Most people think of lawyers as silver-tongued, but Robert Martin, a retired law professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., admits that subtlety is not his strong suit. His paper, “University Legal Education in Canada is Corrupt Beyond Repair,” is as subtle as a sledgehammer: in it, he compares law faculties to “psychotic kindergartens” populated by “a horde of illiterate, ignorant cretins.” The paper, published last fall in the academic journal Interchange, made the rounds of law blogs and news sites in Canada and abroad last week, turning Martin into a minor Internet phenom.
It’s no wonder the legal community picked up on the article. Canadian universities are “closed and fearful institutions,” writes Martin, 70, from which students graduate “armed with bits of paper, which most of them are probably not able to read, called degrees.” Schools have adopted a “corporate model,” he continues, singling out the University of Toronto’s law faculty, which, in deregulating its tuition fees, “pattern[ed] itself after a Wal-Mart outlet.” Other faculties, “equally lacking in integrity,” followed suit. Martin’s solution is to close every law faculty, offer the buildings to the homeless, and use law textbooks as kindling—“a much more socially useful function,” he writes, than “being gawped at by illiterate students.”
Academics refused to comment, suggesting that to do so would give the article—published in a journal even Martin calls “obscure”—a veneer of credibility. Still, Martin is unapologetic: “I believe in being direct and to the point,” he told Maclean’s in an email. “If one is to spend one’s time paralyzed by the fear that one’s writing might offend someone, then one should not be writing.”
Elsewhere, legal watchers reacted with a mixture of horror and glee. The State Bar of Michigan blog, for one, said Martin “defies both the stereotype of the super-polite Canadian and of the phlegmatic academic,” while Simon Chester, who blogs on the well-read Slaw.ca, dismissed Martin’s words as a “hyperbolic rant,” a point that most seem to agree on. “Talk about your cranky old man,” wrote one commenter on the site.