May 30, 2005

Lefty lawprofs.

Lawprof Scott Gerber complains about "The Radicalization of American Legal Education." Does it hurt law students if lawprofs lean way left of the general American populace? And should "does it hurt law students" be the question? It's the first question I think of, but it's followed very quickly by the question whether it hurts their future clients and then by the question whether it hurts the country more generally.

I'm not really sure what the great harm is. There is a natural tendency, I think, for people on the left to congregate in academia. Not because they're smarter. They're just less likely to feel at home doing the more lucrative things you can do if you are good at intellectual work. Professors have always differed from nonprofessors, and students and society have always dealt with these differences and figured out how to take what is useful from their education and to reject what is not.

That's not to say things couldn't be better. It's easy to imagine idealized law schools, places full of vigorous debate. But if I enjoyed living in a dream world, I'd probably be a lefty myself.

11 comments:

dick said...

My only comment is that I wonder if the result of all this is the increased likelihood of a future with legislation by judicial fiat rather than a rule of law by legislation. It seems that the further left the more likely the turning to the courts to change things rather than taking the time to get the people to elect legislators who will change things. I am not sure that is a good thing at all.

Ann Althouse said...

Dick: As Gerber notes, a lot of the lefty lawprofs have turned against the judicial review of legislation (now that the political process has stocked the courts with so many conservatives). Note that the problem you cite has a natural corrective process as people have elected Presidents who appoint more conservative judges.

ronin1516 said...

I am not an attorney, nor a legal scholar, but, I think the reason why a lot of leftist lawyers end up in academia is because perhaps their leftist ideology would prevent them from being successful in most real world situations.

jinnmabe said...

I have written to you about this before. I just finished two semesters of ConLaw, with two different professors, both clearly "lefty" in their political and judicial philosophy. I really liked the first and hated the second. The first was a nice guy who talked about the cases he assigned us, welcomed differing viewpoints, and was respectful. The second was a pompous blowhard who never taught any law, but showed up each day to rant and rave about how eeeeeeeeevil Republicans are. Their politics were the same, but one was a jerk and the other wasn't.

I guess my point is, give me lefties all day long if they will actually teach the material and be respectful of students (not only respectful of my opinion, but also my time: don't waste it with your personal rants).

Andrew said...

I think Bench has it right. The majority of my professors in college (History, not Law) leaned strongly to the left, but they were willing to listen to arguments from the right and did not attempt to use their position to indoctrinate their students. That's what should really count; if the professor is teaching students how to think and not what to think, his politics don't matter. And if he's trying to push his politics, which direction he's pushing isn't really important, just that he needs to stop.

Ann Althouse said...

Bench, Andrew: You're clearly right. This is what's important. Personally, I can't imagine feeling that it's okay to use the classroom to promote my political opinions, not that it's something I even feel the slightest inclination to do.

But there are some subtler issues here, where likeminded profs convince each other that they are just doing legal interpretation in a good and sophisticated way and in the process exclude the conservative positions. It may well be that you need some political diversity to keep this from happening.

ronin1516 said...

then there is the issue of law school faculty selection and retainment, granting of tenure etc. Seems, if the faculties of the better law schools already lean to the left, it is more likely that the existing lefty profs will be biased towards candidates that reflect their own position on what they think legal scholarship ought to be. For example, I doubt, if in today's uber-PC and uber-lefty academic environment, if a scholar like Robert Bjork would even be hired on as a part-time adjunct prof without a contract or any benefits.

Wurly said...

My concern is focused more on whether liberal dominance will lead to excluding conservative students from the schools.

Ann Althouse said...

Thom: I don't think there is much danger of this. Much of law school admissions is based on LSAT and GPA. Whether conservative students will be happy if they just chose the highest ranked school they get into is another matter entirely. Choose your law school carefully!

jinnmabe said...

I notice that some are assuming only the better law schools are lefty. When Prof. Althouse says to choose your law school carefully, keep in mind that even small state, low tiered law schools can be raving lefty. *cough, cough*

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