Archives for the month of: July, 2012

If you were involved in a childbirth (note to men: you really can’t relate), you know that often times birthing classes discuss using guided imagery.  Of course, guided imagery is to aid in calming pre-birth anxiety. No one really ever does it during the course of childbirth:  That’s where the drugs come in.  Nonetheless, let us try to walk through a guided imagery for a committee proposal, shall we?

Let us start by getting comfortable.  Close your eyes.  Take a few deep, cleansing breaths to get relaxed.

Imagine yourself walking through an easily navigable path in a forest.  All around you are beautiful trees and foliage.  All flora and fauna are in perfect harmony here.  You can return from this path any time you wish, but you can also enjoy the path of tranquility as you walk along it.  You are alone, you and the members of your committee.  At the top of the path are the remaining faculty members, to whom you are delivering the beautiful flower in your hand known as “the proposal.”

As you walk, the gentle breeze caresses your face.  The sun warms you.  Everyone is in harmony. 

All of a sudden, one of the faculty members, with whom you are supposed to meet at the end of the trek, appears to block your path.  He shouts “TYPO!  TYPO!”   You remain calm, realizing that everyone has had typos before.  You fix the typos and move calmly past the professor.  You feel satisfied by your ability to help your colleague get past the typos.  You rest by a nice tree watching the stream nearby.

As you rise from your rest, another colleague appears on the path.  This one shouts “Section 3 of the proposal is harmful to the world!”  You address the reasons for Section 3, helping your colleague understand why it is there.  Your colleague moves to remove Section 3, and you realize that the colleague is happier for having carved out a pound of flesh.  This makes you happy, and you continue along the path.

You are close to your destination now.  You see your colleagues, eager to hear your ideas and embrace the wisdom of your proposal.  As your colleagues debate the merits, you calmly realize that the outcome does not matter.  You did your job.  As your colleagues attempt to rewrite important, well-thought out provisions during the brief faculty meeting group writing session, you feel no pride in authorship, knowing you have fulfilled the important function of delivery of the goods along the well-trodden path.  Soon, this will all be forgotten.  Like the Giving Tree, all that remains of the proposal is the stem.

You will revisit this path time and time again throughout your career.  Enjoy the beauty of the path, with no heed to the outcome.

 

I have at least one reader!  He sent me a portion of an article he is writing.  It seems to fit in with the spirit of this blog.  Here it is:

“Dear Top 10 Law Review,

I have carefully considered publishing in your journal my article “Acrobatics in the Supreme Court: A Contortionist View of Constitutional Law” (alternative title: I need to publish in a top 10 law review for tenure and for external validation to boost my self-esteem). Unfortunately, I am unable to submit the article for publication to you. As you know, there are approximately three billion law journals under my consideration, and I am only able to publish one to three articles per year. As a consequence, I must reject many fine journals that might give my piece “thoughtful” or “careful” consideration.

Unlike the standard form rejection letters that I have received from you and other journals in the past, allow me to take the time to express the problem I have with submitting to fine journals such as yours.

In my previous rejection letter from you, you stated that you had “carefully considered” my article. This I found to be interesting, as I had just submitted the article via ExpressO the previous day. Thus, your careful consideration took less than twenty-four hours. Other journals took mere hours.

It is possible that you read my piece in a twenty-four hour period, but I really do not think a single reading of an article is “careful consideration.” Were my ideas whacky? Did the conclusions follow from the foundations I established? Was my proposed remedy too extreme? Did you think that it just was unworkable? I will never know because you simply cannot provide me with that type of information. As you point out, you receive over 3,000 submissions a year. If you are “carefully considering” all of those, then you are likely devoting your enormous staff of hundreds to reading each and every piece “carefully.”

You are not the only article editor who is so remarkably efficient in careful review and consideration of elaborate and complex pieces. In the course of 24 hours, I received five rejections from your peer schools, suggesting that they are equally efficient rivals in terms of reading articles rapidly and giving them thoughtful consideration.

Between you and me, I don’t really think you read them. Even if you tried to convince me all the editors took a speed reading course.

Some people have suggested that you don’t really read the 3,000 articles you receive each year (within the twenty four hour window). Some have suggested that you use proxies in lieu of actually reading the article. Such proxies might include the school from which the author hails, the educational background of the author, whether the author is an academic or a practitioner, and whether or not the author has a publication history.

I fail on the first two grounds. I don’t at an Ivy League school. I teach at a very fine school, but you lack information sufficient to make that determination.

Also, I graduated from the University of Inner City, which by all accounts is a fine school not covered at all in Ivy. I do not know where it falls in the U.S. News and World Report Rankings. It is a fine institution in a city of great renown. Sadly, I suspect that you might be uncomfortable with the interdisciplinary forms of education that might come from living in such an urban environment, choosing instead the familiar—people hailing from your own institutions.

