (It's a special feature of this kind of silly metaphysics that you can perform it on artifacts!)

For those actually interested in Thomism, pages 86-91 of my book are given over to the Thomist argument for the specialness of "religion."  I rely on John Finnis's version of those arguments, viewing him, correctly, as a serious representative of the position.  I argue that his argument's aren't very persuasive or sound.  What the reviewer's counter-arguments are to my position remains, as of this writing, top secret.

(As if to prove the old adage, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," since Zywicki linked the review, the book went from a rank of around 250,000 on Amazon to the top 50,000.)

ADDENDUM:  For those interested, there has been some adult discussion of themes from the book at the Talking Philosophy blog.

November 26, 2012 in Jurisprudence, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things | Permalink

November 23, 2012

Paul Campos (and his commenters) say "Happy Thanksgiving!" to female law students

Well, not exactly, but just the other day he posted this little open insult to all women in law school, which an eminent colleague elsewhere, who flagged it for me, accurately described as follows:

Just when you thought Campos couldn’t stoop to new levels of obnoxiousness, he writes a post which basically insults women law students by claiming that (a) they are coming into law school with every expectation of being less committed professionally, and that (b) law schools are preying on them as potential “Mrs” degree candidates.   Predictably, women are outraged by this post.  Predictably as well, the unregulated comment thread is chock full with misogyny and drivel.

I have to admit that knowing Campos, and knowing that he cares not a whit about his students (see his teaching evaluations) or about prospective law students or about scholarship or about anything but himself and his own media exposure, and knowing also that he had already exploited a student suicide, I was always confident he could "stoop to new levels of obnoxiousness"!  And he did! 

UPDATE:  One reader points out that (b), above, is explicit only in the comments to the post, though it's hardly surprising they took the post to invite (b).

APRIL 30, 2013 UPDATE:  Some useful context for today's latest outburst from Crazy Campos:  apparently, Colorado law faculty just got their annual reviews from the Dean, scoring them on a scale of 1 to 5 for scholarship, teaching, and service.  Today's little outburst suggests it may not have gone well for CC (which would hardly be surprising, but no doubt he will make the results public, "for the record").  As with BLS's new tenure standard, my view is that poor teaching evaluations do not demonstrate incompetence, but they are certainly evidence that could properly trigger a peer review of teaching competence (CC has been on the edge of this cliff before, so he knows the risks).  Colorado, of course, has some experience firing faculty, which may also explain CC's ill humor.

November 23, 2012 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

November 08, 2012

Blogging a faculty meeting?

Paul Campos, of self-promotion fame, has now written what purports to be a description of both the content and then the vote of a faculty meeting at his school, the University of Colorado at Boulder, concerning the expansion of its LLM program.  Campos was the lone dissenter, so he claims, arguing that it was not clear there were jobs for those who would get this LLM.  He claims that none of his colleagues responded to his objections, and that everyone, but him, then voted for the expansion of the LLM program anyway.  (His omission of any detailed discussion of the reasons for the proposal no doubt contributes to the unfavorable impression he gives of his colleagues.)

I have to say I've never before seen anyone blog the substance of a faculty meeting or disclose a vote, let alone do so in a way that is meant to insult and humiliate his colleagues.   I wonder whether such actions do not violate university rules, but perhaps not.  I guess time will tell.

UPDATE:  James Grimmelman (New York Law School) asks, "Might it not also be the case that his colleagues were reluctant to discuss the proposal at the faculty meeting out of a concern that whatever they said would be published on Professor Campos's blog?"  That's plausible, but would also suggest that he is now disrupting the ability of the school to operate, which would have serious consequences.  And maybe those consequences are starting to materialize?  Certainly, the latest item on the Campos blog suggests he has jumped the shark:

Recently I've been nominated for a couple of law school dean positions.  I've even toyed with the idea of formally applying.  Although unlike Mitt Romney and Donald Trump I can't claim to enjoy firing people per se, I do think I'd positively relish the opportunity to give the ziggy to the significant percentage of employees at the typical law school who deserve to have their sinecures terminated with extreme prejudice.


November 8, 2012 in Law in Cyberspace, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

May 28, 2012

Michael McConnell Embarrasses Himself

Sam Bagenstos (Michigan) comments.

May 28, 2012 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

May 01, 2012

Right-Wing Crazy Obsession Du Jour: Elizabeth Warren Claimed to be Native American

The usual suspects are on the case, but I can't figure out why.  I assume she self-identified in the AALS Directories as Native American because she is (it was news to me, I should add).  Is someone denying that?  It's hard to tell. 

Perhaps, though, the implication is that she got hired for affirmative action reasons, and not because of her work.  (UPDATE:  Here's some right-wing crazies making that argument.) That strikes me as dubious for two reasons

(1) First, there is no pressure to hire Native Americans for affirmative action reasons, except, perhaps, at some law schools in states with large Native American presences (I have this only anecdotally about Arizona and New Mexico).  For affirmative action purposes, all law schools care about are African-Americans and Latinos, and even in those two categories, law school commitment to affirmative action usually varies by region of the country.  On the other hand, because the AALS aggressively polices the racial and ethnic diversity of law faculties, law schools are careful to make sure anyone who could count as an under-represented minority is so-listed (thus, I can recall a faculty member who was the proverbial "Jewish kid from New York" but with some South American ancestry being listed as "Hispanic," though no one would have ever so identified him).

(2) Second, her record of scholarship in bankruptcy is clearly sufficient to get her appointed at Harvard.  She is, after all, one of the three most-cited scholars in the bankruptcy/commercial law field, and she is the only woman in the top ten.  (I could imagine being the top woman in the field might have played more of a role than her being Native American, which surely was irrelevant.)  The other scholars in her field cited as often or more than her--Bob Scott at Columbia, Alan Schwartz at Yale, and Douglas Baird at Chicago--are all obviously appointable at Harvard, despite their lack of Native American ancestry. 

So the bottom line--as it usually is with right-wing craziness--is that this is all silly.

UPDATE:  Still more here.

May 1, 2012 in Faculty News, Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

October 20, 2011

Campos the Scammer, Redux: Now Exploiting the Dead!

I've been dutifully ignoring our showboat charlatan from August, but readers keep calling to my attention that others have apparently been watching, and have done some good jobs on him:  here (from a practitioner) and here (from a law professor; best line:  "I think there's something deeply wrong with using cheap tricks to get attention [as Paul Campos does], especially when the author then repeatedly and vaguely disclaims those cheap tricks, while still employing them, leaving a residue of disgust over everything he touches").  As the last post makes clear, Campos is still busy back-pedalling and is apparently getting so desperate to rationalize his display that he's been reduced to telling stories about former students who committed suicide (but not for any reasons connected to law school!).  Quite unbelievable.  And made worse by this.  Wow. 

ADDENDUM:  In case the last comment linked to gets deleted, here it is:

Maybe the reason that "the precise reasons why Alex killed himself will never be known" to Campos, is because he does not actually care about the reasons why. As someone who knew and loved "Alex," I find it shameful that Campos would exploit someone's suicide as a way to validate his point.

I can't help but notice that Campos did not care about "Alex" enough to attend his memorial service, but now seems to care enough to presume that he knows the motivations behind his final act.

October 20, 2011 in Law Professors Saying Dumb Things, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | TrackBack (0)