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Schools for Misrule

Cato has posted the audio of my appearance with Jim Bohannon on his highly ranked national radio show to discuss Schools for Misrule.

P.S. Thanks also to Kyle Graham for the mention in his post on historical trends in law school curriculum.

George Leef wonders whether economic necessity will drive them to radical, even Olsonian, lengths. [NRO "Phi Beta Cons"]

P.S. Ann Althouse wonders why, quizzed about the Elizabeth Warren brouhaha, law school administrators don’t have the courage of their oft-expressed convictions on minority recruitment. And see thoughts from John Rosenberg and Hans Bader at Minding the Campus.

Walter Russell Mead weighs in ["First, Let’s Indenture All The Lawyers," The American Interest] Federal student loan program serves as enabler of insane law student debt burdens [Brian Tamanaha, "The Quickly Exploding Law Student Debt Disaster," Balkinization via Caron] Related: “Judge Tosses Lawsuit against Law School over Employment Stats” [WSJ Law Blog, WLF "Legal Pulse", earlier] “Remedies for Unreasonably Defective Law Schools” [Frances Zacher, Abnormal Use, more] And: A. Benjamin Spencer (Washington & Lee), “The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective” [SSRN via Caron]

Also, another review of Schools for Misrule is out, this one from Bradley Watson in the Claremont Review.

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More grist for a revised/expanded edition of Schools for Misrule:

“At Howard, they tell us as soon as we get there, ‘If you’re going to be a lawyer, you’re either a social engineer or a parasite on society.’ … that’s how I think about life, is to be a social engineer, and that’s what my parents always were trying to be,” he said.

Kevin Cunningham, quoted on MSNBC (& Hans Bader).

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Legal academia, and the sector of legal journalism most closely aligned with its views, is too remote from practice, too wrapped in theory and too far left to have a good feel for how the current Supreme Court approaches legal issues. Thus argues Jonathan Adler, who notes that “In some corners, it’s more important to reconcile one’s claims with the writings of John Rawls than the opinions of John Roberts.” More: Mike Rappaport (noting that the right too has been influenced by legal academia’s “preference for broad overarching theories,” as on originalism), Peter Suderman, David Bernstein.

Stephen Richer has some thoughts about why it was so easy for many law professors to miss the mood of the Supreme Court and of the country. Also some very kind words on Schools for Misrule [Forbes] And: don’t miss Jonathan Adler’s take.

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The Times devotes a front page profile to the Georgetown law professor (and Cato colleague),who is more closely identified than any other thinker with the legal case against ObamaCare’s individual mandate. (More: ABA Journal, Bernstein/Volokh, Chicago Reader.) I’ve known Prof. Barnett and admired his work for longer than I can remember and this gives me the chance to point out self-servingly that he also wrote one of the very nicest blurbs for my book Schools for Misrule:

“While the public loves to bash lawyers, judges, and politicians, law professors have escaped all blame. Olson provides the inside story of how progressive political ideology became the reigning orthodoxy of elite legal education, providing the legal theories responsible for an overweening government committed to mandating, prohibiting, or regulating every aspect of American life in the ‘public interest.’ I wish I could say he exaggerates but, sadly, the legal foundation of the road to serfdom was devised by law professors.”

— RANDY E. BARNETT, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory, Georgetown Law Center; author of Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

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Law school roundup

by Walter Olson on March 19, 2012

Many links that tend to harmonize with arguments made in Schools for Misrule, along with a few others:

Atlanta readers: a reminder that I’ll be speaking today at 12:15PM at Emory Law School, 1301 Clifton Rd. The closest visitor parking is at the Emory Hospital (map). Also speaking will be Prof. George Shepherd, who’s written extensively on legal education and law and economics and is co-author of the interesting new paper, “Law Deans in Jail” (and you thought I was the one critical of law schools). The Federalist Society chapter is sponsoring.

My spring speaking schedule

by Walter Olson on February 7, 2012

I’ll be traveling quite a bit this spring speaking on my book Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America. Unless otherwise specified, the talks will be at Federalist Society student chapters. At some, a faculty member will be commenting or debating me. There’s still time to add more events, so if you’d like to book me, email editor – at – overlawyered – dot – com. And if my travels bring me to your own hometown or nearby, please feel free to drop me a line — sometimes my arrival/departure schedule leaves extra time for meeting friends old or new.

