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Yale Law School and Conservatives:

I don't have any idea whether the gossip about Yale Dean Koh refusing to honor Justice Alito (or perhaps just being very intent on honoring Linda Greenhouse), linked to by Jonathan below, is true, but I do know that I met a bunch of Yale Law Federalists a few weeks ago, and they were quite dispirited about goings-on at the law school. They could barely believe it when I told them that in my day ('88-'91), during the Guido Calabresi era, Yale was considered a much friendlier place for conservative and libertarian students than was Harvard. And for faculty, too, with the Yale hiring Ellickson, Schwartz, Romano, Langbein, and perhaps others whom I am forgetting. Kudos to Dean Kagan of Harvard for reversing this equation.

Ken Stalter (www):
I am currently a student at Harvard Law School. The other day, I had a discussion with one of my friends about the whether the law school was liberal or conservative. She argued that it was conservative, while I was telling her that it was overwhelming liberal. We eventually reached the conclusion that the law school is simply devoid of values and the students self-centered and amoral. She perceives it as conservative and I perceive it as liberal.
12.8.2006 5:00pm
IvyIvy (mail):
Gotta love one thing about the blogosphere: there is much less genuflecting before the elites than elsewhere in public. People are willing to rip on the Yale Law and Stanford Law deans on merit grounds, regardless of their prestige. I think that's pretty cool.
12.8.2006 5:04pm
CJColucci:
There may be something to what Ken says. Maybe there is a way to research it.
12.8.2006 5:05pm
IvyIvy (mail):
Ken,

Since liberal and conservative are just relative terms -- conservative compared to what?, etc -- isn't the problem just the relativity of the terms rather than the nature of the students?
12.8.2006 5:05pm
Ken Stalter (www):
IvyIvy,

I see what you are saying. The terms are very relative. The anecdote, to my mind, illustrates both the ambiguity of terms like liberal and conservative and the nature of the students. The relativity of the terms may be a problem independent of the students, but I and several friends can attest to the fact that the students are a problem. That may be too harsh, so let me just say that we all have foibles and something about the law school has exacerbated certain negative traits in many of the people around here.
12.8.2006 5:17pm
IvyIvy (mail):
Ken,

Yeah, I went to HLS, too. The key dynamic (at least then) was entitlement: every student acted like they deserved a job litigating civil rights cases at the Supreme Court, for which they would be paid several million dollars a year.
12.8.2006 5:23pm
Waldensian (mail):

we all have foibles and something about the law school has exacerbated certain negative traits in many of the people around here.

I think this is a common problem in many law schools, not just HLS....
12.8.2006 5:55pm
Waldensian (mail):

Yeah, I went to HLS, too. The key dynamic (at least then) was entitlement: every student acted like they deserved a job litigating civil rights cases at the Supreme Court, for which they would be paid several million dollars a year.

Is HLS full of rich kids? This attitude sounds like rich kids to me.
12.8.2006 5:59pm
Ken Stalter (www):
IvyIvy,

It's pretty much the same story now. One could come with lots of adjectives to more or less describe the situation, but I think you've hit the nail on the head with "entitlement."
12.8.2006 5:59pm
Ken Stalter (www):
Waldensian,

Not many uber-rich, but if I were to estimate I'd say about 75% of the people are from upper-middle class backgrounds. Lots of people with Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Businesspersons, etc for parents. I saw a statistic somewhere that 50% went to either one of the Ivies or Duke or Stanford undergrad. They are mostly suburban, as well.

I fit the mold 2/3. Cornell Undergrad, Doctor Parents, but I was raised in a very rural area.
12.8.2006 6:04pm
IvyIvy (mail):
The funniest part about HLS was that 1L year, everyone wanted to do international human rights law, save the whales, or something like that. By 3L year, everyone wanted to go to a law firm and make a lot of money -- I need to pay off my debts first, the mantra went -- and figured that once they made a lot of money they might look into pro bono work. As you would imagine, most of those people are still at law firms.

