Shifts In Law Professors’ Views

A friend of mine, Scott Rafferty, wrote a tremendous senior thesis at Princeton back in the 1970s on the enforcement of civil rights laws during the Kennedy Administration. As part of his research, Scott interviewed a bunch of former attorneys for the Civil Rights section of the Department of Justice. Scott typed out his interview notes and donated them to the John F. Kennedy presidential library, where they remain today, and where I consulted them a few weeks ago.

Rafferty’s notes of his interview with John Doar contain an interesting observation by Doar. Referring to the Kennedy Administration’s failure to rely heavily upon the Fourteenth Amendment as a basis for the enforcement of civil-rights laws, Doar said (and here Scott may have paraphrased Doar, but I’m going to quote his notes), “You have to consider what the Fourteenth Amendment meant in 1960. The difference of what the law school professors thought was constitutional in 1960 and what they thought was constitutional in 1965 was just incredible.”

I don’t know if Doar was correct that there was a marked shift in opinion among law professors on this issue over this brief span. Regardless, his comment got me to thinking about what other issues may have witnessed similarly dramatic, swift shifts in the prevailing views of the professoriate (without prompting by significant intervening changes in the law, mind you).

Gay marriage came immediately to mind, due to the ongoing evolution of popular opinion on the topic, but my hunch is that a majority of law professors have supported gay marriage for at least 20 years now, and before then, it was less a matter of committed opposition than a general failure to consider the possibility of gay marriage at all. Another, more likely possibility might be a shift with regard to the merits of isolationism prior to World War II. I have absolutely no sense of the midcentury scholarship on this point, however, and isolationism represents more of a political issue than a legal one. So I can’t think of another example, at least not offhand. I wonder if other professors can.

Law Faculty Salaries, Circa 1940

I just returned from the Association of American Law Schools conference, in New Orleans. I was sick for most of the weekend, which kind of sucked. Nevertheless, I had several opportunities to walk around the city, which was lovely. Except for Bourbon Street near Canal Street, that is. Which remains a pit.

Anyway, for nostaglia’s sake I dug this old AALS memorandum out of storage last night. The memo, which dates from March 1940, announces the site of the 1940 AALS convention (Chicago! In December!) and relates the results of an extensive survey of faculty salaries that the organization had conducted. From this survey, one learns that as of 1939-1940:

  • the average salary of a full professor at reporting law schools was $5,521; of an associate professor, $3,607. According to the ol’ Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, $5,521, as of 1940, had the same purchasing power as $90,789 did in 2012.
  • one school – I am guessing Harvard Law, though it may have been one of the two schools that did not respond to the survey – spent $291,500 on faculty salaries. After that institution, there was a pretty steep drop-off in this type of expenditure, and only five schools spent more than $100,000 on faculties salaries, overall.
  • at the other extreme, a bunch of law schools spent less than $20,000 on total faculty salaries, and a few spent less than $10,000. To put the latter figure in perspective, if my memory is correct, at least a few top-flight Yale Law and Harvard Law professors were making more than $10,000 a year, apiece, during this era.



Vanderbilt TV News Archive + Hoover Institution’s “Firing Line” Archive

I recently came across two resources that may be of interest to those of you who teach law.

First, Vanderbilt has compiled an impressive archive of old television nightly-news broadcasts, from the late 1960s to the present day. For a fee, Vanderbilt will splice together various clips that you locate in their searchable database, put them on a DVD, and loan that DVD to you. These clips may add some useful context to prominent cases taught in class, and illustrate recurring disconnects between the true content of judicial decisions and how the media describes these outcomes.

These clips don’t capture every case of note, but they do reflect some highlights of the Supreme Court’s docket. For example, using search terms such as “Fourth Amendment,” “search and seizure,” and “police searches,” I came across nightly-news clips on Crim Pro cases such as Sitz v. Michigan Dept. of Police, United States v. Ross, United States v. Robinson, Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, Florida v. Bostick, Hudson v. Michigan, Florida v. J.L., Oliver v. United States, Illinois v. Gates, and others.

