In my previous post on ‘The University Law School,’ I spoke of the local political economies which are likely to drive law schools’ priorities in the foreseeable future. Ironically, in a period where the U.S. legal economy has either sharply contracted and/or popular delusions about its remunerative possibilities have collapsed, U.S. law schools have become less dependent (or able to depend) on the U.S. legal economy writ large. As a result, many of these law schools will become much more dependent on their mother universities—and these mothers’ priorities. And lest we forget the lesson of Joan Crawford, mommies are not always very nice.
Given all this, I have perused with a mixture of both bemusement and alarm the numerous emails and brochures being sent my way these days by different law schools, the volume of which has reached new heights with my status as a newly tenured law faculty member. This new status, as many readers know, makes me one of the relatively few faculty members nationwide who will have the opportunity to evaluate other law schools as part of the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of U.S. law schools. In these emails and brochures, not only is another lesson of Joan Crawford too often ignored—mes amis, style does matter: enough with the Mac II+ graphic design saturated in awkward color combinations, s’il vous plait—but so is a teleological message too often conveyed: ‘Our law school is so good because we so do law.’
With such a message, these emails and brochures confirm the appellation ‘law porn’ because, well, apparently one just knows law (and porn) when one sees or does it. But porn aside, the Law = Law teleology gets played out in too many other arenas too. For example, when the former president of Saint Louis University announced his decision, in 2011, to move SLU’s law school to downtown Saint Louis, the decision was couched as one which would move SLU Law to ‘the heart’ of the Saint Louis legal community. Other downtown ‘urban law schools’ were pointed to as exemplars in this respect (and, indeed, there are several). Yet… what is the ‘legal heart’ in these scenarios?
Fortunately, in the case of SLU Law, the legal heart was not chiefly located in a downtown’s law firms—we’ve had difficulties carrying out our Jesuit mission recently, but it hasn’t been completely outsourced to capitalism yet—but a prominent (and architecturally lovely) downtown courthouse. SLU Law now sits across the street from this courthouse, and this courthouses features prominently in publicity surrounding the new law school building. Yet, here too, we have something of the central question (or even mistake) of contemporary law porn. In other words, is it really the case that courts are exemplars of the heart, much less the heart of law? Is there not at least something in Marc Galanter’s observation that “[j]ust as health is not found primarily in hospitals or knowledge in schools, so justice is not primarily to be found in official justice-dispensing institutions”? Might not the legal heart be located somewhere else than in a law temple?
By way of an answer to these questions, and to return to the theme of my earlier posts in this series on legal education—as well as my research on non-state Muslim courts in India—I give you the image right here.
Here then we have a law school building—Alfred Brophy, guess which one!—situated in the midst of an Eero Saarinen, a Philip Johnson, and a Richard Serra (clockwise), and rendered less as an ally of governmental power, than a friend of the liberal arts—if not an art-piece itself.
While seeing law and legal education in this way is arguably more artistic than pornographic, it nonetheless might be quite difficult to find a heart here in the midst of Saarinen’s, Johnson’s, and Serra’s cold formality. Where then might that heart of law be?
Marc Galanter’s above observations about both health and law (or, in reality, justice) suggest another possibility altogether, namely that the ‘heart of law’ is, well, best found in actual hearts. On that note, here at SLU Law we have the #1 Health Law program (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). As a result, perhaps law schools (or, at least, ones like ours) should be located next to hospitals, and the real hearts which so often depend on these hospitals, as well as the regulatory environment both supporting and hindering hearts and hospitals. Indeed, students studying the myriad aspects of Obamacare might very well benefit from semester-long internships in hospitals, working right alongside physicians and clinicians who are making decisions about healthcare which are influenced (at every moment) by regulatory frameworks. Plus, there are often devastated urban landscapes which could be rehabilitated by the artful relocation of a stunning new law building next to a medical campus:
This is all to suggest then that we need to continue to have a nuanced discussion about legal education and its location—from the conceptual, to the institutional, to the physical—rather than to engage in reductive discussions like ‘2 v. 3.’