Friday, November 13, 2015

Seattle Law Prof. Paula Lustbader promotes civility training in Tuscany

I am a proponent of civility within the legal profession. We lawyers are members of a demanding profession, where clients and the public place their trust in our knowledge and judgment in order to protect their rights or obtain a measure of what they consider justice. There is honor in doing this well, and that applies to opposing counsel as well as oneself. At any rate, that which lawyers call "incivility" and which the rest of humanity calls "being an asshole," is usually counterproductive– if not immediately, then over time. 
 
I do not believe, however, that civility requires me to temper my opinion that the majority of lawprofs and law school deans are scammers and parasites, betraying their moral responsibilities to the profession by producing reams of worthless scholarship, by dramatically lowering admissions standards, and worst of all, by deceiving their students as to the opportunities that a law degree provides and exploiting the naivete of those students by getting rich off their loans.
 
But perhaps my understanding of civility is flawed, in a way that can only be remedied by going to a medieval Tuscan village and taking an eight day long civility cure. Fortunately, Seattle Law Prof. Paula Lustbader runs a nonprofit called the "Robert’s Fund," which stages continuing legal education instruction in civility in Sovana, Italy, in partnership with Seattle University School of Law. (Indeed, according to its Form 990, the Robert’s Fund is located in the Seattle University School of Law).
 
So far as I can tell from her 14-page CV, Prof. Lustbader has never held a job as a practicing lawyer. She joined the faculty of Seattle Law, then called Puget Sound, in 1987, the year before she graduated from its law school, and has been there ever since. As well, the titles of some of Lustbader's scholarly articles and presentations sound dubious to the uncivil ear. See e.g. You Are Not in Kansas Anymore: Orientation Programs Can Help Students Fly Over the Rainbow, 47 Washburn L. J. 327, 366 (2008) ("As we forge ahead to enrich their experience through improving orientation, we must remember that there is one main truth in Oz: Almost anything is possible, but you must BELIEVE and click your heels three times"). See also "Can the Professor Come Out to Play?" Society of American Law Teachers, Conference, Hawaii. (Co-presenter) (December, 2010).

Dubious too, perhaps, is  Lustbader's role in co-founding and directing Seattle Law’s Access Admissions program, through which the law school admits students "whose capabilities may not be accurately reflected in GPAs and LSAT scores."  Perhaps their legal capabilities are better expressed by their mastery of the triple heel click.

The Robert’s Fund has held its CLE program in Sovana several times since 2011, with the next such program ("The Civility Promise in Tuscany") scheduled for April, 2017. The cost is $3,650 (standard room) to $3,950 (deluxe room at four-star hotel) for early bird registrants, and $1,650 to $1,850 for one’s room-sharing spouse or significant other. The six-member faculty includes Lustbader, two Italian judges (one retired), and one, uh, artist in residence. The Robert’s Fund’s listed "staff and consultants" include four Seattle U. lawprofs (one emeritus), one University of Washington lawprof, and one Hamline lawprof.
"Revitalize your commitment to the profession you love. . . This popular seminar convenes in Sovana, a charming medieval village surrounded by verdant vineyards and lush olive groves. In this peaceful setting, participants immerse themselves in a continuing education program that integrates lectures, discussions, and interactive exercises that focus on fostering civility in the legal profession. The seminar is complemented by guided excursions through the nearby villages and beautiful countryside.. . . Enrich your personal and professional life. Relax and reconnect with yourself... Develop and deepen relationships... Engage in thought-provoking dialogue… All this while earning 30 CLE/CJE credits (including 8 ethics credits)."
The Robert’s Fund website includes nine brief video testimonials from past participants of the Tuscany civility program (one of whom (Craig Sims) is now a member of the faculty of the program). They make for entertaining viewing. All are predictably enthusiastic, but several express themselves so inarticulately about the nature and benefits of the program that it made me wonder whether too much international civility enrichment can have deleterious effects on one’s brain.
 
Is this how the well-heeled fulfil the entirety of their CLE (Continuing Legal Education) requirement in Washington State? By taking a guided vacation to Italy--with talks and workshops on "Civility Tai Chi" and "Exploring Creative Lawyering through Art" sandwiched between wine and olive oil tastings, Etruscan banquets, and excursions to Il Giardino dei Tarocchi and Pitigliano? Is the cost of the program tax-deductible? Does the public know that this is how members of the bar purport to maintain the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfill their professional responsibilities, which is the supposed purpose of mandatory CLE?
 
