Archives for the month of: October, 2012

I’m reading a lot in anticipation of the meeting in New Orleans.  I have to prepare.  I found some advice written by someone who knows what it is like being an aspiring scholar in an area.  It is like, OMG, someone wrote this advice just for me.  Someone gets me.  I heart whoever wrote this.

I have to be careful with some of the advice, because it may conflict a little with my goal of being a top scholar.

I’ve been reading a lot of papers and blog posts lately on how to measure the quality of scholarship.  Apparently, it has nothing at all to do with publishing articles, but rather how well I’m known by my peers.  Now that I understand what I’m supposed to be doing (after all these years!), I have to get going on my to-do list:

  1. I need to hang around with cool people.  In order to ensure that I am cited as broadly as possible, I’ve decided to hang around with the cool people in academia.  Who are the cool people in academia?  Why, one only has to look to the number of citations to determine that.  Just ignore the inherent problems with this analysis.  Eye on the prize.  I want to be cool.
  2. I need to stop writing in tiny areas of the law which scholars find irrelevant.  I need to stop writing in underwater basket-weaving law or dance law.  Cool people don’t do that. I need to write in contracts, torts, business organizations, intellectual property, health law, or maybe something cool and ethereal like law & society.   It doesn’t matter to anyone if I’m in the Congressional Record or wrote op-eds advocating policy change in practical terms.  That doesn’t count.  What matters is how often I’m cited by my peers, and the best way to be cited is to be friends with cool people who will cite me.  I should pick an impact area.     That will make my writing have a deep impact.  Like a meteor.  That HAS to be good.
  3. I need to make sure my new friends cite me in all of their articles.  I need to maybe do some SSRN research and read some drafts and find where my articles will fit perfectly (or not so perfectly) for a proposition they are supporting.  If I’m really desperate, I can do all the verifiable statement of fact footnotes for them, inserting my articles as need be.
  4. I need to blog.  Okay, not like this.  This blog doesn’t count, at least until I’m outed and can sell my story to Lifetime television.  I mean a serious blog about some serious stuff.  See the above topics.  Then people will meet me and say “Oh, I read your blog.”  I will tout their work on my blog, and then hopefully write a piece that links my work to theirs.  Brilliant!
  5. I need to time travel and go to Harvard, Stanford or Yale.  I can’t help but notice the correlation here between law schools and number of citations.  I come for “I can’t find it University School of Law,” and there is no way I can compete with that.  I am asking Michael J. Fox right here and now for his DeLorean.
  6. I need to time travel and write a bunch of stuff so that the cumulative effect is there.  If I go back in time, say the 1920s, with what I know now, I could write some articles that will be trashed in that time period.  Then, as time progresses, some bored, untenured law professor will notice how right I was!  The plan can’t fail.  How do I get that DeLorean again?  Then again, I would have to stay and write for a number of years.  There is no substitute for experience.
  7. Quite frankly, I need to suck up more.  I’ve never been good at giving compliments.  Yes, I will tell someone that their ideas are interesting and awesome.  But I have to mean it.  But now that I’m worried about my citation count, I think I should try to focus more on sucking up to popular people, complimenting them on their ideas regardless of my true feelings, and then explaining to them for hours on end how my ideas are great, too!  It’s foolproof!  Isn’t this what AALS is for anyway?
  8. I need to change my name.  Currently I’m thinking of changing my name to Justice Holmes.   That sounds good for some reason.
  9. I need to forget anything that I’ve learned about the massive endogeneity problems involved with using citations as a signal for success.  I must unlearn….I must unlearn…..
  10. If I focus on citations, I have to give up hope of focusing on making the world a better place.  No one will likely read my articles, including some of my friends who cite them, no matter how good they are. So what if I can’t change the world?  I’ll always have my citations.

If I do all these things, I’ll be a top scholar.  I’ll feel better about myself, because I can measure my success based upon a standard.  If that doesn’t work, I’m going to work on an article suggesting that faculty prominence be measured by height.  Then I’ll buy a pair of stilts.

We previously have discussed the type of people you meet at your job talk.  It’s important that you review that information, in case you get that exciting call back.  The next step is to actually give your job talk.  Here are some tips that helped me secure a position on the tenure track.  I did all of these things.  Really.  You’re welcome.