Second, the Hoover Institution hosts an archive of old “Firing Line” broadcasts, capturing the show’s entire 1966-1999 run. Some of these episodes are available for purchase through Other episodes (about 1/3 of the total run of 1,505 episodes) can be ordered from the Hoover Institution. Some of the older broadcasts that are available for purchase include “Criminals and the Supreme Court” (original airdate: November 7, 1966); “Wiretapping-Electronic Bugging” (January 24, 1968); “Obscenity and the Supreme Court” (June 24, 1968); and “The Fifth Amendment” (February 2, 1969). Five-minute clips for some of these episodes also have been posted on YouTube.


The Bar Exam: Early 1900s Outlines (1903-1914)

The proliferation of large, brightly-colored workbooks around the Santa Clara campus means that Barbri season has begun. Many of my former Santa Clara students will be spending the next two months studying for the bar examination, and I suspect that most of these students will take the Barbri course to prepare for the test.

I’m a Barbri fan, though I concede that the program is awfully expensive. (Not that it matters, but last year a private equity fund run by Leeds Equity Partners purchased Barbri. There’s gold in them thar law-student anxiety.) I credit the course with having helped me pass the California bar exam back in 2001, even though I hadn’t taken several of the tested subjects in law school, and remained pretty clueless about a bunch of the subjects that I had taken.

At the same time, I wonder whether technological innovations have whittled away some of the program’s utility. It struck me that Barbri’s value lay, in large part, in its rigid structure. Every day, we students had to trudge to a particular place (usually a law school or, in my case, the Goleta Community Center), where we’d watch a speaker, or a video, for several hours. The speaker would help us fill in our workbooks (just like a third-grade Phonics lesson!), and that, plus lots and lots of supplemental studying, is how we’d familiarize ourselves with the material. Without this day-in, day-out routine, I doubt I would have been disciplined enough to study very much–especially during May and early June, when the bar exam still seemed so very far away.

Today, students can download these videos “on demand,” meaning that they don’t have to attend the lectures or screenings. I appreciate that students probably lobbied for this download feature, but I think it’s an awful idea. Had it existed back in 2001, I absolutely would have skipped a whole bunch of Barbri classes to go hiking or biking or eating or sleeping or something. I would have promised myself, each time, that I’d watch the video later. Which, in a few rare instances, I actually might–maybe while on the beach, or at a cafe, and in any event never, ever paying more than about 50 percent of my complete attention to the video.

Well, my students are probably much more disciplined than I was. To turn the page within this post, I have little useful advice for those of you who are studying for the bar examination right now. It’s a slog, and the last two weeks, in particular, involve a pretty awful sleep-panic studying-sleep cyclical routine. Personally, during the final countdown to the 2001 bar examination, I felt like a particularly hapless version of the Little Dutch Boy. Only I was trying to plug a seemingly infinite number of holes in my brain, instead of leaks in a dike. If I had to offer some simple advice or encouragement, it would be this:

1) Know what the exam tests. The bar exam is, in my opinion, only about 50 percent concerned with your nuanced knowledge of the substantive law. If you don’t believe me, look at the “model” answers to essay questions that the California Bar posts online, after each administration of the exam. Often, the two posted answers for each question will come to directly conflicting conclusions on key points of substantive law.

As much as it probes your knowledge of the law, the bar exam tests candidates’ writing, reading, and generic critical-thinking skills. This point applies in particular force to the exam’s “performance tests,” and also to the essay and multiple-choice portions of the examination. As for these essays and multiple-choice questions–and I know this sounds obvious, but still–you must must must read the questions and answers carefully, paying particular attention to the call of each question. The bar examiners are experts at things like subtly hiding double hearsay within an Evidence multiple-choice question. If you skim the question, or read it too quickly, or fail to consider all of the answer choices (remember, here, that you are looking for the “best,” not the “perfect,” answer), you’ll get it wrong. 

