Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dan Polsby's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Focus on Your Comparative Advantage

Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question:  What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?

Polsby Daniel D. Polsby (Dean and Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law):

Dear Erwin –

You begin this new venture in possession of one of the most revered trademarks in higher education, the patronage of a generous billionaire and affiliation with an excellent, surging research university. And it gets better. You have a whole year to be dean without a faculty to trip you up at every step, without a student body to complain about everything you do, and with a (very properly) cowed central administration that will be in no mood to tangle with you on any matter of importance. With all this going for you, there’s no way you can fail. So it is hard to think of what profit you might find in free advice from a competitor. But here it is anyway, with a money back guarantee. Think hard about what your comparative advantage is going to be. Build your mission around that. Do not spend a minute or a penny on anything that does not further the mission. And get to be best, best friends with Mr. Bren. Good luck!

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Your comparative advantage, Erwin, is to do what no one else is doing and in the process turn out the best lawyers. Here's a curriculum for the three years:

1. History of law and litigation up to 1900.
2. Twentieth-century developments.
3. Introduction to the twenty-first century.

All this, of course, done not through textbooks but by reading cases. Forms of action; estates in land;
assumpsit. The struggle to redefine law through jurisprudence to create causes of action. The rest follows.

Posted by: Anthony D'Amato | Oct 3, 2007 1:40:14 AM