With increased emphasis nationally on the state of U.S. legal education, a new novel from Harper Lee Prize-winning author Paul Goldstein takes a satirical look at the legal academy and simply asks: Is it possible for a law school to make the exalted list of the U.S. News & World Report’s top five law schools and still lose its American Bar Association accreditation in the same year?
In his book, “Legal Asylum: A Comedy,” Goldstein tackles sacred ground for law deans throughout the country by spotlighting the ratings game and highlighting some of the critical issues involved in law school accreditation. Ankerwycke, the ABA’s trade imprint, published the book.
“While journalists have reported extensively on the impact of U.S. News rankings on the behavior of American higher education, I believe that it takes a work of fiction to truly convey the resulting absurdities, a sort of Gulliver’s Travels for the 21st century,” Goldstein explained for why he wrote the novel.
“Legal Asylum” follows Dean Elspeth Flowers, who will let nothing — nothing — stand in the way of plans to catapult her backwater state law school into the magazine’s “Top 5” ranking. But tensions between the school’s warring factions — the Quants, Poets and Bog Dwellers — put her plans in peril. So, too, do the errant pursuits of her faculty and the maneuverings of a mailroom clerk with plans of his own to radically transform the school.
Subsequently, the arrival of an ABA accreditation committee to conduct the law school’s required periodic review threatens to expose the school’s deepest secrets and forces the dean to confront her own darkest demons.
Goldstein is a writer, lawyer and the Lillick Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. He is the author of four previous novels: “Secret Justice” (Ankerwycke, 2016); the bestsellers “Errors and Omissions” (Doubleday, 2006) and “A Patent Lie” (Doubleday, 2008); and “Havana Requiem” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), which received the 2013 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction that is bestowed annually by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal for the best new legal novel.