Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anybody Here Know How to Replevy a Dog?

There used to be a joke around the Yale Law School--I heard it from the late, great Myres McDougal during my brief and transitory moment of passage there--that a Yale law grad didn't know how to replevy a dog.  "Nobody from the Yale Law School," said Myres, "ever has to replevy a dog."

I've been remembering Myres as I read Adam Levitin's superb stuff over at Credit Slips on the back-office fiasco in the mortgage business: how nobody seems to be able to collect a claim because nobody seems to be able to find the claim, or to know who owns the claim, etc.  See, e.g., link.

Adam is way ahead of me--and, I suspect, the entire law-teaching community--on the hard mechanics of this grim encounter.  I'm learning a ton of good stuff from him but I want to throw in a thought: I wonder if part of the problem is that nobody anywhere knows how to replevy a dog.

By which I mean: in law school any more, nobody learns the boring stuff.   And it's not just Yale: you go a long way down the food chain, you find everybody's trying to be a Yalie.  There is a convergence of reasons why this may be so.  The most obvious is that the teachers don't teach it.   One reason (not the only) reason the don't teach it is they don't know it.  Chances are they went to Yale where nobody learns to replevy a dog.  But if they did, the dean at Palookaville wouldn't hire them.  He wants bright young fireballs with publicists and aromatherapists personal-brand consultants who are likely to put themselves on the map.  Any candidate who betrays too much of an interest in the unvarnished mechanics of it all--that candidate won't even get to the interview.

Turn it around and the point brings us to the second important reason why nobody teaches the boring stuff: it's boring.  Boring to teachers of course but (and this may be a less obvious point)  boring to students.  A few will complain and many more, at some level of consciousness, intuit that a lot of their future life will be tedious and that learning how to cope with tedium is one of the skills they ought to be cultivating now.

But oh look, there's an ice cream truck!  Teachers and students collude to stick with the diversions because the other reality is just to dreadful to contemplate.

Just for clarification, I speak as a culprit here: I would confront with horror the prospect of having to spend my life on filing deadlines, supersedeas bonds and the question whether the allonge was really attached to the instrument.  So I join the collusion: as they used to say in the Soviet Union, we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.
So if nobody got the back office right, it's because nobody knew how to do it, or got their mind round the idea that it was important. 

I exaggerate, of course.   I know damn fine law teachers who can tell you in detail just what the allonge is, thankyouverymuch.   I won't out them here because I wouldn't want to be misunderstood as seeming to defame them with the curse of boringness.  But if one of my own spawn were to consider law school (and in this environment, heaven forbid!), I can think of places I might point to where they might actually learn to do some of the stuff that lawyers actually have to do.  They're out there, these nuts-and-bolts detail people.  But they don't seem to have been in the back office at the banks.


Alternate title: Get allonge, little dogey.  Thanks, John, and har de har.


Steve Reynolds said...

My friend in Bangkok informs me that enforcement of security interests in water buffaloes is done mostly by reference to elephant law.

Jazzie Casas said...

Is the job market only softening for law school grads looking for specific, high-paying jobs at the top law firms, or if it means that the United States has too many lawyers in general? However, a report earlier this year by the National Association of Law Placement indicated that even though the majority of law school graduates can still find jobs, a far higher percentage of those grads are now taking jobs that are temporary.

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