Friday, May 18, 2012

The revolution will not be cite checked

 Updated below

I once knew Rick Hills slightly.  At the beginning of his academic career he was what would now be called a VAP at CU, and we tried to hire him onto the faculty.  He was a bright, charming, ambitious, and what in another context would be called a connected guy: his mother was a big deal politician, his father was a former SEC chairman (in addition to all this Carla and William Hills founded what's now Munger, Tolles & Olson), and it was easy enough to predict he was going to do quite well in this thing of ours.  And I gather he has.

Yesterday he posted a complaint on Prawfsblawg (since deleted) which began like this:

I have a gripe about law students' lack of what might be called a "professional ethic." But maybe my grumpiness is just the irritated ennui brought on by grading 90 exams. Consider the following interaction, and tell me whether I am wrong to think that kids nowadays are unusually callow and immature.
Hills then went on to complain about the behavior of one of his students, a 2L who had agreed in March to be his research assistant this summer, but who backed out of the job the following month after getting an offer to be a summer associate for a firm.

Hills was at least cognizant enough of economic reality to recognize that this was a case of, to put it in contract law jargon, efficient breach --that the gain to the student from taking this opportunity outweighed the inconvenience to him -- but apparently he wanted compensation, in the form of a sufficiently groveling apology, preferably in person.  Instead he had to settle for an email from her, which he had the poor judgment to reproduce in the post.  (As DJM pointed out in a comment in the deleted thread, reproducing the email was arguably a FERPA violation.)

Update: Hills has apologized for the original post.

Update II: I've received messages from Hills that, for what it's worth, lead me to believe his apology is genuine rather than a strategic gesture.

Before he deleted the post Hills got a healthy dose of reality therapy, in the form of serious blow back from commentators. I was particularly pleased to see at least a couple of law professors other than the fearless DJM actually post critical comments under their own names. This response from Steven Lubet, regarding whether the student's handling of the situation represented "a professional ethic," was on point:

Ask the 30 law students who suddenly found themselves without summer jobs at Dewey LeBoeuf while hundreds of partners scrambled to find new positions for themselves. Did any of those partners -- some of whom control quite a bit of business -- even think about trying to bring along a summer associate or two? If so, it certainly hasn't gotten any press. And the suddenly jobless associates and staff were all notified, as it happens, by email.

I'd like to make just a few comments about this revelatory little incident:

(1) This is what clueless privilege looks like.  I have no reason to think Hills is a "bad guy," in the sense that he's particularly insensitive or self-regarding or otherwise narcissistic. It would be nice to think that his behavior could be explained in those terms, but unfortunately this kind of behavior is completely normal and predictable from people who live extraordinarily privileged lives, that feature thick layers of money and status between themselves and all manner of unpleasantness.

Hills could not have written what he wrote if he had any sense of what a potential professional and personal catastrophe is looming over an NYU 2L who has agreed to work as an RA during the summer before her third year.  Now it's possible that the student in question comes from the kind of background where not getting a big firm job isn't a disaster even after spending upwards of $250K to go to law school -- a background like Hills' own say -- but even at NYU this is fairly unlikely, and in any case expectations of what constitutes "professional behavior" need to be based on the circumstances of the average professional, not those of people who, to quote a great philosopher, have been born on third base and think they've hit a triple.

(2) The fact that Hills hired a 2L is symptomatic of what's happening all over the legal employment market.  If Hills can hire 2Ls to do scut work for him for low hourly wages the summer before their third year, that's a big problem for NYU students in general. "Normally" (that is, in terms of a "normal" situation that may well never return) professors at elite schools have to hire 1Ls as summer RAs, because if you don't have a real legal job in the summer before your third year, you're in a world of hurt.  Is Hills aware that an NYU 3L without a job might as well be at Cardozo or Brooklyn? Because this person isn't going to get hired at OCI. And people who don't get hired at OCI are, in most cases, going to graduate without jobs. And law students -- even NYU law students -- who graduate without jobs these days are basically screwed, to use a term of art.

But Hills prefers to hire a 2L rather than a 1L, because all things being equal a 2L is going to make a better RA than a 1L, and he doesn't have to "settle" for a 1L -- just like the employer advertising for an entry-level legal job no longer has to settle for people who don't have significant experience.  That's great for employers but a total disaster for law students, even NYU students, nearly 10% of whom were hired by NYU after they graduated last year at this time.

(3) Hills' pique over the failure of his student to apologize to him in a "professional" manner shows how little he understands -- or more accurately is willing to let himself understand -- about the enormous hierarchical gap between himself and someone he was going to pay barista-level wages (minus benefits) to help him with his research. When I read the email the student sent him (which I'm not going to reproduce since it shouldn't have been published in the first place) it was obvious that the student who wrote it had agonized about how to reveal her decision to a person who she has every reason to believe could do serious damage to her career prospects if he were so inclined.  Hills wanted -- or thought he wanted -- an exchange between putative social equals, but everything about law school is designed to make such a conversation impossible.

(4) Hills' complaint about grading exams is also revelatory.  Law professors despise grading exams because it's one of the very few times when we actually have to perform what most people, and especially most lawyers, think of as a job: that is, an unpleasant set of tasks that must be performed in return for money. When I first started this little project I pointed out that a lot of legal academics don't do much work, even liberally construed.  This is true: being a law professor doesn't really require more than 20 hours a week (this is a generous estimate) of work, or what is called work.  People teach three to six hours per week, write "law review articles" (the latter activity is about as difficult as falling off a turnip truck for anybody with an ounce of quasi-academic talent), and do a little bureaucratic identity maintenance (committees, faculty meetings, collegial workshops).

Of course places like NYU self-select for people who in fact do "work hard" -- but here's the thing:  It's not really work if you don't really have to do it.  When I got a lot of criticism from law professors for pointing out that a lot of them don't actually do much of anything, I got a nice email from a former professor of mine, a brilliant and accomplished scholar and a terrific teacher, who said this:

I think the idea of calling what I do a job, or work, is a misnomer. First of all because I love it. I am doing exactly what I would be doing if I were independently wealthy, except for grading papers and faculty meetings.
Exactly.  And this gets to the heart of what's most obnoxious about Hills' reaction. Hills gets paid $300,000 per year (I'm estimating) to do exactly what he wants to do 96.3% of the time.  His students will be lucky -- and they will be, in comparison to most law students, extremely lucky indeed -- to get paid half as much to do work that will fill them with boredom and dread 96.3% of the time.  An increasingly large minority of them will end up much worse off than that: they'll end up in low-paying soul-crushing jobs while carrying enormous loads of non-dischargeable debt.

