Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Treasury of Idiotic Quotes by Law Profs. about Legal Education, Vol. I.

This is the first installment in a series of posts listing idiotic quotes from law professors on the subject of legal education, selected from my ever-growing collection. To avoid the appearance of clutter, I will only publish ten idiotic quotes per post. I will publish a second installment very soon, and probably a few more thereafter. Notes and links to sources appear at the bottom.

 A few prefatory remarks: Note that I said "idiotic quotes," not "scamming quotes." Even if a few of these quotes are somewhat scamming in intent, they are too transparently stupid to actually persuade anybody to attend law school.

When I say that I have omitted "scamming quotes," I am referring to statements designed to entice kids into law school with economic arguments about how a law degree is worth millions of dollars in future earnings, how it will become a rare and valuable asset as the baby boomers retire, and how lawyer unemployment is negligible. Such statements are worse than stupid, they are superficially appealing and highly deceptive, usually rooted in "statistical sleight of hand or methodological chicanery." To debunk a "scamming quote," rely on the Bureau of Labor Statistics projection that there will be a total of 218,800 job openings for lawyers, including both growth and replacement needs, and including part-time jobs, in the decade of 2010-2020, while law schools are primed to confer 450,000 new JDs during the same period. 

So why make a list of law professors' idiotic quotes? Is there any purpose besides mockery? Yes, I think there is. Committing three years of one's life and $100,000+ to a project, such as obtaining a law degree, requires a considerable degree of trust or faith in the people managing or supervising the project. Are law school professors worthy of such trust? Before borrowing a small interest-accruing fortune and dumping it into the welcoming pockets of these, uh, educators, it may be instructive for college students, and their parents, to consider what these quotes say about their makers, and perhaps about law school honchos generally, in terms of clueless self-regard, distance from the profession, and condescension towards students.
 1. Prof. Peter Bayer (UNLV): "We are not producing plumbers and bookkeepers, we are producing the leaders of our Society whose primary ability is the strength of their intellects. Law teachers hone the mind in a variety of ways through a variety of methods."

2. Prof. Marcia McCormick (SLU): "Students benefit from the scholar's ability to turn chaos into order and communicate both the chaos and the order to someone who hasn't done the same work. The students have to start with order and see how it is constructed from chaos and how to explain that before they can learn to do the same thing, which really, is what lawyers do for their clients."

3. Prof. Paul Horwitz (U. of Alabama): "Talking in class, and other ways of throwing yourself into the mix, is a terrific, bad-consequence-free way of actually starting to practice at being a lawyer. Take advantage."

4. Prof. Brian Leiter (U. of Chicago): "Even someone like me, at the ‘highly theoretical’ end of the scholarly spectrum, with only a bit more than a year of full-time practice experience, has often helped out lawyers and judges with problems in evidence law, a substantive law area that I've taught and thought about long enough that I can see my way through an evidence thicket that even skilled practitioners can’t."

5.  Prof. Mark Fenster  (U. of Florida): "The notion that classes should be entertaining, and that law school should be entertaining, and, more importantly, that it is a profession that should be entertaining (as no doubt entering law students expect), seems misplaced. Being bored and being boring is a defining feature of adulthood, of responsibility, of doing the things that need to be done in order to live and provide for others. . . .this is why I think it's our obligation to make our material dry and difficult and, where appropriate, boring."

 6.   Prof. Paul Horwitz (U. of Alabama):  "I don't necessarily see a one-to-one correspondence between having practical skills and being good at imparting those skills; plenty of brilliant swimming coaches are not themselves Olympics-level swimmers."

7.    Prof. Lyrissa Liddsky (U. of Florida): "Try not to project insecurity. In other words, fake it until you make it. Although you may be tempted to reveal to the class that you are brand new or are learning the material for the first time, you certainly don't have to and some would argue you shouldn't. Remember that the students are lucky to have a teacher who is energetic and curious and enthusiastic and can reach them at their level."
8.    Prof. Kim Chanbonpin (John Marshall): "Law students can become more proficient legal writers when they have engaged in a study comparing the cultural products of hip hop with the cultural products of the law. Both hip hop and legal writing value an insider’s expert knowledge of the sources that comprise the basis for new work in the respective fields. In hip hop, sources include beats and rhymes; in legal writing, a primary source is jurisdictional case law. Both hip hop and legal writing utilize peculiar systems of citation to aid in a participant’s development towards expert, insider knowledge. Both are at their best when they demonstrate the author’s depth of knowledge of the subject matter by showcasing the author’s skill at weaving existing sources with new, innovative ideas and arguments."
 9.  Prof. Paul Horwitz (U of Alabama): "But if you would like to develop legal skills, learn how to become an A student more often than a B student, and just, you know, enjoy law school, then you shouldn't let the shortcuts become the whole story.  I am just about ready to shoot any student who walks into law school with the Chemerinsky con law treatise and without the assigned con law casebook (and yes, it has happened [the business with the books, not the shooting])."
10.  Prof. Roderick ("Rick") Hills, Jr. (NYU):  "I have a gripe about law students' lack of what might be called a "professional ethic." But maybe my grumpiness is just the irritated ennui brought on by grading 90 exams. Consider the following interaction, and tell me whether I am wrong to think that kids nowadays are unusually callow and immature. . . . [complains  for six sentences about a student who backed out of an RA position with Hills after getting a summer job with a firm]. After all, I have been left high and dry after turning down several other students who wanted the RA position. I'd expect, therefore, a gesture indicating that an obligation was broken and compensation is owed -- say, an offer to help me find a replacement or to perform some research."