And what about Seattle Law School, the entity that cosponsors this getaway? Do its students still receive top-notch civility training from the civility master on their faculty, even though they may not be able to afford the trip to Italy? Seattle Law grads have shockingly bad employment outcomes--the school's nine-month-out non-funded bar-required full-time job placement rate has ranged between 37.8% and 44.8% over the last four years. So it is nice to think that at least its grads have enhanced nonlaw employment prospects due to their genteel good manners.
 
Perhaps, though, the temptation to be skeptical or snarky about the Tuscany civility program or about law professors who have never practiced law is the very thing that establishes my need for state of the art civility training. Does the Robert’s Fund or the Washington bar offer overseas civility scholarships for the civility impaired? Are there employers that actually foot the bill for this thing? How nice it would be to hop aboard this gravy train, or shall I say, olive oil train.
 

42 comments:

  1. Is the video testimonials link incorrect or was this removed on their end? I doubt but pray it's the latter.

    Great post.

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  2. I'd like to send "law professor" Brian Leiter, director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values, to the April 2017 civility program. That is, if he hasn't totally imploded by then. That man needs to learn how to relate to other people in a civilized, decent, and respectful way.

    I'd be wiling to donate $100 from my tax refund to send Mr. Leiter to the merry hills of Tuscany. Would anyone care to join me?

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    Replies
    1. I'll donate $100 to send him to the dark side of the moon.

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  3. It's easy to be civil when you live in a bubble. And who wouldn't love strolling through charming historic villas with wine and cheese in hand? It practically drips with bourgeoisie civility, while the day-laborers tend the gardens, just out of frame.

    The rubber meets the road outside the ivory tower, folks, not inside. Ask actual practicing attorneys.

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    1. Right on bro. I have been out of law school 25 years and every damn day is a struggle. I have one buddy out 34 years and he is answering Craig's List ads for Chinese companies seeking lawyers. He is hoping against hope that these are not scams. My family is now on public assistance. I can not collect unemployment as a Solo. These professors, nor deans have no freaken idea.

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    2. Exactly right. Professional civility isn't developed over a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano shared with some McElroyesque aristocrat; it comes from keeping one's cool in the face of abuse and irresponsiblity from opposing counsel.

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  4. "I do not believe, however, that civility requires me to temper my opinion that the majority of lawprofs and law school deans are scammers and parasites, betraying their moral responsibilities to the profession by producing reams of worthless scholarship, by dramatically lowering admissions standards, and worst of all, by deceiving their students as to the opportunities that a law degree provides and exploiting the naivete of those students by getting rich off their loans."

    Excellent mission statement, by the way.

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    1. I actually missed that paragraph on first reading. It's a clear, elegant, and devastating statement of the relevant facts and their moral import.

      This blog could use a "Hall of Fame" sidebar with great quotations like that.

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  5. I'd be pretty civil if I could get someone else to pay for my vacation to Tuscany...

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  6. If you want expert advice to vacationing in Tuscany, we have just the expert for you!

    "Speaking of itineraries, clients may want to walk through some of the lesser known hill towns in the area such as Semifonte and Petrognano, where Americans are scarce, the architecture is fascinating and the views are unmatched.

    At a nearby organic farm L’Oleandolo, Anna Bruti and her husband, Roberto, welcome guests for meals and multi-day cooking classes. Meals are based around the olives, heirloom fruits and other produce grown on their farm (largely derived from favorites of Anna’s grandmother). Clients should arrive hungry, as servings are more than generous — think four large courses — and start at about $50 per person.

    When your clients want to explore, suggest that they drive the scenic route to the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore monastery and visit the abbey in San Galgano, a perfect afternoon excursion from San Gimignano. Another excursion option is to take a day-long Vespa ride with Tuscany Vespa Tours. The tour leaves from Florence and ventures out in the Chianti region for a wine tasting and a visit to a 17th century villa."

    By Lisa McElroy, of course...

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    1. Not bad travel advice actually, but it reveals McElroy as the glutton she is. Four large courses for only 50 dollars! I haven't spent that much on a meal in at least 7 years.

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    2. Professor Lisa McElroy appears to be obsessed with food, which could explain her morbid obesity. After all, she first became notorious for binging on red velvet cupcakes, well before she was investigated for mass-mailing anal pornography to her hapless students.

