What Toilets Can Teach You about Management

  1. Don’t meet a topic head on. Circle around it first. It might be unpleasant at first, but eventually you’ll find deeper meaning. Think Dante here.
  2. Stay focused. Notice that a toilet flushes the same direction every time. That’s consistency.
  3. Fill up your tanks. Be sure to refill your managerial potential. Remember, toilets always have a reservoir of potential. Make sure yours is not depleted.  Otherwise, you might be SOL.
  4. If the seat is up, be sure to lower it. Be considerate of others. This way, no one falls into excrement. In other words, assure that people have a seat at the table and are empowered.
  5. Employees should wash their hands. Wash your hands after a managerial decision. In other words, don’t let yourself get sick over the residual effects of the management process.
  6. Running toilets are wasteful. Don’t pour too much into your management decisions. Remember, there should be a time limit.
  7. Don’t be out of TP.   Contingency planning will help assure that you stay on a roll next time an issue comes up.
  8. Newspapers are sometimes helpful. Background reading can help any managerial decision. Make sure you are prepared for your next management experience.
  9. Don’t accept the false dichotomy of #1 or #2. Remember, management is about synergies.
  10. Locked stalls make for good neighbors. Never get caught with your pants down at a meeting.

With a little help from our friend the toilet, you can be an excellent manager, and perhaps write a management blog post such as this one.

I had a dream last night that Yale changed its grading policy to follow blood types.  Instead of the Honors/Pass method, the grades were A, AB, B, and O (the last category for “Oh my God that’s bad but you’ll still pass”).  Rh factors would apply, too.  Therefore, you could get a grade of AB-.

What made this a nightmare is that Harvard responded by only accepting students with A+ blood type.

It has been a while since I have blogged.   I have been trying to ground myself and focus on what matters, like shopping online.

During a particularly painful faculty meeting under a totalitarian dean, I found myself going fetal.  This lead me to think that maybe something from childhood could give me comfort.

It turns out that many children’s books are written about academia. Some examples:

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: This is a book about a law professor who, after throwing a tantrum that is not tolerated by the Dean and Associate Dean, starts his own institute. Sadly, things get out of hand as he brings more faculty aboard, and he casts himself away from the institute.

THE GIVING TREE: Written from the perspective of a Dean, who, after giving and giving and giving to a particularly needy faculty member, finds she has nothing left to give. This leaves her stumped.   At the end, the faculty member sits on the tree stump, symbolizing the typical governance structure of a university at which faculty members grind deans down.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM: Sam I Am is clearly the harbinger of curricular reform (green eggs and ham). He keeps trying to explain to the faculty that they really would like the changes. The faculty , entrenched in the status quo, refuses. After several faculty meeting no votes, the  faculty  discovers that they like curricular reform.

IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE: Written from the perspective of a Dean who likes to say “no,” (and who has perhaps read The Giving Tree), the book describes what happens if you give a faculty member what he or she wants. While the book is essentially a slippery slope argument, it is a must-read for deans who hate faculty members and like to say no to them.

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU: A story about a faculty hiring committee and a Supreme Court clerk.

THE CAT IN THE HAT: This is the story of why committees are bad. Two bored faculty members, not focused on teaching or scholarship get together with a rabble-rousing faculty member and make much commotion. Of course, not much comes of it.

DRAMA LLAMA: The entirely fictional story of what happens to someone who creates drama at a law school. The Drama Lllama becomes alienated and eventually has no friends. In reality, they are likely to be popular at AALS and even rise to the level of Dean.

If you want to be comforted about your life in academia, I highly recommend these books.

LAW REVIEWS DON’T SUCK! (Excerpt from an article, in draft)

By Lawprofblawg[FN*]

I. INTRODUCTION

The [FN1] notion [FN2] that [FN3] law reviews are awful means of communicating information is just ludicrous.  A recent New York Times article seems to enhance this wrong perception.[FN4].  In this law review article, I explain the reason why law reviews are exceptional at communicating amazing ideas by people seeking tenure and glory, why courts and lawyers are wrong to ignore them, and why the reader (usually a student) should be proud of his or her hard work and therefore publish this 50 page, 600 footnote tome in the Harvard Law Review. . . .

This article will start in earnest with Section II, which describes the history of law reviews.[FN133]  While it is true, this article concludes, that mostly only professors and their friends read the articles contained therein, and law journal editors looking for citations, that law reviews shall rise again, based upon my psychological profiling of Justice Scalia.  Section III builds upon the recitation of stuff you already.  It then suggests that law reviews serve an essential function by providing untenured people with tenure materials and external validation, which is well worth the destruction to the environment caused by the number of trees killed in reprints mailed but never read.  Section IV describes how the Supreme Court uses law review articles for specific purposes, such as stabilizing the tables in their cafeteria and when they are completely at a loss for ideas.  Section V describes how I will somehow come up with something interesting about this process after rehashing what others have done in the previous four sections.  Section VI offers concluding remarks which will look exactly like my introduction and topic sentences from Section V.[FN300] . . . .