  1. Talk about something no one knows about except you.   It is my personal belief that job talks based upon any first year course are doomed to failure.  Every faculty member has taken those courses, and that translates (in their minds) to extensive experience in those subject matters.   If you do a job talk in these topics, make sure it is an obscure area of the subject matter rather than something such as, say, the commerce clause.   Example of a good job talk: Oil and Water Don’t Mix: Fracking and Water Law.  Example of a bad job talk:  The Commerce Clause and the Dormant Commerce clause: Reconciling the dormant with the active.   You will still need to make sure they have enough information to know what you’re talking about, why it is interesting, and that you know more than they do about it.
  2. Your job talk title should have a colon.  You might have your colon removed during the presentation of your job talk, but really your job talk title should start with one.  The first portion of the title should have words that will grab the attention of even the sleepiest of professors.  Examples:  Sex, drugs, rock and roll, iPhones, social media, Google and book titles (dare you to use Shades of Grey or Twilight).  Relevant information about what you’re really going to talk about should follow the colon.  That portion should contain a statute, a legal principle, or the words “reconciling,” “rethinking,” or “the death of.”  Make sure that your topic has not been previously reconciled, rethought, or killed.
  3. Market Your Obscure Topic.  The fact you have chosen an obscure topic will make some faculty members question why on earth they are bothering to listen to you.  It is not so much a question of what you say here, but how you say it.  You should make a passionate (but not overly emotional) defense of the importance of your topic, explaining how if your problem isn’t addressed soon cats will bark, dogs will meow, birds will fall from the trees and law professors will lose their jobs.
  4. Bait and Switch.  Now that you have them riveted, turn the tables on them. Many job talks don’t provide solutions to the problems they discuss, or at least do not provide pragmatic workable solutions that could be implemented.  To paraphrase Dr. McCoy, “damn it, Jim, I’m a law professor, not anything useful to you right now!”  Leave the ball up in the air.  When your audience attempts to propose solutions, criticize the solutions.  Now you’ve taken the high road: You are grading them, not the reverse.  You may not get the job, but at least you can give them an F.  Then at the end, come up with a solution “spontaneously!”   It demonstrates that you’re thinking on your feet, and you came up with something more brilliant than they did!   You’re a genius that needs to be hired!   They don’t need to know you spent months thinking about it, and that you had to go to the mountain and ask the sage.
  5. Go Socratic.  If you get ridiculous questions, engage in some thought, compliment the questioner on the interesting question, and then start a discussion.  Respond after your initial thoughts with “what do you think?”  Then you’ve taken the high road back, as in #4.

You may not be employed using this advice (although for some strange reason I was), but at least you’ll find your job talk entertaining.  Hopefully they will too.  Sure, there may be better advice out there, but this is what got me my job.  I think.  You’re welcome.

If you are in Washington D.C. and have decided that you want to teach, chances are you are at the AALS Meat Market at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.  I’ve been where you are at.  Many times.  So much so that I hate the hotel and try to stay across the street at the Omni Shoreham just to avoid seeing people.  Sometimes when I walk into the hotel I go fetal in the lobby.  PTSD.

Regardless of whether you are visiting or just local to the area, here is some advice for you:

