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Saturday, May 03, 2014

Sen Elizabeth Warren's New Memoir of Special Interest to Law Profs

There are a lot of reasons why law professors should read Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recently published memoir--“A Fighting Chance."  The top two are that it's well-written and frequently very funny.   (for full effect--I suggest the audio version that the Senator narrates herself).

Beyond that, not only is it a lucid explanation of the banking industry’s efforts to limit the ability of creditors to make a fresh start through declaring bankruptcy, it is an account of her extraordinary academic career--one that she achieved without any of the traditional criteria such as academic pedigree, powerful mentors, family connections, prestigious fellowships or judicial clerkships.  For those unfamiliar with her as Bankruptcy Professor-here are some posts she has made on the Credit Slips blog.

She also closely documents her struggles to balance family, both her children and elderly parents (and pets).   There is a lot for law professors to unpack here--including how her interest in the people behind the laws has shaped her career. 

But more generally, I look forward to discussing how critical it is for the future of legal education that Senator Warren succeed in convincing her colleagues of the need to reform the way higher education is financed.   Whether she herself has the best plan for fixing student loans—well different people have different views-including just eliminating them.   But unless we can stop the ever increasing cycle of debt that is making our students’ lives so difficult, any of the important changes that need to be made in legal education risk being about as effective as bailing out a sinking boat with a bucket that itself has a hole in it.

 As I will elaborate later, I’m very optimistic that we can all create a program about which students can say 5, 10, 15 years later that they are better off for having gone to our law school.  But we’re probably not there now.  Rather, we are in a situation similar to being attacked by a hive of bees.  Every individual bee, lack of job opportunities, bimodal salary distributions,  drop in state support for public institutions, lack of transparency about student outcomes, out dated curriculums, disconnect between the classroom and the practice of law, imposition of a value system that drives law students into disproportionate levels of depression that may well follow them  throughout their careers, is capable of inflicting painful or even lethal stings.   But the breach in the hive comes from a level of student loan debt that cannot be supported by any reasonably obtainable career path.  It’s not a perfect metaphor—student loan reform is necessary but not sufficient to developing a legal education that better prepares our students for the important role they will play in society. 

Posted by Jennifer Bard on May 3, 2014 at 01:33 PM in Books, Culture, Current Affairs, Law and Politics, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink

Comments

Does she talk about the difficulties of being a woman and a Native American in the law schools she's taught in?

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | May 5, 2014 9:59:42 AM

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