Thursday, December 21, 2017

Can scammers truly empathize with their dupes? A few skeptical thoughts about Seton Hall Law Prof. Paula Franzese's law review article, "The Power of Empathy in the Classroom."


Every kindergartener and first-grader should have a teacher like Paula Franzese— a hyper-engaging Pollyanna who fosters social skills and self-confidence in the classroom through her own cheery solicitude, plus sing-alongs, affirmations, and fun games, perhaps games loosely based on the format of her favorite televised game shows and reality shows. A facilitator who inspires ethical behavior via morally uplifting stories with happily-ever-after endings and platitudes about goodness and hope. A role model who expresses such confidence in each child’s profound abilities that they start to believe it, but who scrupulously reminds these nascent superheroes that their powers must be used for good. 

However, this pedagogical approach surely has an early use-by date, perhaps at around the age that a child stops believing in Santa Claus and magical ponies and wishing upon a star. When it shows up in a law school classroom, one has to wonder whether the students are receiving competent and effective professional education and training—even if it comes attractively packaged as "empathic teaching" and even if it is touted by its chief proponent in a law review article with 92 footnotes and god-knows-how-many uses of the trendy phrase "emotional intelligence" and close rewordings of same. See e.g. Franzese, Paula (2017) "The Power of Empathy in the Classroom," Seton Hall Law Review: Vol. 47 : Iss. 3, Article 2. (For more on Franzese’s remarkable approach to legal education, see this OTLSS profile of her book on positive thinking for law students.  See also this shameless recent editorial by Franzese, in which she encourages readers to defy the "naysayers and outliers" by attending law school and using the precious "aptitudes" provided there to become "justice's emissaries").    

In her new law review article, Franzese provides the following examples of how she practices "empathy in the classroom":
  • "On the way from my office to my classroom I summon up the reverence that I have for the law and the capacity of its practitioners to be givers of hope. I want my students, as lawyers-to-be, to appreciate the power that their emerging expertise will soon afford them to wrest people from cynicism and despair. I would like them to see that the relentless commitment to the good of others will make their own lives good. As a lawyer, I have had the privilege to watch as hope has sprung from the most desolate places. My life has never been the same. I want my students to know that soon, they too will get to be witnesses to the birth of hope."
  • "Once at the classroom door I pause, and before entering the room I summon gratitude for the privilege to teach and for the sacrifices of all who came before me to make this moment possible. I then ask that I be used to do whatever good needs to be done and to say whatever needs to be said. I ask for the guidance to see what needs to be seen. I remember that there is no day but this day and no moment but this moment."
  • "I remain mindful that my students’ perceptions of our profession, and of themselves as its fledgling members, will be formed in considerable measure by watching me and listening to my cues and feedback. . . [O]ur students rise (or fall) to our level of expectation for them. I give each of my students the benefit of every doubt and believe that each contains seeds of excellence waiting to be cultivated."
  • "Empathic pathways are activated when students re-enact or reimagine cases. For example, to enhance the capacity of the antiquated Pierson v. Post (the venerable Property case on the rule of capture) to resonate with the class, I ask a team of students to place that case into the more contemporary context of the popular television show The Amazing Race. On other occasions, I ask students to put cases into more journalistic settings, where for example one class member is assigned the role of reporter, another the role of producer, and others the roles of various litigants and litigators to elicit and recount what happened in the given dispute and their reactions to its resolution for an imagined CBS 60 Minutes segment. That exercise allows students to become the people behind the story, and the range of emotions typically displayed is vast and genuine, as the opportunity is presented for the "as if" to feel real."
  • "Play, through the use of in-class games such as Jeopardy (which readily lends itself to substantive review) and Family Feud (which fosters teamwork), and challenges aimed at helping students solve the puzzle of a given problem or contextual dilemma, brings an immediacy to the need to know the relevant material."
Again: Law school or kindergarten?  Well, no, it is not kindergarten. Kindergarteners do not typically commit themselves to hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-dischargeable debt.  Kindergarten teachers do not purport to offer technical training at the doctoral level. 

