How Could a Poem About Teaching Students to Read Poetry Have Anything to Do with the Law?

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As first reported at the Legal Writing Prof blog (and with a Hat Tip to star legal writing professor Linda Edwards), Billy Collins’ poem Introduction to Poetry “holds well as an analogy for teaching 1Ls to read cases.”

Marquette Law School at 100: Reconsidering the Law School’s Early Decades

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The Marquette University Law School came into being in 1908 when Marquette University acquired the propriety Milwaukee Law School and a recently established competitor known somewhat grandiosely as the Milwaukee University Law School. (Milwaukee University consisted only of its law school, and the school had only ten students.) These acquisitions were part of a larger project which converted Marquette from a tiny undergraduate college to a full-fledged university.

To mark the 100th anniversary of these events, the Marquette University Law School has sponsored a series of symposia this fall focusing on various aspects of the history of the Law School. The first two sessions, focusing on the Milwaukee Law School and the first quarter century of the Marquette University Law School featured the research of historians Tom Jablonsky, Joseph Ranney, and Gordon Hylton. The third, fourth, and fifth sessions featured former students from different eras of the Law School who eventually entered law teaching as a career. (These included Jim Ghiardi ’42; Frank DeGuire ’60, Jack Kircher ’63, Michael Zimmer ’67, Chuck Clausen ’70, Christine Wiseman ’72, Janine Geske ’75, Tom Hammer ’75, and Phoebe Williams ’81.) The final session, scheduled for November 18, will feature the perspectives of three faculty members who did not attend the Law School but who have been members of the faculty since the 1980’s: Judi McMullen, Dan Blinka, and Peter Rofes.

The symposium has revealed that the Marquette Law School has a rich, complicated history that is largely unknown to most of its current faculty and students. (In this regard, one suspects that Marquette is typical of most American law schools.) Moreover, the symposium has revealed that many of the frequently repeated statements about the history of the Law School — particularly in regard to its formative era — are not quite accurate.

For example, the symposium has revealed that the most important figure in the history of the Law School is almost certainly former Dean Max Schoetz (pictured above), who was dean of the Law School from 1916 to 1927.

Continue reading “Marquette Law School at 100: Reconsidering the Law School’s Early Decades”

Appreciating Our Professors: Charles L. Black

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Charles Black was a professor at Yale Law School while I was a student there, and although I never had a course with him, I would still name him as the professor who most influenced me.

During the fall of my first year, two of my best friends were assigned to Professor Black’s Constitutional Law class, and they were quite enamored with him. He was legendary to even us neophytes: a brilliant constitutional scholar, a leading light for equality in the Brown v. Board of Education case, and an outspoken critic of the death penalty. My friends reported that despite his fame, he was modest and charming, with a great sense of humor.

Time marched on until Halloween, when I, the two aforementioned women who were in Charles Black’s class, and another woman, decided that our lack of funds should not prevent us from enjoying the holiday. So the four of us pooled our resources, purchased some red poster board, black paint, and string, and proceeded to make sandwich boards of the four first year casebooks, which we then wore to go trick-or-treating in — you guessed it — Professor Black’s neighborhood. When we rang the doorbell, Charles Black appeared at the door with a bowl of candy — he just looked and acted like an ordinary guy, with his longish curly hair, craggy face, and cowboy boots worn with jeans. He was focused on the candy at first, but when he finally looked up, his eyes widened. “My Lord!” he said in his Texas drawl, “it’s my students!”

Without a moment’s hesitation, he invited us inside, and pressed tumblers of scotch upon us.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Professors Whitebread & Bergin

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Because most law professors do not attend graduate school in law, new law professors have to rely on their own memories of law school for models of how to teach. As a graduate student at Harvard in the late 1970’s I actually enrolled in an LLM course entitled Preparing for Law Teaching, which was taught by Al Sachs, then the dean of Harvard Law School. Every week a different distinguished Harvard Law Professor addressed the class on his -– there were very few “hers” at HLS in 1979 and none spoke to our class -– views on legal education and how one ought to teach as a law professor.