Funny place, elite law schools.
12.8.2006 6:12pm
IvyIvy (mail):
I should add: What I took from that experience was not that HLS students were bad people, or hypocrites, but that they had a tremendous sense of entitlement. When the choice was abstract, they wanted to say that they were going to save the world. When it came down to it, they wanted to be paid a lot of money. A lot of people seemed kind of offended that no one was giving them the opportunity to get paid a lot of money to save the world.
12.8.2006 6:19pm
Ken Stalter (www):
IvyIvy, what did you end up doing? I'll have to make some choices in about a year's time. I'm a 2L now.
12.8.2006 6:25pm
elChato (mail):
If Lat's story about the Yale honor and Alito is even partially true (heck, even if it's not), it will only improve Alito's street cred anyway.

Advantage, Alito. -1, Koh.
12.8.2006 6:29pm
Waldensian (mail):

I saw a statistic somewhere that 50% went to either one of the Ivies or Duke or Stanford undergrad.

Wow, that explains it then. I'm surprised HLS doesn't have a layer of smug hanging over it.

Glad to hear you were only 2/3. And your good third is the best third: being raised in the sticks counts for a lot. I was raised in the 'burbs and I'm still trying to lose my sense of entitlement.
12.8.2006 6:42pm
Ken Stalter (www):
Thanks, Waldesian. And if it counts for anything, I'm one of a very small percentage of HLS students to have tattoos.
12.8.2006 6:45pm
Argv (mail):
IvyIvy,

It can be difficult to turn down a starting salary of 140k a year, and the possibility of making partner in the future to take a job paying 40k a year or less doing public interest law, with much less potential for promotion. It doesn't help that getting a job at biglaw at some place like HLS, with its excellent OCS program, is actually easier than getting a job in public interest. So, biglaw ends up being kind of the default option.

It is probably good that some liberals go into biglaw. Then they can donate to Democrats and help even the very lopsided financing of the parties a little. Plus, they can give good money to good causes. The only way to help is not through direct action yourself. You can also direct funds to actions that you support. So, I don't think that biglaw necessarily conflicts with liberal commitments.

"Kudos to Dean Kagan of Harvard for reversing this equation."

But of course, she must remember that there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
12.8.2006 6:48pm
Virginia:
Yale has two alumni on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Thomas will have nothing--literally--to do with the school because of the way the faculty treated him during his confirmation hearings. You'd think they would want to stay on better terms with Alito (he has judged moot court competitions there in the past).
12.8.2006 7:12pm
IvyIvy (mail):
Argv,

Yes, I know; I went there, too. I didn't and wouldn't suggest that there is anything inconsistent about having liberal commitments and going to a lawfirm. My point is about entitlement: HLS students feel entitled to the combo of making tons of money, helping the world, and getting the adulation of everyone else.
12.8.2006 7:26pm
IvyIvy (mail):
Oh, and Ken:

Get thee to the federal government. There are fantastic jobs in federal government service: great work, great hours, public service, and very liveable pay.
12.8.2006 7:27pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

The only way to help is not through direct action yourself. You can also direct funds to actions that you support. So, I don't think that biglaw necessarily conflicts with liberal commitments.

Yes, by all means, defend serial abusers of corporate law and federal regulations by day, and then don your do-gooder hat by night by eating a nice chicken marsala at the fundraiser. Odd, no?

I'm being flip and perhaps rude...apologies. But I think you see my point. Yes, yes, I know, somebody's got to defend the back-daters, the polluters, and the prevaricators, but I do get into a snit when these same lawyers then wax self-righteous about the work they do 'for the community.'
12.8.2006 7:30pm
argv (mail):
"Yes, by all means, defend serial abusers of corporate law and federal regulations by day, and then don your do-gooder hat by night by eating a nice chicken marsala at the fundraiser."

Last time I checked, private lawsuits had two parties. So, I guess that would put lawyers on both sides of the issue.

Of course, it is true that private lawyers also defend these kind of suits by government.

But then, think about being practical, instead of shooting yourself in the foot with your own ideals. Do you think it makes a big difference, in most cases, whether liberal lawyer X defend Acme, Inc. If lawyer X doesn't do it, lawyer Y will do it. So, its not like lawyer X can, you know, deprive evil Acme corporation of a defense by not representing it.

This reminds me, David Bernstein teaches at GMU. The only problem is that Bernstein thinks that public universities should not exist. It goes against his libertarian insanity. Hypocrite? Or practical? Do libertarians have to stop using the post office? If you ask me, we can forgive libertarians who use the post office, because it is impractical to never use it.

