On the latest episode of Thinking Like A Lawyer, Kathryn is joined by Above the Law assistant editor Chris Williams while Joe heads to the latest legal tech conference. Chris and Kathryn discuss the English lawyer who died from COVID, but not before he took to social media to decry the vaccine and downplay the risk of COVID. They also chat about the law professor (from ASS Law, because of course) that sued over a vaccine mandate. And, seriously, why is it so damn hard for law professors to avoid saying the N-word??
Special thanks to our sponsors, Lexicon and Nota.
Kathryn Rubino: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of Thinking Like A Lawyer. My name is Kathryn Rubino. I’m your host, and a Senior Editor of Above The Law. Mutual listeners of the podcast will note that Joe Patrice is not either on the podcast nor doing this intro as he normally does today. I’m actually joined by the newest addition to the editorial staff at Above The Law, Chris Williams. Welcome to the podcast, Chris.
Chris Williams: Hello. Hello. This is everything I’ve dreamed of.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, this is living the dream. This is the pinnacle right here.
Chris Williams: Wonderful.
Kathryn Rubino: So, how have you been? How was your weekend, which a segment that we like to call, “Welcome to the Small Talk,” but I’m going to do it without any annoying sound effects unlike our good friend, Joe Patrice.
Chris Williams: See, I love messy. I love just messy dialogue. I think this is what the people come here for.
Kathryn Rubino: You know, I certainly hope so because I think that is really my value-add to the whole podcast experience is my very bitter kind of dynamic with Joe.
Chris Williams: Speaking of a bitter dynamic and my week, so, I’m just coming back from Florida, went to see a family in Florida, and being seen with family in Florida was great. But I noticed there are people that are wearing their masks backwards.
Kathryn Rubino: Like on purpose?
Chris Williams: I don’t know. Like I don’t know if this was like, oh, this is me being an antidisestablishmentarianism person or whatever that word is, or we’re just like not looking at the box, but I saw like the white part and I didn’t see the blue part of the mask. I didn’t want to be like, hey, you’re wearing your mask wrong. Because if I was close enough for them to hear me, they’d probably be within coughing distance. You know, I just backed up and went on Facebook. Like, I feel like every good American should in that situation.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, you know, I complain about people without them actually being able to respond to you is really the ideal when it comes down to it.
Chris Williams: It’s what the founders would have want it.
Kathryn Rubino: Pretty much, pretty much. Yeah, but Florida, that seems — I mean, I say it seems scary but I in fact have two trips to Florida coming up in the relatively near future within the next couple of months. So, did you freak out at all or are you kind of over the freaking out part of our shared pandemic experience?
Chris Williams: Well, at first, I freaked out, but then I realized that hopefully I’ll be okay. And if I’m not, I don’t have to pay my student loans. So, it’s a win-win. They’re all federal. They won’t roll over to anybody I care about. It would just move to taxpayer’s dollar, so.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, that is certainly one way to look at it. So, I guess I’m mostly just surviving this tropical storm at the moment. Onery is I’m based in New York, so, dealing with a little bit event, it’s supposed to head up to New England. But, I, unlike other folks, am not dealing with any flooding at the moment. So, really, I’m just a very lucky person at the moment.
Chris Williams: I still need to check my basement. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying it still on the air in case like (00:03:24) people are listening. But yeah, I’m in Jersey too and I flew back earlier today, I think. Or yesterday, you know, time is wonky among COVID.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly. It’s all real.
Chris Williams: Exactly. Exactly. Don’t close your eyes. But yeah, so.
Kathryn Rubino: Nice. Nice. I’m so glad you got that.
Chris Williams: I’ll do what I can. So, I’m in the plane and I know that like Henry or ornery is a thing if you read French philosophers. And I’m like every time I feel a bit of turbulence, I’m like, okay, this is it. I’m not going to see my mom again. But then I’m like, okay, at least we’re almost on the flight. I’m looking at my phone. It’s been 20 minutes. I’m not sure if any of the listeners are aware, but Florida and New Jersey, even if you’re flying are more than 20 minutes apart. So, I had a lot more time.