However, when I began law teaching eight years later, I found myself relying not so much on this class, but on my own law student experience at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970’s. I did not particularly enjoy law school except for the classes in legal history, but I did find two professors particularly engaging. The two were Tom Bergin, from whom I had a year-long first year course in Property, and Charles Whitebread (pictured above), whom I had for upper-level courses in Trusts & Estates and Criminal Procedure.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Dan Freed

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Yale Law Professor Dan Freed has undoubtedly been the biggest influence on my own career as a law professor. I had him for a year-long sentencing course during my third year — a course that was a descendant of the legendary Yale Sentencing Workshop that Dan helped to organize in the 1970’s. The Yale workshop brought together lawyers, judges, policymakers, law professors, and law students for intensive discussions about the sentencing process. A proposal emerging from the workshop caught the attention of Senator Ted Kennedy, who used it as the framework for a major sentencing reform bill. Eventually enacted (with several important modifications) as the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, the Kennedy bill created the United States Sentencing Commission and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

By the mid-1990’s, when I had him as a teacher, Dan had become an outspoken critic of the Commission and the Guidelines. However, his course still reflected his faith in the value of bringing together people with diverse perspectives to talk to one another in a rational, mutually respectful manner about sentencing law and policy. Thus, we had a parade of fascinating guests in the course: judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, probation officers, law professors, a sociologist, a Senate Judiciary Committee staffer, and others. Taught seminar style, the course included many lively, memorable conversations with our distinguished guests. The experience sparked what has become a long-term interest of mine in sentencing — a subject that I now teach and write about regularly. In fact, the paper I wrote for Dan’s course became my very first law review article. I’ve stayed in touch with Dan (now retired) since then, and have benefitted from his counsel at many turns.

Dan has been a model for me in several respects. Continue reading “Appreciating Our Professors: Dan Freed”

Appreciating Our Professors: That “One” Law Professor Thing is “Optional,” Right?

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So, I have been thinking about a lot of my favorite “law” professor. Rick and David‘s wonderful posts on their favorite law professors were, of course, inspirational. I am, however, much more indecisive than Rick and David, so I may try to sneak in a little more variety than just “one” law professor (the all powerful Michael may police me for straying a bit from the post of the month!). I actually am picking five (!) because I think about the lessons they taught me everyday:

James Cox, Duke University School of Law: Professor Cox, bar none, was the best teacher I had in law school. I remember being engaged and excited by Business Associations and White Collar Crime, like no other classes. As a student, when you are engaged by agency and partnership law, then you know the teaching is good. Why was I engaged? First, Professor Cox made business law seem relevant by bringing passion and commitment to his subject. Second, he encouraged us to talk and debate in class. Sometimes, in law school, everyone gets really quiet and it gets boring. He never countenanced that. So, class was a bit of an intellectual scrum, and thus, a little messy, and ultimately, quite good. And such classes prepared me for all those things in practice, because what is law school and its ultimate practice, but an intellectual scrum?

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Judicial Process Course Materials

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Despite my best intentions, I’m about to break the promise I made in my last post (and what better way to celebrate an election than by breaking a pre-election promise?).  I thought about whether I could do another Malcolm Gladwell post, based on his latest piece, but haven’t quite been able to find an angle on that that I like.  And so, it’s back to the judicial processI’ve posted a “tentative draft” of my course materials on SSRN.  As I note in the abstract, these materials are a work in progress, and are surely incomplete in many important respects.  I welcome all feedback concerning how they might be improved.

Cross posted at PrawfsBlawg.

Appreciating Our Professors: Reading the Law with Philip Frickey

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The law school professor who most influenced me is Philip Frickey.

I didn’t take a course with Professor Frickey until I was a third-year student, but his thinking began to influence me, indirectly, during my first year, in the half-semester Legislation course that the University of Minnesota required me to take in the spring. My section of Legislation was taught by Jim Chen, then (the 1995-96 school year) a relatively new law professor, and now Dean of the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. Professor Chen led my small section of students through discussion of what it means to interpret a statute, guided by Professors Eskridge and Frickey’s conception of the “funnel of abstraction” (the same funnel that now guides my own students in our discussions of how to interpret a statute). Continue reading “Appreciating Our Professors: Reading the Law with Philip Frickey”

Appreciating Our Professors: Opposites Attract

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[faculty photo]Here is a weird alignment of the stars that – I swear – was completely unplanned. Responding to the call for a post on our most influential law professors, Professor Papke, who I think would proudly acknowledge his place on the left side of the playground, offered an obviously heartfelt homage to the conservative Robert Bork who he was lucky enough (I’m jealous) to have had for Constitutional Law.

