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February 21, 2013


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Eric Muller

I didn't post this as an invitation to characterize the personality or intelligence of either Paul Campos or Brian Leiter, and hope people will refrain from doing so. I posted it because I think the point Campos makes about law teaching bears emphasis.


This all seems kind of silly. Very few college professors, business school professors, medical school professors etc receive any more training on teaching than law professors. For higher education, most of the teaching is based on observation -- TAs don't get training, they just get some experience before they enter the classroom on their own. But even if one disagrees on the training front, by all accounts, law school teaching is very good and typically much better and more dynamic than other fields, just ask students. The primary difference comes in scholarship not teaching. And I don't think there is much question that thinking like a lawyer is a skill that can and is taught, and the parts of Campos' diatribe you quote are really quite silly. The thing I don't understand with all this anti-law school blather is why don't they quit their cushy positions and at least avoid the obvious hypocrisy.

Jeffrey Harrison

I commend Eric for trying to keep the focus on the issue and I do not think the discussion is silly. What Campos calls for, to me at least, is a measure of humility with respect to what we think we can do.


MLS: "law school teaching is very good and typically much better and more dynamic than other fields, just ask students."

Yes, ask students. I think you will be surprised what you will find.


What is the title of this post supposed to imply about Paul Campos? He identified the debt/unemployment problem long before anybody on this blog ever did. If people have a problem with him, its only because he is shining light on things that they'd prefer remain hidden.

Mack the Knife

This is a very weird post. Campos says at the end of his post, what Leiter quoted, namely, that he doesn't even know what "think like a lawyer" means. That's a strange admission for a law prof to make. And people have a problem with Campos because of his long history of self-promoting opportunism, not because he made a blog out of Tamanaha's book.


I can understand why law professors would be annoyed by Paul Campos. But they only make themselves look worse by attacking him. Is Paul Campos wrong about the debt and unemployment outcomes facing students? Is he wrong about law schools manipulating data to paint a misleading picture to prospective students? Is he wrong about the unscientific nature of the claims regarding the value of legal education?

"He's opportunistic!" is the best you've got, which is pathetic.

Mack the Knife

Campos's blog did not predate Tamanaha's book. And Leiter never outed Campos, Campos outed himself!

Mack the Knife

Anyway, the main point is that Eric's post is very odd, as Campos really did admit that he didn't know what it "even means" to think like a lawyer. And that is a surprising admission, but maybe it's true.


Tamahana's book was published in 2012. Campos started his blog in August 2011. He even talks about reading a pre-publication copy of the book.

Unless you think he somehow ripped off Tamahana's ideas. A simple read of most ITLSS posts and then Failing Law Schools should quickly disabuse you of that notion.


Tamanaha first blogged about the issue on Balkinization in 2010. (But so then the problem was clear as day to anyone paying attention.)

And yes Campos is wrong about all 3 issues: he claims a cyclical problem is secular; he claims its a scam with little to no evidence of fraud; and he has zero familiarity with the scientific method.


How can Muller claim that "I didn't post this as an invitation to characterize the personality or intelligence of either Paul Campos or Brian Leiter, and hope people will refrain from doing so," after having titled the post in such a way as to characterize (negatively) the intelligence of Campos?


i have to agree with the previous poster (9:49). you can't start a blog post by tweaking campos and shaking a stick at both leiter and campos, and then sit back and say, "hey, i prefer a sober discussion of the merits."

campos's post was thoughtful. leiter's reply was a school yard taunt. but let's not worry about campos, since he gives at least as well as he gets.

as for the cries of "FIRST!", Michael Cahill had a blog entry back at Prawfsblawg in 2008 asking whether legal education was a bubble.

Eric Muller

These criticisms of the title of my post are correct. I regret titling the post as I did and apologize to Paul Campos for it.