2) Make life easy for your grader. Test-takers think that their exam answer will be the cynosure of their grader’s attention, even if only for a few minutes. Maybe, maybe not. Your grader very well may be watching TV, or playing shufflepuck, or doing something else while he or she marks up your answer. This likelihood means that you must make it as easy as possible for him or her to understand and follow your thought process. This general suggestion breaks down into several subpoints:

a. With your essay answers and performance test responses, especially, I seriously doubt that anyone can provide too much road-mapping at the outset of his or her answer, or too many headings or signal words (e.g., “first,” “second,” “third,” etc.) at the start of new paragraphs, consistent with the architecture laid out in your roadmap.

b. Likewise, avoid long paragraphs in your answers to essay questions and performance tests. Overly long paragraphs – especially overly long paragraphs that lack topic sentences – are a pet peeve of mine as a professor. My attention span is barely long enough to slog through a page-and-a-half-long paragraph. You’d better believe that the average bar-exam grader has even less patience, and less desire to mine a sea of text for the “right” answer. Short paragraphs–and here I’m thinking four or five crisp sentences, tops–are much more reader-friendly.

c. Don’t assume your graders know how smart you are. This point represents the flip side to Tip #2.b, above. With the additional time that your shortened paragraphs provide you, briefly touch upon and discuss some points that you think are obvious.

Almost everyone, as a writer, filters out stuff that they assume the reader already knows. Sometimes this is useful, but just as often, it creates problems–either because the reader doesn’t know this information, or because it doesn’t matter what the reader knows or doesn’t know–it matters what you, the writer, know, and put down on paper.  The bar exam falls into the latter category. If you leave something off an exam, it’s dead to the grader, who doesn’t know you from Adam or Eve, and doesn’t know if you omitted the point because the answer is apodictic, or because you failed to identify the issue in the first place.

Here again, I encourage students who are taking the California bar exam to quickly skim a couple of questions and model answers to the test. As to any question, the common denominator isn’t that both model responses got the law entirely right, or entirely wrong. Instead, both of the commended answers usually respond to the questions that were asked, spot the key issues, provide the reader with a brief road-map or overview, do not assume that any issue is beneath discussion, and work through these issues in a methodical, reader-friendly (read: short paragraphs) manner. These model answers suggest that someone who exclusively focuses her studying on the substantive law, while overlooking how she’s going to present that information to the grader, is like a Hollywood movie studio that pays $200 million for special effects on a movie with a $5 script.  

3. Finally, remember that any hardship associated with the bar is, in the end, a First World Problem. And that in taking the bar, and suffering while you study for it, you are just part of a long continuum. If you think it was easy to pass the bar a century ago, you might consider these bar outlines for 1903 (New York), 1910 (Illinois), and 1914 (also New York, and written by future judge Harold Medina). Just don’t consider them for too long; you have lots of studying to do.


You Can’t Always Choose Your Talents: William Rehnquist, The Novelist

Earlier today, while on a visit to the Stanford campus, I detoured into the Hoover Institution’s archives to take a quick look at a few of William Rehnquist’s papers.

As some of you may know, the former Chief Justice donated his papers to the Hoover Institution, but most of these documents remain under seal. The terms of his gift to the Institution provided that to the extent that his papers involve Supreme Court cases, they are to remain off-limits until such time as all other Justices on the Court at the time of the case in question have passed away. Accordingly, at the present time only Rehnquist’s personal papers, as well as documents that relate to cases heard by the Court between 1972 and 1974, are open for research.

Happily, I wasn’t especially interested in reading old opinion drafts. What piqued my curiosity, instead, were a few other notations in the Rehnquist papers finding aid. First, I saw that the Rehnquist collection included several of his old law-school notebooks. Might be interesting, I thought. Second, the finding aid indicated that Box 193 of the Rehnquist papers included a folder with the title, “Novel Notes, 1974-1980.” Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote a novel?, I wondered. This I gotta see. Third, there was a folder in Box 88, “Ten most important Rehnquist opinions.” I didn’t (and still don’t) know who identified these opinions, but I thought it might be interesting to see what the folder contained.

