?Publish or Perish?? Apparently Not for Obama at U. of Chicago Law
By Dan Slater
Barack Obama teaching at the University of Chicago Law School. (AP Photo/Obama for America)
Piecing together Barack Obama’s legal career has become somewhat of a project here at the Law Blog. Today, the NYT sheds some light on the “teaching years,” with a breezy tour through Obama’s time as a senior lecturer at U. of Chicago law.
“At a formal institution,” writes the NYT, “Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and ‘The Godfather’ the next. . . .(Mr. Obama, in turn, could play the star. In what even some fans saw as self-absorption, Mr. Obama’s hypothetical cases occasionally featured himself. “Take Barack Obama, there’s a good-looking guy,” [he would say, introducing a case].)”
Classroom style aside, over at Volokh Conspiracy, George Mason U. Law Prof David Bernstein focuses on an interesting tidbit mentioned toward the end of the story: After Obama lost his 2000 Congressional race, Chicago Dean Dan Fischel offered him tenure and a “handsome salary.”
Writes Bernstein on Volokh Conspiracy:
Given Obama’s obvious talents, I’m hardly going to gainsay Chicago’s offer. Indeed, I think that there should be room on a law faculty [especially, at schools where, unlike Chicago, much of the “scholarship” produced by the faculty is pedestrian at best] for incredibly gifted people who aren’t especially interested in writing law review articles, if they can make sufficient contributions to the law school in other ways.
But given Chicago’s reputation as the most hardcore of legal academic institutions . . .and given that I’ve heard Chicago professors say (as of the mid-90s, a bit before the relevant offer) that there was a firm consensus on the faculty that they would never hire anyone who didn’t meet the highest scholarly standards, regardless of other considerations; and given that Obama had published no legal scholarship whatsoever at this point; this is a bit surprising.
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