Wednesday, December 19, 2018
- Steve Lubet (Northwestern), Yale's Samuel Moyn Does Not Understand Legal Clinics
- Samuel Moyn (Yale), Chronicle of Higher Education Op-Ed: Law Schools Are Bad for Democracy
In his article, "Law Schools Are Bad For Democracy," Samuel Moyn of Yale Law School has partially blamed clinics for law schools' failure to allow students to "do good." He has written concerning law schools in general, "Nowhere is this image management more troubling than when it mystifies the real function of law schools in reorienting the hopes and even reshaping the personalities of the young people who enter them. Having entertained inchoate dreams about social transformation, the students themselves are transformed the most, especially when they accept a set of beliefs about how the world is likeliest to change — through a politics of marginal legal reform by insiders to the system. That is, if the world can change at all." He continued specifically on clinics, "Rarely asked, however, is whether the clinical revolution is actually about changing the world. For individuals, it might help provide an alibi for the grubby scramble for advantage. If your social-justice work harmonizes so easily with elite credentialing for power and wealth, is it good for society? Or even for you? One can question the institution’s rationalizations, too. Clinical activism can serve to launder and legitimate injustice."
Steve Lubet strongly criticized Moyn's view of clinics. He began, "Yale’s Samuel Moyn has examined the nature of elite law schools and finds them lacking in virtue. His recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Law Schools Are Bad for Democracy,” laments in its subtitle that they “whitewash the grubby scramble for power.” There is nothing new in Moyn’s observation that that “large numbers of students entering law school say that they hope to work in the public interest, but then end up working for large firms instead.” Oddly, however, he proceeds to fasten this phenomenon on public interest law. No kidding. Moyn says, “the students themselves are transformed the most, especially when they accept a set of beliefs about how the world is likeliest to change — through a politics of marginal legal reform by insiders to the system." "Law school clinics, according to Moyn, only magnify the problem."
Lubet responded, "I don’t know where Moyn gets his information – he teaches in the areas of human rights and twentieth century European moral and political theory – but every clinician I know spends a good deal of time considering the social impact of their work, and none of them are concerned with alibis or grubby scrambles, much less laundering injustice." He noted, "There is plenty of valid criticism of law schools in Moyn’s essay, but his own elitism still shines through even as he bemoans careerism in others." He concluded, "Moyn may believe that he has a better plan for changing the world, and perhaps he does. But his ultimate goal of demystifying “law’s disservice to the interests of ordinary people” is actually being achieved in legal clinics every day."