Wednesday, September 15, 2010

 

Big Friday in Waco

This Friday, Baylor will inaugurate Ken Starr as President of the University. There are two great developments that come with this, both confirming my initial thought that Starr was an excellent choice for this position.

First, the keynote speaker for the inauguration ceremony will be Stephen Carter of Yale Law. Prof. Carter was one of my favorite teachers when I was in school, and a wonderful choice to lead the way in a time of healing. More than anything, Carter is an iconoclast and a critical thinker who taught us to be those things, too. In class, if someone tried to guess his position and articulate it (a classic move by pandering students), he would break them down more than anyone else. President Starr is sending a message by choosing such a learned and fascinating critical thinker (who does not fit neatly into any political box) for this important role.

Second, President Starr has announced an initiative to raise $100 million for student scholarships, and has started by pledging $100,000 of his own money to the cause. This is both a perfect cause (there is nothing divisive about scholarships!) and a perfect gesture in leading by example.

Comments:
The inauguration activities offer an exciting opportunity for Baylor students to interact with with a host of interesting and important people. I, for one, am very much looking forward to Friday--save for the Greek exam I will have to endure to start the day. Prof. Osler, are you coming down?

Two comments on scholarships:
1) They won't kick in until 2013, so I'm outta' luck, but they will be great for Baylor's future.
2) I have no doubt that the university has spent more than $100K on landscaping in the last two weeks, though I'm pretty sure none of it was directly funded by Judge Starr.
 
When is he gonna take over personally directing the future of the law school? Since those there currently are unwilling, I'm waiting for leadership from another direction. Considering how much he raised pepperdine's prominence, how about he take a shot with the law school while he's at it?!
 
I don't understand what you mean Dallas_ADA. All you have to do is ask the current leadership and you will find out that resistence to change is actually the formula for success. You, as an alumnus, should be thanking Baylor Law School for it's ability to stay the course and ignore all suggestions for change. I mean, if Baylor Law School were to change, would you still be willing to call yourself a Baylor lawyer?

Personal injury trial work is the cornerstone of today's legal field. Everyone goes to trial. And often. The only way you can be prepared to deal with trial work is by withstanding reading assignments, which are admittedly designed to create so much stress that you fail. You cannot succeed without failing; again, and again, and again.

Judge Starr is not a Baylor lawyer, so what could he possibly know about success? What advice could he possibly give to improve perfection?

Sarcasm? Sorry.
 
I see someone else is up reading for PC.
 
Although I share your snark a bit, Anon 1:54 (go to bed earlier tonight!), you are being a bit unfair. Sure, Baylor is doing transactional attorneys a disservice by not having an equal and equally rigorous "Transactional PC" program. I don't understand what people's fascination is with M&A and secured transactions, but I'm sure they think my Byzantine knowledge of the Rules of Appellate Procedure is just hinky.

But, for those times when lawyers are called on to engage in advocacy (which, admittedly, I might do more of than a junior M&A associate), Baylor hands-down wins out. Even when the question is, "which starting lawyers have more basic competence?" I have found that, odds are, a Baylor lawyer knows more about the process of legal reasoning and how to determine an answer for themselves with confidence in the answer than young attorneys from other schools.

I would love to see Baylor's ranking (and, consequently, job prospects for new grads) go up to where it belongs. To some degree, US News and World Report is a game, and as much as I hate playing that game, if it means our degrees are worth more, our administration should do a bit of the ranking-game gladhanding necessary for that. But one thing Baylor shouldn't lose is the "designed to create so much stress that you fail" aspect of PC. The best skill I had during my first few cases as a lawyer was the irrational fear that if I made a mistake Gerald Powell was going to appear in my office and chastise me for ten minutes in front of my coworkers. It really is a good motivation to triple-check your work.
 
As usual, Lane's analysis of the benefits of Baylor Law training is spot on. While, like Lane, I am only a few years removed from the experience, my jobs have caused me to interact extensively with the work product of hundreds of lawyers. Those trained at Baylor are generally superior to those trained elsewhere, regardless of the stage of their careers.


The rankings game is a pain, particularly because it rewards those schools which can dedicate their third-year students to advocacy competitions (obviously, I'm excluding the top 25 schools from this statement). However, because a higher ranking tends to lead to better and more diverse job prospects, I would like to see BLS focus a little more on raising our ranking.

Professor Carter is one of my favorite fiction novelists. I can't wait to hear him tomorrow!

I wonder whether some of that $100 million will go to increasing law school scholarships. Sallie Mae is not my favorite person, but we're going to be pretty close for the next twenty-five years. Joy.
 
I think that my point was missed at 1:54 AM. I did not complain about reading, I complained about reading assignments that are designed to cause stress. I don't mind the reading burden; I resent the intent behind the reading assignments. Hazing is hazing no matter what you call it.

I certainly will not challenge the observations of those that have moved on to successful careers after Baylor; I lack the perspective to do so. I can only hope that today's job market allow me an opportunity to gain such a perspective.

The focus of my comment was that change is needed so that Baylor lawyers remain relevant in a demanding legal market that is shrinking while the number of lawyers increases. Litigation occurs in criminal courtrooms; dispute resolution is a focal point in civil litigation; and, there is no reason that Baylor cannot maintain a challenging environment while shifting focus away from personal injury trial law.
 
Baylor must remain focused on personal injury trial law because that is what the professors in PC know about. It has nothing to do with the market for lawyers or student need.
 
I found the "grade inflation" portion on the new Baylor Law School website particularly instructive.

Someone at Baylor actually thinks that a law firm recruiter will believe that a B from Baylor is worth more than a B from their law school. If Baylor were ranked in the top tier, it may be believable. Since it is not -- Baylor's assertion will not be believed, even if it is true.
 
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