Notes and links to sources.

(Paul Horwitz has written many articles on the First Amendment religion clauses, and a couple of books as well. Not a single one of them has ever been cited in any reviewing court decision, or any published administrative agency decision. He is paid $136,145 to teach at a public law school in a relatively poor State. Go to the biographical squib on  his law school directory page and see if you can find any practice experience beyond his federal judicial clerkship, which probably lasted a single year).
 (comment at Aug 11, 2011 2:46:48 PM)

(That delicate balance: Paul Horwitz's careful efforts to present himself as gracious, thoughtful, and mild-mannered, while periodically indulging in disgraceful smears and digs at law school dissident Paul Campos, for instance saying that Campos "leaves a residue of disgust over everything he touches." Horwitz is frequently and favorably quoted by Brian Leiter, who leaves a residue of, well, nevermind).


 (If her blog post has piqued your interest, Prof. Chanbonpin elaborates on the idea for 41 pages in her law review article. See Kim D. Chanbonpin, Legal Writing, The Remix: Plagiarism and Hip Hop Ethics, 63 Mercer L. Rev. 597 (2012)).
(Paul Horwitz is NOT a "worthless idiot" just because he teaches professional responsibility. He will have you know).

(The original Hills post, at Prawfsblawg, was deleted (and Hills even somewhat apologized). However, the Hills post was discussed by Paul Campos, who quoted a truncated version in the linked post. The full version of Hills' disgraceful plaint was found in a search engine cache by the thread commenter at May 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM.  Roderick Hills Jr. comes from an immensely privileged background. So that may be why he apparently regards his law students as insufficiently cringing servants).



  1. First. (Yes, I'm not above playing that game.)

    This series of posts will be like one of those magician's handkerchiefs - there's a never-ending supply of material.

    It's important to highlight these quotes because it shows that it's not just one or two professors who hold these disgraceful opinions and mistaken beliefs. It's the entire system that is rotten.

    Nice work.

  2. Excellent work, dybbuk.

    I forgot about the Hills' douchery about publicly griping about a student who backed out of a crap law school job to take a real-income-potential job, especially when the prof could post the ad and have a new candidate within a day. The insolence!!!

  3. While many of these are totally idiotic, I especially like the "fake it till you make it" quote. I wonder if she knows where that adage is most often used? Answer: it is what drug and alcohol counselors tell a new person "sentenced" to rehab or 12-step meetings when the new person express skepticism or disdain for full-time group sharing. In practice, it means that the person should start sharing or making stuff up to avoid a bad evaluation from the counselor, who reports to probation and the judge.

    1. I believe the saying is "fake it 'till you make it, and once you make it, take it" which is ideally suited to members of the academy

  4. Great work, in compiling these moronic quotes from "law professors." These people are divorced from reality. Apparently, many of these cockroaches believe that the legal job market has not changed much since the 1960s.

    Citing to the actual quotes - and providing the links - will be an effective method, too. It's nice to see other blogs, where the author furnished actual evidence, rather than his personal beliefs or feelings on the subject. With all of the material, this should be a long-running series.

