Law School Follies (And Josh Blackman’s Return)

An inexplicable wave came over white women of child bearing age from 1980 to 1990 that compelled them to name their male offspring “Josh.”  Today, walk into a meeting of the Young Lawyer Section of the ABA and yell out, “Hi, Josh,” and you’ve got 90% of the place covered.  It’s weird, but Mrs. Blackman succumbed like her contemporaries.

When Joe Palazzolo, the guy who took over the Wall Street Journal Law Blog after  Peter Lattman went legit,  Dan Slater got dumped and Ashby Jones got bored, and now mails it in, wrote about Paul Ryan on the Rule of Law, it was a provocative enough title to take a look. While I learned nothing whatsoever about Ryan, I did get a surprise.

H/T to Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law, who  highlighted the speech on his blog.

As Professor Blackman notes, Mr. Ryan casts the ever-present tension between liberty and security in economic terms.

The vice presidential debate ā€” remember: Joe Biden taught constitutional law  ā€“ could be very interesting, as Professor Blackman points out.

Professor? Not only does Palazzolo mention Josh Blackman three times, but each time made sure to note he was a “professor.”  How is this possible, I wondered?  Josh Blackman was a smart, extremely wet behind the ears law grad about 30 second ago, and now he’s a professor?  Not that I’ve ever heard of South Texas College of Law before, but apparently it exists and Josh is a professor at it. Huh?

Some kids coming out of law school know, just know, that they want to be scholars. Nothing wrong with that, and Josh Blackman was definitely one.  To that end, he wrote thoughtful posts at his blog, and for while was allowed to guest post at Concurring Opinions,  Both reflected two disturbing, if not surprising, problems. 

First, a peculiar self-absorbtion, like a five year old on the high diving board yelling at the grown-ups to look at him.  Second, a desire to opine on matters far, far beyond his ken, such as the future of legal education and the practice of law.  In noting this, I  subtly hinted that Josh might want to change his trajectory a bit:

Yet, one of our own has boldly leaped where no man has gone before.  Following on a  curious post by Josh Blackman, who is in the process of transitioning from law student to legal scholar by hurdling over the chance to practice law, if only for a moment.

Aside: One of the most intriguing things about most of those who aspire to telling lawyers what their future will be is that they don’t actually practice law, and some have never practiced law.  It’s like being a food critic when no savory crumb has ever passed their lips, and they’ve only gazed upon cuisine from afar, reminiscent of a Star Trek episode they’ve likely never watched where the food looked magnificent but had no flavor whatsoever.  And yet, they feel no shame in telling those who do about the view from those who don’t. Go figure.

Sadly, I was ignored. As soon as his clerkship was over, Josh signed up for pedagogy, rather than spend a few minutes of his life actually being a lawyer. You know, just for the experience of it.  Try a case. Negotiate a deal. Hold a real person’s hand whose life or fortune depends on you. Learn for yourself what it is you hope to teach someone else. Something. Anything.

But no. Instead, Josh made a bee line to South Texas College of Law, the Harvard of Houston, award-winning for best work/life balance and cafeteria barbecue, where young minds will be placed in his hands.

And with his new post comes the return of his blog, aptly named Josh Blackman’s Blog, where he has gotten right down to business with a critical and thoughtful plea :

Wanna help me get back into the ABA Journal Blawg 100?

During my hiatus, I was unceremoniously bumped out of the august crowd of the ABA Journal Blawg 100 after my entrance into this Parthenon of Electrons in 2010

Now, Iā€™m back. If you would like to help, please nominate me here. It only takes a moment.

Welcome back, Josh.  It’s too bad you didn’t take my suggestion to heart. And if begging for the attention of others (it only takes a minute?) matters this much to you, I hope someone nominates you.  But it still won’t prepare you to teach law school, or to opine about matters you’ve only seen from afar.


9 thoughts on “Law School Follies (And Josh Blackman’s Return)

  1. Keith Lee

    It seems beyond bizarre to essentially go straight from law school to the ivory tower. What will he ever have to offer students beyond hypothetical fancies of what it means to practice law?

    Along the lines of your smell/flavor analogy, I’m reminded if the old trope that teenagers are absolutely the world’s foremost experts on sex until they actually engage in it.

    Essentially South Texas hired a virgin to teach a sex ed class. I’m sure these students will come out with a clear understanding of the law.

  2. SHG

    What makes this all the more disturbing is that it comes (no pun intended) at a time when legal academics are properly under assault for lacking the experience to teach law students anything about the practice of law.  And yet, virgins want to not only teach sex ed, but do porno blogs. 

  3. BL1Y

    I think you’re putting too much of the blame on Josh. He’s been offered an extremely competitive job with great pay and better job security that the politburo. Even if he agreed it would be better for him to go into practice for a few years, he’s also faced with the economic realities of that choice.

    If he’s already painted himself as scholar-in-waiting, few firms will want to hire him, knowing that he’s planning on jumping ship after he’s put in his two years. And aside from just losing their training investment, they’ll have to worry about how committed he will be to his work product. So, it might not be as simple as just signing up to try a few cases and negotiate a few deals.

    Also, I don’t know what his debt situation looks like, but if he has the kind of debt that only a $100k+ salary can service, then he’s going to have to head to BigLaw, where after a year or two he will not have tried any cases or negotiated any deals. He’ll have done menial research tasks that give him no great insight into the legal practice. He’s teaching Property. How long would you have to work in a firm to gain any meaningful experience in that field? Real estate you could do, but that’s a different animal from property. I’ve never seen a firm with a fox hunting practice group.

    If his debtload is light enough that he could work at a smaller firm, the type that gives young attorneys more responsibility, then the first issue is exacerbated. A firm that only hires 1-2 associates a year has to be extra certain it’s making a good choice. They’ll be even more reluctant to risk hiring someone who looks like they’re waiting to go into academia.

    Lastly, he has to look at what his situation might be 2 years from now. If he went into private practice he could very well end up laid off and unable to find another job. The demands of practice could mean he’s unable to do any sort of academic writing during that time, and 2 years later, with that writing gap, he may not be able to get an offer to teach.

    I agree with you that we need fewer professors with no practice experience, but I find it hard to blame him for taking the job. STCL on the other hand probably had many other choices it could have made.

  4. SHG

    This was the same explanation I gave when I offered to perform brain surgery for a very reasonable price last week.  It would have been a great opportunity for me.

  5. Alex Bunin

    OK, them’s fighting words. South Texas College of Law is my alma mater. You can get an excellent legal education as well as training in refrigerator repair. What extended pinkie school did you attend, Scott?
    Despite that, I will nominate you for ABA Journal Blawg 100.

  6. Max Kennerly

    A quick skim of the front page and all the posts on it reveals (1) no links to any other legal blogs and (2) a blogroll with nothing but middle-of-the-road law professor group blogs and obvious mainstays like How Appealing and SCOTUSBlog.

    It seems Blackman, who showed so much promise, has returned to offer us the blawg equivalent of a sugar-free soy latte.

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