      Since Dean Kellye Testy at UWash is even more obese than Lisa McElroy, I look forward to the day when she compulsively reveals her own food addictions. I just hope she doesn't dump mountains of pornography on us to divert attention from her unconscionable spending on food.

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    3. What's the big deal about red-velvet cupcakes? They're just half-ass cupcakes with a load of red dye.

      Well, I'm not surprised that an heiress who drops $10k to see a staged wedding before returning to her room with a private pool is excited by the cheap, childish thrill of unnatural colors in food.

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  7. Fuck you, Lustbader, you fucking bitch. Go fuck yourself! FUCK OFF!

    Now that I've demonstrated an utter lack of civility, may I have a scholarship to your Tuscan workshop, pretty please?

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    1. LOL! You make the best comments, Old Guy!

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  8. People "whose capabilities may not be accurately reflected in GPAs and LSAT scores" are far less common than the scamsters would have us believe.

    A poor GPA may reflect past immaturity or personal difficulties that do not speak to present ability. Unfortunately, it stains applications forever and cannot be improved or displaced. I can accept that some capable people may have made a mess of their GPA for reasons that are more or less understandable. But why can those people not compensate by doing well on the LSAT?

    A poor LSAT score generally points to inadequate preparation, which can be corrected, or grave deficiencies in logic, reading skills, or both. None of that is consistent with strong potential in the legal profession. People with certain types of disabilities, notably blindness, may legitimately complain that the LSAT misrepresents their potential, even when they receive accommodations in the test's administration. But why don't they compensate with a good GPA?

    Well, maybe a blind person who did poorly as an undergraduate but has since risen to heights of excellence is unfairly diminished by the combination of GPA and LSAT score. But the thousands upon thousands of low-ranking applicants will not make good lawyers, if indeed they become lawyers at all.

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    1. The rub is, it's not like these people would be benefitted by admission to a low-ranked law school. Even if they are in fact very capable lawyers, they would be dumped with mediocre credentials into a pedigree-obsessed profession, where they would be stuck competing against a vast glut of young lawyers. The odds of success are nearly zero, even for the proverbial diamond in the rough.

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  9. Why shouldn't professors be required to attend training to learn lawyering skills most relevant to their area of expertise and the classes they teach?

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    1. Never going to happen.

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    2. Lawyering skills are acquired primarily not through training but through practice. Of course, hackademics from Maine to Thomas Jefferson cringe at the last word in that sentence. And certainly their high and mighty asses won't be found doing the lowly work of lawyers.

      A better question: Why is law not taught by experienced lawyers rather than people who scribble asinine shite about open roads when they're not cramming red-velvet cupcakes down their gullets on expensive vacations?

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    3. This is a really good question. It's not one that anyone in the establishment wants to explore though.

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  10. "or shall I say, olive oil train. "

    Uh oh dybbuk, not again!

    Security! Security! Can we get this total racist outta here please???

    (Joking of course)

    You'll have Professor Giorgetti onto you for a racist slur against her Italian heritage, goaded on by Leiter no doubt.

    http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/international-law-you-have-got-to-be.html

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    1. Oh, we all know Dybbuk, he's edgy...and extremely ungrateful to his own hard-working law professors! If it weren't for morbidly obese faux-intellectuals stuffing themselves at Hawaiian conferences or gorging themselves on Italian excursions, Dybbuk wouldn't even have his prestigious million-dollar job.

      Get real, Dybbuk! The rule of law will go forward, with or without your silly little courtroom adventures.

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  11. A while ago, this blog covered similar stuff done by other schools...
    http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-scam-boat-southwestern-law-schools.html
    ...and as other people pointed out back then, this stuff is really just making vacations disguised as actual courses. (Paid by the taxpayer with federal loan money, of course.)

    Although to be honest, I'm surprised that it's only a week long in Italy. They couldn't stretch it out for longer, just to make the most of it?

    Someone ought to write a book about this: How about something like "Under the Tuscan Scam" or maybe even "Lustbader, the Tuscan Scum"?

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  12. The law-school scam is branching out to CLE.

    Rare is the employer that would pay for this thing. Most likely the participants are seeking a tax-deductible vacation. So it's another boondoggle that rips off the public coffers, albeit not on the monstrous scale of the law-school scam.