  1.  Do not hang around the lobby bar by yourself.  This isn’t dating.  So stop thinking that hanging around the bar alone signals anything other than “I’m desperate.”  The hiring committee can smell desperation like a pig smells out truffles.  Do not send that signal (in dating or hiring conferences).   Alternative:  Throw a party at the hotel bar.  Invite your friends.  Assure that they all stand in a semi-circle around you so that you are clearly the center of attention.  Seem relaxed, fun, and like you are the most popular kid in school.  Because, while this isn’t dating, hiring committees sometimes like the popular people regardless of merit.  Make sure they are all wearing blue so they impersonate fellow interviewees.  Have one dress like a homeless person to impersonate a hiring committee chair casually talking to you after hours.
  2. Remember that it is the SECOND number that tells you which tower.  The Marriott is a perfect place to torture aspiring faculty candidates.  There are two towers, yards apart, and only a limited number of elevators to get candidates to their respective floors.  Thus, if you are in room 2009 and have to go to room 2109, you have to go down two floors, then to the other tower, then up two floors.  Don’t spend your time confused in one hallway.   Alternative:  Train as if you are training for the marathon. You should be able to run up and down 8 flights of stairs, in full suit (and heels depending on gender and/or personal preference) and not appear winded before the hiring committee.
  3. Be a scholarly geek.  The hiring committee usually asks you at the end whether or not you have questions for them.  At this point, people usually ask about what the school does to support scholarship, what the school is looking for in a candidate, etc.  Do that when you get the flyback.  What I think you should do instead is ask questions about the committee members’ scholarship.  For example, if the committee is comprised of an IP scholar, a labor law scholar, and an environmental law scholar, you can read their work and find some commonalities. Example:  I notice you all write about the trials and tribulations of regulatory regimes in your respective areas.  Is it just a coincidence that you all have similar views on Chevron deference?   Bad example:  I have read all your articles.  It seems like you are all from the same school.  Is that true?
  4. Optimize your answer.  We don’t want to hear you drone on for all twenty minutes about one article.  Give a one minute answer, giving the high points.  If the committee seems riveted, go on for another minute.  In other words, don’t monopolize the conversation.  It’s not all about you, you know (even if it is).
  5. Do not wander around the hotel after hours hoping to bump into someone who will interview you.  It rarely works that way, and you seem kind of creepy.  Especially if security is escorting you away in handcuffs. If you’re going to do anything remotely creepy, it should be in a cool way.  Like maybe this.  That would be cool.
  6. If the interviewers are mean, call them on it.  I once had an interview where the interviewers made it clear to me that interviewing me was a huge mistake (apparently, their colleagues, who didn’t show to the meeting, were the ones who wanted to interview me).  I tortured them for twenty minutes, asking the interviewers questions, making jokes, and assuring them that I was fine spending awkward time with them.  They looked unhappy that I didn’t just walk out of the room.  One caveat:  Keep in mind they might just be testing you, so be poised, even as you are calling them on it.
  7. If you are out on the town between interviews and need to get back on time because you are late, do not take the Red Line Metro.  There will be a delay.
  8. In case you didn’t know, Mei Xiang, the baby Panda, passed away in September.  I tell you this now because you should not cry during your job interviews due to your weakened, exhausted, and overly emotional state.  Do not visit the zoo between interviews!
  9. Do not mention the name Brian Tamanaha.  If you don’t know who that is, do not find out.  Feign ignorance if you already know.  Too controversial.  I won’t even provide a link here to ensure you avoid temptation.
  10. Remember that law schools have massive inferiority complexes.  If you are wanted by higher-ranked schools, they may want you more.  But don’t go boasting too much.  If you act as if the interviewers are your third choice for prom date, they might grow resentful.  It might bring back images of their proms (or lack thereof).  No one likes a show off (except the person showing off at the time).

Good luck, relax, and have fun!

In light of recent events, I thought it best for students to understand when they should avoid professors like the plague.  Here are some tips.  You should avoid a professor…

