I am taking the course on federal courts this semester. Often professors have reputations that precede them. Fed courts is one of the few courses with its own reputation: for being obtuse, difficult, tedious, impenetrable, etc. This seemingly stretches across schools. Nobody likes fed courts.
I don’t dislike fed courts–it doesn’t meet Thursdays, and the class time passes reasonably swiftly–I just have no idea what it’s about. A law course usually has at its core, you know, some topic of law.
Whereas fed courts takes all these fiddly, annoying bits of con law, civil procedure and criminal procedure, sticks them together and calls it a 4-credit course. A local diner I frequent has a dish called the Big Mess where they take all the overcooked stuff that’s been sitting on the griddle, throw it into a bowl and you eat it. That’s fed courts.
Worse still, if you dislike reading supreme court opinions (I do–they’re boring) this course treats you to some of the most confusing, tangled opinions ever written.
Also, though it’s called “federal courts”, it’s just as much about state courts and how the two systems interact. So really, it should be called “Courts”. If that sounds like a less-than-concise topic for 14 weeks of classes, you’re right.
04 Apr 06
Before law school, you hear a lot about how hierarchical the legal profession is. I didn’t believe it then. But I do now.
What happens is you compete in one hierarchy to figure out which hierarachy you get to compete in next. Near as I can tell, even if you get to be partner at a big firm, it’s still a competitive situation. Partners are expected to bring in business to justify their profit participation, and when they don’t, they can still get kicked out.
Hierarchy is often treated as a concept that’s interchangeable with competition, which it’s not. Hierarchy implies something more–that there’s a prescribed path you have to follow to move ahead. Even if you’re extremely good at what you do, you have to move at the prevailing pace. (Conversely, even those who are not so good get moved along by momentum)
What I didn’t expect was that prevailing culture of hierarchy would pour over into the law school faculty, for two reasons: 1) most law school professors left jobs in private practice to teach and 2) if you have life tenure, doesn’t that take the edge off?
But no. Cursory examination reveals that profs are quite aware of each other’s publishing habits & teaching evaluation scores. An acting prof wants tenure. A tenured prof wants a casebook. A prof with a casebook wants a corner office. A prof with a casebook and corner office wants to be a dean. A dean wants to be chancellor.
And so it goes.
06 Apr 06
An actual question from the October 1939 California bar exam. I came across it in a case brought against the state bar by a student who had failed. Cows! Bootlegging! Good times!
Peters owned two cows, Nellie and Bossy, which he grazed upon his ranch, Blackacre. Nellie was stolen in August, 1935, by a neighbor, Daniels, who regularly used her in his dairy until September, 1937, at which time he sold her by bill of sale to one Smith, who was unaware of her previous theft by Daniels. Smith has since kept her together with a calf to which she gave birth in October, 1937.
Bossy was wrongfully converted by Daniels in August, 1938. Peters secured a judgment for her value against Daniels in July, 1939, but has been unable to collect anything thereunder.
In August, 1939, one Jones removed some grain worth $ 100 from Blackacre in the honest belief that the particular area from which the grain was taken was part of an adjoining tract which he had leased. Jones has made liquor worth $ 210 from the grain.
All of the above facts occurred in the State of Magenta, which has a statute providing that an action for the recovery of personal property must be commenced within three years. In October, 1939, Peters asks you whether he is entitled to recover either by suit or peaceable self help:
(1) Nellie and her calf from Smith
(2) Bossy from Daniels
(3) The liquor or the value thereof from Jones
Staley v. State Bar of California, 17 Cal. 2d 119 (1941).
06 Apr 06
There are a lot of professional activities that involve the display of personal bios. What I didn’t start out life realizing, until I spoke at a conference, is that everybody writes their own bio.
Maybe because bios utilize the third-person voice we assume they come from an actual third person. But of course, they don’t. As it turns out, there is no situation where there’s a staff biographer who takes your resume, conducts a brief phone interview, and then dashes off a pithy summary of your life and career. That’s true of obituaries. But not bios.
Once you know this, you might cultivate (as I have) a hobby of reading bios. Anywhere, anytime. Once you know they’re all self-penned, they take on a whole new dimension. A bio represents a person’s opinion of how they wish to be seen by the outside world, a rare chance to play Boswell to their own reflexive Johnson.
This is especially true with faculty bios. When a professor writes that he is “beloved by generations of students”, that’s not a statement put there by the school administration. He wrote it. True or not.
I will go through the UCLA law bios and post some of the better nuggets for you.
09 Apr 06
Choice tidbits from UCLA faculty (auto)biographies.
“a nationally recognized criminal law and procedure scholar ... [has] achieved national prominence”
“a prolific scholar”
“As a law student, he felt it his duty to keep levity in the classroom, a practice he continues as a teacher, earning him the gratitude of his students.”
“a pioneer ... [who] has published pioneering clinical scholarship”
“Professor ... enjoys music of all kinds and has a large and varied CD collection. Equally large and varied is his collection of (inanimate) ducks and geese.”
“Before law school, [professor] enjoyed a series of brief and ill-paid careers”
“[Professor’s] articles have stirred debates in the Yale, Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Michigan law reviews”
“His interests include Christian theology and sports.”
“Current research interests include ... a philosophical exploration of a form of Confucian communitarianism as an alternative to western liberal democracy.”
“Believing he is really a jazz guitarist in a law professor’s body...”
“listed ... as the third most cited law professor among those who entered teaching after 1992.”