This is not a sustainable situation, either in economic or ethical or political terms.  We cannot roll in such extraordinary privilege, treating those who subsidize our charmed lives with contemptuous insouciance ("what is it with kids today!") without taking account that one day a different kind of bill may be presented to the American elite and its hangers-on for what we took and how we took it.

Here's a passage from Orwell I've quoted before, which is worth recalling:

The one thing that everyone who has read A Tale of Two Cities remembers is the Reign of Terror. The whole book is dominated by the guillotine — tumbrils thundering to and fro, bloody knives, heads bouncing into the basket, and sinister old women knitting as they watch. Actually these scenes only occupy a few chapters, but they are written with terrible intensity, and the rest of the book is rather slow going. But A Tale of Two Cities is not a companion volume to The Scarlet Pimpernel. Dickens sees clearly enough that the French Revolution was bound to happen and that many of the people who were executed deserved what they got. If, he says, you behave as the French aristocracy had behaved, vengeance will follow. He repeats this over and over again. We are constantly being reminded that while ‘my lord’ is lolling in bed, with four liveried footmen serving his chocolate and the peasants starving outside, somewhere in the forest a tree is growing which will presently be sawn into planks for the platform of the guillotine, etc., etc., etc. The inevitability of the Terror, given its causes, is insisted upon in the clearest terms:
It was too much the way... to talk of this terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown — as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it — as if observers of the wretched millions in France, and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain terms recorded what they saw.
And again:
All the devouring and insatiate monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realization, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a spring, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms.
In other words, the French aristocracy had dug their own graves.


  1. Professor Hills' cowardice is in keeping with the overall culture at PrawfsBlawg.

    I was at the epicenter of a similar incident a few months back where I wrote a post calling out Professor Michael Teter's vacuous post about Professor Campos. Dan Markel deleted my comment and then lied about his reasons for doing so and he further lied about the tone and content of my post.

    The crew over at PrawfsBlawg, with the exception of Professor Horwitz, are emblematic of the out-of-touch, elitist, "legal one percenters" who comprise the majority of the legal professoriate.

    The arrogance of guys like Hills and Markel is breathtaking. These guys have tenured sinecures and smugly dismiss anonymous comments. News flash to Professor Hills - most of the world doesn't have tenure and attributed comments could have potentially adverse consequences when challenging the entrenched power elite of legal academia. People like Professor Hills cannot be trusted. The student recently victimized by his arrogance and lack of judgment learned this hard lesson first hand.

    I reviewed Hills' CV. He has lived a charmed existence and knows nothing of the struggles of most of his students, let alone the larger American population.

    Guys like Roderick Hills make me wistful for the draft or some sort of national service regime. He and Dan Markel would have profited greatly by spending a couple of years with fellow Americans outside their social milieu. Sadly, they never had those experiences and it shows. What sad, empty lives...

  2. I give our American powderkeg about 2 more years before things really, really shake out.

    Right now we're in the eye of the hurricane. 2008 gave us a taste for what's to come.

    Law professors are very much like French aristocrats circa 1780. They collect their credentials, compete in and are distracted by meaningless nonproductive bullshit, and interact with similar buffoons. If anyone has edited a law review article in the last 20 years, you'll note that it is replete with meaningless citations to other law review articles to pay deference to the high priests of the scheme and to curry favor with more senior academics.

    If the med schools shut down, society would have near instant problems. If the law schools shut down, not so much.

    The fact that law school is so objectively worthless should be its downfall.

  3. What ilks me the most about Hill's reaction is how he initially seemed so offended by the student's email. Clearly the guy has never litigated a case and seen how opposing counsel speaks to one another. He would probably shit his drawers. I thought the student's email was very professional, concise, and to the point. Then again, I have actually spent real time, in the real world, litigating cases and dealing with crap thrown at me from the other side.

    Hills has spent too much time in the ole academic vagina.

  4. 8:38, I agree.

    When I saw his comment (but before I read the e-mail) I expected to see a student who had sent him an email that read, "Professor Hill. Thx but I can't do it. Found a paying job this summer. Good luck with your tan."

    Instead, it was a very polite e-mail explaining the situation in a concise way that seemed both grateful and professional.

    That guy's so far up the ivory tower that he needs sherpas.

  5. Great post. Keep calling these douschebags out.

  6. Guys like Hill are disconnected from reality, insulated by the protective ivory towers of academia. Yet what has he produced of value to society? Poor little Ricky has to read and grade 90 exams. Poor little Ricky's ego was bruised because someone opted to work for money and experience rather than be awestruck on a daily basis being in the same room as the "great" Rick Hills (this is the first time I heard of him). Rick, you think you are slick? I will be in Washington Square Park at 3:00PM wearing a green polo. Why don't you come over to the chess tables and we can play a game of speed chess. Since your ego is already hurt, I could give you another serving of humble pie.

  7. LawProf,

    This post is a tour de force. You are doing tremendous work as an advocate for students and recent graduates. You and DJM are the conscience of a largely elistist and cloistered legal professoriate.

    I greatly appreciated the passage from Orwell. It is in keeping with much that I have read from Chris Hedges, namely, "The Death of the Liberal Class." Legacies of the American power elite like Roderick Hills and Sara Stadler at Emory are emblematic of Hedges' thesis.

    Last year, Sara Stadler, the daughter of a former US Solicitor General, epitomized epic cluelessness by telling unemployed grads to "Get Over It" at Emory Law's graduation. She was rightly excoriated. Now, we have another legal "educator", Roddy Hills, the son of a former SEC Chair, showing the world that he is even more epically out of touch than Dan Markel, Sara Stadler and Brian Leiter combined.

    I really don't know what else to say about Hills but I find his arrogance and cluelessness even more bothersome than what I've seen from the aforementioned academics. What can you say about a man that isn't even aware of the inherent power imbalance between a named chair professor at a T-6 and a 2L? Words fail.

