Brad Feld

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More Stupid Than A Lawyer?

Mar 26, 2007

A guest blog from my partner and Ask the VC co-author Jason Mendelson.

In case you’ve ever found yourself cursing lawyers and / or the legal system (I do on a weekly basis and I am a lawyer), I have finally found the answer to the question “Is there anyone more stupid than a lawyer?” 

The answer apparently is “law professors.”

I guess this intellectually makes sense, as someone has to train the lawyers – they aren’t born this way.  Well, maybe a couple of them are.  Anyways, I digress. 

So, this all stems from a scholarly legal paper entitled “Fuck”.  Brad blogged about it here.  In short:

This Article explores the intersection of the word fuck and the law. In four major areas, fuck impacts the law: First Amendment, broadcast regulation, sexual harassment, and education. The legal implications from the use of fuck vary greatly with the context. However, to fully understand the legal power of fuck, the non legal sources of its power must be tapped. Drawing upon the research of etymologists, linguists, lexicographers, psychoanalysts, and other social scientists, the visceral reaction to fuck can be explained by cultural taboo.

The article was written by Christopher Fairman, a law professor at Emory University and The Ohio State University Law School.  It’s a great paper and no, it’s not a comedy piece or a riff on George Carlin’s prior works.  It’s a legitimate work that has some real interest to legal minds as well as casual readers.

Law Professor Brian Leiter from the University of Texas has a website that ranks all sorts of fun facts regarding law schools.  One of them is regarding the most downloaded faculty.  In this new ranking, he excludes #8 Emory & #10 Ohio State because of association with Professor Fairman’s “provocatively titled article.”The not so hidden assumption is that the “wrong people” downloaded Fuck and therefore shouldn’t count.  I guess all the “right people” are downloading articles about proposed civil procedure changes in the eastern district of Texas and how this will affect riparian water rights in Arkansas. 

Brad sent this to me with the quote “Jason, you should be embarrassed (again) to be a lawyer.”  He’s right.  If our law professors aren’t willing to keep an open mind and discuss issues from multiple points of view, than I shiver to think what types of practitioners will be released upon society upon graduation.  Leiter, who went to Michigan and got a PhD and teaches in law and philosophy should be ashamed of his arbitrary decision.  Did he even read the article?  Or is he just jealous because more people are interested in Fairman’s works than his own?  Either way, there is no excuse for this type of behavior.

For those of you keeping score at home, you’ll note that a Michigan grad (me) is supporting a Buckeye (Fairman) and denouncing another Wolverine (Leiter).  Sometimes even school allegiance doesn’t dominate sheer stupidity.

Lighten up Leiter.

Note, while I’ve done my best to criticize people connected to the legal profession in this article, there are a ton of good lawyers and professors out there, without whom I’d still be a struggling drummer in Detroit.  You folks know who you are.