Let’s start with the notebooks. A few observations:

(1) It appears that as a young man, Chief Justice Rehnquist liked to gamble. One of the notebooks in Box One of the Rehnquist papers includes a few lists of bets that Rehnquist recently had made. I know that Rehnquist liked to play poker (and the notebook does reference a poker game); it looks like he liked to place bets on football games and horse races, too.

(2) It also appears that Rehnquist liked to doodle, and in particular, that he enjoyed drawing portraits of now-obscure individuals in the margins of his notebooks. So, here’s a word of advice to you kids out there: Don’t pay attention in class, and you eventually will become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

(3) Rehnquist’s Constitutional Law notes are pretty interesting. (Across his classes, Rehnquist took very good notes.) His Constitutional Law course appears to have spent a considerable amount of time on the Commerce Clause; I’d draw some inferences from his notes on this subject, but this post is already going to be too long. Unfortunately for any hope that Rehnquist’s Con Law notes might shed light on his Plessy v. Feguson memo to Robert Jackson, the notes seem to end right at that very case; on the general subject of equal protection as it relates to public accommodations, all Rehnquist writes is, “Ct has said that segregation per se was not denial of equal protection if accommodations are equal.” (I would not expect much editorializing about the case, in any event; that does not appear to have been Rehnquist’s style as a note-taker.)

Now, let’s move on to the “Novel Notes” folder. The title of this blog post comes from a line in a recent episode of “Mad Men,” in which Don Draper tells his wife, Megan, that a person can’t always choose his or her talents. (Megan wants to be an actress, but her gifts may lie more in advertising.) The implication being, that on balance, a person will be happiest if she chooses a career that exploits her talents, rather than trying to tack against the wind.

I did not know William Rehnquist personally (though I suspect I would have liked him).  I don’t know if he ever wanted to be a novelist, or whether it was just a hobby of his. Review of his novel notes establishes beyond argument, however, that G_d did not put William Rehnquist on earth to write novels.

The Rehnquist papers include outlines and drafts of a novel that Rehnquist tried to write in the mid-1970s, and in all candor, it is not very good. Rehnquist was told as much by the editors to whom his agent sent the manuscript. In one letter to Rehnquist, the agent relayed an editor’s criticism of the writing as “a little stiff,” such that the manuscript “would need a very considerable craftsman/editor to shape it into an acceptable novel for publication.” This editor also commented that “the author insists on telling when [he] ought to be showing or revealing, and there is not enough complexity in the case itself.” In another letter to Rehnquist, the agent reports that a different editor liked the plot, but  ”[w]here he feels the book falls down is in the sheer writing skill.”  Yup, that can be a problem.

I wonder what impact this criticism had on Rehnquist. Here you have an immensely talented man, so successful at one type of writing, basically being told that as a novelist, he’s an incompetent. I suspect that Rehnquist had a sufficiently well-developed sense of humor that he didn’t take these rejections too personally, but maybe they did sting just a little.

Finally, let’s have some fun with the “Ten Most Important Rehnquist Opinions” Folder. I will open up the comments function on this blog for a while to accommodate guesses as to what these 10 opinions are. If someone correctly names six out of the 10 opinions contained within the folder, I will donate $50 to an animal rescue shelter. (And, hey, Brazilian spammers, 6/10 is an inflexible bar, one that I will refuse to modify even if you tell me that my blog “Is very interesting. One of the best ones out there. I really enjoy your points of view.”)

Hint: the “Top 10″ folder within the Rehnquist papers includes ONLY opinions written between 1972 and 1981; my guess is that it was pulled together for some 10-year anniversary of Rehnquist’s appointment to the bench. So Rehnquist’s later ouvre is out, and several of the opinions within the folder are, today, quite obscure. Again, I don’t know who identified these 10 opinions, but it would be interesting if it was Rehnquist himself . . .