Kathryn Rubino: I’m pretty sure every flight is more than 20 minutes. Like I think it takes 20 minutes for them to get to cruising altitude. So, they didn’t have to get down. So, no matter what, you’re going to be longer than 20 minutes if you’re on an airplane.
Chris Williams: You’re not wrong. You’re not wrong, but I wish you were, because when I was 20 minutes and it was like two more hours, and I was like I can only sleep so much.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I did that once where I fell asleep before we took off. I woke up like two or two and a half hours later, I looked and we were still on the ground because we had been delayed and I had slept through the delay, none of the flight.
Chris Williams: That’s a hell.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, that wasn’t my favorite. That was not my favorite moment. All right, so, before we get kind of into the news of the week, let’s hear from our sponsors at Lexicon.
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Kathryn Rubino: So, kind of continuing our COVID talk. Our top story of the week is actually very, very sad one. But it comes from England, an attorney there, Leslie Lawrenson died from COVID-19, which while obviously sad, probably wouldn’t be news except for the fact that before his death, he went on to social media and told his followers that he actually hoped he had COVID because he wanted the antibodies, and went on to say that he’s going to let his immune system write it out. He’s not going to the hospital. He won’t impose himself on hospital resources. And eventually was when the medical professionals were eventually called, it was too late and he was passed away. His wife was also hospitalized with COVID complications and said that he made a terrible mistake and paid the ultimate price for that. Neither of them were vaccinated. Lawrenson said that he believed that the ramifications of the vaccine were going to be way worse than anything that the actual pandemic could bring, which obviously turned out to be very, very wrong. So, that wasn’t great news.
Chris Williams: One thing I will say about COVID is it’s really pressing people’s connection to that give me liberty or give me death line, because —
Kathryn Rubino: Well, yeah, yeah.
Chris Williams: The only folks who seemed like really getting knocked out by this are the more rights people. Like, people act like the treatment they’ll give you is more confirmed than the science out on the shot. Like all the treatment options are like tests, because there’s still a reason, does it even like — Like, I don’t know if it’s like, oh, I don’t know if I want to take this shot then leaves people ahead or this special juice that they’re using. Give me the known thing.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, you know, I mean, my big concern, I guess, at this point is just that the Delta variant that seems to be impacting kids under 12, currently ineligible list in the United States, they can’t get vaccinated. And it seems like those folks are experiencing Delta. It at least seems like they’re getting hospitalized at much higher rates. There was a pediatrician in — I think it was Houston a while back who put some social media posts, he’s talking about how he couldn’t find a kid pediatric ICU bed. I mean, it seems like the wrong people are feeling the impact in that instance.
Chris Williams: Yeah. I mean, I wish we were in a political situation where something crazy like taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves was persuasive enough. But I guess right now we’re not at that space.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, I mean, there’s not a lot to say except that this particular guy, apparently, it’s these stories has kind of hit virality both in England, where he’s from, and here, you know, and I hope that the lesson of his life and death at least do something convinces someone to actually get the vaccination because at this point, at least in America, we have more vaccines and we have people willing to take them and that seems like an awful place to be in.
Chris Williams: That’s ridiculous, really.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. I know that Pfizer just got a full approval today were recorded on a Monday. But I think it’s interesting because there’s all these folks who are talking about how, you know, according to the latest surveys, X amount of percentage of people said that once it gets fully approved, then I’ll definitely take it. I’m like, what we’re actually going to see is how many people were telling the truth in all those surveys versus using it as an excuse to not get vaccinated.
Chris Williams: You know, at this point, I think we just need to lean into companies like, I think that maybe if Nike came up with like a just do it endorsement for the vaccine. That will be like just kitschy enough to work.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. It’s true, though, that something we’ve talked about on the podcast, Joe and I’ve talked about is all these firms that are requiring vaccination in order to come back to work. And I know that Bill de Blasio in New York City has required all teachers get vaccinated by the end of September, which those kinds of actual consequences appear to be working.