So, here what you can do as a liberal lawyer. Go defend evil Acme, Inc. to the best of your ability and take that money you make to advance the causes you believe in. Nothing wrong with that. You might (or might not) make more of a difference than a public interest lawyer. Every cause needs not only fighters on the ground, but also people to provide funding.
12.8.2006 7:49pm
argv (mail):
"I'm one of a very small percentage of HLS students to have tattoos."

Hissssssssssssssssssssssssss! Hisssssssssssssss!
12.8.2006 7:51pm
Waldensian (mail):

I'm being flip and perhaps rude...apologies. But I think you see my point. Yes, yes, I know, somebody's got to defend the back-daters, the polluters, and the prevaricators, but I do get into a snit when these same lawyers then wax self-righteous about the work they do 'for the community.'

Apology and flip spirit accepted. But you'd have to admit that your "snit" is itself more than a bit self-righteous, no?

Tell us everything about your life and I'll bet we find contradictions and moral quandaries galore. They're like noses, most of have them.

I'm not shy, I'll start. I think I'm the guy you have snits over. I work at a really big firm, I've represented Big Tobacco and "polluters" extensively (and I don't mean hippies driving smoking VW buses), I fight for the rights of Big Pharma against upstart generics, I own large numbers of firearms, I like to shoot animals with them, and I firmly believe that the 2nd Amendment secures an individual right to firearm ownership.

On the other hand, I always vote Democratic, usually the most liberal candidates; I'm an ACLU member, I do lots of pro bono work for low-income urban tenants, I like a few of George Clooney's movies, and I'm on the board of a nonprofit that provides services to children with autism. And I tell you, in all honesty, that I feel GREAT about all of it. So there. Enjoy your snit. :)

Your turn.
12.8.2006 7:52pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
I agree with you more than you know...just needling a little.

But...

What I would like to see is more big-firm lawyers advocating loudly for causes that might run counter to their own financial self-interest. For example, there simply aren't a lot of corporate lawyers out there willing to stump for greater transparency in public companies, greater shareholder rights, sane compensation, etc.

I guess my point is that, when it comes to tarring and feathering dimwitted prosecutors in Pigsnot, Alabama, these lawyers are lions; but when it comes to censuring the practices of the corporate elite, they are lambs. After all, I guess, one musn't bite the hand that feeds....
12.8.2006 7:56pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Waldensian, I was typing a response to the other post and didn't read your kind reply until after, but...

You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!

God bless! Most of friends and all of my clients are exactly as you describe. So yes, by extension, I too am in the gray area. And I'm hardly the liberal, but I know a few (too few, unfortunately) lawyers who are very in-your-face about how an exec should handle other people's money. And their careers have suffered a little for it. Instead of being gazillionaires, they're just paltry millionaires.
12.8.2006 8:04pm
Ken Stalter (www):
argv, why did I get a "Hissssssssssssssssssssssssss! Hisssssssssssssss!"?
12.8.2006 10:10pm
Truth Seeker:
I fight for the rights of Big Pharma against upstart generics... On the other hand, I always vote Democratic, usually the most liberal candidates

At least you're consistent. You support evil day and night in all its forms. Sleep well. If there was a hell there'd be a special place in it for you. As it is you just have to wonder if your children will inherit the same deficiencies.
12.8.2006 11:08pm
Truth Seeker:
She argued that it was conservative, while I was telling her that it was overwhelming liberal. We eventually reached the conclusion that the law school is simply devoid of values

Hopefully you got laid before the night was over.
12.8.2006 11:09pm
Argv (mail):
Irrational hostility and hissing. It's a Harvard Law tradition. Read 1L =)
12.8.2006 11:37pm
Ken Stalter (www):
I did read One L, several years ago. I guess I've forgotten that part. For better or worse, the tradition seems to have fallen by the way side.
12.9.2006 12:23am
Argv (mail):
Not completely. Though it is rare, I remember it happening at least once. (No, I don't remember why.)

