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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Intellectual v. Emotional Intelligence, Law School Edition

I have a number of things on my mind that may seem like non-sequitors, but I am going to try to weave them together here.

First, a listserv discussion recently revolved around the oft-discussed (and oft-discussed by me) subject of "practice ready." A couple of practitioners wrote a short article about how teaching students to be prepared for law practice should not exclude concepts and ideas from the social sciences and other professions. The ensuing discussion hotly debated professors' obligations to become current on every field of study and profession in order to teach a sort of liberal arts version of law, and whether that was just too much to handle and beyond necessity. Intellectual law intelligence trumps emotional other-disciplines intelligence.

Second, Steve Jobs, as you all know, died very recently, and every news outlet that you can possibly think of has a story about his genius and his new biography. There is a bit of deification going on, in case you haven't noticed.  I heard interviews with Jobs's biographer on NPR Morning Edition, Fresh Air, and saw the bio author interviewed on The Daily Show, all in the same day. The upshot is the story of a strong-headed man with an incredible level of creativity and a mission, who made billions and changed the world. The unverified back story is an unpleasant person who may or may not have ever donated any of his millions to charity.

Finally, and I bring this home: the hierarchy between the doctrinal tenured, the doctrinal non-tenured and the contract or shorter term "skills" professors is more than a myth in the law school setting. Benefits (i.e.. funds) are allocated accordingly in an ongoing uneven distribution, according to perceived or realized intellectual value.

How are all of these things related in my mind, you might ask?

Well, work with me because I think they are. In our society there tends to be more value placed on suceess and money than on creativity. In my first vignette, the suggestion that the study of law be integral to life, that other disciplines and ideas are not remote from the study of law, is rejected. In my second example, an inventor is heralded for his creativity, but possibly only because of or after he made millions of dollars. Add to that that he may not have been such a nice guy. And in my third, a social hierarchy is strictly enforced in favor of professionals who have (potentially?) more value financially to an institution. Want me to throw something else in so that it becomes even clearer? When I worked in a hospital, the ER would get the shortest shrift on the budget ladder. Why? Majority non-paying (medicaid) patients v. "regular" insured patients.

The emphasis on intellectual intelligence vis-a-vis money at the expense of emotional intelligence vis-a-vis understanding others undervalues the individual in the work setting and inhibits creativity.  I truly believe that law, or the study thereof, does not exist in a vacuum from the rest of all other thought, scientific, social scientific and otherwise. And how are "skills" profs not equal to other professors? We are all attorneys.



Posted by DBorman on October 27, 2011 at 02:35 PM | Permalink


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I second much of what you say here, but comment to point out that the distinction between the doctrinal classroom and skills classes is potentially even more ridiculous than you note. Doctrinal classes (especially in the first year) teach a blend of doctrine and skills (the skill of legal argument). Skills classes, when done well, teach a blend of doctrine and skills. Moreover, it is completely lost on me how it is less 'intellectual' to depose an expert witness than to take a contracts exam (for example).

Posted by: Kristen | Oct 27, 2011 3:21:45 PM

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