Law Schools

Today I delivered the Stegner Center Young Scholar Lecture at the University of Utah entitled “The Environment, Food, and Law.”  Turnout was good and everyone has been wonderful in planning my visit.  The talk was about the environmental harms of the modern industrial food system, and discusses the role of informational regulation and structural change (e.g.,  access to different food models) in achieving a more sustainable food system.  This builds upon my forthcoming article in the Stanford Law Environmental Law Journal and my forthcoming piece in the University of Utah’s Journal of Land, Resources & the Environment.

The talk when relatively well, mostly because the topic of food and the environment has grown sexy thanks to folks like Michael Pollan, but the topic also proves challenging given the diverse and complex set of concerns and interests.  What is clear is that on the labeling front, I need to make a better case as to what circumstances eco-labeling is most effective, and, on the structural front, I still need better data on successful initiatives to create a sustainable food systems from a planning and/or implementation perspective.  Finally, I need to think harder about how this all relates to food costs.

Given the complexity of food and ag systems I’m really excited about the new book contract I’ve just signed with co-authors Professor Mary Jane Angelo (University of Florida) and Bill Eubanks entitled “Food, Agriculture Policy, and the Environment: History, Law & Proposals for Reform” (Environmental Law Institute Press, forthcoming 2012).

Tomorrow is talk #2 in Salt Lake City entitled, “Climate Policy and US-China Relations.”  More details here.

I have been chosen as the 2010 Stegner Center Distinguished Young Scholar.  See here (page 8).  The announcement is here about my CLE presentation in Salt Lake City on ‘Climate Policy and U.S.-China Relations’ on Nov. 17.  I’ll also be presenting on ‘The Environment, Law, and Food’ on Nov. 16 at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law next week as well.  See schedules here.

What’s going on at SSRN?  Over at Prawfsblawg, Dan Markel has a post entitled “SSRN, WTF?” questioning SSRN’s terms of service which allow editing and translation.  Now see below my correspondence with SSRN, since they now want to print and sell my work.  I emailed my colleagues immediately about this, writing: “Colleagues.  See the email below.  I have chosen to opt out of this option for environmental reasons and so as not to upset the apple cart on all my pre-existing copyright agreements that allowed for online publication of my articles on SSRN, but failed to make any mention of actual print distribution.”

My edited (for length) reply to SSRN with their original email below:

I do not want to have my papers on the SSRN eLibrary available for the new hard copy service.

I suspect many others will not want his as well since it may conflict with various copyright agreements.


Jason J. Czarnezki

Professor of Law

Vermont Law School

From: Gregg Gordon []
Sent: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 1:49 PM
Subject: SSRN Announces Forthcoming “Purchase Bound Hard Copy” option for Free PDF documents in SSRN eLibrary

Dear Jason J. Czarnezki,

In response to requests from authors and readers to purchase printed and bound hard copies of papers on SSRN, we will soon release a “Purchase Bound Hard Copy” service for most free PDF files in SSRN’s eLibrary. We have contracted with a New York company to do the printing, binding and shipping.

The price for one or more bound hard copies will be $9.99 per copy plus shipping. Free PDF files with a minimum of 19 pages and a maximum of 240 pages will be eligible for printing. The PDF document will be printed in black and white, “perfect bound” with a glossy color cover, and shipped to United States addresses only. A “Purchase Bound Hard Copy” option will be added on the abstract page of each eligible paper. The existing options, including free One-Click Download, will remain the same, and each purchased hard copy will count as a download.

Any author, who does not want to have his or her free papers in the SSRN eLibrary available for this new service, can opt out at any time by emailing the request to, or calling the SSRN office at 877-SSRNHelp (877.777.6435) in the United States, or +1 585 442 8170 outside of the United States, between 8:30 am and 6 pm Monday through Friday (U.S. Eastern). If you request to opt out of the “Purchase Bound Hard Copy” service, ALL papers that are authored or co-authored by you will not display the “Purchase Bound Hard Copy” option on your abstract page(s). Please notify us by Friday, October 29, 2010 if you do not want your papers included in the initial roll-out of this new service. You may change your participation status at any time in the future.

We hope you will enjoy the convenience of this new service.

Gregg Gordon
Social Science Research Network

While in China, I was told (by both Chinese and American professors) that Chinese students expect you to write recommendation letters that they can place in their permanent files.  For most Chinese professors, these letters are relatively standardized, positive, and done as a matter of course without a lot of individualized attention.   I haven’t been asked to write any letters for my former Chinese students who only plan to continue their education in China, but my recommendation has been sought by a significant number of students who want to study in the United States, Cananda, and the UK.  My former Chinese students are surprised to find that most schools (and LSAC) do not anticipate that students will see their letters of recommendation, and are absolutely shocked that I will not send them my letters of recommendation to them for their review.  They insist that I send them the letter for their review, and when I decline the first assumption is that I’m not understanding their request.  I assure them that I understand their request, but that it is best for them to formally waive their rights to review (e.g., on the LSAC form), and that I would have declined to write them a letter if I could not write a positive recommendation.  I’ve very upfront with my Chinese and American students about whether I believe I can write a good letter on their behalf, as well as strategize what key characteristics I should discuss.  But am I being too conservative here?  Should all my students just be able to see my letters first, and then they can decide whether it enhances their file?

