Reason Not to Go to Law School #28

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on February 4th, 2010 by bl1y

Weird professors.

In addition to being lazy, ignorant, boring, and ripping you off, your law professors are downright weird sometimes.  I was digging around my old law school e-mail account looking for something else and stumbled upon these two messages I’d completely forgotten about.  I’ve edited some of the identifying information, but here’s the messages:

Subject: Urgent research request

Hi BL1Y,

Can you do a small research project this afternoon or tonite?
It involves finding ethical rules on 3 discrete topics.
If you can, please call my colleague Phil Goldman ASAP and leave him a message.
Leave him a number to reach you, I don’t have one.

Thank you.


Nevermind that Becky was my lawyering professor and had contact information from the entire class, so she did indeed have my cell phone number.  A few minutes later I got an e-mail from Phil, giving his cell phone number.  I guess he really needed me to get ahold of him right away and wasn’t going to be in his office.

Subject: Re: Urgent research request

Better yet.  Call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx

Phil Goldman

Anyone who’s worked in a law firm knows that lawyers have a pretty liberal understanding of what “urgent” means.  Law firm urgent usually deals with a partner having forgotten to give you an assignment with a deadline that’s fast approaching, or a client giving the partner an unreasonable demand and instead of the partner talking sense into the client, he just passes the buck to you.

But what the hell is urgent for a law professor?  Their biggest responsibility is grading exams, and I had two professors get their grades out late, so they don’t take it that seriously.  And Goldman was an assistant professor teaching Lawyering, so he didn’t have anything to grade, and didn’t have the publication duties of the regular, full time professors.

Perhaps he went above and beyond the responsibilities of his job (ha) and wrote a paper anyways, hoping to gain a better reputation and move up the academic ladder, and he needed some last minute research for a paper that was about to be published.  But, his current faculty profile doesn’t list any published work, and he specializes in immigration law, not ethics.

So why would an assistant professor need “urgent” research done on legal ethics?

I never found out.  By the time I got ahold of him, the issue was, I suppose, already resolved.  I got one of those vague “don’t worry about it” responses.  So, here’s what I figure happened:

Professor Goldman had some sort of ethics SNAFU, such as trading grades for sex.  But, not your typical quid pro quo, that’s too dangerous.  What you do is find another professor who can hook you up with one of his students, and he’ll inflate her grade, while you reciprocate by sending him one of your students and you fix her grade.

Or maybe he’d just been caught plagiarizing, who knows.  The thing is, since he wanted me to call his cell phone, he wasn’t going to be in his office, which is where most professors do their academic work.  Asking me to call his cell meant that this was more likely a personal problem.

And, like any prototypical American with minimal legal knowledge, he probably thought that the best way to deal with any sort of problem was to get incredibly lawyerly, research a bunch of laws, and throw statutes at your opponent.  But, being an assistant professor, his research skills were obviously sub par.  (Four years later, he’s still a mere assistant professor, and at a less prestigious school.)  So, he turns to a research assistant hoping I can bail him out.

Then, he realizes it might be awkward asking a student to look into whether it violates school policy to hide a dead hooker in the school’s coat check room during the summer when it’s not being used.  So, he tells me there’s nothing to worry about.

Pure conjecture, but it sounds pretty reasonable to me.

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