[FN*] Venerable Professor of Psycholinguistics and Law, University of Law.  Ph.D., Oxford, J.D. Harvard.  LLM, Yale, SJD Stanford, and M.Phil, Oxford.  The author would like to thank the Justices of Supreme Court for any comments they may have provided, as well as several prominent academics who have over 3,000 Westlaw hits.

[FN1]  Oxford English Dictionary (1999).

[FN2]  Id.  Cf. American Heritage Dictionary (2001).  See also Urban Dictionary, available at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=that.

[FN3] Id.

[FN4] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/law-scholarships-lackluster-reviews.html?hp&_r=1&

….

[FN133]  Gratuitous self-cite in a higher ranked journal.  Hint hint.

[FN300]  All of my own thoughts will be properly cited, referencing prior articles, to keep editors happy.  See Irony, Oxford English Dictionary, supra note 1.

I have kept a log of every law school related nightmare I have ever had. I am pretty sure this is a sign that there were some PTSD-causing events in law school. Oddly, I rarely have dreams about the bar exam. Here are some of the weirdest law school related nightmares:

1. In my colleague’s class.  My students tell me which professors are the worst. In my dream, I am about to take a final in this bad professor’s class. I have never been in this class before, have not studied, and I know full well I’m going to fail.

Waking up from this dream, I think it most likely that professors would fail each other’s exams, as law is particularly specialized. Unless you teach in an area with another professor, a prof would likely fail another prof’s exam.

2. Teaching a subject I dislike/don’t know.  In another instance, I was in front of a class. The students are carrying what are clearly Federal Income Tax books. Now, unless you are a tax professor, this is a nightmare. Sure, I can wax rhapsodic about tax policy and progressive and regressive taxes, but what am I going to do after the first class? The horror…the horror….

This nightmare has compelled me to branch out in my teaching. I don’t like to teach the same courses over and over. I mix it up. I now feel I could teach FIT if compelled to do so. At gunpoint. If there were lives at stake.

3. Why am I not dressed appropriately?  In some nightmares, not only have I returned to law school, but I am missing a vital piece of clothing or two. Often it is my shoes. I’m thinking this signifies that I am trapped. Sometimes, vital accessories are missing, like my laptop or book.

Of course, most students have the feeling that they are missing something. The fear of the unknown is strong, in particular with the first year students. What will the prof ask? What am I supposed to take from this? One thing is clear: Always bring your shoes.

4. The exam is in a different language or is math. I really love it when the exams I’m taking in my nightmares look like something out of a horror flick called “calculus.” Or often times, it’s all Greek to me. Literally. Or maybe Swahili. It doesn’t matter, because there is no way I’m going to pass this exam because I don’t know the language.

5. Feats of Strength.  Yes, exactly like that. I was forced to wrestle my contracts professor over my interpretation of Promissory Estoppel. I was able to defeat him, but the problem then became he cut my grade for bad participation.

6. Infinite Bluebooking. I was forced to edit an article for law review. The problem was that I had to find a source for the word “however.” They refused to let me use a dictionary. To make things worse, it was my article.

7. The Sing along. In one dream, I was force to sing and play guitar in order to keep the students entertained. My inability to play guitar probably would deflect attention from my terrible singing voice.

My take on the dreams is that law school is a transformation process. This is not just some sort of skills training taking place here. It is a fundamental shift, a change in the way you think. Even as you embrace this change, your subconscious rebels against it.

Dear Student,

As the holiday season approaches, at least in the grocery stores, I thought you should know that you might be getting coal in your report card stocking this year.  The reason?  I, your professor, am Santa Claus.

Here’s the thing: I just thought you should know that we professors are not as oblivious as you think we are.  We can tell when you’re not doing what you are supposed to be doing.  Sometimes you are overt, sometimes covert, but it doesn’t matter because we see all.  You aren’t as sly as you think you are, and we’re not as stupid as you think we are.

I know this upsets you.  But…you better not pout!  You better not cry!   I know that you know this already, but there are numerous ways you pout in class.  Passive aggressively staring at the clock, yawning openly without covering your mouth, staring at your computer screen and smiling when I have not said anything funny, and asking “why so much reading?” are great ways to show me you are not ready to be a lawyer.  You won’t do that to your boss.  You won’t dare.  Why do you think it is polite to do it to me?  Because you think I am your father?  Do you think Darth Vader would have put up with that from Luke and Leia?  No.

You better not shout.  Here is something you should know:  Proper vocal tone is important.  Please do not shout in my class.  I’m not deaf, no matter how much I blast my music in my car.  And please do not be that low talker on Seinfeld either.  That’s not confident.

