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Time to stop hiring from Ivy League law schools

The “best” law schools no longer teach what it takes to be a good lawyer

A student enters the law library at Yale University. iStock

Time to stop hiring from Ivy League law schools
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Judge Kyle Duncan of the Fifth Circuit was recently invited to speak at Stanford Law School by the school’s Federalist Society chapter. What happened when he tried to speak was appalling. Students heckled and screamed at him, and a DEI dean proceeded to lecture him from the podium (with prepared remarks, no less). Judge Duncan left with federal marshals as escorts for protection.

You might be thinking, “wait a second, didn’t something like this occur at another prestigious law school not too long ago?” Yes. Alliance Defending Freedom’s Kristen Waggoner received the same shameful treatment at Yale Law School last year.

To its credit, Stanford has since apologized and affirmed its commitment to free speech. Not so much to its credit, Stanford hasn’t said it will investigate and punish the involved students and administrators. But talk is cheap. Free speech talk might be even cheaper. We need to see Stanford walking the talk: Punish the offenders.

Law school is supposed to teach students how to think like lawyers—and that requires thinking through both sides of the argument, at least. Lawyers argue against the opposing party and argue in front of judges who may disagree with them—all day, every day. So how does that square with our future lawyers being cocooned and coddled in emotivism, spoiled rotten by their law schools?

With the Ivy League law schools and other elite institutions in the lead, law schools have become incredibly woke (with an exception of perhaps Harvard Law School, where diversity of viewpoint exists to some extent). The rot goes deep. America, these are your future lawyers, leaders, and movers and shakers—further remaking our laws and institutions in the image of wokism.

Formation in law school matters a great deal and should transcend the minimum requirement of what makes lawyers technically lawyers, bar card tucked in wallets.

Here’s some food for thought. Judge James C. Ho of the Fifth Circuit has said that he will stop hiring law clerks from Yale. In the same vein about undergraduate colleges, R. R. Reno wrote that he has stopped hiring Ivy League graduates. He said they are all about being woke, or else either too scarred from keeping their heads down on campus or given to “aggressive counterpunching” from fighting the woke on campus. But none would make for an ideal new young employee. His general rule is to hire from certain known excellent colleges, places he also recommends young people to attend. He listed Hillsdale College, Thomas Aquinas College, Wyoming Catholic College, and the University of Dallas.

Here’s my proposal to employers, then, looking to hire recently minted lawyers. Stop hiring from the Ivies and the horde of law schools desperately trying to be like the Ivies. And if you continue to hire from those schools, you must do the hard sorting of the wheat from the chaff, like what R. R. Reno did before he decided it wasn’t worth it. (It is worth considering what makes for good hires in lawyers: Perhaps law graduates given to “aggressive counterpunching” doesn’t sound so bad, given the adversarial nature of the legal system. But hotheadedness doesn’t lend itself to prudence, and that’s indispensable.)

Instead, hire from schools where students really are taught to think like lawyers—they must consider all sides of the arguments, feelings aside— which requires the virtue of humility. And while we’re at it, let’s go beyond and look for schools where virtue is taught, where justice that’s being fought for is justice properly understood, and where law is serving neither what the judge had for breakfast nor the hired gun nor the strong man, but Truth and Goodness. If I may name names, these worthy schools include Notre Dame Law School, Ave Maria School of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law, Liberty University School of Law, Regent University School of Law (full disclosure: I’m an alumna), and, albeit limited to California-licensed attorneys, Trinity Law School (full disclosure: I’m an employee).

The word virtue is from the Latin virtus: the quality of being a man, a vir. Virtue is about the full measure of who man is created to be—being fully human. A flourishing person is a virtuous one. There’s no way around that, and the etymology of the word bears witness to it. Formation in law school matters a great deal and should transcend the minimum requirement of what makes lawyers technically lawyers, bar card tucked in wallets. They should at least be competent at arguing both sides, yes, but far more, they ought to love justice in the service of virtue and flourishing. In an age where law students are deprived of—or depraved in—their formation, it’s time to hire with discretion.

Author's Update
(3/23/23): The Stanford Law DEI dean is now on leave, although Stanford has decided that it will not investigate or discipline the students involved.

Adeline A. Allen

Adeline A. Allen is an associate professor of law at Trinity Law School and an associate fellow at The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.

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