  1. …if he is subject to a special agreement which warns future staff members that he has mistreated staff in the past.
  2. …if your professor can’t handle classroom management calmly.  Cell phones go off, people cough, sometimes students even whisper to one another.  The question if you’re the professor is:  Do you go ballistic over it?  Really, once a  professor does that he will always be known as “that guy who snapped about the yawning.”
  3. …if your professor belittles students regularly for asking questions.   Often times, it isn’t because the student asked a question which was clearly answered in the reading, but because the professor doesn’t know the answer and is too insecure to admit it.  Now, it is true sometimes students ask repeated questions to delay advancement, but there are ways to handle that without being mean.
  4. …if your professor has an anger management problem.  This means that the professor decides that you are worthy of having a book, cell phone, or eraser tossed your way (or any other projectile) or handles classroom management through violence.
  5. …if your professor has decided that his or her class is more important than every other class you have to take, to the point of scheduling additional classes which are not scheduled.  No one’s class is more important than any other, except of course mine are very, very important.
  6. …if your professor is literally losing his mind.  Yes, I know it is often times a fine line between a sane professor and an insane one.
  7. …if your professor shows up to class inebriated, or, if you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if he had.
  8. …if your professor looks down at the casebook as if he or she is reading it for the first time or otherwise looks completely unprepared.
  9. …if you watch movies in class (and this is all you do).
  10. …if the discussion you’re having is outdated by changes in the law which occurred in the past 20 years.
  11. …if your professor is more concerned about his or her schedule than yours.  Example: “Uh, we need to make up the class I missed because I was sunning in Puerto Rico.  How is Saturday night at 7 p.m.?”
  12. …if your professor likes to insult students, regardless of whether or not it is in the guise of the Socratic Method.
  13. …if your professor refuses to tell you what he or she expects from you, either on a syllabus or in class.   Moving target games.
  14. …if your professor often tells stories about how he was the perfect student.  That is a sure sign of memory lapse.
  15. ….if your professor clearly believes that he or she is a deity of some sort or feels the need to try and prove it.  The “God” complex goes well beyond Doctors.  I once had a professor who read aloud the acclaim of other professors, found conveniently on the back of his book.  I walked out.  There was no need for me to feed his need for external validation.
  16.  …if your professor is an anonymous blogger.

None of this is to say that students are always angels.  Students like to test boundaries sometimes.  The professor’s reaction to that, however, sets the tone.  No one will remember what the student did, but the professor’s reaction will be forever.

In light of the discussion around the academy of what we could be better doing to prepare students for graduation, I have come up with some proposed courses:

Barrista Law.   Course will focus on the legal ramifications of working at a Starbucks.  Is the fact that the patron ordered a “Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice” an affirmative defense to battery?  What is the maximum number of pro-union buttons you can wear and not increase the risk of extra hot latte heat transfer burn?  If in an open-carry state, which drink is the best defense against a gun?  Special register transactions, such as the rare use of cash and making exact change, will be covered.

Networking Survivor.  Ever notice how students attending lawyer functions cluster together, hold each other tightly and start to shake?  Before you graduate, stop this bad habit.  A group of students will be forced to spend seven days on an island with a group of lawyers.  At the end, the lawyers will vote off all the students but one based upon networking skills.  Last one standing gets a job.

Basic Letter Writing.  In this advanced course students will learn how to write a letter.  Lecture will focus on addressing the letter correctly, constructing the body of the letter, and using a proper signature.  Students are taught to avoid a greeting such as “Who Maybe Concerned” or “Yo!”

Psychology 413.  This cross-listed course will train students to deal with exceptionally difficult people.   Students will visit a local mental hospital, where select patients will have been trained to dress and speak like partners, clients, and colleagues.  Students will have to quickly identify the condition presented and how best to diffuse the situation.  Beginning students start with OCD while advanced students attempt to pick out the psychopath from the overworked, exhausted, angry and stressed out partner who abuses clients and staff.

Law School Finance.   This course will cover the basics of personal bankruptcy, loan consolidation, and credit card debt.  Advanced students will file for unemployment benefits and intern in the school’s law library.

Basic Tact.   Students enrolling in this course will learn the smoothest ways to achieve their goals.   Some examples from my personal experience are helpful here.

Student statement:  “You graded my exam wrong!”

Properly rephrased statement:  “Can we look at my exam to see what I did wrong?”

Student statement: “What you said totally did not make sense.”

Properly rephrased statement: “I’m not understanding what you are saying.”

Tenured professors, to maintain their status as lifetime employees, will be required to take this course every two years.  Examples of potentially rehabilitated statements from law professors:

Professor statement: “What are you, stupid?”

Properly phrased statement: “You might want to give that more thought.”

 

Professor statement: “The only thing you got right on your exam was your name.”

Properly phrased statement: “Let us see what you can do to correct systemic errors in your exam.”

Peer Pressure and Boundary Setting 101.   This course will require students to learn limits by putting them in ordinary situations.  For example, students will learn that merely because you are the only one without a 3L’s amazing outline for the course in which you’ve enrolled does not mean you’ll get a lower grade.  Students will learn that if you spend 20 hours a day at your law firm and fail to see your family, you’ll regret it later in life.   Videos of teen drug peer pressure will be linked to the pressure to essentially live in the law school library.