Thursday, October 14, 2004

Larry D. Kramer - New Stanford Law School Dean

Larry D. Kramer - New Stanford Law School Dean

Stanford Law School has a new Dean, the 12th, Larry D. Kramer, who comes to Palo Alto from NYU. Kramer has a remarkable biography insofar as he initially did not really want to go to law school at all but did so to placate his mother. At the University of Chicago Law School he was lucky to meet Edward H. Levi (former U.S. Attorney General), who opened Kramer's eyes to "how interesting the law was".

In the Stanford Lawyer, Fall, 2004 in "From the Big Apple to The Farm"

[the Big Apple is New York City and "the Farm" is an insiders' designation for Stanford, which used to be the farm of Leland Stanford Sr.], Kramer relates that:

"I had the typical lay person's view of law school, that you learned a bunch of rules that weren't very interesting, and then spent your life lying and manipulating the rules to make a bunch of money."

As Eric Nee writes in the article, Levi changed Kramer's view from ambivalence to inspiration in his "Elements of Law" course. Kramer elaborates that:

"Levi's course was designed to show the way in which everything met at the law. We started with Socrates and ended at Roe v. Wade, with a little bit of everything in between....

Kramer was particularly intrigued by the fact that many sets of arguments in law had a history running back hundreds of years and that these arguments could be traced.

The Law Pundit found the above observation to be significant in view of our hectic modern age, which often misleads us to the view that "arguments" have right and wrong aspects and that there is some finite conclusion to them. In the law - and, optimally, in the legally trained mind - sets of arguments are not finite entities distinguishing the right view from the wrong view, but are rather ongoing processes, shaped by events over time and embedded in the society in which such arguments arise, a society which is in a constant state of change.

In that same spirit of change, Kramer writes in his opening communication to Stanford entitled "Building on Excellence" (Stanford Lawyer, Fall, 2004) that:

Legal education and scholarship, like education and scholarship generally, have been radically transformed in recent decades. Old disciplinary boundaries have dissolved.... We are an interdisciplinary institution - and will become more so in the coming years.

What is Important - From the Stanford Lawyer

What is Important - From the Stanford Lawyer

The Law Pundit is probably one of very few people who reads the Stanford Lawyer cover to cover, including the voluminous section by class correspondents on the lives of alumni. The Law Pundit figures that the alumni of Stanford Law School are among the best that humanity has to offer, so it always gives one a sense of perspective and wisdom for one's own life to see what others have done or are doing with their lives and what conclusions about living, if any, they have drawn.

We have selected a few contributions which we find exemplary:

Getting and Keeping a Job

US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'connor (Stanford Law School, 1952) is quoted by class correspondent Beatrice Challiss Laws - now there's a fitting name - as follows in a recent O'connor speech at the annual convention of the Arizona bar:

"I had trouble getting a job and I never held on to any of them very long".

So do not despair in your search for your fortune. No one knows precisely where any path leads. Life is a learning process.

Enjoyment not inferior to gold and silver, lands and horses

Class correspondent Jerome I. Braun writes about classmate Bob Powsner (Stanford Law School, 1953):

"Bob Powsner has an eclectic piece. It starts gently and segues into a tour d' force: "Not much change. I and mine are still well and happy. Freud's keys: work and love. Here's Solon (6th-century Athenian legislator and poet), from Werner Jaeger's Paideia: the Ideals of Greek Culture. Solon answers the complaints of the poet Mimnermus about the pangs of old age and his yearning to die when he passes 60 (well, after 2,500 years, we can probably add 25) without knowing illness and grief. [Says Solon to Mimnermus:]'If you obey me, then strike that out, and do not grudge it to me if I have thought of something better: rewrite your poem, Ionian nightingale, and sing this: I wish the Moira which is death (actually, fate) would overtake me at eighty.' His healthy Athenian energy and his rich enjoyment of life ar fit opponents for the supersensitive melancholy that shrinks from the 60th year [viz. 80th year ] of life because that year will deliver it over to the pains and troubles of existence. Solon cannot believe that old age is slow and painful extinction. His old age is a green tree, whose irrepressible energy produces new blossoms from year to year. And so he refuses even to die in silence and unlamented: he wants his friends to sigh and weep for him when he dies.... Like Arichilochus and all other Ionians, Solon laments the insecurity of life. 'The mind of the immortal gods is quite hidden from men.'

