"Law deans can draw many lessons from Dumbledore's choice of magic."
May 22, 2013 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Professor Dumbledore's Advice for Law Deans

"Because he cared, Dumbledore made a positive and lasting impact on his school, and society. And fortunately for law deans, his legacy provides us with a clear roadmap of how to do the same."


Darby Dickerson, Texas Tech University School of Law, published Professor Dumbledore's Advice for Law Deans, in volume 39 of the University of Toledo Law Review (2008). The article, prepared for the Dean's Symposium in the University of Toledo Law Review, includes a curriculum vitae for Albus Dumbledore, the greatest wizard of the modern age, along with seven pieces of advice for law deans, culled from Dumbledore's words of wisdom and actions in the Harry Potter series.


Meanwhile, in the paper "Harry Potter and the Law", professors examine such issues as the failings of the formal source of legal authority in Harry's world, the deeply-flawed Ministry of Magic, and how the rule used to free Dobby the house elf illustrates the importance of intent in contract law. And in their book The Law and Harry Potter (preview here), the authors present essays that analyze the way law and legal institutions are portrayed in the series, and what these portrayals teach us about concepts such as morality, justice, and difference.


For a less dense look at Harry Potter and the law, check out Law Made Fun Through Harry Potter's Adventures by Karen Morris and Bradley S. Carroll (a brief preview here).
posted by magstheaxe (40 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would welcome the introduction of the Sorting Hat to divide people into first year sections.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Spoiler: Everyone would be sorted into Slytherin
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Though surely a handful of idealist future public defenders would wind up in hufflepuff...
posted by ook at 10:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


no no no we go the other way and determine what law discipline the HP characters fit into.
posted by The Whelk at 10:58 AM on May 22, 2013


Since it costs like a hundred thousand dollars, I would prefer if law deans took advice from Dean Pelton.
posted by resurrexit at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2013


Very slightly related but one time I got into a public screaming fight with someone over whether Scalia would be a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw.
posted by elizardbits at 11:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Muggle, or squib at best. I refuse to believe there is any magic in his soul.
posted by asperity at 11:08 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm...you know, in the Potterverse, there are very few wizarding schools in the world (Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, the Salem Witches' Institute, and an unnamed school in Brazil are the only canonical ones). Given the absurd oversupply of legal education in the United States today, I think the single most important lesson any US law school dean could learn from Dumbledore would be to take serious stock of whether his or her institution should actually exist at all—and then have the courage to close up shop if the answer is no.

Another lesson: Hogwarts has relatively few faculty and has a small student body on a per-year basis. It's also extremely cheap to attend (Harry's books and so forth are actually quite cheap if you work out the conversion to muggle money). Any law school dean that decides his or her institution deserves to go on existing should model it on Hogwarts: fire most of the faculty and slash enrollment to something approaching the actual demand for new lawyers. For most schools that means cutting class sizes down to about 25-50% of their current levels, with a concomitant reduction in faculty numbers.

Another lesson: the Hogwarts faculty are not shown doing a great deal of research or publishing. They focus on teaching. Law faculty course loads should increase and most research and publishing should fall by the wayside. This will also make it easier to reduce faculty numbers, saving quite a lot of costs, and reducing the need for shiny (and expensive) new law school buildings (recall that Hogwarts has had the same building for centuries). The legal scholarship model is horribly broken anyway: there's no peer review, the law journals are run by law students, the proliferation of law journals has led to rapidly falling standards, and judges, legislators, and lawyers ignore almost all of it anyway.

So, yeah. Some not-so-interesting feel-good pap in there, but nothing that addresses the actual crisis in legal education. Then again it was published in 2008, when the cracks were only just beginning to show.
posted by jedicus at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Can we all agree that Stiles is totally Ravenclaw?
posted by shakespeherian at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very slightly related but one time I got into a public screaming fight with someone over whether Scalia would be a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw.

Option 1: He'd be in the little-known and unpublicized Fuckface House.

Option 2: Also little-known and unpublicized, but sometimes the sorting hat looks into people's minds and souls and chooses to devour them for the greater good. THE GREATER GOOD.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sending an owl to Mightygodking to look over this thread.
posted by The Whelk at 11:12 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we all agree that Stiles is totally Ravenclaw?

How can he be Ravenclaw when he's basically Hermione with a buzz cut?
posted by asperity at 11:13 AM on May 22, 2013


Hermione was a Ravenclaw at heart though. The hat really screwed up on that.
posted by elizardbits at 11:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


So now I'm wondering if there's any sorting hat fanfic, because that could get...interesting
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:38 AM on May 22, 2013


The simple answer is yes.

The complicated answer is also yes.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Very slightly related but one time I got into a public screaming fight with someone over whether Scalia would be a Slytherin or a Ravenclaw.

I could easily see myself getting into the same fight.



And yes, Hermione was a Ravenclaw. Silly hat.
posted by blurker at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2013


I read through the article. It's a cute framing device.

