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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Legal Intellectuals on Law School Reform

Concurring Opinions has been having a long and fairly interesting group discussion, with plenty of guests, about Robin West's new book Normative Jurisprudence. I think these CoOp book discussions are great, although I think the authors should be encouraged to delete the first one or two sentences of each post, in which a good deal of general flattery is thrown around. (The same accusation, in fairness, has been made by others about plenty of posts and comments here.)

I want to link to a couple of posts that appear to focus on curricular reform in law schools: this one, by Rebecca Lee, and this one, by Chai Feldblum. They are certainly thought-provoking, although rather hard to pin down; and it should be said that Feldblum has done a good deal of well-known and highly practical work in training lawyers. Still, these entries strike me both as highly problematic, and as potentially indicative of a serious gap between the ways different law professors discuss things like law school reform, curricular or otherwise, and also of a gap between the ways that some legal academics discuss law school reform compared to the ways that students, lawyers, and recent graduates struggling to find actual jobs discuss it. I won't say much more, because 1) I'm not sure my reasons for feeling this way are fully thought out, 2) I'm not sure I wholly understand their posts, and 3) to some extent I think my point, even if not fully thought out, will be evident to anyone who reads those posts.

I will add one thing, though: It seems to me if Feldblum is serious about thinking that "it is essential for law schools to give students a rich grounding in theories of justice concomitantly with teaching them such legal skills," and that "giving students a rich grounding in theories of justice is imperative both to changing our legal approach and our scholarship in the manner that [West] is suggesting, then there are models out there of law schools that combine "a thick understanding of justice and moral goods" with efforts to train and help students to implement those thick understandings in the real world of lawyering. The one that comes most to mind is Regent Law School.  

Posted by Paul Horwitz on October 25, 2012 at 08:35 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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I look forward to your post on "how moral values are not synonymous with religious values," which reminded me of how Socrates embodied the distinction insofar as he was under a divine (i.e., religious) mandate to philosophize, yet his philosophizing was not equivalent to religious proselytization nor in any obvious sense "religious." Recently the Dalai Lama has been calling on Buddhists and others of different religious worldview orietations to work for and support a non-religious ethics (such a thing of course already exists, but often those of religious suasion tend to think, wrongly I believe, that a non-religious morality or ethics is somehow insufficient or even impossible).

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Oct 26, 2012 8:18:27 AM

Very amusing to see law professors talking about the need to give students a rich grounding in theories of justice. Law school is now a full fledged scam. The students are being charged 50K a year for an education that will not lead to a job. The law professors, such as those who blog here, know this full well. You know that the students in your classrooms right now will not get jobs. You know this!

You people are disgusting. Just disgusting.

Posted by: Fred Smith | Oct 26, 2012 7:42:07 AM

P.S. Btw, the last comment about Regent Law School will be perfect for my next post on Concurring Opinions called The Three R's: Robin, Robert (Cover) and Religion. It's all about how moral values are not synonymous with religious values.

Posted by: Chai Feldblum | Oct 25, 2012 11:38:42 PM

Dear all --

I love that folks are reading the posts -- that sounds good to me!

And it is true that we (all of us guest bloggers) should probably do a better job of describing what's in the book -- but I do think the point of the symposium (as I understood it) was to take off from the book and engage in conversations generated by it. (But it is also why I noted in my first post that this book could be easily downloaded on Kindle.)

In any event, I have long advocated for teaching students the skills of legislative lawyering (you can download my Six Circles Theory of Advocacy here on that topic -- http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/feldblum-chai-r.cfm). But the addition that I think Robin does well in this book (and will do even more explicitly in her forthcoming book on law schools) is the need to combine a greater appreciation of the "nobility of politics" (as she calls it), with a grounding in theories of justice. I felt as if I taught the former to my students quite well (and I feel as if I live it every day now as an EEOC Commissioner.) But the latter is much harder to do . . .

Posted by: Chai Feldblum | Oct 25, 2012 11:31:04 PM

Anon, you remind me of Pound's joke in An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law: "A metaphysician who had written on the secret of Hegel was congratulated upon his success in keeping the secret." Seriously, though, no one is asking for sympathy or accommodation. I just wanted to learn more about the book.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 25, 2012 9:24:01 PM

Orin, I don't have much sympathy for the complaint that you don't understand a post because you haven't read the book that is the focus of the symposium. Different symposia have different purposes. If the participants in this symposium have collectively decided that this one is oriented toward those who have read the book, that's their prerogative. If the discussion then starts at a point that is too advanced for you because you haven't done the prerequisite reading, it strikes me that is your problem, not theirs. Why should they have to accommodate you by adding a summary of a book that all of them have already read to their already lengthy posts?

Posted by: anon | Oct 25, 2012 8:49:57 PM

I'm also having trouble understanding the posts (in part, I suspect, because they don't state clearly what argument the book makes).

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Oct 25, 2012 5:09:58 PM

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