Has the Full-Time Law Teacher Got What It Takes?

This is a brief follow-up to my last post, on law professors and FDR’s “court-packing” plan. To my knowledge, the debate over Roosevelt’s proposal was the first time that law professors were denounced, as a general class, as a bunch of far-out lefties. One of my favorite screeds in this genre is titled Has the Full-Time Law Teacher Got What It Takes?  Written by attorney Eustace Cullinan and published in the June 1937 edition of the California State Bar Journal, the article provides in pertinent part as follows:

The debate on the President’s proposal to enlarge the Supreme Court must have caused members of the bar to wonder whether some experience in the practice of the law should not be a required part of the training of law teachers.

There is a spreading impression that the teaching branch of the profession is diverging at a wide angle from the practicing and judicial branches. This divergence was illustrated sharply by the respective attitudes of the teaching and practicing branches toward the President’s proposal. . . .

I am not aware of any available statistics showing the number or proportion of law school teachers who were for or against the proposal, but much of the support for the proposal within the profession came from the teaching branch and it seemed to me that most of the law-school professors who were vocal on the subject favored the proposal.* It is alarming that so many law teachers saw nothing dangerous or wrong in the President’s drive to bend the court to his will. . . .

[T]his generation of law teacher has been pastured on the sheltered college campus and has never had to forage on the unfenced and overcrowded range. If he has gained something thereby he has also missed something. His job is to fit youth for life on the range. But has he got what it takes?


* KFG Note: This point is highly debatable, even suspect. A majority of the law professors who testified before Congress regarding the plan opposed it, and many professors hostile to the plan reached out to the press to make their concerns known.


75 Years of Law Professors as Pundits

It’s an interesting coincidence that part of last week’s oral argument on the Affordable Care Act occurred exactly 75 years (to the day) after the United States Supreme Court issued its opinion in West Coast Hotel v. Parrish. Most of you probably already know that, in upholding a Washington state minimum wage law, the Court’s 5-4 decision in West Coast Hotel snuffed out some of the outrage that had generated the momentum for FDR’s “court-packing” plan.

The ACA and Roosevelt’s proposal are tied together in that both pose fascinating legal questions. Moreover, the ongoing dialogue regarding the role(s) that law professors can, should, and do play in shaping public opinion–sparked by the active engagement of law professors in the ACA challenge–mirrors a similar conversation that surrounded the debate over the court-packing plan.

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Advice for Interviewing for a Prosecutor Position

Many of my students want to become prosecutors. Since I used to be a deputy district attorney, some of these students visit me before their interviews with local prosecutors’ offices, seeking advice.

To the extent that this advice is any good, I see no need to limit it to Santa Clara students. So, for what they are worth, following are the suggestions that I offer. As caveats, I suspect that other, better, advice exists elsewhere on the Internet; and while much of the text below is uncontroversial, others may disagree with some of what I write.  Finally, I should add that portions of this advice probably also apply to interviews with local public defenders’ offices, though I lack personal knowledge on this point.

To save space on this blog’s face page, I’ll relate my advice after the jump.

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The Decline of Agency: Report of the Curriculum Committee, Proceedings of the Thirty-First Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools, 1933

I was cleaning my files today when I came across a copy of an old report by the Association of American Law School’s Curriculum Committee, issued back in 1933.  The report, contained within the AALS’s Handbook and Proceedings of the Annual Meeting for that year, summarized the curricula of 66 surveyed AALS member schools, and shines some light on differences between the law school curriculum, then and now.

One table within the report relates the first-year curriculum at the surveyed schools.  Much of the curriculum was the same back then, as it is now: all 66 schools offered first-year courses in Torts and Contracts. Property was offered as a first-year course by all but two schools; Criminal Law, by all but three; Procedure, by all but four.

