Professor Says Don’t Blame Law Schools
Ronald Goldfarb’s February 2013 review of Brian Z. Tamanaha’s book Failing Law Schools was right on target, and the book itself needed badly to be written. Bravo, writers!
But as a former adjunct professor of litigation drafting at The George Washington University Law School, living eight years in the belly of the beast, I have to defend our overburdened legal institutions, at least a little. It’s hard teaching ballet to people who can’t walk.
The floundering crop of law graduates let loose on the world is the product of our entire educational system. Law schools get dumped into their laps bright young people who have great intelligence and enthusiasm, and, as often as not, no training in the use of language or the analysis of ideas. Law school is expected to teach these kids in three years what primary schools, and colleges, have failed to teach them in 16: How to think. Law school is also expected to supply graduates with tools such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, and diction, all of which should have been drummed into them during their previous education, and without which the skill of analysis, even if acquired, can’t be expressed.
I once held an entire class on the use of the apostrophe. To reinforce the lesson, I begged my students to buy Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, or Patricia T. O’Conner’s incomparable Woe Is I. I privately tutored the most linguistically challenged class members, one on one. In desperation, I threatened everyone with lowered grades for bad punctuation. And I still got end–of–semester pleadings that included the word “her’s.”
—Ellen Sue Shapiro
Palm Beach, Florida
Diversity Should Extend to Opinions, Too
The December 2012 issue was quite a study in contrast. The cover story was “Diversity,” a familiar topic in Washington Lawyer.
But in presenting the two books, Ronald Goldfarb’s review of The Oath and James Srodes’ review of The Supreme Court and McCarthy–Era Repression, diversity was absent, as usual. Both books were written by liberals. And both reviews presented liberal opinions as if they were facts. For example, Goldfarb writes that Justice Scalia’s method of constitutional analysis is “perverted.” While in Srodes’ review, he writes that “the real emphasis of [the anti–Communist efforts of the 1950s] was to crush dissent.”
Perhaps the D.C. Bar’s commitment to diversity should extend to genuine diversity of opinion.
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