  8. I just read the guy's apology, and must give credit because credit is due. Many are going to say that he's just doing some damage control (I think this is partly the case), but he does appear to show so genuine remorse.

  9. The most eye opening experience for me during law school was being an articles editor for our flagship journal. I had no idea that professors spent such a tremendous amount of effort producing such worthless drivel. I believe we received approx 2300 submissions and the overwhelming majority were truly asinine, tedious and arcane (and thoroughly researched and footnoted). The 14 or so we published were less tedious, and more arcane.

  10. I'm actually surprised LawProf didn't address Hills' "Mea Culpa," it was published yesterday.

  11. 9:11,

    Oh please. Do you really think his mea culpa is genuine remorse or a smoke screen to send 70+ critical comments - many of them damning - down the internet memory hole?

    If Roddy Hills has genuine remorse, then why close the comments tread on his mea culpa? Why delete the existing comments in response to his original post rather than just the offending post itself?

  12. Hill's out-of-touch reaction also enhances the argument that many of these academics have absolutely no idea about what is going on in the legal market for the people they educate. Could it be that they are not evil but totally clueless? Because of their arrogance, they will not accept hard data showing otherwise because, through the eyes of their pretentious lens, they feel as though the data is below them due to the source?

  13. Wow, this guy is a tribute to why law professors need to come from schools other than T14's and spend some of their time dealing with real world problems. I graduated from UNC Law several years ago, during the boom years, and I can think of 3 professors, off the top of my head, who would call in favors from former colleagues to get a 3L a job. None of these women came from super-privileged backgrounds, and all of them understood how tough it was for students, so they went out of their way to do everything they could to help. None of them would EVER treat a student the way Hills treated that young lady.
    Here is a shout out to class acts...Marion Crain (now at Wash U-St Louis), Gail Agrawal (now dean at Iowa), RuthAnn McKinney (now retired), all of whom busted their ass to get their students jobs. Esp. RuthAnn McKinney...she has been known to hand out students resumes at professional conferences if she knew a student was unemployed and thought she could do something to help.
    There are some class-act law profs out there, and it's sad to see someone like Hills behaving that way.

  14. I'll probably be called a concern troll for saying this, but the gravity of the matter warrants at least some consideration to the thought that it may be only a matter of time before a 3L or unemployed graduate with nothing to lose goes Virginia Tech on a law faculty meeting. I hope everyone here will recognize the hyperbole of the guillotine discussion, but LP might save himself from some future regret if he takes his allegories down a notch or two closer to reality.

  15. 9:15,

    All I am asking is whether or not its possible the guy might actually feel some genuine remorse. He does seem to admit that the "Mea Culpa" is also a response to the backlash, yet he seems to feel like an ass for calling the student out. Just saying...

    Anyway, Campos should have really addressed the apology, even if just to question its motives. It was published yesterday and it seems like a convenient piece of information to leave out.

  16. 9:24.... Are you an idiot? If indeed that does happen, it will be because that person's life was miserable and he was driven to do it. NOT because he read this blog, and got inspired by Campos' guillotine references. Give me a fucking break.

  17. "Before he deleted the post Hills got a healthy dose of reality therapy"

    lol @ reality therapy.

  18. P.S. Thanks for exposing the family connections and the reasonably implied nepotism that undoubtedly helped Mr. Hills rise to the top. So many people who claim to have gotten somewhere via meritocracy "coincidentally" are very well connected.

  19. 9:27,

    This is just the latest "apology" from the Prawfs crew. They bully others and delete/censor comments with impunity until they get called out (Horwitz excepted). Then, it all gets explained away as a "misunderstanding". I'm not buying it. I was at the epicenter of Dan Markel's censorship and subsequent lies the week of AALS. I have no illusions about that crowd.

    As I said, the deletion of the critical comments and the closure of the comments thread on Rod Hill's post is all you need to know about the impetus/catalyst for his "change of heart."

    Cry me a river...

  20. P.S.S. How many times is it now, that this blog has pwned prawfsblawg? It's like the Lakers against the Clippers.

  21. 9:32,

    I agree, their "apologies" are often disgusting in that they cowardly label f-ups as misunderstandings. However, I was only addressing this PARTICULAR one. It really doesn't say Hills's blunder was a misunderstanding. I know you're angry, but stick to the current issue.

  22. @9:11

    There is not real remorse - a little panic - but no remorse.

    This guy graduated from law school in 1991 - 1 year before me (I am ancient) but is trying to posture as a bit of a 'young fogey' as in "But I am easily baffled by the internet and by students' social networks." As someone who is probably of an age with Professor Hill - I am not in the least puzzled by the interpipe or the gossip networks that one finds in law schools - they were around when I was a student. How would his student be outed - well his positing was akin to putting his complaint and her name redacted e-mail, but gender on a big notice board - of course her classmates would work out who she was. That a person who has been around the incestuous and gossipy environment of law schools for 24 years (actually more when you realise his parents were legal academics) to pretend that he did not realise that his student would be identified is disingenuous and presumes his readers to be fools - he wanted to humiliate the student with a public "tut-tut" - which is why so many are savouring his humiliation.

    The essence of his complaint in his now deleted posting - as explained in further comments was that he had budget for just one summer RA - yet in his Profsblawg appologia he says: "I hire several RAs each year" - so as the litigator in me (litigators have fly paper memories for detail) notes the contradiction and says "was he lying then or is he lying now...."

    As for the complaint about being notified by e-mail IT WAS VERY PROFESSIONAL. The most professional thing his student could do was to let him know ASAP that she was taking the other position so that he could quickly seek a replacement. Today the fastest and most reliable way of communicating that information is by e-mail. The e-mail was polite and respectful - and it made the withdrawal a matter of record. The RA is not his girlfriend - the news should not be emotionally devastating to him, so why the need for a phone call or face to face - or the resulting delay?

    That Hill presented the e-mail as a lecture on professionalism cuts right to the heart of one of my pet peeves - law professors who clearly have never really practiced as lawyers, and indeed who are unprofessional in their work habits, posing as real legal professionals - accompanied by demands that students "think like a lawyer." What would Professor Hill know about real legal practice or professionalism. He is demonstrably unprofessional. He should not be in a law school at all.