I see when you are sleeping.  I know that sounds NSA-creepy at first, but I am talking about in class.  I know you don’t think it will be annoying to me to put your head down on the desk or in your hand and rest in my class, but I am here to tell you it is rude.  You are telling me I have nothing to offer you.  Depending on my disposition, I will either cold call on you, ignore you until participation is awarded, or mark you absent that day.  It is particularly annoying when you snore.  In that case, I might scare you with the notion that you might have sleep apnea. 

I know when you’re awake.  I know when you are not distracted, when you are paying attention.  I know when you are tracking, and when you are hopelessly lost.  The eyes tell me. 

I know when you’ve been bad or good.  I know when you are instant messaging, on twitter, or e-mailing.  I know when you’re thinking about graduation and job offers (if applicable), and when you’re distracted by the laptop in front of you.  Again, the eyes tell me.  I understand that some distraction might happen, but if you are focused on sports scores, chances are you aren’t focused on what I’m saying in class.  Ask a texting driver in an auto accident about multitasking prowess.  

The upshot of all of this: Be good, for your grade’s sake!

Friends, I am on the search for the best law porn submission.  I will grade them as I receive them, but today I have to start with Northwestern Law School.  Northwestern’s law porn receives only a B.  Let me explain why.

Photography:  All of the faculty profile pics are missing the tops of the faculty heads.  This suggests you are all hiding something.  I suspect cowlicks, even in those who are hair challenged.  Also, some of the pictures are just off visually.  Chicago can be a beautiful city, but the picture on the inside of the cover does not make me feel so.  It is a little grayish, and a bit off center.     

On the plus side, the professors in the classroom shots are all gesticulating.  That is good.  That means they are good and animated teachers, right?  How about a little technology in the classroom?  Every shot shows a dry-erase board. 

The students in the classroom (pages 20-21) were clearly uncoached.  Two seem to be looking at their computer.  One isn’t taking notes, as he has his hand on his face.  One in the middle seems almost joyful.  You need to coach your students.  You are a serious school.  Look relaxed, but intense.  Happy, yet serious.  Cool, but alive.  And always look at the professor over your apparently standard issue Macbooks.  Not a Dell in the classroom!

On page 19, the student in the center has multiple windows open on her laptop.  It’s blurred out, but I think the one behind the top is gmail. 

I’ve decided that I have a crush on Thomas Brennan on page 6.  His silver fox hair and intense stare are dreamy.  I’m going to try to replicate that.

Layout:  There really is a lot of white space between faculty profiles.  The font is very tiny.  If I’m a senior faculty, I’ve lost my ability to read that font long ago without cheaters. 

I’m also concerned you put the previous appointments before faculty scholarship.  Are you saying to me it is more important from where your faculty came than their current achievements?  I know you aren’t a school to rest on your laurels, so I think this sends the wrong message.  Plus, the small font makes me think you’re feeling a little insecure. 

Writing:  The writing is very well done, and I think that saves your grade.  A couple of questions:

“[O]ur faculty members combine to form . . .the most eclectic and balanced mix of legal scholars….” I can’t tell if you are commenting on the mental health of your faculty or not.  I’m very slow about this.  Are you saying that other schools have a more unbalanced faculty?  That might be true of mine, but you don’t know me well enough to say that.

You characterize the main faculty as “residential.”  Of course, this made me look for “commercial” and “industrial” faculty too.  I hope their offices are accordingly zoned. 

Exculpatory language is my thing.  I love at the bottom of the back cover where it says “Northwestern University reserves the right to change without notice any statement in this publication concerning, but not limited to, rules, policies, tuition, fees, curricula, and courses.”

All in all, a good first effort.   I look forward to receiving more law porn from other schools. I’m sure they will all be equally excited about my comments.

 

16 Tons of Reading (sung to the tune Sixteen Tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford)

Some people say a 1L is made out of clay
A 1L is made out of fear and anxie-tay
Reading and writing, all skin and bones
A mind that’s exhausted and a back that’s gone

You read sixteen tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter don’t you call me because I’m afraid,
My scholarship’s running out, and so’s financial aid.

I was born one morning when the sun was still cool
I picked up my books and walked to the school
You read sixteen tons of torts and crim pro
And the profs all say “only 300 more pages to go.”

You read 16 tons, and what do you get?
Another day older and more student debt
St. Peter don’t you call me because I can’t go
I owe my soul to the student bookstore

I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain
Then I read Civ Pro and got a migraine
I was raised to read poetry and fine English prose
Now I read Con Law and I turn my nose

You write sixteen tons, what do you get?
An outline for class you don’t understand yet
St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to a final in Civ Pro.