Is that level of foot-note to body text common for law journal articles? That would be maddening to try to read through on a regular basis.
posted by codacorolla at 11:52 AM on May 22, 2013


I see Scalia as more of a Dolores Umbridge type. Who knows, he might be pretty in pink...
posted by jim in austin at 12:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was surprised the Harry Potter and the Law paper didn't cover what to me was one of the most egregious failures of wizarding law: effectively imprisoning Sirius Black for life without a trial. That was one of those things I glossed over when I first read the books as a kid, like, "oh that sucks and is really unjust," but which in retrospect, is really appalling to me, not just as a failure of law but as a failure of the kind of individual moral responsibility the paper talks about Rowling privileging over law.

We know Dumbledore is a member of the Wizengamot, and that he has a not insignificant amount of power and sway over the Ministry. But he didn't go and question Sirius or kick up any fuss about him being sent away for life so quickly, no matter how convincing the evidence was? Dumbledore is a legilimens (mind reader) too, couldn't he have tried to get the truth from Sirius, no matter how distraught Sirius was or how clear the chain of events seemed to be? I would have thought Dumbledore would have felt some duty to get at the truth or make sure Sirius had something closer to justice, considering Sirius's involvement in his super secret Voldemort fighting organization. Obviously, none of this happened because of Plot, but I found it really disturbing when I thought about it.
posted by yasaman at 12:07 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


...model it on Hogwarts: fire most of the faculty and slash enrollment to something approaching the actual demand for new lawyers.

But Hogwarts' enrollment is based on supply, not demand. Everyone in the British Isles who can practice magic gets in.
posted by Iridic at 12:23 PM on May 22, 2013


Is that level of foot-note to body text common for law journal articles?

It's excessive, but not hugely so. The baseline rule is that asserted facts must be sourced. So for instance, "And as Headmaster of Hogwarts Academy for Witchcraft and Wizardry, he was a dean," would need a footnote citing some page in one of Rowling's books that mentions Dumbledore's title or status. It does not, however, require two footnotes. It doesn't require paragraph-long explanation. And any citation to Wikipedia, let alone two in a single footnote, is pedestrian.

Footnotes in law journals are a necessity. You need lots of 'em. But a common trap is relying on them for substance. Good writers work substance into the text, or else they cut it altogether. Bad writers lack the courage to cut.
posted by cribcage at 12:24 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


So now I'm wondering if there's any sorting hat fanfic, because that could get...interesting

Here you go. I'm too lazy to separate out the ones with Sorting Hat point of view from the alternate sorting fics (this is a common trope, that characters are sorted differently.)
posted by asperity at 12:25 PM on May 22, 2013


Is Dumbledore really a good role model for school administrators? In his last few years, Hogwarts had to deal with:
  • A massive wave of violence culminating in several student deaths
  • Lax security, with wanted criminals coming in and out of the school grounds
  • A verbally abusive faculty and maintenance staff
  • Constant faculty turnover
  • Widespread bullying from as much as 1/4 of the student body
  • And an intramural program based on a dangerous contact sport played with minimal protection (i.e., no mouth guards, polyurethane helmets or broombelts)
I mean, the insurance bills alone must have bankrupted the place.
posted by PlusDistance at 12:27 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Every good law dean needs a law blog.
posted by Mister_A at 12:31 PM on May 22, 2013


Is that level of foot-note to body text common for law journal articles? That would be maddening to try to read through on a regular basis.

It has become kind of depressingly common, yeah. In the absence of peer review and empirical research*, legal academia has developed a cult of the citation. If you have a supporting citation, then it must be true, right? The "baroque" Bluebook citation format doesn't help, either.

Personally, I think that stuffing papers with citations also helps pad out their length and disguise the fact that most law journal papers really only have one fairly simple new idea or observation in them that could probably be expressed in just a couple of pages. (Basically I'm saying most law journals could be replaced with blogs and nothing of value would be lost.)

Instead we get the obligatory "witty" title, usually in the format "Something 'Funny', Possibly a Pun: Underlying Legal Reference Explained", followed by several pages of unnecessary background, which anyone bothering to read a law review article on the topic would already know, then an explanation of why this is a Very Serious Issue and this Very Important Idea should be taken Very Seriously by Very Important People (NB: almost always untrue, at least in practice), then finally the actual new idea. All of which is padded out to 30-60 pages by a stupefying number of excessively lengthy footnotes, virtually none of which will ever be read or checked by anyone, not because people have faith in the law journal production process but out of sheer apathy, amplified by the daunting wall of citations on every page.

* There is some empirical research in the legal world, but there isn't much of it, and a lot of it is really poorly done, methodologically speaking.
posted by jedicus at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


But Hogwarts' enrollment is based on supply, not demand. Everyone in the British Isles who can practice magic gets in.

So in that sense it fulfills 100% of the social demand for magical education in the British Isles and no more (e.g. it isn't needlessly trying to educate squibs or muggles, and I don't think attendance is compulsory for those with magical ability).