  23. 9:24 replying to 9:27: "He was driven to do it." Nice rigorous argument there, with your use of the passive voice. What would the possible drivers be? No one can predict the future, but postmortems on previous spree killings have very often revealed evidence that the killer was inspired by something he read to turn words into action. Ever heard of Anders Breivik?

    I am a huge fan of this blog and agree with LP's point that the bill will come due. All I am saying is that LP could have made that point perfectly well without the implied justification of violence.

  24. "This is not a sustainable situation, either in economic or ethical or political terms. We cannot roll in such extraordinary privilege, treating those who subsidize our charmed lives with contemptuous insouciance ('what is it with kids today!') without taking account that one day a different kind of bill may be presented to the American elite and its hangers-on for what we took and how we took it."


    An absolutely brilliant post on a consistently brilliant blog.

    Bravo, Lawprof!

  25. At best, Hills is aloof of the prevailing lawyer job market. (However, if he is smart enough to teach at NYU, how can he claim ignorance?)

    At worst, he is a pig who expects broke students to put his privileged ass ahead of their own. That is reprehensible. Thank you for calling this dog out.

  26. As a fellow Sooner, I love the Switzer quote. (Or at least that's who I heard it from) I think about it often as I see only those from privileged backgrounds continue to live a privileged life after law school. While the rest of us toil away, battling with feeling lucky and grateful to live a semblance of a middle class lifestyle and envying those who travel from third base to home with many pats on the back, vacations, receptions, constant partying, and all that other stuff.

    I'm not trying to create a plea on behalf of the 'little guy' so I'll stop here. I will say that I'm not sure how quickly will get to the "revolution" because of the history of American exceptionalism and our belief that "everyone has equal opportunity". Our culture is disgusting. Yet comparatively, at many points, still better than most. Which is very depressing.

    I think we have to get back to Glass-Steagall and historic tax rates (circa 1930s). It isn't good for our country or culture to have such wealth concentration. It is influencing everything and the perversion is out of control. Yet most of our society wants what "they" got. Probably myself included. But I know inside that it's gross. These people of privilege seem to have no concept that they are unworthy, that by their own characteristics and talents, the market can't possibly be working because of the unimaginable proportion of wealth and resources they take.

  27. This is 10;04 again. While I'm rambling, and just saw a headline for the Facebook IPO, I want to say also that I think the idea of "public" ownership has worn out its welcome. It is no longer beneficial to society. It is instead another way to create economic barriers that insulate privilege and allow people to treat each other in ways they would not if their actions weren't strewn through a corporate mechanism.

  28. Another great post by Lawprof. I wonder, though, whether it is entirely accurate to say that this professor "wanted -- or thought he wanted -- an exchange between putative social equals . . . ."

    I think if the professor regarded the student as a social equal, he wouldn't be as offended that she e-mailed him. Instead, and maybe subconsciously, he wanted her to pay tribute to his status by going out of her way to demonstrate in person just how bad she felt about inconveniencing him.

  29. 9:43: I agree that Hills is clearly inexperienced in the practice of law and thus unqualified to teach law students who are disproportionately heading into practice. For those interested, see his resume, here:

    Apart from a yearlong appellate clerkship, his practice experience consists of one year working for what appears to be a solo practitioner (but may have been a small firm). And speaking as a former federal circuit clerk myself ... the rules of professionalism in a chambers context are very different than in mainstream practice. A clerkship does not teach you how to deal professionally with lawyers in the real world - partly because the judge-lawyer dynamic is itself unusual and power-imbalanced.

    More generally, it frustrates me that he believes himself qualified to speak, e.g., on whether families need special rules of criminal law. I must question how many criminal defendants he has ever represented, or prosecuted - how many families caught up in the criminal justice system he has worked with any context. If the numbers are low or non-existent, I must question why he believes himself qualified to opine on the subject at all. (This reminds me of an exchange I had with Dan Markel after I was greatly frustrated to see him writing theoretically about how (the prospect of) capital punishment is experienced by people on death row, what "societal messages" are communicated to the condemned inmate, etc.) As a practitioner who actually represents clients on death row, it was completely and totally obvious to me that Markel was not writing based on ANY practical experience interacting with people on death row - and indeed, he refused to answer my question of whether he had ever even MET a death row inmate (which I took to mean he had not.))

    Markel and the Prawfs crew appear to believe that everyone who disputes their competence to educate practicing lawyers is a disgruntled, unemployed JD graduate. Not true. According to the standards that Campos has outlined, I am a currently-employed "legal one-percenter," but I still greatly disapprove of the current state of legal academia for the reasons that this blog discusses. With respect to schools like NYU, my complaints are simpler: many of the professors are not qualified to educate practicing attorneys; the costs are unjustifiably high relative to the education delivered; and the professors care more about their "scholarship" (despite not being qualified to write pieces of interest to the courts or practitioners) than about their students. With respect to schools outside the top 14, I am angry on behalf of my friends who have attended these schools, with passionately-held dreams to serve their communities - as prosecutors, defenders, immigrants' rights advocates, legal aid lawyers, and so on. Their dreams are being crushed, not only by the job market, but by the unreasonable tuition they have paid for via high-interest loans - to subsidize a cushy lifestyle for unqualified professors ignorant of the real-life practice of law. I may not have been hurt myself by this farce, but I am outraged at the harm it has done to others nonetheless.

    For me, Hills' privileged whining epitomized just how out-of-touch - divorced from employment and practice realities - the legal academy is. I continue to be glad to watch the rich skewering of his perspective by the blogosphere.

  30. "This is 10;04 again. While I'm rambling, and just saw a headline for the Facebook IPO, I want to say also that I think the idea of "public" ownership has worn out its welcome. It is no longer beneficial to society. It is instead another way to create economic barriers that insulate privilege and allow people to treat each other in ways they would not if their actions weren't strewn through a corporate mechanism."

    I don't like FB, but please shut the hell up you imbecile.

  31. But I can't be an imbecile, I graduated from law school. And I actually have a Bachelor degree in economics (maybe I'm academically adrift). You must just understand business better than I do.