If you see me comin’, better step aside
If you look at me, might look like I cried
One fist a Mac, the other with Books
If you boast your outline’s finished I’ll give you dirty looks

You write 16 tons, and what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Prof don’t call on me ‘cause I can’t say
What the case is about, or even if it’s Wednesday.

I was reading about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) the other day.  Of course, this made me consult the authority, Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissistic_personality_disorder.  I don’t recall why.  I think I had just had a discussion with a Dean somewhere.  In any event, I started to wonder if I, too, had NPD.  I thought I would share with you my results, symptom by symptom:

  • “Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments.”  I am superior.  I’m not just saying that because I published in a high-ranked law journal and therefore some student at a higher ranked school told me so, but also because I was that student once. See how far I’ve come?  I’m no longer the student who is determining who is awesome, I am the person asking the student to determine my awesomeness.   That’s progress.
  • “Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others.”  I don’t need constant attention.  Okay, yes, I’m constantly on Twitter and occasionally write a blog.  I’ll forward a lot of e-mails, too.  I also write amazing articles.  My students also tell me I’m cool.  But what’s wrong with a little external validation?
  • “Envies others and believes others envy him/her.”  I think that others envy me, but only because they aren’t me.  I mean, I’m awesome.  See points 1 and 2.
  • “Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence.”  Well, when I look in the mirror, particularly when the light shines on my hair just so, I really am freaking hot.  And successful.  I mean, I’m a professor!   What says power more than working at the same job forever?  Just ask any government work (currently available due to furlough) how awesome that is.  The fact that I have this job just proves I’m smart.
  • “Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others.”  That is not at all true of me.  Sometimes, when people tell me that they want me to publish my article, I am seriously in tune with their feelings that I need to publish my works!   And sometimes when students ask really dumb questions in class I merely ignore the questions rather than belittle them.
  • “Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior.”  Did you just call me arrogant?  Who are you to call me arrogant?  That’s just the dumbest thing I’ve heard in the history of dumb.  Really the fact that I’m talking to you right now only suggests how I pity you.  And that kind of compassion can’t be arrogant, right?  QED.
  • “Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic.”  Law professors never have that.  I mean, just the other day I was telling the Dean that I would teach any time he wanted, so long as it was not Thursdays and Fridays, and not before 10:30 a.m. and not after 2:00 p.m.  See how reasonable I am?

So far, I think it is clear I don’t have NPD.  Let’s see if there are other factors.  “Appearing tough minded or unemotional?”  Well, I just don’t let my emotions get in the way of my superior analytic skills.  “Fragile self-esteem?” Not at all.  One time I had a colleague tell me I’m stupid and I just went and read the comments on the back sleeve of my book for a pick me up, and then searched for myself on Google after I stopped crying.

I don’t know whether or not I convinced you I’m not a narcissist. But I convinced myself, and that is all that matters.  I’m so freaking humble, someone really ought to recognize me for that.

Dear Law School:

I have read recently that your Dean has (resigned/been fired/run screaming from the building/been run out on rails/been involved in a rankings scandal). I offer myself up as your new Dean. As the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy points out, the person who is best suited for a position is the person who least wants that responsibility: “It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”

And let me tell you, I don’t want to be your Dean. Therefore, I’m perfect for the job.

As someone who has no administrative experience, let me explain all the ways I will improve your school:
1. I will be a Dean who raises tremendous amounts of money while simultaneously being in my office to hear every single tale of faculty woe.
2. I will ensure that the curriculum meets the changing needs of legal education while ensuring that the faculty still gets to teach the same things they’ve taught for 50 years straight.
3. I will ensure that your school will go up 20 places in the rankings while also assuring that I would never lie about employment numbers and the like.
4. The faculty will publish like never before, and we all know that quantity is an excellent measure of quality.

I point these things out to let you know I’m serious about my offer to be your Dean. Of course, I know there are challenges to the position. For example, I can’t help but notice that your school (receives no support from central campus/is a stand -alone school with no support from anyone/isn’t accredited in an era where there are too many law schools/has armed faculty members who literally killed the last dean/has faculty members who think “change” is a four letter word). I can easily solve this problem by (bribing faculty members with early retirement/using guilt and shame to fund raise from alums who have never paid a dime because they have no jobs and millions of dollars in student loan payments/suing the ABA for failing to accredit our school/vowing to keep everything the same while using key pawns…er, faculty members to propose implementing change).

My successful fundraising drives would go to pay for (faculty raises/scholarships for students who wouldn’t otherwise bother coming here/a shiny castle shaped building with a yellow brick walkway/). I understand that my decision to spend money in this way will be controversial, but I will be successful because (students will build the new building and that will count as employment/I’ll pay the whiniest faculty the highest raises/I’ll steal students from Harvard and Yale with bribes of free education and use them in my law porn).

We can discuss salary and perks later. I look forward to you contacting me for an interview.

Yours truly,

Lawprofblawg

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