The Brave and Foolish Loyola Dean Yellen
The fact that Dean Yellen was willing to walk into the lion's den of snark and angst reflects a pretty admirable degree of fortitude on his part. The fact that he thought he could get away with the usual fluff, rudimentary acknowledgement of the issues leading to the pedantic talking points of the Academy stalwarts was, well, foolish.
Almost all law schools are in the process of changing significantly and, by the standards of the academic world, rapidly. Where we will wind up is very much up in the air. Right now we have more questions than answers. Some schools will probably adapt very effectively and will emerge in strong shape. Others will flounder and perhaps close.
In the weeks ahead, I hope to talk about these issues in a way that is fair and balanced (isn’t there a TV network that says that?). There will be those who disagree with some of what I write; others may disagree with everything. But as I said to Elie, it may be naïve, but I still believe that even in our overheated internet age, there is real value in serious dialogue on important topics. I look forward to our time together on ATL.
It's not that you're naive, dean. You are, but that's not your biggest problem, or even among the top 10. There is real value in serious dialogue, but when you preface the obvious by "our overheated internet age," you are telling the Philistines that serious dialogue only happens on your terms. Those days are dead, dean.
The arrogance of scholarly tone is a brick wall, stopping the pretense of dialogue dead in its tracks. You may believe there is common ground, areas of give and take, where improvement can be made that will satisfy the unemployed, indebted barbarians, but you won't indulge them as they refuse to speak in the hushed tones that suit your sensibilities.
They will eat you alive for this. They will shred you for your paternalistic refusal to talk to them if they don't talk your way.
But nothing can be accomplished if they call you mean names and refuse to hear you out? There is a message in there that you aren't hearing, dean. They are angry. It's to your benefit to calm the storm, because angry people aren't easily appeased, and they aren't interested in giving letting you make the rules of engagement so that you can calmly explain why they are overheated and you are mindful.
They have heard from you before. Maybe not you, but others with the same talking points, the same soothing dulcet tones, and the only thing it got them was a bag of Cheetos and a seat on the basement couch. They aren't going to let them happen again.
I suspect, as do you, that there is common ground, from the closing of marginal law schools to reduce the number of lawyers spewed on the market to something more closely resembling what society can absorb. I suspect that chopping scholars' salaries by half, and maybe half again, because they can try their damnedest to get a big money job at Biglaw, but we all know that's not happening for most of them. The introduction of actual lawyers teaching what they have actually done, in lieu of scholarship with no purpose other than to impress the tenure committee, may be on the table. But discussion of any of this is going to come with a lot of cursing, anger and name-calling.
For a long time, the nice men and women who held the positions of power in legal academia got to dictate the tone of the discussion. It never suited me, as I never quite understood what the hell they were trying to say. It was subtle and, from this trench lawyer's perspective, pseudo-intellectual. It was always my view that if you have something to say, just say it. Burying it in a thousand nice-sounding but vague words didn't cut it.
I hope, Dean Yellen, you show up for another round of "whack-a-dean" at Above the Law. Maybe you can lead the way, even if there are a few lawprofs who have gone far down the road ahead of you, at least on the paths they think will help the situation.
But for crying out loud, don't come back if you think you get to dictate the tone of "serious dialogue." They aren't falling for it again. Much as this will sound offensive (as I've been told by some of the bolder voices in legal academia who inform me that they would really like to speak straight but fear that their colleagues will look askance at their foul mouths), man up, dean. The real world has whatever tone its participants choose to give it, whether you like it or not. You don't tell the other side how to behave, just as they don't tell you.
And if you can't lower yourself to engage in a discussion without dictating its terms, then don't bother pretending you're trying to help. If you didn't realize that there were problems rocking your throne, you wouldn't be talking to these whiners and malcontents in the first place. Mean words and nasty names are going to be part of the discussion, not only because that's how real people communicate but because they are angry with you for being part of the world that brought them misery.
Get off your throne and come talk to the peasants. I can't promise you they won't storm the palace, but then, they may well storm the palace anyway. If they do, you're being thrown into the dungeon. Trust me, if you don't like the tone now, you're going to hate the tone in the dungeon. So get real, get off your throne and take the dialogue however it comes. Even overheated.