  32. You must just understand business better than I do.

    That is an accurate statement.

    But I can't be an imbecile, I graduated from law school.

    That is *not* an accurate statement.


    Education Industrial Complex Example Number 1.

  34. Terry,

    Sarcasm is tough to grasp through text.

  35. Please also understand that my statement "You must just understand business better than I do" is not purposed in a sarcastic sense to mean "No way guy, I have a BBA in economics so I know what I'm talking about". I readily admit these aren't well thought out ideas, but they are my ideas nonetheless. The statement was merely meant to express the idea that this person is obviously way more confident in his (I'll assume it is a man) opinion, and that I don't care that much. Which this response may give the impression that I do...but what I really care about is not giving the impression that my statement was a poor attempt at prideful sarcasm.

    Thanks for the * though, it helps me more easily distinguish the differences between your statements.

  36. Kudos to Professor Campos. This post is mesmerizing, and reflects a depth of understanding about people and the human condition that is unusual. I am training young lawyers at the moment and I am fortunate enough to have just read this piece. While I believe I have a reasonable amount of humility and keep my ego in check, this post is a great reminder that I must see the world through the eyes of the younger lawyers and be as selfless as I can to their professional and personal development. This is of course, easy to say, but very hard to do, especially given the pressures of the profession. I am not sure I will succeed, but guideposts like this one sure will not hurt the cause.

  37. 10:13: Great post.

    Unfortunately I was at graduation yesterday so I missed the public flaying, but it sounds like he was rightly chastised for being unprofessional and generally out-of-touch. This seems like one of those "I'm sorry that you misinterpreted my actions," apologies. I hope this makes it onto ATL.

  38. @10:13

    I am increasingly of the view that as a profession we should be pushing the ABA to phase in as an accreditation criteria (and the toxic USNWR report) an average years of legal practice requirement for law schools - say 10 years, phased in over 10 years by requiring the average practice experience to rise for accreditation by 1 year per annum. During the same time a minimum requirement for tenured professors could be phased in, say 4 years - Hills could pick up the extra 3 he needs by being a summer associate, or clerking, or asking his former students (those that have work to assign) could he be a researcher over the summer.

  39. Professor Hills is out of touch and beyond insensitive, which is a major understatement. Thank you Campos for calling him out. There is a special place for you in heavan, believe me.


  41. MacK,

    Respectfully disagree regarding the appropriateness of using e-mail for this. I think it should have been done over the phone or possibly in person. When one quits their current job it's usually done in person. If one has multiple offers from law firms one is supposed to call the other firms to decline.

    That said, his disproportionate response is completely out of line, rude, condescending and several other choice words all at the same time.

  42. I cannot really agree fat guy. We do not know what the particular circumstances were - she may have tried to call - he may not have been in his office (law professors keep pretty light hours.) In a situation where as he loudly whines, he was going to need to get a replacement, telling him as quickly as possible was the most professional thing to do - e-mail is the fast and sure way to do that now that even law professors have Blackberrys and iPhones.

    In discussing multiple offers from law firms you are conflating a much more serious commitment of time and money on the part of the law firm. In any event whatever firm made her the belated offer probably lost a summer associate to a better offer - and I hope that whatever the SA at issue did, he/she promptly told the firm - it would seem to be the case. Certainly for me - I am most easily and reliably contacted by e-mail (I travel a lot), so that for example my conscience (associate) will catch it and I can immediately forward it - rather than filing away in my memory to talk to my partners about it.

  43. Great post, Campos, definitely one of your best.

  44. "I cannot really agree fat guy. We do not know what the particular circumstances were - she may have tried to call - he may not have been in his office (law professors keep pretty light hours.) In a situation where as he loudly whines, he was going to need to get a replacement, telling him as quickly as possible was the most professional thing to do - e-mail is the fast and sure way to do that now that even law professors have Blackberrys and iPhones."

    Agree. Perhaps she called multiple times but if he were not in the office she didn't want to leave that type of news on a message.

    Perhaps she has very little time with which to line up new accomodations for the summer, and decided to use that precious time lineing up an apartment as opposed to hanging around outside his office to see if he would show up that day.

    We simply don't have enough information to know whether her method of communication was rude or simply her best effort in a less than ideal situation.

    Also, rules of communication are rapidly changing. I had a friend tell me the other day that many young people consider it "rude" not to reply to a text in a timely fashion. For someone who has a phone on silent when in a meeting or in the courthouse, a younger individual might construe as "rude" what I see as keeping proper decorum.

    The younger generation remedies this by checking a smartphone during a bathroom break or even under the table during a meeting, which I would consider somewhere on the spectrum between obsessive and rude, but such is the rapidly changing dynamic of today's technology.

    Having said all of the above, it goes without saying that younger people do often use the internet and texting as a crutch to avoid potentially awkward interpersonal contact.

  45. MacK,

    I guess my reasons were more as a personal courtesy rather than a reflection of the urgency of the matter (despite his whining, I really don't think an extra day or even a week would have made a damn bit of difference). It might just be my quaint and southern way of looking at things though. For what it's worth, I don't think she handled it poorly or unprofessionally, I just think the personal touch of a phone call or visit is a better approach.

    You're right that we don't know her side of the story and she may have had excellent reasons for making the choices she did. Always appreciate hearing your perspective.


    You are doing a great job, but you must reach a wider audience. More television coverage is needed, because that is the easiest way to reach the boomers, some of whom often pressure their own kids to go to law school. They do it out of ignorance, not spite, obviously.

    In order to reach this demographic, ***you may want to write a book, or publish your essays as a book, to gain access to media outlets.*** For instance, shows like the Colbert Report tend to interview authors of books.

    This is an election year, so if the issue - Law school debt as the most extreme example of the horrific higher education catastrophe - can be expressed on television, massive movement can be made. It may be difficult to write a book from scratch, but turning these blogs into a collection of essays might do the trick. If this problem gets television airtime in August, September, October, serious pressure on the corrupt political system might be exerted.

  47. Haters gonna hate!

  48. To MacK regarding this comment:

    The essence of his complaint in his now deleted posting - as explained in further comments was that he had budget for just one summer RA - yet in his Profsblawg appologia he says: "I hire several RAs each year" - so as the litigator in me (litigators have fly paper memories for detail) notes the contradiction and says "was he lying then or is he lying now...."