    One photo at that Web site shows a few adults allegedly engaged in collaborative artwork, whatever that means. They appear to be finger-painting on oddly shaped bits of paper. Whatever they're doing, it doesn't look like art to me. And what does it have to do with civility? with legal practice?

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    1. OG, Boondoggle-style CLEs have been around for many decades. But you're correct that most corporate employers won't spring for them - even if they're fairly cheap CLE overall - for fear that the boondoggle nature will be evident to client groups (in-house or otherwise). But gov't and other non-corporate organizations don't worry so much about appearances and will populate such vacationCLE courses.

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    2. By extension, my entire Solo Practice is tax payer supported. All office, most vehicle, internets, phones, legal publications, are deductible., Obama was absolutely correct. Our tax code distorts spending. Why do you think Office Depot is crowded with shoppers on New Year's Eve? Last minute deductions. Actually, most CLE is excellent and hugely impacts competency and is practical to boot. Don't forget, we ae the law....lawyers and judges. This is a good expenditure of taxpayer money.

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  13. Doesn't the German "lust bader" roughly translate to "nice bath"?

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    1. Maybe 'nice baths', if we assume a missing umlaut (Lustbäder). As written (Lustbader), it appears to mean 'quack doctor of enjoyment'.

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    2. In a dystopic world where everyone must have an advanced degree in order to find any kind of work, a prostitute might call themselves a 'doctor of enjoyment'

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    3. Nowadays advanced degrees are handed out like toilet tissue. Jobs that just a few years ago didn't require even a high-school diploma now call for a bachelor's degree or more. And the expansion of the hackademic–industrial complex has led to the admission of scads of people unsuited for university. If you can mark an X for your signature on the loan papers, you can get a degree.

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    4. I've seen McDonalds demand a college degree for their cashiers. They're minimum wage part-time jobs that we are told constantly aren't "intended" to live off of. So for some reason it's supposed to be okay.

      This is what capitalism looks like when you have plutocrats running the show, and an extreme excess of labor at all levels.

      This isn't the place for this discussion, but the US benefited tremendously post-WWII with a macro that just doesn't exist anymore and hasn't for awhile. There are some big questions that need to be answered, and while law is the most egregious of them all, it's certainly not the only area that is a problem right now.

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  14. Seattle University shouldn't even have a law school. It should be closed immediately.

    The University of Washington lures more than enough law students to the Pacific Northwest. They can meet the legal needs of the Seattle area many times over. And Gonzaga or UWash can fill the Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Central Washington niche markets. Seattle U, however, fills no niche whatsoever for legal services. Its only purpose is to fill an employment niche for inferior law professors.

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    1. They remain open because they tell students that Boeing and Microsoft are UNDER SERVED and that they could be General Counsel at 26.

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  15. I note additionally that the package provides 30 CLE credits (assuming one hour per credit, of course) and an 8 night hotel stay. 30 credits divided by 8 gives an average of 3.75 hours of education per day - how exhausting! Good thing three nights of dinner with wine are included, because the attendees will surely be exhausted after such rigorous instruction.

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    1. If I had to sit through "Civility Tai Chi" and finger-paint with a bunch of inarticulate self-styled jurists, I'd expect to be rewarded with vintage Dom Pérignon.

      At least one of the participants in those dumb videos referred to the program as "Italy". As if that dipshit program for half a dozen Yanks represented the entire Apennine Peninsula.

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  16. Totally off-topic, but longtime readers may be interested to note that Maurice Leiter has just been appointed as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

    https://www.gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=19203

    Guess this means he'll have to retire from poetry. Or adopt a pseudonym.

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    1. Wrong Maurice.

      This one is our poetry writing guy. Brian's 83 year old dad.

      http://www.intelius.com/people/Maurice-Leiter/0chnzx07b0m

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    2. It's a very popular name. I suspect there are three Maurices, including a brilliant pseudonymous poet.

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    3. I wonder if LA county judge Maurice Leiter is related somehow to deranged law professor Brian Leiter. For all I know there is a whole Leiter clan in the legal industry. If you're a toliettter applying for a law job and the other applicant has the last name Leiter, then you probably won't get the job.

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  17. I spied a lusty wench one day
    sunning herself by an olive tree,
    her breasts were rich and full,
    those golden hills of Tuscany.

    I asked her what her pleasure might be,
    and she tossed her hair over me,
    and whispered, "I crave civility."

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  18. When are law schools going to wake up and take stock of the situation?

    ReplyDelete