Law School Discussion

Professors - mine are not monsters


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Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2006, 12:34:58 AM »
The professors aren't monsters, the law school system is.  The forced curve is the real problem.  It makes us compete against one another 

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2006, 09:52:02 PM »
All law professors are being thrown loads of *&^% on at this point in time! Let them enjoy it!
It is criminal to steal a purse, daring to steal a fortune, a mark of greatness to steal a crown. The blame diminishes as the guilt increases.

« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2006, 06:26:28 AM »

Law professors won't do much overtly, they engage in subtle violence. Often, when we think of violence, we think of the very overt, loud, obvious kind primarily physical violence, but also in the form of "over the top," very loud, confrontational (and frightening) yelling, screaming or threatening.

But there is also a more subtle and insidious form of "word violence," and this occurs much more frequently because it "goes under the radar" and masks itself as "normal." While it can be easily dismissed or overlooked because of its quieter presentation, it can do serious damage none-the-less, by

1) creating stress
2) fostering oppression
3) deflating motivation
4) curtailing creativity
5) eventually leading the way to more overt forms of violence.

In individual interactions, one who uses the power of words in subtly violent ways may be doing so consciously, in a purposeful effort to manipulate, or unconsciously, out of his or her "unexamined Shadow." Examples of subtle "word violence" can show up as malicious gossip, passive-aggression, purposeful withholding, inconsistency, incivility, and bullying, to name a few.

(A) In the case of passive-aggression, "word violence" can manifest as a result of the passive-aggressive's strategy of saying one thing while intending and doing another. For example, a person with a tendency to act passive-aggressively may give agreement or approval while in conversation with you, but then take a different course of action than the one you agreed upon, fail to participate altogether, or actually sabotage your effort by withholding information or brewing discontent or confusion. When you confront a passive-aggressive about these behaviors, he or she will deny them outright, or even deflect accusations or blame back at you. In these ways, his or her choice of words or the choice to withhold certain words can be a form of subtle violence.

(B) Someone who consciously withholds is practicing another form of "word violence." A withholder may elect to withhold praise, feedback, agreement, or information for the purposes of gaining some measure of control or having some specific impact on you. Withholding may be a tool used by a passive-aggressive person, or may simply be the communication-control strategy of choice. Either way, withholding can escalate from lower-impact word-violence to a form of mental abuse. By withholding praise, feedback, support, or information, for example, the withholder increases his or her odds of "throwing you off-balance" and thus making you feel uncertain about what you're doing. When professors withhold praise or other information, his or her students are unclear on their priorities, and would most likely suffer greater feelings of insecurity, lower morale, and general stress.

Withholding draws its power from the imprinting of an authoritarian system, in which people have been trained by more overt communications including body language so that ultimately the overt words or facial/body expression are no longer needed in order for the person in the perceived position of authority to manipulate the situation to his or her advantage. In an interaction in which this dynamic is present, a person simply chooses to withhold at certain points in the conversation, thus triggering deeply held patterns. The ideal outcome in the withholder's mind is for the other person to capitulate his or her will and succumb to or "fall into line" with the withholder's desires or interests. Unless the other person consciously disentangles him or herself, the cultural patterns will tend to play out in the withholder's favor, which is why he or she uses this strategy.

(C) Inconsistency can be another form of "word violence," particularly if a person is aware of or consciously chooses inconsistency as a means to an end (usually a feeling of control). Someone who is inconsistent may tell you different things at different times, or tell different things to different people, thus creating confusion and uncertainty. For example, the inconsistent person may give an assignment, and then when the other person is well along with the work and checks in regarding progress, may blithely say, "Oh that. We're not doing that anymore. Didn't I tell you?" Another manifestation of inconsistency is when a person "runs hot and cold" being friendly and supportive one minute, and distant or curt the next, with the effect of keeping others in a state of perpetual imbalance. One common saying for this manifestation is when a person "pulls the rug from beneath your feet." Inconsistency can also escalate from mere unskillfulness to a type of "word violence" if an individual repeatedly and consciously demonstrates inconsistency between what he or she says or demands and what he or she actually does or models.

(D) Incivility can be another form of "word violence" that includes passive-aggressive behavior, withholding, inconsistency, bullying, and other forms of communication and behavior that most people would identify as rude, uncooperative, hostile, or insensitive. Examples of chronic incivility might include not returning phone calls or emails, not complying with requests, lying, blaming, extreme curtness, or withholding information or support. As with other forms of "word violence," incivility can escalate into more overt forms of violence, and, at a minimum, jeopardizes enjoyment, satisfaction, and overall well-being each of which affects an individual's ability to participate fully and to the highest of his or her capability.