That the tradition is dead is definitely for the worse. I think the idea of hissing is hilarious.
12.9.2006 12:43am
Elliot Reed:
The funniest part about HLS was that 1L year, everyone wanted to do international human rights law, save the whales, or something like that. By 3L year, everyone wanted to go to a law firm and make a lot of money
Things are the same at SLS too. But I've always assumed that all the people who said they wanted to do "international human rights" at 1L orientation were just lying.
12.9.2006 11:57am
MnZ (mail):
My point is about entitlement: HLS students feel entitled to the combo of making tons of money, helping the world, and getting the adulation of everyone else.


Both medical schools and law schools everywhere are loaded with people like this. There was a recent NYT article about former MDs making millions of dollars per year in investment banking and consulting. The article also discussed the jealousy and/or disgust that current MDs felt toward the "sell-outs." Apparently, current MDs felt that that $400,000 per year was not enough for all the good work that they were doing.

On the other hand, many lawyers and doctors tend to be former rich, spoiled suburban kids. I guess it is hard to outgrow that mentality.
12.9.2006 1:48pm
DougJ:
Obviously, law schools such as Yale and Harvard are liberal. Otherwise, how do you explain the existence of the ACLU (staffed mostly by Ivy League law school graduates) but no corresponding such conservative organization.

Dean Koh has a long and ingominious record of suppressing conservative speech. It's sad that they let him go this long.
12.9.2006 2:09pm
DougJ:

On the other hand, I always vote Democratic, usually the most liberal candidates; I'm an ACLU member, I do lots of pro bono work for low-income urban tenants, I like a few of George Clooney's movies, and I'm on the board of a nonprofit that provides services to children with autism. And I tell you, in all honesty, that I feel GREAT about all of it. So there. Enjoy your snit. :)



So you're essentially pro-Al Qaeda and hate America, then. Glad to hear you feel great about that. The sad thing is you're probably typical of most graduates of so-called elite law schools.
12.9.2006 2:11pm
Roscoe (mail) (www):
Waldensian -

Kind of reminds me of the parable Sam tells Yama in Zelazny's "Lord of Light":

"Now, as to the sermon-- a proud and arrogant man, such as
yourself-- with an admittedly admirable quality of didacticism about him--was given to doing research in the area of a certain disfiguring and
degenerative disease. One day he contracted it himself. Since he had not yet developed a cure for the condition, he did take time out to regard himself in a mirror and say, 'But on me it does look good.'"
12.9.2006 3:11pm
Waldensian (mail):
My what a tapestry has been woven with my tell-all. Well, at least it's all about Me, which is how things obviously should be.

Quoting:


So you're essentially pro-Al Qaeda and hate America, then. Glad to hear you feel great about that. The sad thing is you're probably typical of most graduates of so-called elite law schools.

If this isn't a joke, I can only state that your reasoning skills appear to be on par with those of Pat Robertson. In any event, you are quite wrong. I love my country to distraction, and I would gladly shoot the nearest al Queda member with my 1942 Garand, which stays loaded at my bedside. I'll bet you don't even know how to load a Garand! Please, tell me you at least OWN a firearm.

I'm not sure you would call my law school "elite," so perhaps I have managed to rise above my station in life.


At least you're consistent. You support evil day and night in all its forms. Sleep well. If there was a hell there'd be a special place in it for you. As it is you just have to wonder if your children will inherit the same deficiencies.

First of all, I'm not consistent (how dare you). I don't support evil at night. At night, I espouse the purest form of anarcho-libertarianism. Meanwhile you are correct, there is no hell (I'm also an atheist) so yes, you'll just have to be disappointed that I'm not going to burn in eternal fire for disagreeing with you.

Gotta love a fellow atheist (I'm guessing) who wishes someone would be condemned to hell. That's sort of like Carl Sagan wishing that a critic would be kidnapped by aliens.

Nor do I support evil in ALL its forms, even during the day. For example, I do not support campaign-finance reform, alcohol-free beer, Dane Cook, gun control, or that new plastic stuff that they package toys in.

Alas, at least two of my children are unable to "inherit my deficiencies," as you put it, so you'll be reassured there. The other one may yet be able to wreak my incredible evil upon the world, so watch out. I'll be sure to give him your name. Bwahahahahahaha!!!

Finally, Roscoe: I like the parable, but I can't figure out what my disease is, exactly. Although, I confess, I do think that I look GOOD.

