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live in person

I’m honored to announce that I’ll be giving a talk in the Frank G. Raichle Lecture Series, part of the pre-law program at Canisius College in western New York. Details here in a press release from the college. Previous speakers in this lecture series include an extraordinary list of legal notables including Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justices O’Connor, Scalia, Ginsburg, and White, among many others such as Alex Kozinski, Harry Edwards, John Langbein, and Randall Kennedy.

Earlier on the same day (October 30) I’ll be addressing the Buffalo Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society.

That was the title of the talk I gave Friday at a panel on food and product labeling law as part of a stimulating symposium put on by the Vermont Law Review at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vt. I drew on a number of different sources, but especially two relatively recent articles: Omri Ben-Shahar and Curt Schneider, “The Failure of Mandated Disclosure,” U. Penn. Law Review (2011), and Kesten C. Green and J. Scott Armstrong, “Evidence on the Effects of Mandatory Disclaimers in Advertising”, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Fall 2012. I was able to bring in examples ranging from patent marking law to Prop 65 in California to pharmaceutical patient package inserts, as well as the durable phenomenon of labels, disclosures, and disclaimers going unread even by very sophisticated consumers.

My talk was well received, and I think I might adapt and expand it in future into a full-length speech for audiences on failures of consumer protection law.

In Ann Arbor on Wednesday

by Walter Olson on September 23, 2013

I’ll be speaking at lunchtime Wednesday, Sept. 25 to the University of Michigan Law School’s Federalist Society chapter, on my book Schools for Misrule. Details here.

  • More details on my panel discussions on food issues next week at the Heritage Foundation [Monday, Sept. 23] and at Vermont Law School [Friday, Sept. 27];
  • “A Ban on Some Italian Cured Meat Is Ending” [Glenn Collins, N.Y. Times] “Market Forces Lead to Better Treatment for Farm Animals” [Steve Chapman]
  • “Tempering temperance: Puritan attitudes on alcohol still linger decades after Prohibition” [National Post]
  • Dozens of class-action suits: “Bay Area courts center of legal battle against food industry” [Mercury-News]
  • “Plain and/or Terrifying Packaging Considered for Junk Food in New Zealand (and Australia)” [Katherine Mangu-Ward]
  • If the dangers of rice aren’t enough to alarm even today’s Margaret Hamburg-headed FDA, they’re probably not very serious [ACSH]
  • North Carolina: home visits to make sure Medicaid recipient kids are eating their veggies? [Rick Henderson video]

Speaking in Baltimore Thursday

by Walter Olson on September 16, 2013

I’m speaking in downtown Baltimore this Thursday at 12 noon about my most recent book, Schools for Misrule. I’ve given versions of this talk many times around the country but I think this marks the first time I’ve done so in my own state of Maryland. It’s free and lunch is served, but you’ll need to RSVP to the Federalist Society Baltimore Lawyers’ Chapter. Details here.

I’m back from a speaking swing through Nebraska. At the University of Nebraska College of Law in Lincoln, I spoke about food and drink paternalism as exemplified by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s initiatives in New York, with Prof. Steven Willborn providing a counterpoint from a more liberal perspective. At Creighton University Law School in Omaha, I spoke (as I often do) on the ideological state of the law schools, drawing on my 2011 book Schools for Misrule, with commentary from Profs. Ralph Whitten and Sara Stadler.

Both events were well attended but I was especially pleased at the strong turnout for the talk in Lincoln on food and the nanny state, a new speech I hadn’t tried out before on a general audience. Here’s a description:

The public is increasingly in revolt against “nanny state” interventions, from Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to limit soda sizes in New York, to efforts to ban Happy Meals in San Francisco. Some thinkers dismiss concern about paternalism as merely trivial and personal, not on a par with issues acknowledged as “serious” such as police abuse, free speech, surveillance, and the proper functioning of the legal system. Left unchecked, however, the project of paternalism quickly generates very serious problems in each of those other areas: it gives police and enforcers great arbitrary power, hands a special government megaphone to some speakers while stifling others, funnels uncomfortably personal information into government hands, and fuels abusive litigation. No matter what you think of potato chips, if your interests are in liberty and good government, you should be paying attention.

I’m next scheduled to speak on the food police Sept. 23 at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion with Baylen Linnekin, Nita Ghei, and J. Justin Wilson, hosted by Daren Bakst. Details here. More on my fall speaking schedule here.

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In Nebraska next week

by Walter Olson on September 4, 2013

I’ll be speaking at the University of Nebraska College of Law on Monday and Creighton University School of Law on Tuesday, both lunchtime addresses sponsored by the Federalist Society. More of my speaking schedule for this fall:

Sept. 17, Washington, D.C., panel moderator, Cato Institute annual Constitution Day.