    That also red flags for me. There could be an innocent explanation, such as he has a fall semester RA and a winter semester RA and a summer RA . . . yeah, right. On the other hand, I remember from my dad's time at Vanderbilt, one yardstick professor's judged each other in the university social hierarchy was by the number of grad students they had working for them---the more grad students, the more self-importance one could exhibit. So, I wonder if Prof. Hills initial claim of "several" RAs was an attempt to puff up his own image in front of his colleagues, but later on, the truth emerged . . . the law school thinks he is worthy of only one RA.
    To the poster who posteed this:
    . . .

    I think if the professor regarded the student as a social equal, he wouldn't be as offended that she e-mailed him. Instead, and maybe subconsciously, he wanted her to pay tribute to his status by going out of her way to demonstrate in person just how bad she felt about inconveniencing him.

    You nailed it.

    Tricia Dennis

  49. Sorry, long week, I messed up the elipses.

  50. "So, I wonder if Prof. Hills initial claim of "several" RAs was an attempt to puff up his own image in front of his colleagues, but later on, the truth emerged . . . the law school thinks he is worthy of only one RA."

    T. Dennis: I'm a fellow litigator, but I fear you've reversed your details. Hill's initial claim was that he only had one RA spot to offer; he lamented that he did not have additional spots to offer to bolster his school's employment rankings (let's move on without dwelling on the illegitimacy of schools counting RA positions in their employment rankings.) He SUBSEQUENTLY claimed in his apology that he hires several RAs per year. And yes, I suspect that it is exactly as you posit in your innocent explanation - he probably has an RA per semester and one for the summer.

  51. I fully agree with the decision of the law student. I (foolishly) remained loyal to the professor who offered me a 2L summer RA position even though an appeals court judge offered me a clerk position that paid more. After he plead with me to stay in the position, I reluctantly agreed to do so under the impression that he would assist me with my job search. After wasting a year editing his casebook, I found myself jobless after graduation. His only referrals that he would give me were to a woman who no longer practices law and doesn't even live in the jurisdiction that I am licensed to practice in and a few lawyers who were part of a law school advisory board (who are selected precisely for the purpose of fostering networking with current students). Needless to say, he is not the "caring" law professor that he held himself out as. Rather, he just wanted someone to Bluebook his work for him at near minimum wage.

  52. T Dennis - 2:55's recollection matches mine - first only the one RA - then he hires several.

    As for 2:56 - all I can say is the professor behaved appallingly. A judge is a much better recommendation to a job than a professor - and in any event, I think it is pretty clear from this blog that practicing lawyers with experience have little respect for more of the professoriate

  53. I guess I read that line completely differently than the rest of you. I thought he meant that he regrets he was only able to give up one RA who will now hopefully be able to obtain full time employment to boost their placement stats.

  54. 2:55
    Mea culpa. You are right, I got the sequencing wrong.

  55. MacK

    I believe your idea to phase in practicing lawyers to teach is such a good idea, for so many reasons. One troubling aspect of the law professoriate is the yawning divide between the actual profession and the people charged with training the profession. I am not a shrink, but I cannot help but believe that much of the professoriate knows, deep down, that there is much inauthenticity in the academy hailing them as the prophets as opposed to a lawyer such as yourself with decades of experience in the real practice of law. Perhaps, this leads them to overcompensate with petty self-importance, which, in turn, leads them to abuse the very students to whom the law school administrators once promised a rewarding career in exchange for their loan dollars. I could be wrong, but I believe experienced lawyers might take this trust a little more seriously.

  56. @ tdennis, good to have you back, and I hope the trial went well! Thanks for the comment in yesterday's thread--I did go back and read those. For what it's worth, I too thought there was something inconsistent in Hills' posts on the number of RAs. The first post may not literally say that he hired only one RA for the summer, but the point of the post (and its "tone"!) was that he planned to rely heavily on this RA and was now seriously inconvenienced. E.g., "I go RA-less," "but one RA to give," "I have been left high and dry."

    The mea culpa post, on the other hand, makes it sound as if he hires so many RAs that no one could possibly figure out who this student was. I think a trial lawyer like you could at least have some fun with this on cross exam.

  57. $300,000????

    That self-important, lazy ass-wipe is paid $300,000?? [And he comes from a wealthy family, so he really doesn't "need" the money.]

    Please file this away in the folder "why LS tuition accelerates by leaps & bounds."

  58. [Oh, THIS deleted post? The internet never forgets...]

    Teaching law students to act like professionals

    I have a gripe about law students' lack of what might be called a "professional ethic." But maybe my grumpiness is just the irritated ennui brought on by grading 90 exams. Consider the following interaction, and tell me whether I am wrong to think that kids nowadays are unusually callow and immature.

    In March, I offer, and the offeree (a 2L) accepts, a position as a research assistant. In late April, I receive the following e-mail from the law student:


    Now I am delighted that one of our 2Ls got a position as a summer associate. Moreover, I believe in the appropriateness of efficient breach of contracts: It is clearly better than I go RA-less than that my RA foregoes a good legal job. I am only sorry that I have but one RA to give for my law school's placement ratings.

    But there are professional ways of breaking a contract to take a better offer, and my 2L's e-mail is, to my mind, not among them. After all, I have been left high and dry after turning down several other students who wanted the RA position. I'd expect, therefore, a gesture indicating that an obligation was broken and compensation is owed -- say, an offer to help me find a replacement or to perform some research. Better yet, when my 2L first applied for the RA position, she could have informed me that her acceptance of my offer was contingent on her not getting another "a position more in line with [her] career goals and timeline." With such warning, I could have made an offer to another RA as insurance, in case she bolted for the better deal. At the very least, I'd expect an apology that admitted culpability about not giving me a head's up earlier rather than blaming the late notice on the "suddenness" of the "opportunity." (Is not the whole point of contracts that one foregoes future opportunities for present security?)

    Instead, I get a note that provides a meaningless apology ("I'm sorry, but things changed") in place of an honest acknowledgment of responsibility (e.g., "I'm sorry that I did not give you a head's up that I'd break our contract if things changed").