Although that kind of brings us to our next big story, which is a law professor at GMU, which you weren’t around back in the day when George Mason changed the name of their law school to the Antonin Scalia School of Law, which your good friends here at Above The Law quickly dubbed as ASS Law.
Chris Williams: As you should have. I’m retroactively proud.
Kathryn Rubino: You know, it’s really funny. You haven’t been to the office yet because you were on boarded during pandemic. But I can so clearly remember, we were sitting in the back room in the office, and Ellie, we got the press release saying that they had changed to the Antonin Scalia School of Law. And everyone just kind of looked at each other and like, “Is this really happening? Are they ASS Law? Is this real life? What is going on? So, you know, immediately lit up the social media with it. And I think within 48 hours, they issued a secondary press release saying that they were changing the name again to the Antonin Scalia Law School.
Chris Williams: Oh, I just wish — people are lucky that I wasn’t working here at the time, because I would have dropped it like some meme and like whatever they’re ranked, they’re still ASSed.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, to be clear, we still continue to refer to them as ASS Law as a —
Chris Williams: As you should. It’s required.
Kathryn Rubino: You can’t unring this bell.
Chris Williams: No, no, no. Once that is out, it is out. It’s common jurisprudence, you know. There’s a record of it.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, this has really happened. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that it was George Mason, which is known for its more conservative political leanings as a law school. But, yeah, actually, they have a vaccine mandate, which is not really accurate to call it a vaccine mandate. If you’re not vaccinated then you’re, as an employee, you’re supposed to wear a mask. And Todd Zwicky sued over that “mandate”, which again, if you were allowed to use a mask absent vaccination, you’re not actually required to get the vaccination. But, regardless, George Mason has actually settled with this professor. He had said that forcing him to wear a mask was punitive and everyone would know that he doesn’t have the vaccine, which again, just seems like news you can use. Let’s be very clear here. But he had sought an exemption because he said that he already — well, he did already have COVID and said that he had not therefore had natural immunity. And the university has given him that medical exemption, so he doesn’t have to either wear a mask or get the vaccine anymore.
Chris Williams: I don’t know if they still do (00:12:3)7 professor for law professors, but I would go crazy. Like, do you know what area he teaches in?
Kathryn Rubino: Bankruptcy and contracts.
Chris Williams: Oh! You know he’s going to bring that up in the contract case.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, he is. Yeah, he is. It’s definitely going to be some my employment contract blah, blah, blah. So annoying. So annoying. But, yeah.
Chris Williams: I really do — and this is for any — one (00:13:11) listening, the best part of law school is being done with it. I just want you to know that. Like, shout out to each and every one of you. Unless you’re like not vaccinated, in which case, I guess I know. Maybe you get a shot, maybe the COVID shot, but like, it’s so great to not have to deal with any more contract courses.
Kathryn Rubino: It’s funny. So, you felt that way all through law school, and I, by the time I was a 3.0, I was living my best life. Like, let’s not kid ourselves. I don’t think I went to very many classes. You know, I picked up the syllabus and took a test in several of my classes. And I don’t know, like it was great. I had a lot of fun that year. I don’t know.
Chris Williams: Well, two things. One, I also didn’t really go to class at least in person, because the second one is because 3.0 was COVID year for me. It was a little different. I also didn’t do Barristers. I didn’t do it too, and I was like, yeah, these people here. I’ll be fine. I’ll wait the next year. And then, you know, the air became spicy. So, I never got to do Barristers, which sucks. But, you know, maybe this whole —
Kathryn Rubino: Listen, it wasn’t even like I hung out much with my law school compatriots as much as it was just — Well, I went to law school in the city in Manhattan so I just went out a lot. You know, there’s lots of options.
Chris Williams: Oh, you had options. I went to Washington University in St. Louis, which as social options had, Washington University in St. Louis, and that’s it. It was like I was either on campus or at home. And I was like, ugh, I wish I had a city with infrastructure like —
Kathryn Rubino: Fair enough. Fair enough.
Chris Williams: They had some nice bourbon. They had some nice bourbon though.
I will say that.