I am sure you are aware of the serious problem of using as a proxy the school of origin of the professor. If you view the school as a signal of quality, then by publishing those professors from higher ranked schools you are actually reinforcing the ranking mechanism. Your “proxy” for quality is the same sort of one that is causing me to write to you on a poorly functioning computer of popular renown, disrupting my writing process. The use of the school of origin is problematic for the same reasons.

By the way, you have given me and every other law professor a brilliant idea on how to cut our grading time. We should just give grades based upon the undergraduate school of the student! Doesn’t that sound reasonable? Or would you prefer we actually grade your exam on its merits?

I hope I will consider sending future articles to you. Then again, I might just invert the whole U.S. News Rankings and submit to the bottom tier. They are all on Westlaw and Lexis too, right? They might even have time to read my article given that they receive fewer submissions.

Sincerely,

Me”

A Generic Job Posting For Every Law School

Wanted: The University of [Insert your school’s name here] seeks exciting and energetic scholars to replace those on our faculty who have bolted or who have retired.  The ideal candidate will be:

  1. From Harvard or Yale
  2. In the top 1% of the class
  3. Editor of the Law Review
  4. A clerk for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice
  5. Have three years of practice experience in a big law firm that hasn’t gone under
  6. A Ph.D. in something cool
  7. A capacity to publish interdisciplinary work in the top ten law reviews (not peer-reviewed)
  8. Teach our students whatever he or she wishes to teach, in perpetuity

Preferences will be for those who teach the following valuable educational experiences for our students: Comparative Law of Yak Herding, Ocean and Coastal Law of Iowa, the Law of the Sea as Learned From Moby Dick, Constitutional Law and the Planet of the Apes, Morality in the Law and Why It Is Harder to Find Than Waldo, The Law of an Obscure Island I Visited Once On Vacation And Which I’m Using as a Tax Write-off, Law & (Any Course listed as an Undergraduate Course, including Scuba Diving).

I know none of you have done this before, but I thought I would try to answer my spam e-mails.  Rather than bother them personally, I thought I would do it here.  NOTE:  Because this is a family-friendly blog, I will replace one of the most important male body parts (the one that causes meetings to sometimes go longer than is necessary or drive very large trucks) with “Professor Happy.”

Email #1 From “Jim”:  “Professor Happy” enlargement.  Act now, improve your love life!

My Response:  Thank you for your concern.  As you know, the most exciting thing a professor can ever do is write.  There is nothing more gratifying, except maybe having some actually read what we write (Preferably someone famous (in academia this is defined as someone with more citations than me on Westlaw and Lexis)).

Now, that does cut against the advice I received from one colleague a long time ago.  When I told him I enjoyed teaching, he said, “oh, it is better than sex!”  Probably that was true for him.

Email #2 From “Debby”:  “Professor Happy” enlargement.  Act now, and improve your love life!

My Response:  Obviously, you and the sender of e-mail #1 have some concern about me.  I’m very touched.  However, I assure you I’m fine.  Are you trying to tell me something?

Email #3 From “Jane”:  “Professor Happy” enlargement.  Act now, and improve your love life!

My Response:  Okay, I’ll reply to this one after I go search how many citations I have and egosurf on Google.  You’re not making me feel very good about myself.

I do love the obscure children’s book reference related to your name and the subject matter of your e-mail, however.  Brava!

Email #4:  AALS [as far as I read]

My Response:  Delete.

Email #5:  Hello Dear, I am Mr.Frank Nweke Jr, A manager auditing in accounting department of my Bank here in united Kingdom. I am contacting you in order to ask for your assistance on this confidential business with full financial benefit for both of us. In my department in our bank I discovered an abandoned sum of US$10M ( TEN Million, US Dollars) for more information email me immediatley or contact me on my number below. Or make yours available for further discussion. Yours faithfully. Mr.Frank Nweke Jr. +447024019758

My Response:  Hello, sugarplum!  I don’t remember you at all, but I am pleased that we are already so close because of our mutually inappropriate salutations.  I’m glad you feel that a law professor would be helpful to you in the transfer of a large sum of cash.  You know that some of us have never practiced law at all, right?  Before the Mortgage Back Securities crisis, I would never for a minute think that you all would engage in such reckless behavior (*fingers crossed*).   Nonetheless, love of the life I never had, I feel that $10 Million is not enough to compensate me, particularly given the quality of articles I am writing (and the plethora of typos contained in your e-mail).   I do like that you ended your letter with a reference to the 1970s rock band Journey.  Kudos.

All caught up on my e-mails now.