Feb. 14 Fordham (NYC, with Prof. Zephyr Teachout)
Feb. 22 Brooklyn Law School (midday)
Feb. 22 Yale (New Haven; evening, with Prof. John Fabian Witt)
Feb. 27 Syracuse
Feb. 28 Cleveland/Marshall
Mar. 1 Pitt
Mar. 7 Emory (Atlanta)
Mar. 19 Boston U.
Apr. 11 Vanderbilt (Nashville)

Schools for Misrule roundup

by Walter Olson on January 20, 2012

Maryland professor of mathematics emeritus Ron Lipsman reviews my book at The Intellectual Conservative, calling it “penetrating,” “comprehensive and detailed”:

He traces, in mostly a chronological fashion, how progressive philosophy and leftist ideology at first seeped into and eventually flooded the halls of American law schools. He begins by pointing out that law schools became well established on American campuses precisely during the so-called Progressive Era, 1890-1914. The law schools’ newfound prominence dovetailed nicely with the advent of professional licensure in America. By that I mean the process by which the heretofore free-for-all entry of individuals into numerous professions and vocations began to be subject to government (or government-sanctioned) certification. This became common a century ago in various American businesses and industries – from meat slaughtering to pharmacy, from barbering to chauffeuring, from teaching to medicine. Well, there was no reason to exempt lawyering from the process. And so the country’s law schools became the gatekeepers for the nation’s legal profession. Thus the faculty at the nation’s law schools – especially, those of the elite variety – obtained control over the training and philosophical outlook of the nation’s lawyers. Since we are a country under the rule of law, those who control the lawyers thereby control the law and thus the country to a great extent….

Olson’s style is actually quite engaging. Although he treats deadly serious issues with the earnestness that they deserve, he manages to maintain an understated, even restrained tone, which if anything makes his arguments more dramatic.

At Liberty Fund’s newly launched Library of Law and Liberty, lawprof/blogger Mike Rappaport after listening to my interview resolved to put the book on his reading list, having not previously appreciated how central the role of the Ford Foundation has been in influencing the schools’ development. For more on that role — as well as that of other donors like George Soros and nonprofit groups like the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) — see Scott Walter’s interesting essay in Philanthropy Daily, which includes a link to SfM.

Admit it: you want an electronic copy of Schools for Misrule for your e-reader. No problem: there are great bargains in the Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble/Nook or Google e-books versions, the Kindle version, and the Sony version. Also check out the e-books at the Cato store, on offer this month at great savings with the code “EBOOKSALE.”

P.S. Ted Lacksonen picks up on the book’s oral-tradition “Yale Law School Anthem” (“Don’t Know Much About Property…”).

The great people at Liberty Fund have just launched a new website called Library of Law and Liberty that promises to be of much interest. Among its debut features: a substantial audio interview in which Richard Reinsch, editor of the site, asks me about my book Schools for Misrule and law schools’ role in reform movements since the Progressive Era. Outstanding legal scholars Michael Greve (AEI) and Mike Rappoport (University of San Diego) will be blogging for the site. Other front-page attractions include Michael Greve discussing his new book The Upside Down Constitution, my Cato colleague John Samples reviewing Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule’s new book on executive power, Ilya Somin on federalism and individual freedom, and Philip Hamburger and commenters on judicial review.

You can listen to my audio interview on Schools for Misrule at this link.

Update: Adam Liptak covers this case today in the New York Times and generously quotes me:

Walter Olson, a fellow at the Cato Institute, the libertarian group, and the author of “Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America,” said there was nothing unusual about the number of Republicans on Iowa’s law faculty.

“What would count as freakish would be to find two dozen registered Republicans on a big law faculty,” Mr. Olson said. “Law schools are always setting up committees and task forces to promote diversity on their faculty, which can serve to conceal an absence of diversity in how people actually think.”…

Mr. Olson said he had mixed feelings about the Eighth Circuit’s decision, saying it may have identified an instance of a real problem while allowing it to be aired in the wrong forum.

“I have serious misgivings about asking the courts to fix this through lawsuits,” Mr. Olson said. “It threatens to intrude on collegiality, empower some with sharp elbows to sue their way into faculty jobs, invite judges into making subjective calls of their own which may reflect their assumptions and biases, all while costing a lot of money and grief.”

“At the same time,” he added, “there’s a karma factor here. Law faculties at Iowa and elsewhere have been enthusiastic advocates of wider liability for other employers that get sued. They’re not really going to ask for an exemption for themselves, are they?”

