PRINT PAGEUM Law School: My Rebuttal Argument

Written by Roy Black

I have gotten a lot of emails and feedback both positive and negative to my suggestions for upgrading the education at the law school. I am more interested in responding to the negative comments. I stand accused of yelling fire in a crowded theater. One angry person said I was a “dumbass” for even suggesting the school is less than perfect. Many have excuses why the rankings either don’t mean a thing, or they calculate the wrong factors, or it is not a real problem, etc. Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong. The general consensus is that they are happy with the state of affairs. One graduate even soothes us with the thought that after a few years no one remembers where you went to law school. Talk about pride in your education! Image a Harvard, Yale or Stanford graduate happily telling us they hope everyone forgets where they went to law school. Even Miami Dade College puts up billboards and publishes ads touting the school and its graduates.

I can take this criticism because, as Winston Churchill commented: “Eating my words has never given me indigestion.” But I must admit, I am shocked how deep this sentiment goes. Many seem happy with the state of affairs and see no need to change. I naively thought everyone would want to improve the school. The powers at the law school must feel vindicated with so many endorsing mediocrity.

What would happen if the football team was ranked 77th? Would the fans and student body say the rankings are unimportant? Or the polls didn’t use the right factors? Or don’t worry, by summer we will go to the beach and forget it? Can you envision a stadium full of fans with orange foam fingers with #77 on them? Cheerfully chanting “we are number 77!” I am willing to bet the coach would be immediately fired. An enormous effort would go into radically changing the program. No one would stand for it. We would do a national search for the right coach and pay him several million dollars to fix the disaster. Lots of money would be thrown at the problem. The president of this university takes football personally. It is a point of pride. Too bad she doesn’t feel the same about the law school.

Some of us remember when the football team was horrible in the 70s. It took the great Gator flop to change things. The UF football team embarrassed us into improving. Maybe 77th place will do the same for the law school. Even the pathetic Dolphins are trying to upgrade.

Let me make this crystal clear — mediocre is not acceptable. I recall when G. Harrold Carswell was appointed to the Supreme Court, there was a lot of complaints that he was mediocre. Senator Roman Hruska made the infamous comment: “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they, and a little chance? We can’t have all Brandeises, Frankfurters and Cardozos.” This demeaning statement backfired and the senate refused to confirm Carswell.

Well I guess the same thought applies here. Why do we need the Brandeises etc.? Why seek out the best? Because we want a first-rate education, that is why. Why should we accept second best? The school has the money to do this. The DBR reported there is $30 million in the law school building account. If invested conservatively it could return $3 million a year. Add to that the 25 or 30% of tuition money sent to other schools in the university and there is plenty of resources to upgrade the school.

There was one legitimate objection made to my plan — it wouldn’t work. Perhaps not, I am not an expert on legal education. One reason I write this blog is to put forth my ideas and start a debate. I thought this would have ignited thinking about how to improve things at the school, but there apparently is no introspection, and no interest in revamping the system. Oh well, no big deal. Why do we want to be excellent instead of good? Too much effort. Let someone else do it while we fade into obscurity. Let us wallow in mediocrity. Excellence? Save it for other law schools, we can’t be bothered. Tell Chemerinsky he is wasting his time seeking excellence.

One last point: would anyone bother to read “The Mediocre Gatsby?”

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6 Comments to UM Law School: My Rebuttal Argument

  1. July 30, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

    There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

    Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

    Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

    Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

    It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

  2. August 2, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Roy, when you enter into the blog business, you must be ready to accept some critical and vile comments at times. The other local legal blogs have had staying power because they have let the unwholesome comments roll off of their backs. There are millions of people on the internet. It comes with all kinds of anonymous opinions, so you have to toughen up.

    I do think we should have pride in our alma mater. The reason I applied to the best undergraduate colleges and ended up at the best undergraduate institution in the world is because of high academic standards, but the reason I went to UM Law was because of the full scholarship. I still place more importance on my undergraduate institution than on my law school alma mater. Reputation and high standards are important.

  3. Punch's Gravatar Punch
    August 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Professor Black’s proposed changes and it’s good to start this dialogue. It is ridiculous that FSU/UF is ranked higher than UM (sorry FSU/UF grads). Clearly, there are issues that need to be addressed to move UM Law into the future and higher rankings. Although I feel that UM Law has been stagnant and has done a disservice to its students, I voluntarily made a decision to attend and as such, I feel that we should join in making this university excel and make it clear to UM Faculty and Staff that things have to change. They can’t continue with the current philosophy and expect the graduates to fully upport them.

    Peesda – Sorry you sold yourself short by going to UM. Not sure by your statement if you have pride in UM or not, but since invested time and UM’s money to go there, you might as well place just as much importance on UM Law as your undergrad institution.

  4. Anon's Gravatar Anon
    August 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Peesda, please. What is wrong with you?! Are you the type of person who is 90 and still talks about going to xxx undergrad?! Get a life.

  5. August 3, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    You are a rank amateur when it comes to generating angry, rude, nasty and mean comments. You want to blog? Welcome to the party.

  6. Eric's Gravatar Eric
    August 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Roy-

    My only problem with your original comment was your hyperbolic use of the term “death spiral.”

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