  5. 'Harold Krent, dean and professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said large law firms hire 50 percent fewer graduates than four years ago. That makes a huge difference for students who hope to a get a "$165,000 payday," he said.
    But, Krent said, hyped attention on the loss of jobs in large law firms glosses over the fact that many students go to law school not for that $165,000 payday, but for the chance to make a difference.
    "I think that there's been a significant distortion in terms of the drying up of the legal market in the media," he said. "It's actually true at large firms in the last couple of years. But there has not been a commensurate drop off in smaller firm and government practice.
    "Many people do wonderfully creative and interesting things with a law degree other than practice law, including being a journalist or being an investor or being a counselor."
    Krent, said his school provides prospective students with information about what percentage of his alumni are employed. He also tells students to compare the price of their law school education to that of a small mortgage.
    "How much of a mortgage can you afford?" Krent said. "That's going to differ for different people. It's your preference for risk.
    "There are still people who are going to graduate school in art history. There are still people who are going to graduate school in ancient Greek. There are not that many lucrative job opportunities in those fields, but people are engaged, interested and motivated and they think the sacrifice is worth it." '

    1. ""There are still people who are going to graduate school in art history. There are still people who are going to graduate school in ancient Greek."

      And almost invariably, they are getting full tuition scholarships/support in arcane fields like that. They aren't going $150,000 in debt to do so.

      (Chicago-Kent charges $42,900 per year.)

  6. Great post. Please keep up this excellent work.

    Horwitz in particular makes my skin crawl. I've followed his posting over the past few years and he comes across as a petty and whiny little man. When he gets called out for some of his more egregious stuff he tries to shift the blame to his many medical maladies, chronic pain, or ongoing family challenges/illness. In one go around, he even had his wife enter the fray to post a comment describing him as "courageous" for living with his many medical maladies. Such courage.

    Horwitz is pathetic, wheezy, malingerer. In the Army, people with his personality traits are euphemistically called "brokedicks."

    As alluded to in the main post, anyone supported and championed by the odious Brian Leiter is immediately suspect to me.

    Slightly shifting gears...

    Am I the only one bothered by the fact that various US Courts of Appeal employ clerks who aren't Americans or JD graduates of US Law Schools? I'm talking about guys like Horwitz and the disgraceful Dan Markel at PrawfsBlawg? Let's face it, Circuit Court clerks ghost write thousands of binding decisions with consequences for millions of US Citizens and a precedential impact on US case law. Why on God's earth are we hiring - as term Federal employees - Canadian appellate clerks when there are tens of thousands of qualified US citizens for these jobs?

    The "foreign" Federal law clerk issue is ripe for further examination. You can't get hired in the Federal service as a GS-5 USDA meat inspector or a $26K per annum TSA screener as a non-citizen; nor can you get commissioned as an military officer. Yet, we hire non-citizens to ghost write binding precedent on issues that may end up on cert to SCOTUS.


    1. It still cracks me up that Markel, who teaches at a second-rate law school in Florida, continues to use a Harvard e-mail address.

    2. Professor Markel just wants to remind you that he's Better Than You, even if he does teach at a second-rate law school.

  7. Though the BLS figures predict that JOB openings will be half the number of law grads, is this alarming? Many grads don't get jobs; they start a solo practice or small firm with some friends. I just don't take that statistic to mean that half of law grads will do nothing and will not be lawyers.

    1. Professor, have you ever started a solo practice, or a small practice with "some friends"? Have you done so while carrying six figures of non-dischargeable interest-accruing educational debt? Have you done so fresh out of law school where you had practically no idea of how to practice law in any field because your professional education was supervised by the likes of the people quoted above? Have you done so without a client base or a local professional reputation? Have you done so in the teeth of a massive lawyer glut and a growing availability of online resources for pro se filers?

      I assume you have, since you do not find the BLS numbers alarming. Therefore, please share your expertise with the 200,000 or more jobless lawyers that law schools are primed to create this decade.

    2. Starting a solo practice straight out of law school, or a small firm with others similarly situated, is an act of total desperation -- an invitation to disaster and ruination.

    3. First of all, I'm not a professor, so apparently dybbuk, like Campos and Leiter, is so caught up in his "passion" to debunk law school that he is paranoid. Apparently, Campos figured out how ruinous this silly agenda had become to his own psyche, and he bailed after a while.

      Dybbuk, too, might actually do something right to help himself one day. And when he does, he will just "disappear" from the blogosphere of nay-sayers - just like the rest of them do. Dybbuk only needs to figure out when it's time to stop blogging and whining and instead, get back on track and keep pushing until he finds his own way.

      I know many people who have started solos right out of school and done very well.

      For those who say it can't be done, the world needs losers so the winners can know the difference between winners and losers.

    4. Welcome back, Brian. And no, of course you're not a professor, dear.

    5. Okay, you caught me. I'm Leiter; it's true (sarcasm). It's also true that you are going to be a loser the rest of your life (true). How do you like the truth? Have your parents accepted your defeatism yet?

    6. Here you go. Take a lesson from a 14 year-old kid.

      Now, grow up.

