July 11, 2010
SO I WATCHED THE PAPER CHASE last night, for the first time since my first year of law school. As Yale Law students, a bunch of us watched it during exams and laughed at how the Harvard weenies suffered; there were no Kingsfields at Yale, the closest approximations being Quentin Johnstone and the very early Lea Brilmayer, but they were a far cry from Houseman. Of course, there were no Kingsfields at Harvard by then, either. . . .
Hart seemed like a weenie then, and seems like more of one now. (The pre-bionic Lindsay Wagner, meanwhile, seemed luscious then, and seems at least equally so now). But watching the often-vilified Kingsfield, I thought that while he seemed something of a bully then and now, what was great about him was that he actually cared about teaching the students about contract law, and about thinking like a lawyer. The bad law professors today aren’t the sadistically Socratic ones — those are now rare enough to be worthy of Federal protection. Instead they’re the ones who go through the motions, who don’t really care if the students learn anything, because they’re focusing on their research — or, worse yet, phoning that in, too, and blaming their research assistants when charged with plagiarism. They wouldn’t make an interesting anti-authority movie, though. Or maybe they would: A remake of The Paper Chase where the protagonist is a student research assistant who writes all the bigshot prof’s articles and decides to blow the whistle. . . . Nah. Wouldn’t sell.
Meanwhile, some related thoughts from Ann Althouse.