It was hard to misunderstand the title of the post as anything other than a nudge to those who reflexively reject what Campos says, not as an indulgence of those rejections -- and as a fine way of inviting reading, as headlines often attempt. Then, irrespective of the merits (which were explicitly sympathetic to what Campos had said), comments needlessly sorted into the standard personality cults that grace recent law reform discussions. Which might have been unintended and was certainly unfortunate, but which has been cultivated by at least a couple of the leading participants, so no apologies needed.

On the merits, I think the observations are exactly right, but I don't think the problem has been diagnosed. Faculty should be doing a better job on all these fronts, as responsible professionals. But it should also be acknowledged that students generally aren't demanding it. They want jobs, not better classes, and increasingly object when the latter interfere with the process of obtaining the former. And when it comes to classes, they frequently want classes that are nominally practice-oriented, substantive, and professionally conducted, but which are also easy, entertaining, and impose few term-time constraints. It would be easier to act as stewards of a sound education if students were more willing to relinquish (or we were more willing to disregard) their rights as consumers to choose and criticize classes on any ground whatsoever.

So what does

It's interesting how the post became one about Campos and Leiter. No one has addressed Campos's lament that he does not know what it it means "to think like a lawyer>" I have been in teaching for 40 years and I cannot answer that Q. Lawyers use all of the locgical and analogical tools that other academics employ; why are we different? Is it because we are more demanding? I doubt it; other fields are at least as demanding as we.

So what does it mean to "think like a lawyer." and why is that different from other thinking? I am with Campos on this.

I am posting under my own name--I wish others would do the same


Orin Kerr's one-sentance recitation of the "think like a lawyer" concept here:

"what's the mystery with "thinking like a lawyer"? It means learning how to evaluate the strength and weakness of legal arguments and understand the significance of legal sources within the norms of the existing legal culture. Perhaps the phrase should be 'thinking like a good lawyer,' not just thinking like a lawyer?"

seemed pretty clear to me. I am mystified why decades-long teachers of the law would not be able to define the concept.


To Steven:

"What is the title of this post supposed to imply about Paul Campos? He identified the debt/unemployment problem long before anybody on this blog ever did."

Campos identified the problem when he married his student. A student who had lot of debt.

Unemployed Northeastern


Orin Kerr's statement can just as easily apply to literary critics, theoretical physicists, political scientists, jazz soloists, and essentially any other field, occupation, or profession where the slightest modicum of critical thought and analysis is required.

Questions still remain: Why the Socratic Method? Why doesn't the Socratic Method actually resemble the way Socrates is supposed to have taught? Why does the Langdellian method have such a strangehold on legal education? If one were lazy and wished to damn by association, one might point out that other academics at Harvard during that time frame were working on Social Darwinism, early explorations into eugenics, rampant anti-Semitism, etc. One might callously suggest that Harvard and its ilk still perpetuate a sort of Social Darwinism, particularly vis a vis the legal hiring process. Anyways, geniuses though they might have been, folk like Louis Agassiz and Charles Sanders Peirce had deep flaws. Why do we keep slavishly revering the pedagogical model of law as psuedo-science that Langdell wrought upon the world, despite glaring, obvious, and extremely serious shortfalls?


I don't know if law professors have any reason to care about how outsiders (including former students) perceive them. Maybe we could all think you're scum, and it wouldn't bother you a bit.

But I do think you're scum, and I didn't always. When Paul Campos began his blog, I thought that he might be the first of many law professors to "wake up" to what has been going on and to use their positions of prestige and influence to lobby for reform. I gave law professors the benefit of the doubt when they claimed that were unaware of the extent of the unemployment and debt problem.

Paul Campos is very much a hero to the unemployed and indebted law school graduate. So is Brian Tamanaha and so could be any other law professor who wanted to take up their cause. I encourage you all to do so. But when you attack Campos, you are giving a big middle finger to every graduate who has struggled to find a job. You are scammers, you are scum. I hope you're ok with that. I'm guessing you are.

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