Can a vulnerable person be conspicuously empathized-with and heartlessly scammed by the very same party and at the very same time? Might a scammer’s empathetic mush and gush, and even her professions of humility, be a self-serving psychological device in disguise, meant to elevate the scammer's self-image to that of noble and generous benefactor? Could the practice of "empathic teaching" be cynically employed by a mercenary institutional scammer (for instance a second-tier law school that charges tuition of $53,046 per year and has a 25th percentile LSAT of 152) to appear innovative while dumbing down its instruction and making its ever-less sophisticated dupes feel cherished?

Why do consumers of motivational speeches and positive thinking literature fail to see the vicious Social Darwinist downside of all that can-do inspiration—namely, that if positive thinking leads to success and happiness, then their own failures, frustrations, and unhappiness are most readily explained by their own bad attitudes, and not by objective facts tending to prove that they have been exploited, misled, or scammed?

Remember the comical Walrus, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, who wept with sympathy and understanding for the very oysters whom he had deceptively befriended, entertained, and then systematically devoured? Alice judgmentally calls the Walrus an unpleasant character, but perhaps the Walrus’s main fault was in failing to gift the world of scholarship with a law review article entitled "The Power of Empathy in Devouring Your Prey."


27 comments:

  1. After reading this:

    Attorney: I . . . think . . . I'm . . going . . to . . HUHWUMPFFFFFF

    LawProf: For Christ's sake, not in the sink!

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  2. This is clearly all an elaborate-with footnotes galore-defense mechanism skillfully if artificially created by this profession for one reason only: to disguise the fact that she is a willing and clever participant in the scam. She has no real "empathy" for her students, as it's clear that once they are new graduates, all responsibility for duping them as law students ends. These fledgling lawyers are on their own, to figure out how to deal with massive debt and poor job prospects. It is simply hypcrosy

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    1. This professor may be employing the ego defense of idealization. I couldn’t read her shameless article because of the paywall. But judging by the title, she tells readers to dismiss the critics of law school and shell out $200k for a legal education. The use of the word “outlier” in the title suggests she is painfully aware that law grads have struggled to find work and repay their massive debt. She minimizes or ignores the pain that many law grads have suffered (they are just “outliers”), and expresses extremely positive thoughts about herself, law school, and the legal profession so she can prevent any undesirable feelings. That is idealization.

      -anon JD/MD

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  3. This woman is a very special kind of evil.

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  4. The mindless rantings of someone who has never had to worry about receiving a weekly paycheck or making a payroll.

    You can look at any great, massive act of evil of the twentieth or this century and wonder whether individuals involved were truly evil or simply looking out for number one. For instance, Hermann Goering has always struck me not so much as a mindless Nazi or anti-semite as an opportunist who, like this woman, did what he had to do to get what he wanted and to justify it to himself and to others. With Germany banned from having an air force and commercial aviation still in its infancy Goering's profession was gone and he looked for opportunity. Should this woman lose her no-work sinecure at Seton Hall she will have no place else to go. There is in all of us to one degree or another an amazing ability to justify. Sometimes that thought scares me. Had I won the lawprof lottery would I be any different?

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  5. I never studied psychology, but I think the term "psychopath" is appropriate.

    These are people who lie in order to manipulate people into doing what they want. They are also good actors, and often come across as very charming and charismatic. Most significantly, they totally lack empathy with their victims.

    I became quite familiar with psychopaths during my years practicing law. I think the profession is full of such people.