Yet all this is outweighed by his joy in the gifts of life - the growth of children, the strong pleasures of sport and hunting, the delights of wine and song, friendship, and the sensuous happiness of love. The power of enjoyment, in Solon's eyes, is wealth not inferior to gold and silver, lands and horses." Wow! There's little I can add to that. Like I said, a tour de force."

On Loyalty and Disappointment with Other People (or with Universities)

Class correspondent Jack Borgwardt (Stanford Law School, 1954) entreaties us to be loyal:

"I am disappointed from time to time to hear of classmates ... who are disaffected with the law school or with Stanford, or with both. I don't suppose these institutions can possibly please all of us in all things, just as few if any of our family and acquaintances can. The university is made up not only of the physical plant, but also of people, the faculty, staff, and students. Each of them (us) will disappoint each of us in some way at some time. Don't give up on any of us. Most of us are doing the best we can, and remember that when any one of us turns his or her back on the rest of us, that is a terrible loss."

A Land of Freedom vs. the Lands of Dictatorship

Class correspondent Marvin Morgenstein writes that Dick Deluce (Stanford Law School, 1955) "happily reports that his son Dan was expelled from Iran for writing a not-too-complimentary article about the Iranian government in the Guardian."

Too often, we forget what free speech really means.

On the Value of Titles

You have to be careful with titles. My own position as Lecturer here in Germany corresponds to an Adjunct Professor in the States. Class correspondent Kenton Granger reports on Jack Rolls (Stanford Law School, 1962) who was an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hawaii Law School that "Jack reports that his then-young daughter inquired what a "junk professor" was.")

Life is Change and Dull Men do not Change

Class correspondent Paul B. Van Buren brings us this beauty from Lee Carlson (Stanford Law School, 1964):

"I am fortunate to be on Lee Carlson's e-mail joke list, so I hear from him almost every day. In response to my plea for news, Lee wrote: "How can you expect to have news from a dull man? Dull men don't like change. News happens only where there is change. Have you ever seen a newspaper headline 'Nothing Changed Today?'"

Legal Writing is Important - Eric Fingerhut

Legal Writing is Important - Eric Fingerhut

Eric Fingerhut, a Stanford Law School alumnus and the Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, is quoted in the Stanford Lawyer (Fall 2004) remarking on the value of his law school education to his improved abilities as a speaker:

"What sticks in my mind the most is the legal writing class.... I learned how to keep my speeches to what's important and to make sure that people walk away with something that matters to them."

As someone who has taught legal writing in law school for a good number of years, it is gratifying to hear - and not for the first time - that this topic is as valuable to students as the Law Pundit has always claimed that it is. Although legal writing courses do not have the intellectual depth of e.g. constitutional law - which was my favorite subject during student days, they are, in the real world, far more useful in the long run.

Munger Gift to Stanford Law School - Largest in the History of Legal Education

Munger Gift to Stanford Law School

The Fall 2004 issue of the Stanford Lawyer just arrived in my mailbox and contains, under the title "Stanford Law School Receives Largest Gift in History of Legal Education", an article reporting that Nancy B. Munger and Charles T. Munger just donated $43.5 million to Stanford Law School for the building of a residential hall which will house several hundred law students and graduate students from other disciplines.

Nancy Munger is an alumna of Stanford and has been a Stanford trustee, while Charlie founded the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. He is - together with Warren Buffett of Omaha, Nebraska - a managing partner of Berkshire Hathaway.

Charles Munger is quoted as follows:

"If you build really good housing it will be a huge advantage for Stanford. It will form a community that doesn't yet exist in American education."

As a Stanford Law School alumnus, the Law Pundit tips his hat to the Mungers.

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