The next most-common class may come as a bit of a surprise: Agency, which was offered by 47 of the 66 schools.  After Agency and Legal Bibliography (35 institutions), there was a marked drop-off, such that the other courses found within the first-year curriculum at at least one institution–Persons (16 schools), Equity (15 schools), Legal Ethics (10 schools), Legal History (seven schools), Sales (five schools), Constitutional Law (three schools), Jurisprudence (two schools), and Corporations, Legislation, Logic, and Partnership (one offering school)–were far less frequently offered across institutions.

I haven’t looked carefully at the modern law-school curriculum (I leave that for Walter Olson and others), but it’s obvious that Agency no longer forms as central a part of the first-year curriculum as it once did, and that its place has been taken by Constitutional Law.  Infer what you will from this shift.

Within the upper-division classes, the survey revealed that five schools offered courses in Air Law, and one in Radio Law–think of them as the Internet Law classes of the era.  Several staples of the modern curriculum were either less frequently offered, or missing altogether; Administrative Law and Bankruptcy, for example, were both offered by less than half of all surveyed institutions (32 out of 66 schools, apiece, with another three schools offering classes on Administration of Insolvent Estates); and only 14 institutions gave instruction in Trade Regulation (which presumably encompassed Antitrust).  Meanwhile, 30 schools offered classes in Quasi Contracts, 18 in Admiralty, 14 in Jurisprudence, and eight in Roman Law. Perhaps most interesting, only 47 of the 66 schools offered classes in Legal Ethics, which I presume every law school offers today.  Again, infer what you will.


All Things End Badly; Otherwise They Wouldn’t End: Dr. Emily Kempin in New York (1891-1893)

A few news stories, reprinted without (much) comment:

January 14, 1891 (Logansport (IN) Pharos):

A Chance for Ambitious Girls

Mrs. Emily Kempin, L.L.D., is making a success of the law school for women attached to the University of New York. She has twelve pupils in her class, and describes them as earnest and interested. Already there are twenty endowed scholarships. Five of her pupils have taken advantage of this opportunity and are hoping to make the law their profession. The other seven are wealthy society women. One of them is Mrs. George B. McClellan, wife of the son of the celebrated general. Some of these ladies are the wives of lawyers who wish to be intelligent companions for their husbands in their work; others are desirous of learning how to manage their own estates, while other again intend to make practical use of their knowledge.

Mrs. Leonard Weber is president of the board of directors, and Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi and Mrs. ex-Mayor Hewitt are among the directors. In addition to the lectures delivered in the regular course at the university afternoon lectures are also to be given at the residence of Mrs. Hewitt. Young women throughout the country who desire to pursue the study of hte law, but have not the means, are reminded that of the twenty endowed scholarships in this school only five are taken, so that there are fifteen vacancies awaiting pupils. - Lillie Devereux Blake in Woman’s Journal

July 16, 1891 Ohio Democrat: 

Women Law Graduates

The woman’s law class connected with but not actually belonging to the university of the city of New York recently held its graduation exercise when fourteen women received certificates. The subjects of some of the essays were “Why I Study Law,” with valedictory addresses by Mrs. Theodore Sutro; and “The Origin of Our Law,” by Miss Stanlietta Titus; and “The Consideration in Contracts,” by Mrs. Hood. Dr. Emily Kempin, the lecturer of the class, was presented with a handsome gold bracelet in which was set a tiny watch. The graduates profess that they do not as a rule intend to practice law but only to understand how and why the laws of our country are made and administered.

September 20, 1891 (Logansport (IN) Pharos):



The Chances of Success at the Bar are Bright and Promising for the Persevering

On tho 10th of April last, at the New York university, a “women’s law class” was graduated. It was the first of its kind in the history of the world. The class, consisting of fourteen
members, was made up of teachers, business women and ladies of society. The course completed was in commercial law. It had lasted eight months, and had been conducted by Dr. Emily Kempin. It was a great success. The three lawyers who were present at the
examination said they had never witnessed any thing; better among young men who were being examined—seldom any thing as good. This was not said in compliment, for they were serious men, and believed they were performing a serious duty in criticising, advising and encouraging the women who had entered on a totally new career.