Sept. 19, Baltimore, Md., Baltimore Lawyers Chapter, Federalist Society.

Sept. 25, Ann Arbor, Mich. University of Michigan Law School, Federalist Society.

Sept. 27, South Royalton, Vt. Vermont Law School conference, “The Disclosure Debates: The Regulatory Power of an Informed Public.”

Oct. 15, Frederick, Md.

Oct. 30, Buffalo, N.Y., Canisius College.

Nov. 7, Baltimore, Md., University of Baltimore School of Law, guest lecture.

Nov. 11, Chicago, Ill. University of Chicago Law School, Federalist Society.

If you’d like me to visit your campus or group, drop me a line. (& welcome Joe Patrice, Above the Law readers)


Mark your calendar to be in Washington, D.C. Sept. 17 for the Cato Institute’s annual Constitution Day. Among the highlights: introductory talks by Cato’s Roger Pilon and Ilya Shapiro, a series of topical panels including many scholars, writers and lawyers oft linked in this space, a preview of next year’s term with star Court-watchers Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSBlog), Marcia Coyle (National Law Journal), and Howard Bashman (How Appealing), and a wrap-up address by Judge David Sentelle on freedom of the press. Full program and registration here.

I’ll be speaking in Indianapolis on Thursday to the lawyer’s chapter of the Federalist Society, at noon at the Conrad Indianapolis, 50 W. Washington. My topic: “Why Do American Law Schools Tilt Left?” Details here.

I’ve also scheduled some extra time for myself in town that day in case anyone would like to introduce themselves before or after, or even take me out for coffee.

This will be a busy fall season for me as I’m set to give speeches or participate on panels in Baltimore, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Canisius College, Nebraska, Creighton, and Vermont, among others. Often I’ll be speaking on my book Schools for Misrule, on legal academia, but I also give speeches on quite a few other themes including the nanny state and the American way of litigation. If you’d like me to visit your campus or group, drop me a line.


  • If you didn’t see my Saturday post previewing the DOMA and Prop 8 cases that reach the Supreme Court this week, I’ve now got a virtually identical version up at the Cato blog.
  • On Wednesday, immediately after the Court’s oral argument in Windsor, I’ll be moderating a panel at Cato with former Republican National Committee head Ken Mehlman (NPR profile), Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson (BuzzFeed profile), and Cato’s Ilya Shapiro (AFF profile). Details and RSVP here. If you’re in DC, don’t miss it! If not, watch live online at and comment via #CatoEvents.
  • A collection of links on the cases is currently headlining the Cato website.
  • I’ll be speaking Wednesday evening about the cases before the Washington, D.C. chapter of Log Cabin Republicans. I also expect to be doing some national broadcast commentary — details to follow.
  • Last week I spoke at a panel in Cato’s social media series with Jimmy LaSalvia (GOProud) and Trevor Burrus (Cato) on conservatives and same-sex marriage, on topics that included the changing poll numbers and demographics. Aside from going through my analysis of November’s election results, I commented on various aspects of the debate such as the difference between civil and religious marriage (“the same as that between a birth certificate and a christening,” I like to say), the non-connectedness of the gay marriage and abortion issues (on which many others seem to agree with me), and the issue of religious exemptions (“As libertarians, we’re ahead of the curve in considering how anti-discrimination law can trample freedom of conscience.”) No video at the moment.
  • By coincidence, that panel happened to be scheduled against a crosstown event making the opposite case at the Heritage Foundation, which suffice it to say is at a very different place from Cato on this topic. On the question of using 11-year-olds to try to tear down other people’s families, by the way, Rob Tisinai at Box Turtle Bulletin has a nice pre-rejoinder to Heritage: “But Gracie, no one is trying to take one of *your* parents away.”
  • I couldn’t help noticing the following from a March 22 Clarus survey of U.S. voters:

    “Do you think each individual state should be allowed to decide whether same-sex couples can legally marry, or not?”

    Should 53%
    Should not 45%

    “Do you think same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, or not?”

    Do 53%
    Do not 43%

    If these figures are to be credited, at least 6% of the voting public (and possibly much more) overlappingly believes both that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, and that “each individual state should be allowed to decide” on that same question. I think it may be time for a refresher course in constitutional law.


At Duke on Friday

by Walter Olson on February 20, 2013

On Friday at Duke Law School, the Duke Forum for Law and Social Change is giving its annual symposium, this year’s subject being legal approaches to obesity prevention. The organizers have kindly invited me to participate in a late morning panel, where my views are likely to differ from those of the other participants; details here.

If you’d like to book me to speak at your own event or campus, contact me directly at editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com, through the Cato Institute’s Events staff, or, if you’re associated with a Federalist Society chapter, through the Society’s national office.

