What Left-Wing Law Professors Really Think About You, and the Role of Lawyers

by Hans Bader on April 3, 2012 · 4 comments

in Legal, Nanny State, Personal Liberty

You’re just a lab rat to be socially re-engineered by activist judges and lawyers — who think they know how to run your life better than you do — or a chump to be fleeced for lawyers’ enrichment. That’s the message some law professors apparently instill in students at Howard University: “At Howard, they tell us as soon as we get there, ‘If you’re going to be a lawyer, you’re either a social engineer or a parasite on society,’” a student at Howard declared. “That’s how I think about life, is to be a social engineer.” (Although Howard University is nominally “private” and thus not accountable to taxpayers, it is directly “funded by the U.S. Government, which gives approximately $235 million annually” to it in special appropriations.)

Promoting social engineering by lawyers (through “institutional-reform” lawsuits brought by left-wing lawyers and law-school clinics) is a bad idea. Left-wing law professors are a bossy lot: some want to ban conservative or politically-incorrect speech as “hostile-environment harassment,” control what you eat and drink, control your sex life (they view heterosexual sex as patriarchal and thus “consensual rape”), raise your taxes through state-court decrees ordering increased funding of government programs, and take away your property (and your children, if you home-school them).  They also often lack common sense, or a grasp of certain basic realities of life. One of my professors at Harvard Law School was notorious among his colleagues for behaving as if on drugs. Another of my professors, the radical Duncan Kennedy, who was so prominent and respected among law professors that he was called the “Pope” of the “Critical Legal Studies” movement, advocated rotating the law professors and the janitors into each others’ jobs. (The janitors liked the idea of being paid like law professors, but had no interest in teaching law, and thought Kennedy’s idea was flaky. Kennedy himself was married to a wealthy heiress, and did not need a law professor’s handsome salary to live on. America would be better off being run by Harvard Law School’s modest, hard-working janitors than by its mostly left-wing law professors.)

As I noted earlier, much of what law schools teach their students is useless drivel, and law schools routinely exaggerate their students’ job prospects. Thus, there is no reason to require people to attend law school before sitting for the bar exam. As law professor Paul Campos notes, legal education is often a rip-off, since the typical law professor has virtually no real-world experience practicing law, and “knows nothing about being a lawyer.” But since most states require people to attend law school before sitting for the bar exam, law schools have been able to increase tuition by nearly 1,000 percent in real terms.

A New York Times article last year described how law-school educations for newly-hired corporate lawyers were so worthless that they didn’t know the basics, such as what a merger is, and how to draft the simplest legal forms needed for a merger, even though they’d spent up to $150,000 for a legal “education” at law school.

As I noted earlier in the Times,

I learned about trendy ideological fads and feminist and Marxist legal theory while at Harvard Law School. But I did not learn many basic legal principles, such as in contract law and real estate law, until I took a commercial bar-exam preparation course after law school. Getting rid of the requirement that students attend law school before taking the bar exam would save many students a fortune in student loan debt. It would also force law schools to improve their courses to attract students who now have no choice but to attend.

Law schools routinely sacrifice common sense to left-wing ideology: a classic example is Tulane’s decision to give a convicted murderer a scholarship to attend its law school, even though he most likely could never be admitted to the Bar given his criminal record.

Many state-funded law-school clinics effectively sue state taxpayers, both by suing businesses in their home state (thus killing jobs), and by suing their state governments to demand increases in government spending on various programs — something discussed at length in Walter Olson’s recent book Schools for Misrule.

Earlier generations of lawyers were more leery about the cost to society of lawsuits.  They also had a more favorable view of lawyers’ role in defending property rights, and in helping people reach mutually-agreeable settlements. They rejected the idea that lawyers should be parasites who profit from legal strife. Abraham Lincoln was a prominent lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad. He did not view lawsuits as the way to fix the world, much less as a form of social engineering.  As he once advised,

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. . .A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

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