You will perhaps recall Judge Richard Kopf. If not, start here. The Judge recently got crosswise (again) with friend of the blog Rick Hasen who is a good guy and a major scholarly figure despite starting out with two strikes (he's a liberal and he teaches at Irvine). That spat presumably motivated Judge Kopf to post the following request:
I am interested in collecting a list of law professors who litigate in the trial courts of this country while also teaching law. I don’t care whether such litigation is civil or criminal in nature. I don’t care whether the litigation takes place in state or federal court. I understand and appreciate that busy law professors only have so much time. As a result, I don’t expect the list to contain law professors who are constantly in our trial courtrooms. But, I do want to know about law professors who try enough cases on a fairly regular basis that one might conclude that they are presently competent to sit at the first chair representing a client before a jury or a trial judge. ...
Please, please, please, no snark. I honestly have no interest in picking a fight. On the contrary, I am sincerely hoping to recognize and praise law professors who litigate in the many trial courtrooms of our nation while also regularly teaching law.
Without intending to be snarky in any way, I wonder why Judge Kopf is singling out trial lawyer law professors. Are law professors who regularly take the lead in writing briefs and conducting oral arguments in appellate cases not equally worthy of recognition and praise?
More important, are trial lawyers (law professors or not) worthy of recognition and praise? I'm quite serious about that question. Consider the Manhattan Institute's path breaking report Trial Lawyers Inc., which exposed the considerable damage being done to our economy by excessive and abusive litigation:
Trial Lawyers, Inc., while not an annual report per se, presents a snapshot of the lawsuit industry as it exists today. The picture is not pretty. Total tort costs today exceed $200 billion annually, or more than 2% of America’s gross domestic product—a significantly higher percentage than in any other developed nation. Moreover, even as the economy has stagnated and the stock market has plunged, the lawsuit industry’s revenues have continued to skyrocket: in 2001, the last year for which data are available, U.S. tort costs grew by 14.3%. Over the last 30 years, tort costs grew at a compound annual rate of 9.1%; by comparison, the U.S. population grew 1.1% annually, the consumer price index grew 5.0% annually, and the gross domestic product grew 7.6% annually during the same period.
In my home field of corporate law and securities regulation, runaway shareholder litigation has become an enormous impediment to capital formation, as I argued in my article, Corporate Governance and U.S. Capital Market Competitiveness, available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1696303.
Whether or not you agree with me that runaway litigation has reached crisis proportions and therefore calls into serious question any effort to praise trial lawyers, moreover, surely you can agree with me that law schools already devote too much attention to litigation. As I argued in my essay, Reflections on Twenty Years of Law Teaching, available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1122577:
[Law school as taught by] the Socratic method doesn’t really teach you to “think like a lawyer.” At best, it teaches you to think like a litigator.
Consider a typical law student who accepts a [transactional] job at a large firm. She has spent perhaps ninety-five percent of her time in law school reading and discussing cases and law review articles. Once in practice, she will go days or weeks at a time without picking up a case or a law review article. Instead, her days will be filled with drafting, reviewing, and marking up transactional documents, negotiating language with opposing counsel, participating in conference calls, and composing memos, emails, and letters to colleagues and clients.
“Thinking like a lawyer,” as Kingsfield and his ilk would have our graduate do is not very conducive to success in that environment.
In his book, The Terrible Truth About Lawyers, Mark McCormack, founder of the International Management Group, a major sports and entertainment agency, wrote that “it’s the lawyers who: (1) gum up the works; (2) get people mad at each other; (3) make business procedures more expensive than they need to be; and now and then deep-six what had seemed like a perfectly workable arrangement.” McCormack further observed that, “when lawyers try to horn in on the business aspects of a deal, the practical result is usually confusion and wasted time.” He concluded: “the best way to deal with lawyers is not to deal with them at all.”
All of which is why I emphasize not only doctrine but also economics and business. Transactional lawyers must understand the business, financial, and economic aspects of deals so as to draft workable contracts and disclosure documents, conduct due diligence, or counsel clients on issues that require business savvy as well as knowing the law.
I want my students to understand that successful transactional lawyers build their practice by adding value to their clients’ transactions. Instead of thinking like Kingsfield, I want them to learn where the value in a given transaction comes from and how they might add even more value to the deal.
The problem with most law schools is that we have too many litigators and ex-litigators and not enough deal lawyers. So why would Judge Kopf want to contribute to that problem by giving trial lawyer law professors yet more recognition and praise? Why this bias against deal lawyers?
Finally, I suspect Judge Kopf's many fans in the "law school is a scam" crowd will take issue with his list if they stop to think about its implications. Judge Kopf is "only interested in law professors who litigate while they also teach law. Exclude professors who were once trial lawyers but who no longer spend time in the trial courtroom."
Of course, one of the main complaints by the law school scam crowd is that too many law professors spend too much time doing things other than teaching. Given how intensive trial work is, a law professor who is spending much time first chairing cases is a law professor who likely is not spending all that much time preparing for class, mentoring students, and so on.
In sum, without wanting to start a fight--just a discussion, I think Judge Kopf's latest project doesn't make much sense to me.