    7. Hi aduren, matt, Pushkin, ecnasialp, Brian, Gangner, and PhiloStudent!

      In the rather specialized field of the law I'm involved with, I've known a number of successful solo practitioners. Invariably, they started as associates in law firms or as junior in-house attorneys, and developed the reputation needed to get business as a solo. Without exception. Nobody in my field would hire someone who had just graduated from law school and just hung out a shingle.

      "For those who say it can't be done, the world needs losers so the winners can know the difference between winners and losers."

      Well, that's good, since a whole bunch of law professors are going to be losing their jobs over the next few years. It will be interesting to see how many "winners" and how many "losers" there are among the law professoriate, as they are forced to seek alternative employment.

      P.S. You really need to lose some weight.

    8. You really have no idea how much you are embarrassing yourself. Accusing me of being some professor when I am not one - all so you can justify your little cop-out. LOL!!!!

      Let's see if I can get it right:

      "I'm a loser. I can't. Really. I can't. No, I'm serious. I can't. I just can't. The world has been cruel to me. I've been scammed. Cheated. I'm a failure for life. I can't. Believe me. I can't."

      Is that about right? LOL!!!

    9. "Pushkin" in the ABA Journal, March 1st, regarding the announcement that Campos was shutting his blog down:

      "But Campos doesn’t have anything to say about any of that and never has. He’s just a mouthpiece for the whinings of self-important twenty-somethings who picked a bad time to play out the “what’s the easiest thing to do next with my life” strategy, and found that they weren’t competitive at the next level, particularly in a world of shrinking opportunities. Such people think throwing tantrums will cause daddy or mommy to make it stop hurting, but that part of life is over and isn’t coming back. I hope they’re able to salvage something from the years they have left, but the signs are not good."

      Anyone else notice a stylistic resemblance to our current commenter?

    10. Dang! That guy sounds like me! :-) He makes good sense, too. Maybe we are related somehow.

      Aside from whining about it, what ARE you going to do to make it stop hurting?

      FYI, I'm still not a professor.

      "Anyone else notice a stylistic resemblance to our current commenter?"

      So, how do a bunch of losers try to gang up against a winner to prove they are winning? In other words, what if I WAS Leitner? Does it make you less of a whiner and cop-out? Will it make you feel GOOD that you are letting mommy and daddy down by copping out like you do? I don't quite get that part.

      Go for it. Find my IP address. Dig, dig, dig. Shovel through all the dung you can find to prove I am someone in your fantasy-world who gives you nightmares over your decision to be a cop-out and to give up.

      Who knows? Maybe I AM Leitner and therefore, it's okay to be a cop-out and a self-confirmed loser. Show mommy and daddy I am Leitner so that they will be proud of you once again. Seriously.... nobody is happy for you being a cop-out.

      Get over it. You are no special snowflake, and nobody cares if you're a loser or not. Mommy and daddy care, but they don't know what to do for their poor, miserable son or daughter. So, their hopes are dashed, too. You are letting them down, but aside from that, nobody cares.

    11. To those of you out there who just need a little prodding... Buck up and get away from all these people who spread misery and love pity parties. Get on with your lives.

    12. Misspelling "Leitner" was an inspired touch, Brian. Bravo! Funny that you knew how to spell "Leiter" earlier in the thread.

      "Go for it. Find my IP address."

      No, I leave that sort of thing to you and your colleagues.

    13. "Misspelling "Leitner" was an inspired touch, Brian. Bravo!"

      I'm just sitting here LMAO at you. What a maroon!

    14. "FYI, I'm still not a professor."


      Finally, your guess about my occupational role has the same staggering brilliance as the rest of your “insights.”  I taught in law school many years ago (and was tenured), but the work was too easy and too boring, the money was not very good, and I had to spend a lot of time around people spouting silly things like you.  Like Irving Younger, I decided that “someone has to teach these people, but by god it does not have to be me.” 
      So good luck to you NNTPF.  As the proverbial Cambridge Don put it when challenged to a debate by a proponent of Intelligent Design, “that would do a lot for your C.V., but it wouldn’t do anything for mine.”
      By Pushkin on 2011 05 29, 9:55 am CDT

  8. "Want a legal job? Then shine my AMG, lemming!" -The Valvoline Dran

  9. this could be a recurring series of post, to great effect. you should include Piety, michael livingston, glater, lawrence mitchell, dean katz, and others. have a "Hall of Shame" or announce some awards using an Oscar theme and have votes and awards.

    Best-JD-is-versatile performance.

    Best-don't-worry-about-debt-because-at-my-top-six-school-thirty-years-ago-we-never-did performance.

    Post photos of the profs who said it and let their words speak for themselves.

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