    Am I a hyper-sensitive curmudgeon to think that this sort of behavior is unprofessional even for a twenty-something 2L?

    Posted by Rick Hills on May 17, 2012 at 01:49 PM | Permalink

  59. God forbid someone goes postal, as one commenter above has alluded to. That would be a great tragedy and terribly wrong.

    Democracy and Capitalism are fine, so long as there are checks and balances in place.

    One such check would be the restoration of consumer bankruptcy protections for student loan debt, which shouldn't have been taken away in the first place.

    I have nothing against the wealthy, or well paid corporate officers that have earned their income. Talent and effort should have its rewards.

    This is not the French Revolution against a Monarchy. It is more like a need for correction against a new type of Robber Baron Capitalism, which Alexis De Tocqueville correctly predicted would be an inherent problem in the American Democratic system.

  60. Speaking of out of touch law professors, is it true as reported at Above the Law in January that you are such a bad teacher and so uninterested in students, that you were reprimanded last year and told to improve?

  61. 4:56: are you talking about Campos or Hills? Link to ATL post?

  62. A counter to all of this invective:

    Having been a student of Prof. Hills in law school, I have nothing but the fondest memories of him. He is one of the nicest professors I have ever had in my academic career. He spent a lot of time helping students, and you got the feeling from him that he really loved to teach. He was always available for us, and spent a lot of time doing extra work (for example, writing additional practice problems for our Admin class every week to help us understand the material, and drawing up flowcharts to help us with final preparation).

    What he did here was completely wrongheaded. But I would urge the other commenters to view this as a serious lapse of judgment from an otherwise outstanding professor, rather than indicative of his character. He was my favorite professor in law school and it pains me to see him treated like this.

    His apology post, in my mind, is much closer to the Professor Hills I know.

  63. @DJM
    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, the trial went fairly well. The defendant finally came up with enough money to settle the case while the jury was still out. (I thought that happened only in the movies.)

    I am thicker than usual. It did not dawn on me until you pointed it out that the multiple RAs reference could have been a belated attempt to disguise the identity of the actual RA and thus, avoid the potential FERPA violation exposure.

    And yes, I would like to cross-exam him. Actually, I would just like to see him sitting at the defendant's table in Federal Court. The arrogance of this man is offensive to me; I can only imagine how it seems to someone such as yourself and Mr.Campos who clearly see teaching as a calling; not as an opportunity to exploit your students.

  64. But maybe my grumpiness is just the irritated ennui brought on by grading 90 exams. Consider the following interaction, and tell me whether I am wrong to think that kids nowadays are unusually callow and immature.

    Can anyone tell me if this is an example of what psychologists' call "projection"?

  65. Ahh, the one percenters,

    I went to law school in the 80's back when it made some kind of sense to do so, particularly at the T14 I attended.

    I was a law review editor and did about as well academically as one could imagine. A surprise to me, since I spent my undergraduate years on athletic scholarship and spent very limited time prior to law school studying.

    I was then from a mostly unemployed single mother home, having been raised in one of our large industrial cities. I was amused at my one percenter fellow law review editors, all good liberals and progressives to a one, except me. And I wasn't all that conservative, only fiscally so - I fit for the most part right in on social issues. These one percenters, virtually all from one percenter (or even wealthier) homes, arrogantly and condescendingly spoke of what was good for the poor, good for minorities, good for unions, and so on. They were really persuaded of the value of spending other people's hard earned money. Yet they had no life experience being poor, did not spend real time around minorities (my Division 1 sport had many, many black athletes), and sure as heck never were in a union (I was with the Teamsters for a factory job and the UFCW for a slaughterhouse job), and could not view them in any sort of knowledgeable or balanced way. I never saw such hypocrisy, and couldn't believe how out of touch they were with people who truly struggled. (When you live on the edge, yes, you need luck, but what you really need most of all is to make good life decisions because you have very little margin for error, a concept that eluded them completely because they viewed the poor (and minorities) as fatally incapable of doing better). Of course, some might think I am generalizing here or that my information is merely anecdotal, but remember, these law review kingpins are the ones who have tenure in law schools, and who are now firmly established in educational institutions, in many cases mastering the art of rent seeking better than a Government bureaucrat. They had already mastered, too the art of following the herd, no doubt to the delight of their law school professors, who lived in the progressive echo chamber where remarkably little dissent was tolerated.

    I cringe today when I hear one of them refer to people of lesser social stature (particularly Southerners or Christians), because they really don't know them and the ad hominem name calling is the most corrosive form of intellectual engagement. And I cringe when they are insensitive to the plight of students today, who somehow feel compelled to slug out 200k in law school debt because they believe the economy holds so little promise for them without a professional degree.

    I made my fellow law reviewers very uncomfortable. I suspect my posting here might do the same. But my own lousy background drove home to me that one of the highest callings is to make certain that young people, and in particular young people in the years 18-25 in today's complex and difficult global economy, always have someone in their corner. And it strikes me as a good thing to hold educators to that standard.

  66. @Anonymous of 5:45 PM

    As a former student, I am likewise confused by the invective. On the one hand, Prof. Hills's public reprimand of a would-be RA showed that he is out of touch with real world economics. However, being out of touch is par for the course for a) most law school faculty I know, and b) NYU faculty in particular. After all, THEY didn't drop a quarter million on their education into the headwinds of a catastrophically imploded hiring market.

    That said, Prof. Hills was, without question in my mind, my second favorite law prof at NYU. Yeah, I thought he could barely see the ground from his ivory tower, but it didn't stop him from being a fantastic teacher and generally outstanding guy. Frankly, the "arrogance of this man is offensive to me" comments (tdennis239, 5:48 PM) make no sense. I spent a semester with the guy, and I'd do it again. He might be elitist (um, he's a professor... they're all elitist), but to claim he seeks to "exploit" his students is taking things too far. He clearly cared about teaching.

    Side note (and free advice to NYU): having fellow students--attending on a full-ride scholarship--hit you up for money is just another, particularly irritating, example of out-of-touchness at NYU.

  67. For those who are interested, NYU has posted some very revealing statistics about 2L summer jobs:

    In the heady summer of 2008, 88% of the class of 2009 worked for law firms; they averaged $3,072.64 per week. In the sadder-but-wiser summer of 2009, 80% of the class worked for firms; they averaged $3,045.93.