Kathryn Rubino: You know, you can get that anywhere these days.
Chris Williams: Which is why — I like to find a nice stable drink. It keeps me studying.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. It wasn’t really, I guess, until I was a lawyer that I started drinking, things that weren’t beer.
Chris Williams: We thought that growth.
Kathryn Rubino: Listen, you get older you can afford fancier versions of what you’re drinking. But, yeah, one of the things that I thought was really interesting about this ASS Law case too is that you should always use the opportunity to say ASS Law whenever you have it, right? I mean, first of all.
Chris Williams: I swear I’m an adult. I swear I’m an adult. It just caught me off guard. My bad. I’m good. I’m good. Keep on, keep on.
Kathryn Rubino: No, I like it. I like it. I’m glad. Listen, this is value add. This is why people come to Above The Law, because we bring you gems like calling GMU Law School ASS Law for the rest of your life. It’s what we do. But it kind of brings into a stark relief, you know. Everyone makes the joke, oh, you went to law school because you didn’t like numbers, which I don’t even think that that’s true. But, you know, people make the joke. But that’s the thing. In terms of assessing risk reward, natural immunity is great if you got it but no one knows how long that lasts. It is wildly different from person to person. There are some people who six weeks after having the disease no longer have any registered antibodies. There are folks who nine months later still have antibodies, but we don’t really know how long it lasts unlike the vaccine, which we have very clear set of data about. And they’re also telling you to get a booster shot so you know exactly how long it lasts, you know, oh, eight months later, I’m supposed to get another shot. This is kind of like written down. We have the actual science that backs it up. Whereas, with natural immunity, it’s like, well, fingers crossed. You still have it or — and even cases of breakthrough have been reported to be way worse if you are “depending on your natural immunity versus breakthrough Delta cases with the vaccine,” which are reported to be much, much less chance of being hospitalized or have severe impacts as a result. And it just kind of shows that assessing these risks does not seem to be something that law people seem to be great at. But you know why? I think that it really comes down to the fact that you went to law school to be a lawyer, not an accountant. Take advantage of Nota, a no cost IOLTA management tool that helps solo and small law firms track down client funds down to the penny. Enjoy peace of mind with one click reconciliation, automated transaction alerts, and real-time bank data. Visit trustnota.com/legal to learn more. Terms and conditions may apply.
Chris Williams: That was a smooth transition. I just wanted to say I thought I was being asked question for a second. Whoa. I’m taking notes.
Kathryn Rubino: I’m so glad. You know, there’s very few things that I say give Joe credit about, but his smooth ad retransmissions are definitely one of them. They were many instances where I’m like I did not see that coming. Here we are. So, I am glad that even though he is — I think that this is the first edition of Thinking Like a Lawyer that Joe has not appeared on. We are well over 200 episodes at this point. And this is the first one that he hasn’t made an appearance, but at least his presence is felt in some small way.
Chris Williams: Well, I’m definitely going to pour out a non-alcoholic beverage in his behalf. Once he hits five, once he hits five is libations proper.
Kathryn Rubino: I mean, when you’re working from home, isn’t it always five o’clock in somewhere, right?
Chris Williams: I’m not legally allowed to answer that.
Kathryn Rubino: But we were talking about law school and sort of our final thing for today is about law school. And that is the scourge of law school professors using the N word in class, which I personally have written — I don’t even kid, couldn’t even count the number of stories I’ve written about law professors using the full N word in class. It’s entirely too many. And more than just a law school problem, this appears to be an Emory Law problem, the latest case is the fourth such example since I think 2018. So not even like historical, who knows historically how many times this has happened, probably a lot more. But this is the fourth different professor since 2018 that has used the N word in class. This one was kind of meta, actually. Apparently, the professor used the word while describing the previous case of a law school professor using the N word in class as an example of hurtful words. But the professor, at least I don’t know, has immediately issued an apology to the class. I wrote an email to everyone and the Dean of Emory Law has sent out an email saying, you know, gosh, this is against our values. We’re looking at it. No one should feel like they can say the word in class et cetera, et cetera. But, yeah. So, I can’t even imagine why it seems to be concentrated here at Emory, but that’s the situation.