(& Althouse, Leef/Phi Beta Cons, Horwitz, Instapundit, State Bar of Michigan, Bainbridge, Elie Mystal/Above the Law, Kent Scheidegger/Crime and Consequences, Andrew Kloster/FIRE and earlier, Federalist Society blog, earlier)

[Original post:]

“A woman who alleges she was denied a job at the University of Iowa College of Law because of her conservative politics can proceed with a discrimination lawsuit against the school’s former dean, a federal appeals court ruled [last month].” [WSJ Law Blog, Ryan Koopmans/On Brief: Iowa Appellate Blog, Risch/PrawfsBlawg, Ilya Somin/Volokh (arguing "that ideological discrimination in faculty hiring by state universities doesn't violate the Constitution")] The court found it significant that of approximately fifty professors who vote on faculty hiring matters at the school, per the lawsuit’s allegations, “46 of them are registered as Democrats and only one, hired 20 years ago, is a Republican.” (Who was the one?)

In Schools for Misrule last year, I made the case that prominent law schools suffer from an egregious ideological imbalance, to the point where their own declared mission suffers in a number of ways. Beyond that, I agree that there is a particular logic in asking government-run institutions, such as the University of Iowa, to be open to a plurality of legitimate viewpoints. Even so — as readers who remember an earlier book of mine, The Excuse Factory, will have guessed — I have severe doubts that lawsuits by disappointed job applicants will really do much to improve fairness in the workplace and counteract arbitrariness in hiring decisions. Such lawsuits seem equally likely to provide a legal weapon to contentious applicants whether or not their talents are clearly superior, invite outside arbiters to apply subjective standards of their own, and take a great toll in collegiality, time, expense and emotional wear and tear, all while encouraging defensive employment practices that help no one. Still, this is not the view of law faculties at places like Iowa, which have tended to cheer on the expansion of employer liability year after year with great enthusiasm. So it may be rather hard for them to mount a convincing complaint when they are made to drink from the cup they have prepared for the rest of society.

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Practicing lawyer and University Bookman editor Gerald Russello has a perceptive (and favorable) review (PDF) of my book Schools for Misrule in Academic Questions, the journal of the National Association of Scholars. More here.

The story, by David Segal, is here, and yes, I did get there first earlier this year in chapter 3 of my book Schools for Misrule (which you can now take a closer look at through Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book” feature). Reaction from legal academia to Segal’s piece has been largely negative (Matt Bodie/Prawfs, Adler roundup), but Orin Kerr argues:

there’s an underlying point that I think is both important and correct: Law professors, at especially the “top” law schools, are becoming less connected to the legal profession. As a result, over time, they are less likely to know — and therefore less able to teach — the perspective an experienced lawyer would bring to legal problems.

And here is John Steele in the comments section at Prawfs:

Guys, lighten up. The article goes a little overboard here and there but for a general audience readership covers a lot of ground accurately. If “man bites dog” is what makes for news, the fact that students rack up $150,000 in debt and have no clue about mergers get done is news. It’s not news for those of us in practice or law schools or an in-house law departments, but it’s certainly news for the general audience.

Gideon Kanner sees an ideological angle.

P.S. So does Hans Bader. And John Steele amplifies his comments, while Rick Garnett weighs in on the anti-Segal side. Further: Erik Gerding.

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“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is accusing the SeaWorld parks of keeping five star-performer whales in conditions that violate the 13th Amendment ban on slavery. SeaWorld depicted the suit as baseless.” The action may further an “ongoing, intense debate at America’s law schools over expansion of animal rights.” [AP; related on that academic background, including the role of star lawprofs like Cass Sunstein and Larry Tribe, here, here, here, and here]

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Pejman Yousefzadeh and Kevin Holtsberry interviewed me about my new book Schools for Misrule and you can hear the resulting podcast here (& RedState, Big Government, Twitter mentions).

August 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 12, 2011

  • More reviews of Schools for Misrule: Counterpoint (U. of Chicago), Wilson Trivino at PurePolitics.com;
  • “Cops Collar 12 Year Old for “Walking Alone” in Downtown Toronto” [Free-Range Kids] Cop tells mom kids under ten “by law are not allowed outside unsupervised except in their parents’ yard.” [western Maryland, same]
  • As lawmakers seek budget cuts, school finance litigators are on the march to counter their plans [WSJ Law Blog]
  • Wouldn’t waive regs: “U.S. blocks $1 million Italian supercar” [CNN Money]
  • You see, entrepreneurial suit-filing does create jobs: “Hike in Wage-and-Hour Litigation Spurs Demand for Calif. Employment Law Associates” [ABA Journal] How U.S. Congress devastated American Samoa through minimum wage hikes [Mark Perry]
  • CCAF objects in Sirius class action settlement [PoL, earlier]
  • “The Phantom Menace of Sleep Deprived Doctors” [Darshak Sanghavi, NY Times Magazine]

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