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Saturday, November 5, 2011

I ♥ Law Students and Law Professors

NLJWilliam Henderson (Indiana), Love and Character:

I love lawyers, law students, and my colleagues in the legal academy.  I participated in this forum (Part 1, Part II, Part III) because I thought it would be an effective way to protect the objects of my affection.  My goal was to embolden my colleagues, within the context of faculty meetings or other forums of faculty governance, to squarely address structural change and hard choices affecting their institutions.  And if these issues have already been raised (and they have at dozens of schools), to more vigorously push for a plan of action until the school is safely out of danger.

The problems affecting legal educaton these days are overwhelmingly structural in nature; they have been buildng for decades.  So we miss the mark when we place the blame on failings of character.  That said, a strong showing of character is the only way--the only way--we are going to solve these problems. The single most important thing we can do right now is to set aside our own fears and agendas and focus singlemindedly on the long term interests of students and the profession as a whole.  If we do that, the fate of law professors will more than take care of itself.

Rafael Gely (Missouri-Columbia) and I expressed similar sentiments in our article, What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics, 82 Tex. L. Rev. 1483, 1554 (2004):

In our view, law schools are faced with a clear choice. We can continue resisting public demands for accountability and transparency through rankings. But such resistance is futile, as a market that demands rankings of brain surgeons and heart-transplant programs will not accept protestations from the legal academy that what we do is simply too special to be evaluated with objective measures. Like the story of the boy with his finger in the dike, we face the prospect down the road of cascading federal- or state-imposed heavy-handed performance measures for determining organizational success and individual contributions to that success. We do not know the length of that road, but it is one that law schools need not go down. Instead, we can chart the course laid out in this Review Essay and embrace change and make it our own.

Like Michael Lewis, we have told a story about a profession and people we love. We are proud of the work law schools and law professors do in teaching future lawyers and producing legal scholarship to the betterment of American law and society. As institutions and as individuals, we have nothing to fear from the accountability and transparency spotlight. Indeed, we do our best work in the light. We should welcome the opportunity to tell the world what we do and help them measure our performance as teachers and scholars. If we do not, the story will be told by others and it will no longer be our own.

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