“For seven years, he guided the school with exceptional judgment, enhancing the school’s national reputation, and engendering the collegial spirit that continues today.”
“To escape the weather in Los Angeles, [prof] visits at other law schools.”
And our winner, uneditable in its logorrheic perfection:
“In the classroom, he seeks to situate the material of his courses in its historical context, to emphasize how law invariably requires one to choose between competing theories and normative values, and to illustrate the extent to which mesmerizing, value-laden issues are frequently embedded in the seemingly dry, technical issues that permeate the law.”
P.S. Sorry that took me a while. If this blog is ever not updated frequently enough for your tastes, you may want to try this one.
14 Apr 06
I know very little about how you go from being an acting professor to getting tenure. I assume it has something to do with the appointments committee deciding whether you might turn out to be an important person in your field. In other words, the same crapshoot as law school admissions.
Let’s check in on our acting professors and see if they’re putting nose to grindstone and getting some shit published. I’m only counting law review articles or books published after they left law school–you can’t coast on student work forever, kids. I’m not counting book reviews either.
Let’s rank the field!
UPDATE 4/24: Russell “The Muscle” Robinson has updated his bibliography and moves up two spots.
The Top Producers:
1. Mark Greenberg: 12 articles (6 of which were published while at UCLA, 2nd yr teaching here)
2. Scott Cummings: 11 articles (7 at UCLA, 4th yr)
3. Adam Winkler: 10 articles (3 at UCLA, 4th yr)
The Middle Class:
4. Victor Fleischer: 6 articles (4 at UCLA, 3rd yr)
5. Iman Anabtawi: 4 articles (3 at UCLA, 6th yr)
6. Maximo Langer: 8 articles, but only 3 in english & concerning US law (3 at UCLA, 3rd yr)
17 Apr 06
UCLA has moved neither up nor down to #15 on the new US News rankings. Of course, this is hardly adequate for a press release, so our PR office came up with this marvelous (and factually unsupportable) spin:
UCLA School of Law moves up half a spot to claim sole placement at 15th in this year’s U.S.News & World Report survey of law schools.
Yeah, I didn’t see where the U.S. News folks were awarding rankings in 1/2 units. I think they limit themselves to integers.
I also don’t follow the “moving up” logic. If you and I have waistlines of 33 inches, and you lose an inch, according to UCLA law I have actually gained 1/2 an inch. Um, yeah.
15 Apr 06
I want to thank the nice folks at GoToTrafficSchool.com for letting me rehabilitate my good name after my U-turning incident in Glendale. I recommend it for those of you also seeking to avoid points on your license.
I won’t tell you how fast I completed the course, as I think it’s meant to be gently savored over a whole day. But it’s a pass / fail situation, and what matters is the outcome, right?
18 Apr 06
I’m not quite sure why the SBA is bothering with an ‘election’ as all the candidates seem to be running uncontested. My recommendation is not to vote. What difference can it make?
Let’s look at the candidate statements and see what this year’s candidates have in store for us...
No, actually, I can’t do it. Sorry. I tried. It’s so stupid I don’t even have the energy to mock them. The cruelest thing you could possibly call an SBA candidate is ‘SBA candidate’. Where can I really go from there.
Anyways, Wings & Vodka already nailed it.
21 Apr 06
Another potential source of 3L impatience is the growing suspicion that your professors are not really that much smarter than you.
What is the difference between a law student and a law professor, after all? Don’t say “experience as a lawyer”, because that’s definitely not true. If your professors were lawyers, they usually spent 1-3 years at a firm, doing whatever mindless grunt work you’ll be up to this summer.
You already know that professors tend to be mystified about any area of the law not relating to their own field of research. After your first year of classes, you know as much about torts as 93% of your law professors (nobody seems to choose torts as an academic specialty). We’ll call this a horizontal knowledge limitation.
What about in their fields of expertise? Maybe, maybe not. I get the sense that there is also a vertical limitation–a law prof who’s taught 1L civil procedure for 20 years knows it better than you ever will. But if you go take Federal Courts, you’ll probably have the drop on him when it comes to Article III standing.
Is it the quality of their ideas and writing ability, manifested in their law review articles? Well dude, tell you what. Go read a few articles by your favorite professors and tell me if a) the quality of the ‘scholarship’ corresponds to the quality of the class experience and b) if you’re generally blown away by their brilliance. I’m betting you’ll either be bored silly, or just mystified, as the topic seems to be targeted at a minuscule community of interest.
I don’t say this to knock law professors. What would we do without them? I just mean that the progress into 3L is a little bit like pulling the curtain back on the Wizard of Oz, inch by inch. Law professor = professional law student? You tell me.
24 Apr 06
Here is the actual ballot for today’s SBA “election”.
I guess the advantage of only having one candidate in every category (except for 3L rep, for which there aren’t enough for the available positions) is that it removes the illusion that there’s any difference between them.
25 Apr 06
Epilogue 8: Buy my book
Epilogue 7: Recessionaires cont'd
Epilogue 6: Schill quits UCLA
Epilogue 5: recessionaires
Okay, I lied. Epilogue 4
Epilogue 3: The End (really)
Epilogue 2: Nov 2007
The eagle has landed
Seduced by the dark side
You've been in law school too long when...
I have only five more class days
The lone gunman
The last spring break is over
Someone saved your life tonight
Dean Schill & the Pussymobile
Help me yet again