May 16, 2008
Death of an Innovator
Earlier this week, Robert Rauschenberg died. Though our paths crossed in various ways, I never met him. In an indirect way, though, he changed my life. It was at a lecture two years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by John Paoletti (of Wesleyan College) that I started thinking about putting art into one of my lectures. Paoletti made the work seem so real and alive that I was captivated, and that inspiration still colors what I do.
For those who don't know his work, Rauschenberg created painting and sculpture, but is best know for his "combines," which were a mix of the two, usually incorporating things that he found on the street or elsewhere. He actually built real life right into the art, if you think about it. His work is dense with images; there is rarely anything simple about it. For example, in the combine pictured below (one of his most famous), there is a tire, a lot of images pasted onto the platform, and a farm animal. You can glance at it and think it is a lark, but if you look at it closely, at the images there, it pulls you in. It is like a great lecture-- there are some big, obvious ideas, but also intricacies and subtleties, should you choose to see them.
When true artists die, they leave a lot of themselves behind. It is a strange but important kind of immortality, this immortality of ideas.
-- Mark Osler
May 14, 2008
Interesting discussion of generational law faculty realities
In my view, many debates about law school reform and innovations are impacted, at least indirectly, by generational dynamics. Consequently, I found this new piece on SSRN by Gregory Bowman, titled "The Comparative and Absolute Advantages of Junior Law Faculty: Implications for Teaching and the Future of American Law Schools," of interest. Here is the abstract:
In the ongoing debate about how to improve law school teaching, there is a general consensus that law schools should do more to train junior faculty members how to teach. While this may be the case, this consensus inadvertently leads to an implicit assumption that is not true - that in all facets of law teaching, junior faculty are at a disadvantage compared to senior faculty. In fact, there are aspects of law teaching for which junior faculty can be better suited than their senior colleagues. This Article reviews scholarship concerning law teaching and identifies three teaching factors that generally favor junior law faculty: generational proximity to the law school student body; recency of law practice experience as junior practitioners; and lower susceptibility to the problem of conceptual condensation - extreme depth of subject matter knowledge that makes it difficult to see subjects from the students' perspective.
This Article employs the economic concepts of (a) economies of scale or productive efficiency and (b) absolute and comparative advantage to suggest how these junior faculty advantages could be harnessed to improve law school teaching. With respect to productive efficiency, it is suggested that greater intra-faculty dialogue can increase a law faculty's output of effective teaching. Currently, senior faculty members often provide assistance or advice to junior faculty in areas of senior faculty expertise or advantage - such as depth of knowledge in a course's subject matter - but this is largely a one-way flow of information. However, if junior faculty were also to provide insight and advice to senior faculty regarding areas of junior faculty advantage, the quality of law school teaching might be significantly enhanced. Junior-senior faculty dialogue might be promoted through a variety of means, including faculty workshops and even perhaps teaching reviews of senior faculty by junior faculty.
With respect to the concepts of absolute and comparative advantage, this Article suggests that law school teaching could be improved through the specialization of teaching functions. Instead of professors individually teaching separate courses, professors might coordinate their teaching (that is, team-teach) across a number of courses in the law school curriculum, as a means to more effectively harness the respective strengths (and minimize the respective weaknesses) of junior and senior faculty in the classroom. Through the leveraging of junior faculty advantages, overall law school teaching might be significantly improved. This Article concludes by discussing the implications of these recommendations for law school culture in general and for the legal profession as a whole.
May 11, 2008
Amazing law school insights from an innovative source
I was at first amused and then amazed by the terrific law-school-selection advice to be found in this great column by Clay Travis at CBS Sports. Though the first 7 points are cheeky, the final 10 are remarkably insightful about so many aspects of law school. Here are extended snippets from a must-read piece for everyone around a law school or aspiring to be around a law school:
Judging by the e-mails to ClayNation the overlap between lawyers, aspiring lawyers, and sports fans is substantial.... So without further ado, here's ClayNation advice on how to pick a law school.
1. Visit the school when there's good weather, if at least half of the guys aren't wearing shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts, then you don't want to go there. Law school should be fun because being a lawyer isn't fun....
2. Don't be completely seduced by law school rankings....
4. Go sit in the law school library for a half-hour. Pretend to read a newspaper and check to see how often the students smile or laugh when interacting with each other. If no one ever smiles or laughs it's a horrible sign.
5. Think about the size of the law school....
8. Assuming the law school is above 80 percent, comparing bar passage rates tells you nothing about the quality of a law school. Don't be moved by the trumpeting of these stats. By the time you're studying for the bar exam you realize that most intelligent people could spend three months studying the Barbri course outlines, memorizing the absurd MBE fact patterns, and pass the bar exam. But by that time you've spent three years learning how to be a lawyer. Congratulations. Once you've practiced law for a couple of years you wouldn't be able to pass the bar exam. It's a great system.
9. The better the school you attend the more it costs but the less hard you have to work while you're there....
10. If you destroy the LSAT and have a good GPA you may have a decision to make regarding whether to take a scholarship to a lesser school or pay more to go to a more selective school. It's hard to give advice in this situation because no matter what you think now, you have no real idea whether you'll actually like practicing law....
15. Where should I go to make the most money? If money is your ultimate goal you shouldn't be a lawyer. There are thousands of ways you can make much more money. Plaintiff's lawyers notwithstanding, as a lawyer you're ultimately hamstrung by how many billable hours you can crank out. And every hour you bill is one less hour you get to have a life. Be careful chasing those big firm golden handcuffs, be careful.
16. Keep in mind that the law is completely unbalanced when it comes to career search. The most competitive jobs in the legal profession are either the highest-paying or the lowest paying....
And if you're miserable [in law school] keep in mind that after six months of practicing there's a 100 percent chance you'd rather be a law student again. Law school is one of the few places on earth where students compete to one day be able to go back to law school. If you doubt this pick up the resumes of your favorite professors who are under 45. Look at how few years they actually spent practicing law. Yep, in the circle of law-school life, as soon as you leave, you start working on finding a way to get back.