Contrast that with US law schools, which are presently fulfilling something over 200% of the social demand for legal education in the US. It would be as if Hogwarts were churning out so many wizards and witches that there weren't enough wands to go around or something.
posted by jedicus at 12:39 PM on May 22, 2013


Pretty sure the injustice of Sirius being imprisoned without trial in Azkaban was discussed in Methods of Rationality (fanfic of Harry-as-rationalist - on phone so can't link).

Scalia would clearly end up wearing a turban and talking to himself a lot.
posted by inire at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


*hands inire a beer*
posted by blurker at 1:06 PM on May 22, 2013


Paul Rudd was an excellent Dumbledore in Hermione's last movie.
posted by w0mbat at 1:09 PM on May 22, 2013


But Hogwarts' enrollment is based on supply, not demand. Everyone in the British Isles who can practice magic gets in.

yet admissions seems to be largely hereditary, legacy students with a smattering of hard-luck scholarships... that's just a line to keep the muggles down.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure it makes sense to compare admissions policy between the Potterverse and our world.

Because one of the weird things about the Potterverse is, it takes all the weird false myths on which our educational "meritocracy" depends and declares them to be true. There is such a thing as innate talent! Either you've got it or you don't! If someone doesn't have it, there's absolutely no point in trying to educate them! And if someone does have it, there are clear, unambiguous, universally-agreed-upon ways of recognizing it!

So okay, yeah, if out here in the real world there were such a thing as innate lawyering potential that could be unambiguously recognized in the same way, then there would be a single obvious Correct Admissions Policy: admit those students with the most potential. But in fact, in the real world, there's no such thing as objectively measurable potential. It just doesn't exist. (And a lot of the problems in higher education come from our insistence on pretending that it does.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:23 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure the injustice of Sirius being imprisoned without trial in Azkaban was discussed in Methods of Rationality

And in about twenty million other fanfics before that. Mocking/fixing/riffing on the awful wizarding legal system is super-common and frequently entertaining.
posted by asperity at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2013


The Sorting Hat chapters in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality are pretty good.
posted by gerryblog at 1:42 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure the injustice of Sirius being imprisoned without trial in Azkaban was discussed in Methods of Rationality

Oh I know it's been in tons of fic, though Methods of Rationality isn't really my cup of tea. I just don't think I've seen the Dumbledore angle specifically come up much, at least not in my HP fic reading heyday.
posted by yasaman at 1:51 PM on May 22, 2013


I really can't stand Methods of Rationality due to the whole "I have never read any other fanfiction as it has girl cooties" vibe it has (and that most recs for it have). I do love Evil!Dumbledore fic, as it explains so much and is so very hilarious. I haven't got any specific recommendations for it at the moment, but here are some possibilities.
posted by asperity at 2:47 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh it has PROBLEMS for sure, for one people are always crying, and it's like, overwritten and plodding but it was one of the first fanfics that I literally could not put down so- there is that, so it's indirectly responsible for me spending 64k words on why Stark Industries is running a nasty monopoly on post-invasion clean-up.
posted by The Whelk at 7:52 PM on May 22, 2013


I helped organize a book launch for HP 7 with the public library but held at my university--it was aimed at kids of the students.

Several profs gave excellent lectures.

One, a friend of mine, is a law prof, and used HP (especially the elves) to show why the laws protecting human rights (i.e. equal rights enshrined, etc). It was actually quite an extensive comparison to wizard law to the Canadian Constitution. She even had a goofy poem. The kids were enthralled. She raffled off a dusty old Canadian constitutional law text and this 12 year old girl was *so thrilled* to get it.

(An art history prof gave a talk on the art in the movies. Did you know all the paintings are in the UK National Gallery, and can be viewed online? She had written her dissertation in the Hogwarts Library! And she talked about how art historians help movies look like they do.

Then the science folks did science that looks like magic (of several varieties) that was quite hilarious.

Add to this the fact the university lent us their graduation robes so the kids could look all Hogwarts, and it was pretty special!)

Ok that was a bit of a segue, but... Law! Harry Potter!
posted by chapps at 11:13 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really can't stand Methods of Rationality due to the whole "I have never read any other fanfiction as it has girl cooties" vibe it has

Heh. It was the first piece of fanfic I'd ever read, which is probably part of why I enjoyed it. The second was Johnlock slash from the recent thread. God knows what the third will be.
posted by inire at 3:27 AM on May 23, 2013


I just wish Dickerson hadn't gotten so many of his HP quotes wrong. "Born to parents who had trice defied him"? "...either must die at the end of the other"? Come on, now. [emphasis mine]
posted by SixteenTons at 12:31 PM on May 23, 2013


I have a hard time thinking of Dumbledore as a great Headmaster when he had a significant fraction of his faculty (Trelawney and Snape, so two out of, what, ten or sixteen or something) there for political reasons despite being crap teachers. It's probably realistic, but not particularly admirable.

(Yeah, I may read the legal book. I'm that kind of nerd.)
posted by immlass at 12:37 PM on May 23, 2013


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