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    1. This is a good point, since this "empathy" achieves one goal: keeping the good professor in her well-paid but very little work job. So she's going to have plenty of "empathy" for her students, as in her case it's the most self-serving of emotions. Otherwise-god forbid!- she might have to get a real job and actually have to practice law. So now the scam will love students to death, because the students are the source of all money, and for that matter, all happiness-it least if you're a law prof.
      And yes it's her school, but the fact that an article with the title "The Power of Empathy in the Classroom" was published in a law review reflects the pathetic state of legal scholarship. The topic elicits such a complete level of "duh" that it wouldn't be published in a journal dedicated to instruction of junior high students.

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    2. I think it is likely this woman is indeed a psychopath and is engaging in duping delight. I would be curious to see her teach.

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    3. In point of fact, 4:28, without a book of business no firm would want anything to do with her, and corporate law department would expect experience relevant to their industry. She has nowhere else to go.

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  6. Beautiful last paragraph. Most "law professors" and deans are more akin to Uriah Heep. Shameless thieves.

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  7. Seton Hall (Shittin' Hole) is a fifth-tier toilet (http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2017/05/the-seven-tiers-of-law-schools.html) with students and apparently professors to match.

    Spending class time on juvenile games modeled on asinine television shows? This is doctoral education?

    The silly format of games cannot support anything much more sophisticated than questions with straightforward answers. Legal practice, however, typically isn't so simple. Time wasted on drilling of the nuts and bolts of law—things that any law student worthy of the name would learn independently—is time that cannot be spent on more complex pursuits. But the dolts of Shittin' Hole cannot handle complexity anyway.

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    1. In med school, the pharm professor would conduct review sessions before tests modeled after TV shows like jeopardy. But pharm was straight up memorization (memorize the mechanism of action, use, side effects, etc). Also, the pharm prof is a PhD who researches cancer treatment, something much more valuable to society than the crap produced by this law prof.

      This law prof’s pedagogical methods are not creative or beneficial to her students. She appears to be teaching the same antiquated worthless garbage that law schools have taught for years. Only she is teaching the worthless garbage in the context of stupid TV shows. Instead of teaching her students the skills they need to help clients, like how to write a will, handle a simple probate case, or handle a home closing, she is teaching them Pierson v. Post in the context of The Amazing Race.

      I never had a career in law after graduating from a toilet law school unemployed. But I figured out early on that everything we learned was worthless. I graduated not knowing how to write a contract, draft a complaint, or handle basic motions practice. I had good grades and law review, but I knew I didn’t have the skills to competently represent clients as a solo. My friends who went solo, went into toilet law, or govt jobs all said law school was worthless. They had to learn how to handle basic legal tasks from others or figure it out on their own.

      The law school pigs claim they are teaching students to “think like a lawyer.” But we can objectively conclude from the behavior of the law schools that law school is nothing but a scam (conditional scholarships with section stacking and a strict grading curve, false employment stats, school funded jobs, etc). The purpose of law school pedagogical methods at toilet law schools is to terminate conditional scholarships and award top grades to the handful of students that Biglaw is willing to hire.

      In med school, the professors never spouted nonsense about learning to think like a doctor. We were taught the basic knowledge needed to practice medicine. Having gone through med school, I can spot life threatening diseases like meningitis, sepsis, or appendicitis. And I know how to manage and treat those patients. Med school didn’t teach me everything. I couldn’t possibly learn everything. But I was able to rotate with surgeons, oncologists, psychiatrists, and other specialists so I knew who to call and where to send patients for more help.

      Law schools don’t offer rotations in their curriculum, like a crim law rotation or a corporate law rotation at a big firm, because legal employers have no interest in ever hiring most of these toilet law grads. The employers and law schools know many of these grads will never have a legal career, so why waste time teaching them. And rotations would eat into profits. Law school is about packing as many people as possible into one classroom. The school doesn’t want to pay other lawyers and legal offices in the region to take in a few students at a time to rotate in a crim law office, tax office, or corporate law office. That would cut into the profits paid to the Deans and law profs.

      If this pig law professor was serious about preparing her students for a legal career, she would teach them the skills they really need. But she is a lazy, entitled, grifter looking to make her students feel better about getting financially screwed.

