Category Archives: Law School

‘Thinking Like A Lawyer’ Proved to Exist

‘Ideology’ or ‘Situation Sense’? An Experimental Investigation of Motivated Reasoning and Professional Judgment:

This paper reports the results of a study on whether political predispositions influence judicial decisionmaking. The study was designed to overcome the two principal limitations on existing empirical studies that purport to find such an influence: the use of nonexperimental methods to assess the decisions of actual judges; and the failure to use actual judges in ideologically-biased-reasoning experiments. The study involved a sample of sitting judges (n = 253), who, like members of a general public sample (n = 800), were culturally polarized on climate change, marijuana legalization and other contested issues. When the study subjects were assigned to analyze statutory interpretation problems, however, only the responses of the general-public subjects and not those of the judges varied in patterns that reflected the subjects’ cultural values. The responses of a sample of lawyers (n = 217) were also uninfluenced by their cultural values; the responses of a sample of law students (n = 284), in contrast, displayed a level of cultural bias only modestly less pronounced than that observed in the general-public sample. Among the competing hypotheses tested in the study, the results most supported the position that professional judgment imparted by legal training and experience confers resistance to identity-protective cognition — a dynamic associated with politically biased information processing generally — but only for decisions that involve legal reasoning. The scholarly and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Spotted via Solum, Kahan, Hoffman, Evans, Devins, Lucci and Cheng on Experminental Assessment of the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Actual Judges.

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Would You Like to be My Research Assistant?

Apologies, blog readers, but this announcement is for UM Law 1L & 2L students only:

I would like to hire a UM Law student to be my research assistant for 10-15 hours/week during the coming semester. If things work out we might continue into the summer and/or next year.

The work primarily involves assisting me with legal research relating to papers I am writing on privacy and on Internet regulation.

I need someone who can write clearly and is well-organized. If you happen to have some web or programming skills (some or all of WordPress, HTML, MySQL, Perl, Debian), that would be a plus but it is not in any way a requirement.

The pay of $13 / hr is set by the university, and is not as high as you deserve, but the work is sometimes interesting.

If this sounds attractive, please e-mail me the following with the subject line RESEARCH ASSISTANT 2015 (in all caps), followed by your name:

  1. A note telling me
    • Where you saw this announcement
    • How many hours you’d ideally like to work per week
    • When you are free to start.
    • Your phone number and email address.
  2. A copy of your resume (c.v.).
  3. A transcript of your grades (need not be an official copy).
  4. If you have one handy, also attach a short NON-legal writing sample. If you have none, I’ll accept a legal writing sample (whatever you do, though, please don’t send your L-Comm memo).
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Dream On

Philosopher Robert Paul Wolff dreams about what teaching would be like if profs acted like doctors.

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Nice Surprise

CameraZOOM-20141124151542845Someone sent me this via a student-run candygram service today.

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Swearing-In Ceremony

Justice R. Fred Lewis, a very loyal alumnus, swore in students from the class of 2014 this evening — recent graduates who learned only yesterday that the passed the bar. They looked pretty happy about it.

The Justice told the graduates that they were starting a new life, “24/7 you’re going to be a lawyer.” He extolled the value of civility in personal and professional life. He reminded the graduates that they had achieved their law license with the help of many others, friends and family. That license he told them, permits many things, but “not to be an ass.”

There was more good advice: keep some perspective, don’t let anyone suck the joy out of your life, do good works, think of life balance.

Then he administered Florida’s highly aspirational oath:

I do solemnly swear:

“I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida;

“I will maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers;

“I will not counsel or maintain any suit or proceedings which shall appear to me to be unjust, nor any defense except such as I believe to be honestly debatable under the law of the land;

“I will employ for the purpose of maintaining the causes confided to me such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and will never seek to mislead the judge or jury by any artifice or false statement of fact or law;

“I will maintain the confidence and preserve inviolate the secrets of my clients, and will accept no compensation in connection with their business except from them or with their knowledge and approval;

“To opposing parties and their counsel, I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications;

“I will abstain from all offensive personality and advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which I am charged;

“I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice. So help me God.”1

It was a very happy event, but I couldn’t help but think about the almost 18.8% of our Florida test-takers who didn’t pass the bar. Florida overall had an almost 30% failure rate, which is substantially higher than in recent years; FSU’s pass rate was about half a percent higher than ours this year, U.Florida had a 10% better rate. Other law schools in the state did worse, or much worse, than we did. Our results were not by that measure embarrassing, indeed the pass percentage was higher than last year, but I still wish it was better. The administration will crunch the numbers, but we’ve not in the past been able to spot many predictors other than being right near the bottom of the class, and that itself is very imperfect. Oh yes, and some small part of the 18.8% will be long-ago graduates who retired to Florida and decided to take the bar. The Florida Bar counts them as our graduates for this purpose.


  1. I didn’t hear anything about a chance to affirm the oath. I hope this option was made clear to the graduates before the event.  

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FL Bar Results Tomorrow

Wasting no time, we’re having a swearing-in ceremony in Gussman Hall Tuesday evening for members of the Class of 2014 who passed the Florida Bar. Justice R. Fred Lewis of the Florida Supreme Court will be presiding, which is pretty nice.

One of the odd things about teaching law is that unless they turn up at alumni events you don’t necessarily ever learn for sure whether your former students passed the bar; since people don’t advertise their troubles it’s even rarer to learn who among them failed. (Presumably all *my* students passed, right, since they’re the sort of hard workers who self-selected hard courses, right?) We do get a cumulative score for in-state exam takers, but we also have a lot of students who take other states’ bar exams. Indeed, arguably, the ones who go farther away are disproportionately our more motivated students, so it’s always hard to know exactly what to make of the in-state success number. This and other reasons is why I’ve argued time and again that Bar Pass Rates are Over-Rated As A Measure of Law School Quality.

In any event, here’s wishing you good fortune if you’re waiting for your results. In the unlikely event any of my former students from the class of 2014 read this blog, you are invited to email me your results, or better yet, brag in the comments below that you passed.

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Patrick Gudridge ALS Ice Bucket

Patrick Gudridge is our Vice Dean and a really smart legal academic.

Several years ago I suggested we dress up the faculty in Halloween costumes, take a group photo, and publish it online with the caption “A Serious Faculty that Doesn’t Take Itself Too Seriously”. This met with no approval at all.

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