(E) When "word violence" occurs in the form of bullying, it can begin to seem less covert and start to appear on the radar of either other individuals or, depending on the impact or results. Bullying may include overt hostility in the form of yelling, name-calling, baiting, or belittling; or it may include the more subtle but no less insidious forms of "word violence." Derisive comments including those which are veiled as humor or friendliness are also a form of bullying and incivility. Typical examples include comments or "jokes" that derisively refer to gender, spiritual practice, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, or perceived intelligence. One clue is that such comments or "jokes" aren't funny, and are often intended to diminish or make someone uncomfortable, or sow seeds of dissention and create factions none of which are productive by any definition in any kind of group or organization. Interestingly, the conscious withholding of a comment or feedback that most average people would consider a norm can also be a form of bullying in this case, the bully is manipulating another by purposely withholding approval or agreement.

"Word violence" can be so insidious that, over a relatively short time, the standard falls dramatically and yet what is considered "normal" or what is tolerated increases, creating an increasingly vulgar, crude, and cruel culture. So incivility and "word violence" soon become a new "norm." Systemic or organizational violence a feature of "corporate psychopathy" ultimately comes down to various individuals choosing to act in a way that is uncivil, violent, manipulative, or otherwise disregarding of the ill-effect on others or the common good.

Awesome article! Thanks for posting it, roseta!

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2006, 03:22:38 PM »
3/4 of my professors this year are visiting professors so they're incredibly nice and friendly.  Even when the prof is grilling you it's not too bad b/c they're not condescending and they make you feel comfortable.  I hope they're not spoiling me... i dunno how i'm gonna deal with an intimidating prof next semester...
testing testing 1 2 3

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #14 on: October 17, 2006, 10:14:24 PM »
i noticed that as well my first year.  many profs go a little easier on 1Ls...i know my evidence prof (an extremely nice person, and one of my favorite profs) was incredibly demanding of 2 & 3Ls in the classroom, esp if you weren't prepared.  but i got the impression she was a little more forgiving of 1Ls.

the bottom line is, most profs will treat you with as much respect as you earn.  they'll treat you like professionals, b/c you are.

The professors aren't monsters, the law school system is.  The forced curve is the real problem.  It makes us compete against one another 

the curve is the only effective way to ensure some sort of objectivity in grading.  it assumes that the average student in every section of a given class is about equal; an assumption i have no reason to doubt.  would you rather get stuck w/ the torts prof who only hands out Bs and lower, while your other classmates get the softie prof who can't bear to give anyone less than a B+?  that's hardly fair.

the problem with a curve is that not every 1L curve is created equal.  some schools set the curve at a 3.2; others set it at a 2.5.  unless employers are aware of what the curve at a given school is, the students at the latter school are at a disadvantage relative to the students at the former.

one thing i've noticed is that the lower-tier schools tend to have tougher curves...some think that makes it tougher for the top students to transfer out, ensuring that they'll keep paying tuition for two more years.

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2006, 10:17:29 AM »
Well for the lower tiered schools I heard that the rationale for having extremely low curves is so that the crappy students fail or drop out and only the top students are left to take the bar.  By doing so they can raise their bar passage rates b/c only their best will be eligible to take it in the first place.  I think that they're also aware that the job prospects for their students aren't very good so they set a low curve such that those that perform well will be able to really distinguish themselves from the average student. 

Also, although higher ranked schools have an easier curve, I don't think it matters much b/c employers will still know where you ranked.  Your ranking in your class seems to be infinitely more important than just the numbers.
testing testing 1 2 3

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2006, 07:55:34 PM »
i'm not sure that's the rationale behind the lower schools' curves, but even assuming it is, i don't think it works.  widener (the local school in that position) has a very low curve and had the lowest July '06 PA bar passage rate among local schools.  i know some folks who transferred out of widener, and they are all extremely intelligent and will probably make great lawyers.  none of them were happy about the curve.

i agree that that would be a better gauge except that an increasing number of law schools don't rank students.  for exmaple, my school announced GPA cutoffs for dean's list, etc, but those lumped the entire student body together.  only at graduation did people find out with any certainty what percentile range they finished in (and that only if they earned some type of honors).


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Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2006, 01:14:33 PM »
It's not really the curve.  If you eliminated the curve, employers would respond by focusing on class rank even more.  The top 10% will still get the best jobs and all the opportunities, just you'll be competing to get a 3.8 or 3.9 instead of a 3.3 or even a 3.0.

As far as professors being nicer, most are much nicer than professors were in the 1970's.  If you read Turow's book, young progressive teachers like Nicky Morris are 30+ year veterans now.  Education in general is not thought to be about whipping people into shape anymore.  It's now thought of more as a cooperative means to achieve understanding.

And because the law school experience is so well-publicized, through sites like this, the occasional news article, Princeton Review, etc., it's hard for many schools to look for a market niche of being uber-competitive, with hard-nosed professors who aren't approachable or accessible.  A couple of schools do take this approach, but they pretty much have the market cornered because the majority of students don't want that type of education.

Are Your Professors Psychopaths?
« Reply #18 on: December 23, 2006, 10:03:00 AM »
Fast Company Magazine is a magazine for fast rising business executives. They did us all a service in their July issue no. 96, by running a feature for business executives about a little known 71 year old professor emeritus from the University of British Columbia named Robert Hare. The FBI and the British justice system have long relied on his advice, for his field is criminal psychology, and psychopathic behavior.