I note that nobody has accepted my invitation to list their own moral qualms, contradictions, and dilemmas. How shocking that only my life exhibits them. But then, I am an evil American-hating al-Queda-supporting didactic... medical researcher?

And really, no lie, and I don't think I'm just projecting my insecurities here: I still feel pretty great about it.
12.9.2006 5:39pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Waldensian, I'm afraid my jesting hijacked the thread, but to take you up on the exercise...

I've been a consultant to--and worked briefly inside--large law firms. My work touches all areas of practice, from securities litigation to transactional practices of every kind; therefore, I subsist on an income gained by enabling the enablers. Much like you, when I advise lawyers how to penetrate a target company, I do not feel the weight of moral ambivalence balanced upon my scrawny shoulders. Similarly, I do not fault lawyers who counsel folks who are obviously ethically challenged (to a point).

My original point was, I think, that there are limits to the relativism we bring to these questions. It is not enough, as a lawyer, to hide behind the advocacy system in place as if it's a kind of ethical force field.

My favorite example is one fellow who, after cutting his teeth working for the govt in antitrust, has built quite a career as a preeminent expert in corporate governance. Over the years, he has earned a reputation for telling like it is, for being a somewhat cantankerous advisor who does not suffer fools and cheats.

His career has suffered for this, but only in degree. He has no doubt missed out on some lucrative assignments because he doesn't play ball with idiots looking to circumvent the law. Against this, though, he is also viewed within the profession as having impeccable integrity, and when honest execs and directors need an advocate, he is at the top of their lists.

I suspect he sleeps rather well at night.

Simply put, there is a line he wasn't willing to cross during his career. From personal experience, there aren't enough guys like him. Others take the money and run.
12.9.2006 6:46pm
Visitor Again:
Just checking, in a thread which apparently is about finished, to see if Professor David Bernstein has reinstateed me after benning me from making comments on the whole website, apparently because I said something he found truly offensive. The reinstatement promise was made a week ago now, and I have had to remind him of it, but he claims he thought he had already done it. So let's see what is what.
12.10.2006 12:53am
Visitor Again:
Well there I am, so Prof. Bernstein was finally as good as his word. I will say, however, that whenever commenting on one of Bernstein's contributions, if ever, I shall put on my pixie boots. That's meant to indicate I think he is oversensitive to anyone who dares to take issue with him or who has a low opinion of him. But thank you, Prof. Bernstein, for letting me have my little say here and there. You don't need to ban me for anything; if readers believe what I have to say is absurd or pointless, they will disregard me. I am never impolite, although I may be pointed in my comments. Of course, I imagine bandwidth is always your main concern when it comes to banning those you deem unfit to be here.
12.10.2006 1:01am
Visitor Again:
Since I used this apparently exhausted thread as the testing ground to see if I was still banned before wasting my time composing one of my time-consuming comments, I feel a moral obligation to say something relevant.

I've told this story on this blog before, but I think it bears repeating here. On the very first day of class in our first year at HLS in September, 1965, Robert Braucher, our contracts professor, told us by way of introduction that he had been the only HLS faculty member to vote for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Presidential election. (Charles Fried, who I would imagine also voted for Goldwater, did not join the faculty until my first year, the year after the election, and so Braucher's claim cannot be questioned on that ground.) There were gasps and sniggers among the class, of course, some rather muted, a few not. As a flaming leftist, I withheld any outward sign of my reaction, thinking it might not be a good idea to risk a Bernstein-type ban on my first day of law school. (I will say Braucher was much loved by all of us by the end of the year; I can picture him now, smoking one cigarette after another, charming us all while he somehow made palatable the most arcane collection of rubbish I've ever had to read.)

The reason I raise the story again is this. Do you really think it made a whit of difference in our post-HLS world which HLS professor taught contracts to my class? Do you think it made any difference in the way corporate America operates whether HLS had one or 40 conservatives? I do not.