Chris Williams: Which state is Emory in again?
Kathryn Rubino: Georgia.
Chris Williams: Okay. I wonder why.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, listen. But there’s lots of law schools in the south, right. There are lots of southern law schools and it seems to be Emory where this all is going down?
Chris Williams: You know, it’s funny. I look at rankings like some schools have really got like trial preparation areas, others have really good trial teams. I wonder how schools rank in their use of the N word. Because Emory’s got a good ranking going, it looks like. And you said it’s been like four times in the last three years. You’ve got a streak, you know.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, this is definitely — Well, listen, we have imperfect data, right.
Chris Williams: Okay.
Kathryn Rubino: But, you know, it’s not great. And the sort of original professor actually initially apologized then eventually after many back and forth end up suing the law school for reverse discrimination. So, you know, that went well.
Chris Williams: What?
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Well, you know, he says he was discriminated against because he was white. So, you know, different people react differently too. And I think that I worry that I’m getting jaded because as I mentioned I write about this all the time.
Chris Williams: Do you jade it?
Kathryn Rubino: No, I worry about that I’m getting jaded about folks’ reaction to using the word or what they’re kind of next steps are, with this unnamed as of yet professor has at least apologized. So, I’m like, well, you know, that’s a step in the right direction, you guys. I mean, we have examples, you know, of folks who refuse to apologize, or in one case where somebody had asked the professor, please don’t use the N word, looked at them and then turned around and explicitly use the N word, which I just feel like is worse.
Chris Williams: And the funny thing is like speaking more cynicism. Like, I feel like it’s bad that I had two initial responses. My first response was it ER or A, but then the second response was, I wonder if there’ll be a point in like culture were like it’s okay if you end it with like an X. Like, Latin X, but different, you know.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah.
Chris Williams: I hope that’s not the case.
Kathryn Rubino: I think it depends. I don’t know in that kind of instant case what happened, whether it was a hard ER there, but certainly, in some of them, you know, the reports that we got from folks in the room were like, oh, that was a hard ER. That was very hard. Very hard listen to.
Chris Williams: I’m going to choose to believe them.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Again, that’s not about the current case, but some of the past ones. But, you know, and then that’s the thing. They kind of folks wrap themselves up in this academic freedom. I can do what I want. I do what I want. And it just feels like, what is the matter with white people? Like, why is it so important? Why is it so important to say the full word? We all know what you mean. I know what you mean. You say the N word. I know it word.
Chris Williams: It’s not Nicamfu.
Kathryn Rubino: It is not. It is not. Why is this so hard to just not say it? You’re not like dealing with children who don’t know what the word is. It’s a room full of adults. It just shows such a fundamental disrespect.
Chris Williams: Even (00:23:30) know what that word means?
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, everyone. We’re all on board. We all got it. We all figured it out. Why do we need to? Why do we need to say it? And I guess the question is, what are the appropriate consequences for a professor who uses the N word in class? Some folks were given a moratorium on teaching one ELLs at least for a limited amount of time. A couple years, they are not allowed to teach one ELL and the theory being that 1 ELLs don’t get to choose their professors. So, you know, forcing people to take a class with someone who is known to use the N word is not great, but still allowed them to teach higher level classes because at least a choice is being made.
Chris Williams: It’s not like they’re any higher-level class that are also requirements to graduate.
Kathryn Rubino: Well, I guess, kind of depends on your school. Like I didn’t take property until 2.0 year because that was —
Chris Williams: Really?
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah, yeah. At Columbia, you don’t — Well, at least then you didn’t take property until you’re 2.0 year.
Chris Williams: That’s nice. That would have been lovely. I had to suffer.
Kathryn Rubino: I eventually had to suffer. I had to go to that class. But it would have been any required I guess the rule, at least for some schools, has been that they’re not allowed to teach any required classes. So, I guess it wouldn’t have mattered necessarily what year they taught it in. But I don’t know, that just doesn’t really feel like enough, you know.