    But then came the grim summer of 2010: only 55% of the class of 2011 worked for law firms during their second summer. Those who secured law firm jobs averaged $2,898.05.

    What about 2Ls who worked for academia as RAs? They didn't even make the pie charts for the summers of 2008 and 2009. But in 2010, 2% of 2Ls worked in that category. Their weekly pay was $534.44--lower even than average weekly salaries in government ($607.44), clerkships ($650.00), or public interest ($650.00). The identity of those last two averages suggests that NYU may have been underwriting fellowships for students in those categories. But lowly RAs apparently merited less pay.

  68. @5:52

    Beautifully written. I can see why you were a law review editor.

    Your post makes me think of many of the professors I knew at Vanderbilt when I went there in the 1970s. Most of these professors were outstanding---and I think it was their background that made them so. Many of the professors I had, fought in World War II, Korea or were drafted and served in Vietnam. Many had worked in the Peace Corps before becoming professors. I had a philosophy professor, perhaps the best teacher I ever had, who grew up in Pittsburgh and worked in the steel mills to save enough money to go to college; I had an English professor who was a UPI reporter in WWII---and horrors--lacked a Ph.D. If Vanderbilt had continued to ensure its profs had such varied and multi-layered backgrounds, eschewing Harvard/Yale types, it would have never become a top US News school and would have remained "just" a good regional school---but I think it would have be a better university, today, in the true sense of that word.

  69. By the way--my old WWII English professor taught me not to split an infinitive, as I did in my prior post.

  70. @6:06
    I did not just aim my exploitation comment at your beloved professor--it was also aimed at the professor who used the above OP to Blue Book his publication. What he did was exploitation, pure and simple, and I stand by my comment.

    I am glad that you think your "ivory tower" professor is an "outstanding guy", despite his elitism (your word, not mine). I suppose we all need heroes, dear. (By the way, I grew up at a university, still have ties to that university and I can assure you that not "all" professors are elitist--apparently your excellent Professor Hills failed to warn you about sweeping generalizations.)

    Finally, what do you think exactly makes a "fantastic" law professor? Did he teach you how you mount a challenge to the rule-making authoritiy of an agency? Where to file? What to file? How to file? Did he teach you how to draft a contract? Did he tell you how to draft a complaint that could withstand a 12(b)6 motion? Or, more likely than not, did he teach you to "think like a lawyer" (whatever the hell that means).

    By the way, while the word "elitist" is not the twin of the word "arrogance", it is at least one of its first cousins. I stand by what I said about your hero---not only is he arrogant, he thinks he is untouchable. One's character is revealed by one's actions; trashing a 2L on the internet reveals a great deal about your hero's character.

  71. @6:55

    "I suppose we all need heroes, dear." - I'll let this slide with a softer response than I penned the first time. Word of advice: do not expect that kind of condescension to get you much respect in anyone's eyes, honey. Sweetie. Darling.

    I'm not going to address the merits of what you wrote: I thought he was a good professor; you disagree. You appear to have a completely different idea of what a Con Law professor even does as a job. The fact that I knew him and interacted with him carries more water to me than you judgment based on some paragraphs on a webpage. He trashed a 2L. You're trashing him. I'm sure you can go on all day about my "beloved" "hero," and probably me as well.

    Reread all the crap you responded with to this post. I read it (wish I could get those 5 minutes back). At least I have the good sense to post anonymously.

  72. off with their heads!...and that day, when heads of law school scammers roll, I wanna be in the crowd, for sure...

  73. 4th Turning........BITCHEZ !!!!!1111

  74. If he's clueless about how the internet and social networking works, perhaps he should think twice about blogging.

  75. "Clueless privilege." You nailed it right there. Too much of that going around these days.

  76. This blog is great.

  77. I'll second (third? fourth?) the comments in support of Prof. Hills. Having had him as a professor as a 1L, I went out of my way to take two more of his courses, because he's, well, just an awesome professor. Wickedly smart, funny, friendly, and all the things you want in a professor. He certainly tried hard to help students get clerkships. He can run a little fast which some of my 1L classmates found daunting, but never picked on anyone, never made anyone feel dumb for not knowing an answer, and went out of his way to make our lives easier (e.g. audio-recording classes and assigning note-takers so we didn't have to waste our collective time writing everything down). He clearly didn't intend for the student's identity to be public, probably assumed the student would never read his blog post (what law student has time to read law professor blog postings?), and was just (admittedly) venting. Wrong in his expectations? Sure. A mistake to post the text of the student's email? Of course. But indicative of him being a jerk? Not in my book...

  78. What about the poor 90 students who had to sit and TAKE his exam (which practically constituted a violation of Due Process, according to Hills' own teachings)? He OBVIOUSLY doesn't care about the employment prospects or financial future of ANY of his students, as evidenced by his mode of examination and something all 90 of us (or at least all 75 of us) can attest to.

    I won't publish the e-mail he sent us, as it is "unprofessional" (as Hills, I mean Debbie) would say, but it's incredible that he holds himself to such a double-standard. HIs 2L student can't send him a polite e-mail, and yet he terrorize us with his pretentious ramblings just days before the exam.

    By the way, if Prof. Hills is indeed paid $300,000 a year, then it's outrageous that he should spend his time writing and humiliating a former student on a BLOG POST rather than answer a CURRENT student's question (which I e-mailed to him about a week prior to our exam) and which he IGNORED right around the time he published his tirade on the Internet.

    Of course, his "indiscretion" doesn't surprise me even the slightest bit. The fact that he has tenure makes a mockery of the NYU administration.

  79. I'm going to repost a paraphrase of my anonymous comments from the other place. You know, a comment that he dismissed because of my perceived entitlement, yet feels the need to remove from the Internet:

    This reminds me of when Lucy has to make Ricky feel like it's his idea. Is that really what you want? You want her to call you and pretend like this is a dilemma? Really?

    Dear 2L: You didn't do anything wrong. He owes you an apology for publishing what you thought was private and for calling you nasty names when you did the best you could with what every other professor in the universe would understand. Just move on and make more money than him.

  80. This comment has been removed by the author.

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