Faculty meetings can be a fun-filled and joyful experience.  Sure, some people bring books, ipads, phones, food, and other distractions to these events, but your goal should be to figure out what the heck is going on.

For example, why is Professor Y so vehemently opposed to any proposal brought forth by Professor X?  Well, the answer could be ideological, pragmatic, or it might just be because Professor X was rude to Professor Y one fine day back in 1976.  Your job is to figure all of these things out, all the while having fun.

In addition to the interpersonal dynamics, you should also pay attention to the types of arguments being made and who is making them.  To that end, here is a brief non-exhaustive list of people you meet at faculty meetings:

  1. Echo.   After someone has made a compelling statement, Professor X might be inclined to say roughly the same thing.  This might be because Professor X didn’t hear the first statement, heard it but wanted to expand on the idea, is miffed that the first speaker stole his or her thunder and wants credit, or because Professor X didn’t like the foundational theme of the first speaker’s assertion and wishes to supplant it with his or her own.  Echoing causes longer meetings.
  2. Pleader.  The pleader is someone who is very passionate about the subject.  That person will beg the faculty present to do (or not do) what is being proposed.  It is typically an emotional plea.  Don’t do this.  You should never be emotionally involved in a faculty meeting.
  3. Houdini.  This masterful soul is the person who has asked his or her secretary to call him 15 minutes into the meeting, so that a prompt exit can be made.
  4. Charlie Brown.  “Maybe I’m stupid, but….” Says professor X.  Or “is it just me or….”.  This brilliant move is a feint designed to suggest that the deft attack is self-directed, when really it is targeted at a majority opinion in opposition to the point of view of the speaker.
  5. Santayana.   If what is being proposed was tried in the 1970s, this professor will remind you of that.  For example, a proposal to put Wi-fi throughout the building might draw this reply: “We tried that in 1970.  I was all for it, but it turned out to be a nightmare.  Turns out there was no such thing as Wi-fi!  Therefore, we shouldn’t do it now.”  Yes, even though much has happened since the 1970s, if it didn’t work once, it won’t work now.  I read a book about this once I looked up using a card catalog….
  6. Logical Fallacy Man!   This superhero of the faculty meeting will defend his or her point of view using every non-academic technique possible.  Call someone stupid?  Why not!  Appeal to authority?  Sure!   Or why not combine them to really provide an aromatic flavor?  “I have done this for 70 years, and I know I am right.  You’d be crazy not to agree.”   Appeal to authority (himself) coupled with ad hominem.
  7. Hamlet.   If you have a colleague prone to soliloquy, your faculty meeting may be prolonged.
  8. Cheerleader.  “Give me an A!  Give me an N!  Give me another N!  Give me an O!  Give me a Y!  Give me an I!  Give me an N!  Give me a G!   YAY!!!
  9. The Dean.   This person is the one who seals your fate.  It could be a long meeting or a short one.  The Captain could steer a tight course, or allow the boat to drift for a while.  A dean who can run a meeting well will know when discussion has run out and the meeting should end shortly thereafter.  A dean who can’t will in some ways make you feel like this.
  10. The Inspiring.  Ending on a high note, there are some people who don’t often speak at meetings.  When they do, they have the power to move mountains.  I’ve been around the block a few times, and still have been unable to master this gift which some of my colleagues possess.  These are the (often reluctant) speakers to which I listen.

Remember, your goal is to minimize the amount of time you spend in meetings so that you can write and teach.  Attending meetings by itself doesn’t count for service.

Under no circumstances should you read the literature about how non-diverse groups reach worse decisions.  It will only depress you.

You have a month or two to prepare. Good luck!

Yes, people, another law blog.  Another anonymous law blog.  Why?  Well, it is anonymous so that my real career as a comedian isn’t ruined.  Also, it is important to protect the identity of someone like me who lacks job security.   Later, when someone decides to reveal my secret identity, I can hate and forgive and then write about it.  It might make a gripping Lifetime Original movie.   Would Brad Pitt agree to play me?

I don’t plan on griping about the world of academia.  The fact is that I love my job.  It is fun, challenging, and provides me with hours of mental stimulation matched only by watching reruns of Twin Peaks.  Nor do I plan on griping about my colleagues, who I respect and admire when faculty meetings are not involved.

The thing of it is, I wasn’t meant to be a law professor.  I’m still getting used to it.  I was meant for different things.  For example, I could have been this.  Maybe not (I can’t sing).

In all seriousness, the legal ivory tower is an interesting world.  To those outside of it, this blog offers a glimpse inside the secret world.  To those inside of it, I only offer this blog as humor.  Under no circumstances should you follow any advice I offer.  Or you’ll end up like me.  Blogging.  Instead of writing articles and thinking about writing articles.  You don’t want that.