A (different) Lawprof’s Attempt at Mental Masturbation

Law professor Bernie Burk really got the crowd going with his blog post “Law School Transparency Jumps the Rails” on Faculty Lounge.

For the most part, Bernie Burk’s post criticizes LST’s legal education proposals mentioned in “The Crisis In Legal Education: Dabbling in Disaster Planning”. The post was modified after the original drew commenter complaints.

On the deleted original post, Bernie Burk first acknowledges and “admires” LST’s transparency efforts. But he is upset over LST’s choice of words in its paper. He states that LST does not provide definitions of “law school disaster” and “crisis”. But in the next paragraph, after some heavy disclaimers and acknowledgements, he points to his previous posts entitled “What Matters Most” where he acknowledges the general problem: there too many law school graduates and not enough jobs. He then spends the large remainder of the post criticizing some of LST’s reform proposals. But on the final paragraph where Bernie Burk is talking to his imaginary friend, he again chastises LST for using words like “law school disaster” and “crisis” as it demeans the generally positive discourse.

But on the edited version of Bernie Burk’s post, he removed most of his critiques and replaces it with five talking points:

  • Don’t overdramatize.
  • Don’t allow hysterical language to mask a failure to define the issue you need to address.
  • Don’t ignore the implications of your justifications.
  • Don’t ignore inconvenient facts.
  • Don’t assume away the problems you perceive; recognize and try to solve them.

Bernie Burk’s criticisms of LST’s proposals were sensible and well reasoned. Perspectives are different – I get it and it seems like LST does too. He’s a (presumably) experienced professor and LST’s writers are recent law school graduates.

What I find problematic is his need to “define the issues” and not using “hysterical language” which he elaborates on his first two talking points.  He has a big problem with use of the word “disaster” in describing the current state of legal education.

This is an almost blatant attempt by Bernie Burk to do one or a combination of the following: 1) confuse the reader with “professorspeak” to the point where they say “fuck it” and turn to the TV instead; 2) Avoid the big picture by focusing on trivial nuances.

Yes, we know that the economy sucks. But strangely enough, some law schools continue to brag about their high post-grad employment rate and high salaries despite the recession. Are you going to ignore that inconvenient truth?

So what is a “disaster” in Bernie Burk’s view? When tenured lawprofs are forced to work more for less money? If that is the case, join the fucking club. When positive discourse and gentlemanly conversation gives into toxic pissing contests? Who fucking cares!? When young, “inexperienced” mavericks question the wise and venerable professors? Oh please…Whenever I see a lawprof write a long-winded post that makes things more confusing than they already are, it looks more like an attempt at mental masturbation. It also demeans the good lawprofs that actually teach the students what they need to know.


One thought on “A (different) Lawprof’s Attempt at Mental Masturbation

  1. Nando

    The academic wants to set the terms of debate, so that he can control the direction and overall discussion. Burk needs to back up his “case” with actual facts, and not meaningless rhetoric.


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