I’m now just exhausted by Law School Rankings and the navel-gazing that is going on in the legal academy.  First, let me point the finger at myself.  I posted rankings and commentary on law school ranking when I ran the Empirical Legal Studies Blog, and have posted rankings on this blog when they promote Vermont Law School.  Second, some information used in such rankings is necessary for prospective students and maybe faculty.  Third, some self-promotion is useful and necessary to attract students, faculty, and scholarly readership.  That’s why law schools make color-glossy viewbooks, faculty are interested in law review rankings, and law prof blogs are quite popular.

But now it’s simply gotten out of hand.  There are so many lists–Law school and faculty scholarly rankings by U.S. News and World Report, Brian Leiter, Gregory Sisk, Gordon Hylton, Cooley Law School, Roger Williams Law, Princeton Review, SSRN, and a new one by Forbes.  Did I miss anyone? (Note: I decline to provide links to these.)

Many of these rankings don’t provide the individualized information that any prospective students need.  Or, perhaps better stated, do prospective students know how to interpret data that might be useful to them?  E.g., if I go to “X Law School” will it help me get the type of job I want in the geographic location I desire?  There are exceptions.  As an example some data that I would have found useful, Leiter’s information on “Where Current Law Faculty Went to Law School” would be quite useful if you want to be a law professor.

This now leads me to the potential erosion of faculty scholarship, which is already under enough criticism.  Here, I’ll pick on three friends and colleagues rather than people I don’t know (so they can simply and comfortably call me up and argue with me; though I’ll link to their work since ‘any PR is good PR’).  Professor Gregory Sisk has written an article “Scholarly Impact of Law School Faculties: Extending the Leiter Rankings to the Top 70.” It’s received a gazillion SSRN hits (now more that I’ve linked to it), tons of blog commentary, and, I have little doubt, is high-end methodology given what I know about Greg’s other work.  Similar, Paul Secunda wrote “Tales of a Law Professor Lateral Nothing.”  Once again, if you write articles about rankings, faculty hiring, citation downloads, or degrees of separation from Cass Sunstein (here picking on my friend Tracey George, who is an absolute first rate scholar and methodologist), the blogosphere explodes, your citation counts increase, and your self-promotion is successful.  I ask quite calmly and seriously ask, what is the goal of such work?  And for what audience?

So here’s my point: We need to make rankings, to the extent they are created, useful for students, and be careful not to let legal educational structure be dictated by overall rankings as it may impair educational quality.  Second, while we live in a self-promoting world, I think we need to have a thoughtful discussion about the goals and scholarly value of essentially ranking and writing about law professors.

UPDATE: It was just pointed pointed out to me that “if [my] blog post is taken seriously, that will just mean more SSRN articles about rankings!”  True enough.  I give up.

UPDATE 2: Another person pointed out to me: “If you hate law school rankings, and especially if you hate the U.S. News ranking, then you should wish for more law school rankings.  Only by a proliferation of metrics and evaluations and surveys that address a diversity of law school characteristics and elements, allow each person to consider the individual rather than a conglomerated whole, will the U.S. News stranglehold on the law school ranks be broken.  And each additional ranking has the effect of diluting the others, thus making each new addition less important and less powerful than what went before.”

(1) Justice Scalia in Milwaukee where he spoke at the opening of the new Marquette University Law School building.  In his speech, Scalia stressed the impact of teaching over scholarship for law school professors.  He said, “The reality is that the part of your academic career that will have the most lasting impact and that will be remembered after you are long gone is those hours you spent producing a living intellectual legacy in the classroom.”  The annual discussion of the value of legal scholarship seems to have begun, as other blogs have been debating the article, Preaching What They Don’t Practice: Why Law Faculties’ Preoccupation with Impractical Scholarship. Why does everything have to be so black and white?  We should all strive to be great teachers, and write different forms of scholarship that are of value to various audiences.

(2) VT Democratic Governor Recount Underway.  Don’t plan on going to the county courthouses to turn in your passport applications or do other business; they’re busy recounting ballots.

(3) Politics: Obama Speaks Out Against Pastor’s Plan to Burn Koran and Chicago’s Mayor Daley not running for re-election.

(4) BP takes some of the blame for the Gulf Oil Spill…maybe.  See here.

(5) Montpelier, Vermont, first state capitol to adopt “sustainable” master plan.

My former institution Marquette University, where I spent four years teaching, has opened it’s new law school building.  See article and photos here.

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