Chris Williams: You know, I wonder — I mean, I’ve had jobs where people can get in trouble for not wearing uniform, you know.
It seems like saying slurs is at least as bad as not wearing uniform. Now granted, most professors don’t wear uniform. I’ve seen their shoes in the bell where they usually don’t match. But still, it’s like, there has to be something.
Kathryn Rubino: I love that you notice that first of all.
Chris Williams: You know, it takes a certain amount of re-editing.
Kathryn Rubino: The other thing is, listen, I think that tenure can be incredibly important. I think that to actually have folks who are pushing the envelope in terms of their scholarship, making sure that there are not repercussions for their areas of expertise is great. But it does seem like the folks who avail themselves to the benefits of tenure never really seemed to be the folks that I wish were doing it.
Chris Williams: Also, I see that booth like Devil’s Advocate people, like I wish there was more Devil’s Advocate there like, hey, what if we had universal basic income? Like, you know, it’s never those people. It’s like what if people didn’t have rights? Like, why are you the one making that argument? Like, come on. Come on.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. It’s not the best. It’s not the best. I think that kind of making these folks who do use the word not teach required classes is the very least we can do. It doesn’t seem like it’s any real consequence. You don’t have to teach 1 ELS. Good job. I don’t know. Is that a reward on a teacher? I don’t know, but it seems like not having to teach 300-person section is probably good. I don’t know.
Chris Williams: Maybe there should be the new punishment. Like, there like tears and like once you hit like three slurs like you only teach one (00:26:41). Like, I hope you enjoy Regina versus Dudley and Stevens, because this is like your fourth N bomb.
Kathryn Rubino: Not great. Not great.
Chris Williams: Not at all. Not at all.
Kathryn Rubino: Not great. And I don’t know, I kind of feel for the Dean at Emory in some ways, because gosh, she has to deal with it again. You know, how many times you have to — do you think she has like a file on her computer that’s just like cut and paste in terrible rhetoric about professors who drop —
Chris Williams: Like after the fourth time in three years, it’s like, we as a community don’t encourages me if you’re — I am shocked and aghast. I can’t believe they did it again. Good luck.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Good luck.
Chris Williams: Yeah, I think at this point, maybe they should just schedule them, you know, every Tuesday and just see like if we hit like a level of absurdity. Every Tuesday like once a year just to like, you know, keep people in shock till they actually change something, because it won’t change until somebody actually does something about it.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah.
Chris Williams: But hey, that’s just my cynicism speaking.
Kathryn Rubino: Yeah. Well, on that happy note, we are unfortunately out of time. Thank you to our sponsors Lexicon and Nota powered by M&T Bank. Thank you to our listeners. Thank you for joining me today, Chris. If you’re listening to obviously the podcast, you can give us ratings, not just the star. So, obviously, we’ll take them but if you write an actual review, it actually helps us move up the algorithm, helps people find us as a legal podcast. You can follow me on Twitter. I’m at [email protected], that’s numeral one. Where can folks find you, Chris?
Chris Williams: I’m mostly on HCL blog. So, if you say something to the blog, I will be there, and I refresh the notification. So, just comment, and that is my way of not giving my personal information.
Kathryn Rubino: There you go. Yeah, definitely read Above The Law. You can also find us at ATL blog on Twitter as Chris mentioned, and check out the other podcast from Legal Talk Network as well as the other Above The Law podcast, The Jabot, which I host about diversity in the law. Thanks again for joining me, Chris. And that’s all she wrote.
Kathryn Rubino: You can get at me. It’s [email protected]. Please let me know. I’ll keep you strictly confidential. I don’t know why it would be so confidential, but then it makes me wonder, what is going on there? Or is it just like some weird blip that no one has ever thought to dig into before. I’ve read maybe hundreds of articles about this woman and about her and gives her bio, oh, and the in past, she’s some blah blah blah, and they’re always just an anonymized DC law firm or maybe a big DC law firm, it’s is like the only like color you get when you do any sort of reading about it. And it makes me wonder, it makes me really wonder. So, if you know, hit me up.
Outro: The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com