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December 18, 2018


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Hedley Lamarr, Car Crash Counselor at Law, 1-800-BIG CASH NOW

This guy strikes me as never having seen the inside of a courtroom or practiced a day in his career. Every time a lawyer files her appearance and stands up in a courtroom for a client, it is justice and democracy in action. Several clinics in my jurisdiction supervise Rule 7-11 law students in actual, real criminal and juvenile courts.

If you were idealistic and wanted to pursue Constitutional Law work (4th, 5th and 6th Amendment and occasional 1st Amendment thrown in) ,a few years back, one could earn a somewhat modest living if they maintained a volume criminal/traffic practice. Problem today is the grotesque over saturation of attorneys pursuing that model and its immediate cash flow. The problem is not power or lack of idealism. Clients know its a buyers market and will go to the next guy down the list for $50 dollars less. All these PI guys used to feed me work...not any more. They need the money now.

Alice Ristroph

I think you’ve missed Moyn’s point, if I’ve understood his point correctly. He’s not making a criticism of clinical faculty or of the work that law school clinics do for their clients. As I read his piece, he’s identifying a function that clinics perform for their institutional hosts: they help elite institutions to sustain and reproduce various forms of hierarchy by assuaging the troubled consciences of some members of those institutions. If the consciences remained troubled, they might demand more radical change than clinics themselves can achieve. This institutional function of clinics is not inconsistent with other functions that clinics may serve, and thus Moyn’s argument just isn’t undermined by your observations about the good that clinics do for their clients, or about the admirable commitment of many clinical faculty.


Prof Ristroph's interpretation would make for a tight thesis, and likely does reflect what Prof Moyn has mostly intended. However, a closer reading of his text doesn't fully correspond to that interpretation. He does question "whether the clinical revolution is actually about changing the world," which at the least is ambiguous about whether it questions the participants' characteristics as opposed, or in addition, to those of their elite institutional hosts. But the reference becomes less ambiguous immediately after: "For individuals, [clinic work] might provide an alibi for the grubby scramble for advance," & in the next sentence identifying those "individuals" as the ones doing the "social-justice work." I have a feeling, though, that Moyn will refine his thesis, perhaps not cleanly presented here, to align more closely w/ Ristroph's construction.

Legal writing prof

Moyn is correct - his piece is not about clinics, but he has used the example of clinics as a convenient whipping boy for his thesis. While it's clear he doesn't think much of clinics generally (and that underscores his own eliteness!), his larger moral dilemma as pointed out by Prof. Ristroph above, is something law schools and lawyers have wrestled with for years. It's not a new idea.

However, by making clinics his example, he does present the notion that clinics are conveniently being used as fronts (and if they add no value even worse!) for hypocrites in elite schools who want to make themselves feel better about maintaining their eliteness (meaning, keeping their virtual gated community in tact).

Alani Golanski

This particular piece by Moyn impracticably assigns law schools too much work, regardless of motivating ideals. The "moral dilemma" he identifies is best directed toward higher, graduate & post-grad education generally -- what used to be & is elsewhere embodied in the "youth movement." Law school, like law generally, lags the people's democratic and social justice & equality movements. Moyn elsewhere advocates salvaging the good in liberal institutions while culling the bad, yet here unfortunately fails to sufficiently acknowledge the good in actual social justice initiatives w/in law schools (clinical stuff, e.g.). Moyn's objections to undemocratic judicial review are well taken; but, again, as a practical matter, the idea of law schools' "taking up the duty" of deflating the law grad's "exaltation of the judiciary" needs to be fleshed out in a way that's a bit more sensitive to the young lawyer's (from 200+ law schools) real life dilemmas.

Douglas Levene

I disagree entirely with the notion that law schools should attempt to direct students into one area of practice or another according to the political goals of the faculty. Students have agency and are highly motivated to seek out practice opportunities that meet their personal interests and ambitions. The best that law schools can do is offer a range of classes and clinical opportunities so students can make up their own minds about what they want to do.

The Law Offcies of Kavanaugh Thomas, LLC, PC, LTD, Chartered, AV Rated

^^^Agreed. However, if you graduated from a middle tier school during one of the Republican recessions (1990-92 Bush 1)(2001-2003 and 2007-2009 Bush II) you took any legal gig that was available to you. These were the first recessions that the legal profession was not immune. Thousands of lawyers did not have the luxury of "doing what they wanted to do." Me included. My buddy graduated during the Reagan recession and was short changed too.

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