I am his Highess’ dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you?
Epigram engraved on the collar of a dog which Alexander Pope gave to Frederick, Prince of Wales.
Recently, a law firm sent a couple of letters to my administrative superiors. The second one is below:
THOMAS A. CLARE
902 Prince Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
\August 16, 2016
Via FedEx and E-Mail
Confidential Settlement Communication
Dean and Charles Inglis Thomson Professor
The University of Colorado School of Law
2450 Kittredge Loop Road
Wolf Law Building, Office 323C
Boulder, CO 80309
Dear Dean Anaya:
We are counsel to The InfiLaw System, the parent company of Florida Coastal School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School. My clients were the principal subjects of two articles authored by Professor Paul Campos and published in The Atlantic in September 2014 and October 2015, entitled The Law School Scam and The Law School Scam Continues. My clients are also apparently the target of ongoing investigations by Mr. Campos.
We request a meeting with you (and the University’s counsel if you wish) regarding disturbing information that has recently come to light regarding unethical, unprofessional, and potentially unlawful conduct by Mr. Campos during his ongoing investigation of my clients.
We sent a similar letter to your predecessor, Dean Weiser, in May (see attached).
Please let me know if you are willing to meet and, if so, your availability to meet during the next several weeks. We look forward to your prompt response.
Very truly yours,
Thomas A. Clare
The purpose of this sort of thing is about as subtle as a firing squad: to shut me up via legal intimidation tactics.
These letters give the recipients no clues regarding exactly what sorts of “unethical, unprofessional, and potentially unlawful” things I’ve been doing. There’s a good reason for this, since these claims are simply lies. But of course my bosses don’t know that, and Infilaw and Sterling Partners know that I know that my bosses don’t know that, so they’re hoping that causing me some degree of hassle at my job will get me to STFU as the kids say.
Ever since I started critiquing the economic and pedagogic structure of law school six years ago, various people inside the legal academy have been trying to get me fired, so this latest little missive is not exactly a shock. And indeed such efforts make good economic sense, from a strictly utilitarian point of view. Law school tuition revenues are down by around $1.3 billion per year since the law school reform movement really got going in 2011 or so. Of course my work is probably responsible for only a small part of this series of unfortunate fiscal events, but even a small part of $1.3 billion per year can add up to some real money. (For example, Charlotte Law School, one of the prime targets of the Atlantic piece referenced above by Thomas A. Clare, Esq., seems on the verge of imminent collapse).
Now by itself the professional fate of one law professor doesn’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world, and indeed at the moment the crisis of the American law school, or even of American higher education in general, seems considerably less momentous than it did even a few months ago. But we must all cultivate our gardens, or so I have read.
Speaking of which, someone close to me sent me an email this morning, expressing concern about my writing on this blog. “You trust that there is freedom of expression and that such freedom entails immunity or invulnerability. What you write is kept written and the political winds may change and you may be sorry. Be cautious.” This was written by someone who has first-hand experience of life under a fascist regime, so for that and other reasons I take their words seriously. And I would be lying if I were to deny that, over the past two months, it hasn’t occurred to me that public political dissent could become vastly more dangerous in the months and years ahead. (I’ve reassured myself and those closest to me that there would be several thousand names ahead of mine on any list of enemies of the state who would first be silenced, pour encourager les autres).
Both of these little events are in their own way examples of how dissent is most readily and easily quashed via “encouraging” self-censorship. We can only guess how often these tactics work. And of course the most subtle and invidious tactics of all are those ubiquitous social strategies that produce the kinds of academics and journalist who never even consider the possibility of engaging in any sort of dissent that could ruffle the placid waters upon which their brilliant careers continue to float.