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    2. Is this Franzese charlatan even capable of teaching law students the skills that they need for the practice of law? Does she possess those skills herself? I doubt it: she took her hackademic sinecure soon after law school, without much of an opportunity for practice of any sort.

      Her students are also too dumb or too timid (probably both) to demand competent instruction—not that demanding it from the likes of Franzese would do any good. Most will happily go along with her juvenile antics, perhaps in badly misplaced reliance on her ability to teach law.

      I should have gone into medicine rather than the half-baked "profession" of law.

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  8. ....wonder if she still prefers Orville Redenbaker.

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  9. How can anyone, even someone dumb enough to attend Seton Hall, fall for the kum-ba-ya bullshit of Norman Vincent Franzese? That idiotic book with the smiley-face on the cover is even more obnoxious than McElroy's self-absorption and sense of entitlement. And that's saying a lot.

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  10. Franzese's use of popular television shows strikes me as patronizing. I had never heard of The Amazing Race, probably because I haven't seen any television since the days of Welcome Back, Kotter. Reference to an unfamiliar piece of popular culture would not activate any "empathic pathways" in me. It would be on a par with my alluding to Puccini's opera Gianni Schicchi by way of teaching about fraudulent wills.

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    1. I've seen Gianni Schicchi.

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    2. Glad to hear it. Most law students, particularly at the über-toilets, haven't even heard of Puccini.

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  11. This lady is a narcissistic sociopath.

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  12. I checked my beloved law school's 509 report (The University of South Dakota). For LSAT and UGPA, they have reported 0 at all percentiles.

    WTF? I suspect they're accepting imaginary people now.

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  13. So sick and tired of this self-important, virtue-signaling "mindfulness" and "gratitude" crap - Franzese is hardly performing open-heart surgery or coming up with a cure for cancer. It may have a place in religious practice or charity work, but there is no charity going on in law school, make no mistake.

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    1. Charity begins at home, mother-fuckers. Let the law schools practice a bit of charity. Have Franzese's salary reduced and her workload increased.

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  14. I remember doing Barbri a few summers agothis charlatan. I'd actually go in person to the Barbri live stream lecture. When she did hers on Property, I literally fell asleep because it was so boring.


    She would be singing songs nonstop like a crazy person.
    I don't understand the nerves of these law professors. They wake up everyday knowing that the overwhelming majority of their students will not be meaningfully employed and yet they continue to carry on in their ivy towers writing complete and absolutely worthless scholarship.

    I'm no fan of Trump by any means but I hope the Prosper Act passes so the ABA cartel Mafia get's whats coming to them!

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    1. Maybe you should have thrown ripe tomatoes.

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  15. FCLS is producing diverse leaders for the 21st century's global challenges in an era of transformation.

    You can find FCLS alumni arguing in front of the Supreme Court, at the sidelines of NBA games chatting with the stars they represent, or helping their dolphin clients win crucial civil rights victories.

    Of course, not all FCLS lawyers are so public spirited. The truly ambitious are earning 9-figure salaries in the hot practice area of space law.

    But don't worry if you think the FCLS guys are taking up all the good opportunities, leaving none behind for you. FCLS grads are constantly being poached by Harvard Law School, the White House, and NASA, who struggle to fill their rockets with top legal talent.

    Don't deprive the world of your legal expertise any longer. Protect dolphin's rights. Let them reward you with their undersea pirate treasures that they pay their lawyers with. Or just settle for a job shouting at cowering Supreme Court justices begging for your legal advice.

    Take the LSAT. Score in the 135-145 range. Even color in random bubbles with your Crayola set if you have to. Draw a rainbow across your answer sheet. Just get your student loans to the FCLS team, let Dean Dennis Stone make his car payments, and your awesome career will be awesome.

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    1. Haha, nice. Reads like a LSTC post.

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  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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