Monday, April 16, 2007

More from Northwestern's Colloquy on Pro Bono and the Hopeless Goo-Goos Who Support It

We linked a few days back to the Colloquy feature of the Northwestern University Law Review, which is running an online discussion about mandatory pro bono.  So far Tom Lininger (Oregon) has commented on Deborah Rhode's proposal.  As advertised, Sam Bagenstos (Wash. U.) has a rejoinder and, I have to admit, the teaser before the break had me laughing out loud.

Not to put too fine a point on it:  Professor Lininger thinks Professor Rhode wimps out.  Her "heart is in the right place," but she too readily draws back from proposing mandatory pro bono service. In this brief response, I want to up the ante.  If Professor Lininger thinks Professor Rhode is a wimp, I think they're both hopeless goo-goos. We currently have a system of civil rights enforcement that harnesses the profit motive of plaintiffs' attorneys to encourage the prosecution of violations of civil rights laws.  That system may seem crass and disreputable to those who believe that lawyers should bring civil rights actions out of the goodness of their hearts (perhaps while singing "Kumbaya" or, for those of a more lefty persuasion, "If I Had a Hammer").  But it's the best system of civil rights enforcement we've found.

Colloquy promises a surrebuttal from Professor Lininger.  How will he respond to being called a hopeless goo-goo?  Stay tuned.  But in the meantime, ask yourself the question, would the articles editors have allowed the phrase "hopeless goo-goo" to have graced the pages of the hard copy of the Nw. U. L. Rev.?220pxgoo_goo_dolls_black_balloon  I don't know, but hope to be commenting on this issue in the near future.

One further note.  Professor Bagenstos' footnote explaining the derivation of "goo-goo" is at best cryptic.  My son, Matt, attended a concert given by the Goo Goo Dolls at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, so that may be a connection.

[Jeff Lipshaw]

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I admit I had to look this up the first time I read the piece, but "goo-goo" is a disparaging term for the "good government guys" of the late-19th century. See the all-knowing wikipedia entry here:

As to whether the print Law Review would allow for this term to grace its pages, I must submit that it is not editors who throttle back on the terminology used in journal pieces but rather authors who restrain colloquialisms employed in their submissions. One of the great benefits of the Colloquy forum is it allows for more flexibility in the nature of content it hosts, as its pieces are designed to be more accessible and reach a wider audience than traditional forms of legal scholarship. However, all pieces published in the Colloquy are held to scholarly and editorial standards equal that of the print Law Review, an aspect that differentiates the Colloquy from the myriad of legal blogs proclaiming to replace legal journals.

Lastly, Prof. Bagenstos's piece--unedited and sure to include all the goo-goos there now--will be appearing in the full Law Review in Vol. 101. Many of the pieces published on the Colloquy are accepted for publication in the print journal, an aspect that differentiates the Colloquy from our online-companion peers.

Check out our FAQ ( if you would like to learn more about the Colloquy or submitting a Post or Essay for consideration. I encourage all those interest in submitting to do so!

Posted by: Isaac Peterson (Colloquy Editor) | Apr 16, 2007 4:35:21 PM

It's too bad that Isaac Peterson, who attends our law school on the chilly shores of Lake Michigan, had to resort to Wikipedia for the definition of goo-goo. It is surely emblematic of the Internet age that law students no longer read local newspapers, or participate in the local political culture. I guess it's inevitable. One more example of the truism observed by the late Alderman Paddy Bauler (perhaps last of the saloon-owning pols), said: "This town ain't ready for reform."

Posted by: steve lubet | Apr 17, 2007 7:02:22 AM

In Chicago, at least, "goo-goo" is a reasonably familiar term to anyone with at least a passing interest in local politics -- which, in Chicago, is just about everyone. So it's fitting that it should appear in a Colloquy sponsored by Northwestern's Law Review.

Posted by: eric | Apr 17, 2007 7:50:33 AM

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