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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dean Levi responds to The Times

Via Neil Siegel at Balkinization, Duke Law Dean David Levi, who came to deaning after a career as a prosecutor, judge, and chair of the Federal Rules Committee, wrote a response to The New York Times's recent reporting and editorializing about legal education. The Times did not publish the letter, bu Levi gave it to Siegel. Go check it out.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on November 30, 2011 at 10:43 PM in Current Affairs, Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


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I’m amused to see you and Prof Segel offer up Dean Levi as a spokesman on this topic. Are you aware of the infamous presentation the Dean and Duke’s president gave to students and alums about Duke Law? It’s available on Youtube and I’d suggest that you watch it at least from minute 40 to the end. We won’t forget it.

Levi stresses that Duke will be offering us interdisciplinary work because that’s what all the truly “great” schools do: follow, imitate and chase the more prestigious schools.

Then the Dean gets hit with a series of hard questions about the realities of the law market and what Duke is doing about that. The overall answer: “I’m naively satisfied and simply ‘disagree’ with you students and alums asking hard questions. If you don’t want to be a lawyer then quit ‘whining’ and leave the legal professions.” Thanks, Dean! The disconnect between the students and the august men slouching in their over-stuffed easy chairs is palpable—but the Dean and the President are oblivious as they wallow in their self-satisfaction.

The president (who btw sold the lacrosse players down the river) addresses the question of whether we’re facing a structural change in the legal profession. His answer? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Who knows? Whatever. Next issue, please. Thanks, President!

The Dean is asked, “is law too expensive?” I have no particular wisdom on that, says the Dean. Next question please. Thanks, Dean!

I’m still paying off loans, asks a questioner. What is Duke doing about that? That’s very important, says the Dean gravely intones. We will be asking alums for more cash. And if you’re willing to work in a government job for a mere ten years, we can help you with debt. Wow, just ten years of my life? Thanks, Dean!

The Dean is asked about some real world scandals and replies that it’s a vital question and so he will spend some time this summer reading a few books about it. Thanks, Dean! As the president breathlessly says, please get back to us after that summer reading is done!

True, the good Dean does stress his clinical offerings where a whopping five students get to work with five environmental policy students. Well, that’s certainly a relief. Five whole students get to engage in the interdisciplinary work that the truly “great” universities feature. And the school devotes two tenured faculty to teach those five students. (We can see where the budget priorities lie.) Plus, in some courses there’s an extra one unit taught by some practical person from some entity that the Dean can’t quite remember the name of. Wev. Thanks, Dean!

Plus, he sometimes meets with a half dozen students at his home to discuss the gritty real-world realities of ethics in baseball and the military and science. I’m sure that that will get us all hired in a government job where we can do interdisciplinary work for ten years on scientific military baseball and then move on with our lives without further whining. Thanks, Dean, Duke sure sounds sWeet!


Posted by: dookie | Dec 1, 2011 10:28:48 AM

Dean Levi has written an excellent letter. Thank you for posting it.

Neither Dean Levi nor the critics of legal education pay attention to costs. The expansions of the curriculum Dean Levi points to have been expensive. Likewise, clinical education is more expensive than classroom education. These additions have already elevated tuition costs and graduates' indebtedness.

Law firms used to train their new hires, and as Dean Levi points out, the best still do so. Law schools are already stretched to the limit in paying for new faculty and new courses. Why are they meekly going along with providing more clinical training as well? Why aren't they at the least working with firms to create internships, and holding the line on adding clinical courses where internships would serve? Why aren't they investigating letting new, private, training institutes handle clinical training? That is one of the patterns in the U.K.

Posted by: Mary Campbell Gallagher, J.D., Ph.D. | Dec 1, 2011 8:33:02 AM

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