What are psychopaths? Here, for those who aren't too sure (and I was one of them) he gives a description:

Psychopaths have a profound lack of empathy. They use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends. They seduce victims with a hypnotic charm that masks their true nature as pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life "games" they can win -- and take pleasure from their power over other people.

Professor Hare was not just describing Mafia hit men and sex offenders. He was referring to top executives from the business world, executives from world renowned companies such as WorldCom, which had just declared bankruptcy, and Enron, which imploded. The securities frauds would eventually lead to long prison sentences for WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, Adelphia Cable's founder John Rigas, and there will be others currently on criminal (and impending civil) trials. He said "These are callous, cold-blooded individuals. They don't care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse."

He talked about the pain and suffering the corporate rogues had inflicted on thousands of people who had lost their jobs, or their life savings. "Some of those victims would succumb to heart attacks or commit suicide", he said. He is then quoted as saying that these recent corporate scandals could have been prevented if CEOs had been screened for psychopathic behavior. "Why wouldn't we want to screen them?" he asked. "We screen police officers, teachers. Why not people who are going to handle billions of dollars?"

To which he might have added lawyers, judges and law professors.

Well, 25 years ago, Professor Hare created what is now used as a standard test for psychopathic traits. It is called the "Psychopathic Checklist", and is commonly used for making clinical diagnoses of suspected psychopaths. Firmly based on his list, the magazine customized it somewhat, with the disclaimer that it should be ignored by professional shrinks (wonder why?). Customized a little further, the quiz is placed into a legal context.


"He" can also mean "she", and for each question, score two points for "yes," one point for "somewhat" or "maybe," and zero points for "no."

[1] Is he glib and superficially charming?

Is he a likable personality and a terrific talker -- entertaining, persuasive, but maybe a bit too smooth and slick? Can he pass himself off as a supposed expert in legal matters even though he really doesn't seem to know or care much about the topic? Is he a flatterer? Seductive, but insincere? Does he sign his emails or letters "warmly", when he is anythng but? Does he tell amusing but unlikely anecdotes celebrating his own past? Can he support a certain position this week -- and then argue with equal conviction and persuasiveness for the opposite position next week? Can he appear on TV and somehow get away without answering the interviewer's direct questions or saying anything truly substantive?


[2] Does he have a grandiose sense of self-worth?

Does he brag? Is he arrogant? Superior? Domineering? Does he feel he's above the rules that apply to "little people" such as "pro pers and pro ses"? Does he act as though everything revolves around him?


[3] Is he a pathological liar?

Has he reinvented his own past in a more positive light -- for example, claiming that he rose from a tough, poor background even though he really grew up middle class? Does he lie habitually even though he can easily be found out? When he's exposed, does he still act unconcerned because he thinks he can weasel out of it? Does he enjoy lying? Is he proud of his knack for deceit? Is it hard to tell whether he knows he's a liar or whether he deceives himself and believes his own bull?


[4] Is he a con artist or master manipulator?

Does he use his skill at lying to cheat or manipulate other people in his quest for money, power, status, and sex? Does he "use" people brilliantly? Does he engage in dishonest schemes such as cooking the books by making unsupported claims of billable hours?


[5] When he harms other people, does he feel a lack of remorse or guilt?

Is he concerned about himself rather than the wreckage he inflicts on others or society at large? Does he say he feels bad but acts as though he really doesn't? Even if he has had a complaint filed at his law society, does he accept blame for what he did? Does he blame others for the trouble he causes? Does he have a conflict of interest, and did he try to conceal it? When you found out, did he deal with it in a professional manner, such as by offering to give up the brief or recusing himself?


[6] Does he have a shallow affect?

Is he cold and detached? Does he make brief, dramatic displays of emotion that are nothing more than putting on a theatrical mask and play-acting for effect? Does he claim to be your friend but rarely or never ask about the details of your life or your emotional state? Is he one of those tough-guy lawyers who brag about how emotions are for whiners and losers?


[7] Is he callous and lacking in empathy?

Does he not give a d**mn about the feelings or well-being of other people? Is he profoundly selfish? Does he cruelly mock others? Is he emotionally or verbally abusive toward courtroom or office employees? Can he make rulings without concern for how they'll get by in their new life? Can he profit from the unfair taking of funds by overcharging clients without concern for the harm he's doing to them or their children and other family members, or their retirement lives?


[8] Does he fail to accept responsibility for his own actions?

Does he always cook up some excuse? Does he blame others for what he's done? If he's under investigation by his superiors, will he tell you? Does he refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing even when there is hard rebuttable evidence not allowed in?



If your judgement scores:

1-4 | Be frustrated
5-7 | Be cautious
8-12 | Be afraid
13-16 | Be very afraid

or last, but not least, test YOURSELF!!

Re: Professors - mine are not monsters
« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2006, 05:07:15 AM »
afewpegs, I think there's another thread on this board that your post more appropriately (sorry for the language used) belongs to -- I think it called "Psychopath attorneys" or something like it ..