Food and farm roundup

by Walter Olson on February 6, 2013

  • In Washington, DC today? Come to Cato New Media lunch where I’ll be on a panel on the nanny state;
  • Future of food freedom looking brighter these days at state level [Baylen Linnekin] Polls looking good for it, too [same] “The FDA’s Pathetic Food Safety Proposal” [same]
  • “Class claim against Crock-Pot seems a crock” [Sean Wajert]
  • USDA issues proposed rules on vending machine fare and other school “competitive foods” [Lunch Tray, SmarterTimes, Julie Gunlock/IWF (good news: rules don't address bake sales and birthday cupcakes. Bad news: why is this Washington's business at all?)]
  • Lawyer suing Subway over “Footlong” also handled controversial red-light camera action [NJLRA]
  • So, lung, it’s been good to know you: fans of authentic Scottish haggis still vexed by US ban [BBC]
  • “New Year, New Hot Coffee Case” [Abnormal Use]

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Here’s the video of our Wednesday event at which author Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.) discussed his book Failing Law Schools. Neal McCluskey (Cato) and Paul Campos (Colorado) commented, and I moderated. We’ve had lots of appreciative comments from those who’ve watched, and I wholeheartedly endorse the book, which is persuasive in both its analysis and its recommendations.

More: After the panel, Megan McArdle of Newsweek/Daily Beast interviewed Prof. Campos on the latest bad numbers for law schools. Other comments include Paul Caron/TaxProf, Stephen Diamond of Santa Clara University (disapproving of Cato and the panelists) and Constitutional Daily here, here and here (differing sharply with Diamond).

And: Cato Daily Podcast (audio) with Prof. Tamanaha.


Law schools roundup

by Walter Olson on January 11, 2013

  • In Washington next week? Be sure to register for Brian Tamanaha’s speech at Cato Jan. 16 on his book Failing Law Schools (more). I’ll be moderating and Paul Campos and Neal McCluskey will comment. Or watch live;
  • Lawsuit claims man was defamed by portrayal in law review article [Caron]
  • “How law schools evade market competition” [George Leef, Minding the Campus; Lawrence Velvel, Minding the Campus] Paul Campos, “The Crisis of the American Law School” [SSRN, U. Mich. JLR, PDF] “Law Dean Takes to the NYT Op-Ed Page to Blame Media for Declining Law School Applications” [Above the Law]
  • Terms used to describe NYU School of Law in a Washington Examiner column [Althouse]
  • St. Louis U.: “Trial Lawyer Does Double Duty as SLU Law Dean While Winning $25M in Settlements” [ABA Journal]
  • Law reviews criticized, defended [Inside Higher Ed: John Browning, Brian Farkas]
  • Law schools’ faculty “poaching” ban would attract antitrust notice were ordinary businesses to try it [Thom Lambert]

Mark your calendar! On January 16 at noon in Washington, D.C., Prof. Brian Tamanaha of Washington University will speak at a Cato Book Forum on his much-acclaimed new book, Failing Law Schools. Commenting will be Neal McCluskey, who directs Cato’s program on education policy, and University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, like Tamanaha a celebrated critic of the American law school scene. I’ll be moderating. The event in Washington, D.C. is free and open to the public; details on how to register here.

From the event description:

For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis.

We’ve often cited the work of Profs. Tamanaha and Campos in this space and linked to reviews and discussions of Failing Law Schools here, here, here, here, here, and here. National Jurist just named Prof. Tamanaha as #1 on its list of the year’s most five most influential people in legal education. See you there on Jan. 16!


Welcome BBYO students

by Walter Olson on December 4, 2012

I spoke this morning at University of Maryland Hillel on the paradoxes of the federal school lunch program, on a panel with Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women’s Forum. You can read more about the school lunch program here.

I much enjoyed my trip there last week, sponsored by the Federalist Society chapter and with Prof. Jacqueline Fox providing a spirited counterpoint to my remarks on Schools for Misrule. The school has posted a Facebook photo album of the event.

Speeches in October

by Walter Olson on September 27, 2012

I’ll be speaking at these five law schools in October, sponsored by the Federalist Society and at lunchtime unless otherwise specified:

Oct. 2, Lewis and Clark, Portland, Ore., debating Prof. Henry Drummonds, on federal quotas on disabled hiring (more).

Oct. 3, University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore., on tort law and the “invisible fist” theory (U of O calendar).

Oct. 9, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C., on Schools for Misrule, debating Prof. Jacqueline Fox (Facebook event page, FedSoc).

Oct. 29, Boston University, Boston, Mass., topic to be announced.

Oct. 30, New England School of Law, on tobacco litigation, debating Ilana Knopf.

To inquire about having me speak to your group, email editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com.