It is very pleasant to write this, as it proves that law, the last profession to admit women, is one for which they are exceptionally fitted. In law and equity there are a few broad principles and an infinity of detail. Now detail is woman’s province. She has, moreover, the
tact, the quickness of perception, the patience (she has had a long training), and above all, the aplomb that go to make up a successful lawyer. There is a broad field for women as lawyers, particularly for those of their own sex who are forced to have recourse to the
tribunals of justice. A woman in distress, suffering from another’s wrongdoing, will often shrink from appealing to the courts because she has to state her case to a man—to reveal secrets or to make charges from which her natural delicacy recoils. With a woman she
will be more free. She will state her case frankly, without artifice. . . .

- Kate E. Logan, in Leslie’s Newspaper

November 17, 1892 Register (Rock Valley, IA):

Women and Jurisprudence

Remarkable Success of Dr. Emily Kempin’s Class for the Study of Law

In the drawing room of Mrs. Henry Dormitzer, of New York, I recently assisted at a remarkable spectacle. One hundred fashionably dressed, educated women assembled to hear Mrs. Emily Kempin, LL.D. lecture on “Marriage a Contract?” “What next?” I asked myself, and went in search of information, which was readily imparted by the clever and interesting president of the Woman’s Legal Education society, Mrs. Leonard Weber.  The evolution of her unique organization is well worth telling.

Two years ago Mrs. Weber, whose impulses are as warm as her head is clear, became acquainted with women who, owing to poverty, were unable to get their rights. This fact led Mrs. Weber to conclude that the poor needed legal no less than medical dispensaries. How to fill this want was the problem which Dr. Emily Kempin seemed to solve. This female lawyer came to Mrs. Weber from Switzerland, having been graduated with highest honors from the University of Zurich, where she lectured for some time as private docent.

. . .

With the advent of Dr. Kempin, Mrs. Weber created an arbitration society, over which the former presided, the idea being to settle the troubles of poor women without going to law; but great as was the success of this new scheme, it was soon discovered that arbitration alone would not suffice. Law courts and lawyers were at times inevitable. Being too recent an immigrant to become an American citizen, Dr. Kempin could not be admitted to the bar, consequently the Arbitration society vainly sought help from lawyers just beginning their career. The lack of fidelity and disinterestedness in these young men led to the unexpected.

“Let’s educate women to do this work,” said Mrs. Weber; and in June, 1890, was incorporated the Women’s Legal Education society . . .

Sixty women became members of the society, which began work last November, the plan including six lectures in New York and six in Brooklyn on popular legal subjects, the fee for members being five dollars for the course, with the privilege of inviting friends. At no time have fewer than one hundred women attended. With the generous aid of the University of New York a lectureship on law has been established at the university, which is held by Dr. Kempin.

. . . - Kate Field’s Washington

January 27, 1893 New York World:

Deserted by Doctor Emily

The Kempin Club of Women Lawyers to Take a New Name

The members of the Kempin Club, of which Mrs. C.H. Hood is the President, will reorganize and select a new name at a meeting to be held in the New York University.

The reason for the change is that Dr. Emily Kempin, the first woman law professor of New York and the person for whom the club was named, has permanently established herself at the Zurich University, where she was appointed a professor of jurisprudence last year.

Some more general and distinctive title will be devised for the organization, and its future aim will be to encourage and promote the study of law among women.


Of course, things didn’t end that badly; NYU Law claimed female graduates before the Nineteenth Century drew to a close, and today Amy Adler is the Emily Kempin Professor of Law at NYU. For more on Kempin and other women at the New York University School of Law in the late 1800s and early 1900s, see Phyllis Eckhouse’s 1991 article Restless Women: The Pioneering Alumnae of New York University School of Law, 66 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1996 (1991).