29 May 2008

Phil Telfeyan: And Ken *Yawns*

A kid, who has apparently spent his entire academic life at Harvard, wrote a polemical law review article in which he discovers *gasp* that there are poor people in the world and fusses at the elite for not doing more. Ho-Hum. So, what? It's not like this hasn't been done a thousand times before. I bet we've all been to CLE's where some out-of-touch, ivory tower or biglaw speaker has harangued us at lunch about our social responsibilities (and promptly been ignored).

Then, why the fuss? 1) He got his non-legal opinion piece published in the Harvard Law Review, and 2) The kid wasn't ready for prime time.

People came out of the woodwork to attack the article as entirely inappropriate for the Harvard Law Review. I mean, [snooty nasal accent] OMG Lovey, we just can't have this sort of thing at Hahvahd [/snooty nasal accent]. I've got to agree with Scott on this: "Who cares what appears in HLR, since it's of no consequence to real life lawyering anyway."

Look, law reviews have long ago become irrelevant. The only place you see them is at a law library, and even there they are just space wasters. I've never quoted a law review article to a court or even in an appellate brief. Even in the rare occaission that one might publish an article useful to a practitioner the practitioner would never know about it. After all, when the last three years have been filled with articles with titles like "Existential Judiciary Decisions, Leaps Not Naturally Lawful in the Jurisprudence of the 8th Amendment" even your most avid practitioner is going to stop taking the time to look through the law reviews; there are many out of touch law professors and no matter how often they point at those of us who actually practice as being the problem, nobody who is actually practicing law is going to start reading law review articles any time soon. Should the note have been published in the Harvard Law Review? No. Does it make one bit of difference to anyone? No.

Unfortunately for young Mr. Telfeyan, it looks like I'm in the minority on this. Therein lies the problem. He just gets ripped to shreds. Comments on the Volokh Conspiracy went nuts. They rip the article because it starts out and begins to base its argument on a statue at Harvard which he very badly misinterpreted (isn't this more a commentary on the person who reviewed the kid's article and didn't bother to check what the statue was about?). Then they go after the kid. He is portrayed as strange because he collects hats. He is portrayed as the stereotypical faux progressive who did some protest in High School to save Pajama Day and carries the socially aware trappings with him, while traveling the elite route of Harvard all the way through Law School (used to hear these called "limousine liberals" but I think the term has fallen out of use). He is portrayed as not putting his money where his mouth is since he is taking a position clerking for conservative Judge Janice Rogers Brown on the DC Circuit rather than pursuing the lower paying socially conscious positions he urges others to take. Then the young man makes the mistake of responding and feeding the fire by pointing out that he was the national moot court champ, not something which impresses most post law schoolers; he also said he'd start a blog - but it's locked down so only people he wants in are in.

Okay, everybody just take a second and catch their collective breaths. He's a young man raised in Northern California and edumacated at Harvard. This means he is probably much smarter than most of us, but has not had one bit of reality intrude on the social concepts he has had drilled into his head since birth. Are some of his actions hypocritical in the face of his article? Probably, but for all I know after he finishes his clerkship he will move down here in the mountains and take a job at legal aid, or as a court appointment lawyer, or even a prosecutor (send a resume, I'll give it to my boss) - eschewing the big paycheck waiting on the other side of being a clerk. And, if you want to lambast someone, find out who okayed the note for publication and go get her/him. The note shouldn't have been published in a law review, but it's not Phil Telfeyan at fault for submitting it - someone in the process should have pushed him toward something actually legal instead of an editorial and apparently no one did.


Anonymous said...

the response you're referring to wasn't written by Phil Telfeyan.

Anonymous said...

actually, yes, it was.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1 at Hale Dorr or Wilmer Hale or whatever you call yourselves these days.

You're busy this morning aren't you?