I had Larry Tribe for Con Law, but, although I have great respect for him, he’s not the one that I want to remember here. No, even though I am hanging off the jungle gym on the right side of the lot (and we are quite happy to have concrete beneath us), I want to turn port way past Larry to the guy who, after reflection (and I came to this conclusion before David’s post), was the law professor who influenced me the most.

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Appreciating Our Professors: Remembering Professor Bork

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This is the first in a series of posts this month remembering law professors who influenced us.

When I looked over the courses for my first semester of law school, I realized I had a fellow named Robert Bork for Constitutional Law. This meant nothing particularly important to me at the time. It was well before his nomination for the United States Supreme Court, and he was just another professor in my mind. However, I soon realized that the good professor would be quite different than others to whom I was assigned. The politics of the law school in those days were for the most part toward liberal or even to the left of liberal, but Professor Bork was a staunch conservative. Each of his classes was an intense argument about what the Constitution meant or should be understood to mean, and he never gave an inch in a room full of students who for the most part did not agree with him. Still playing in my mind is the whole week of classes in which Professor Bork insisted cases championing the principle of one man, one vote were inconsistent with the Framers’ intent.

Bork never convinced me that he had the correct read on the Constitution, and I actually moved farther and farther away from his conservatism the longer I studied with him. Yet Professor Bork demonstrated for me a way to teach law. He insisted the law had to be taken seriously and that it had ramifications. He didn’t come to class to show us how smart he was or to play stylized teacher-student games. He closed the door, loosened his tie, and tried to articulate what was the best and most valuable way to understand what we were studying. It was a variety of earnest, engaged teaching that I wish was a bigger part of the contemporary legal academy.

If U.S. News Goes Under, What Will Law Professors Complain About?

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Law professors, and particularly law school deans, love to complain about the law school rankings done every year by U.S. News & World Report. (Unless their school rises in the rankings, in which case they are an objective measure of merit.) It’s been pretty well demonstrated that, more than a decade into the rankings project, the primary thing the U.S. News rankings measure is how well the school did on previous years’ rankings. In other words, there’s a massive feedback loop going on that is difficult for any one school to break out of. Nevertheless, schools try, because students and even professors, despite their complaints, rely on the rankings to evaluate the worth of various schools.

People have been wondering how to change this dynamic for a long time. Some, like Brian Leiter, have set up their own rankings, although Leiter’s system only measures the top 40 schools or so, where rankings are arguably less important. But what if U.S. News folded? The company seems to be in deep trouble. It’s recently given up on competing with Time and Newsweek in the weekly magazine market, becoming biweekly instead. Today’s New York Times reports that it’s giving up on that plan, too, even before it went into effect: now USN&WR will become a monthly magazine instead. A monthly news magazine? I think the likely next step will be for USN&WR to announce that it’s becoming a magazine with an infinitely long publication cycle, i.e., folding up shop.

If that happens, who will law professors have to kick around anymore?

Harvard Program Waiving Third-Year Tuition for Students Committing to Five-Year Public Interest Careers

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From Clinicians with Not Enough to Do, this post discusses a new program at Harvard Law School, reported in the Harvard Crimson.  The graduating class of 2011 will be eligible for the program, and over 100 students expressed initial interest.  Students who commit to working for five years in the public interest would be eligible for tuition waivers for the last year of law school.  In addition, forty-eight third-year students signed commitments to five-year public interest careers, and they will receive in exchange $5,000 towards their current tuition.  

The average student graduating from Harvard leaves with $109,000 of educational debt, the Crimson article reports, so the waiver seems like a real help for students who want to take a lower-paying public interest job but otherwise could not afford to do so because of their debt burdens.  

The idea is interesting, reducing the debt load at the outset for those committed to public interest work, rather than providing assistance with loan repayments to those students after graduation.  Loan Repayment Assistance Programs are in place at many law schools; Marquette, for instance, has had one for several years. I have never heard of a program like the Harvard tuition waiver, though, and I would be interested to hear what students think about the idea.