I do remember in my third-year advanced criminal procedure course taught by Lloyd Weinreb feeling rather sorry for one of my classmates, Eric Younger, son of a well-known California prosecutor and politician, when he, and he alone, had the temerity to question the wisdom of the then fairly recent decision in Miranda vs. Arizona. Not that I thought Eric had anything remotely reasonable to say on Miranda, but that only he should be taking that view in a class of perhaps 100 students seemed a bit unreasonable. By then the war in Viet Nam and racism in the U.S.A. had moved me closer to Karl Marx's politics than those of any of my so-called liberal professors, and the assassination of Bobby Kennedy on my last day at the law school sent me even further left, since I viewed him as our country's only viable hope for peace and justice and fairness. Eric Younger went on to serve as a prosecutor and a trial judge, now retired, in California. I went on to poverty law on Charcoal Alley in Watts and then several well-known radical political cases.

Who taught us--they were all first-class legal minds, after all, whatever their politics--would have made no difference, no difference in what we later did and certainly no difference in the way this country turned out. Hell, the most valuable course I took at HLS was Federal Courts from Henry Hart, who would not have been by my shoulders or giving me any sympathy whatever even had death not taken him the very next year.

Where this liberal-conservative balance may make a huge difference is within the internal affairs of the law school itself. From what I've heard, the internal politics are nasty if not vicious.
12.10.2006 8:19am
Visitor Again:
An addendum since I have had a very long night out, am a bit the worse for wear and missed some things I should have made clear.

The students at HLS during my time were overwhelmingly liberal. The professors were, too, but they did not push their views on us; HLS did not hire political hacks then, and I am quite sure it does not do so now. The overwhelmingly liberal professors posited opposing views themselves and encouraged their discussion by the students. Eric Younger was not alone in his views because others were intimidated from agreeing with him; nearly everyone at HLS thought Miranda was correctly decided. Eric, I think, was treated with courtesy whenever he expressed views that, frankly, the rest of us deemed antithetical to justice.

I had Charles Fried, later a notably conservative Solicitor General, of course, for my first year torts class. Notwithstanding his remark on the first day of class, when all of us were a little short of terrified, to one Mr. Smith, called on to state the first case in our case book--"That was singularly unhelpful, Mr. Smith"--I greatly admired Fried's teaching talents by the end of the term, and in my third year, I, by then very far to the left, chose to take his elective course on Philosophies of Justice. He required a paper, no examination, and I wrote, from a Rawlsian perspective, about having turned in my draft card, although I had a fatherhood deferment and was safe from the draft, on the day our majestic federal government arraigned Dr. Benjamin Spock along with several other courageous men on draft obstruction and conspiracy charges. Professor Fried gave me the highest mark I ever received at HLS.

I do not know what the situation is at law schools today. I would dearly like to believe that institutions like HLS and Yale Law School have the same quality of men (and now women, thank goodness). What goes on at other law schools I have never known. Perhaps political proselytizing does go on, and the students are so dumb they are incapable of resisting it. I doubt that, but I suppose some think law students are intellectually subjugated as easily as grade school children.

I do not support our system of law, but I have to live with and work in it, and as long as I do, I am thankful there are institutions who have professors as admirable as those who taught me.
12.10.2006 9:10am
Visitor Again:
Sorry, one more short addition to my riff:

Where did all those liberal students at HLS during my time end up working? With the exception of me and perhaps a very, very few others, at what is now known as Big Law. This is not a criticism; it is a fact. That's where the money was to be made; that's where power resided; that's where the dream of becoming a lawyer sent them. Did they make a differnence at Big Law? I haven't seen it. But that's a whole other debate, isn't it? No, the liberal profs made no difference. However you greet my riff, cheers to all.
12.10.2006 10:36am
Tom in LA (mail):
Visitor Again,

If this thread wasn't already almost finished, you certainly finished it off.

Prof. Bernstein,

Please ban him again.
12.11.2006 10:58am
Visitor Again:
What is it that so offends you in my messages? Not a word of reasoning from you. And what ground is there on which to ban me again? Nothing except that apparently you find my speech offensive.
12.11.2006 1:52pm
Tom in LA (mail):
Your remarks are not offensive, just terribly dull and pointless.
12.11.2006 2:09pm
Visitor Again:
Why dull and pointless? We give reasons for our comments on this blog. Anyway, the grounds you cite are not grounds for banning me. Your comments are empty of content; they're ad hominem.
12.11.2006 8:36pm