Saturday, February 04, 2012
Beldar congratulates the PhilBob & bride
I didn't have the famous Philip Bobbitt as a professor at UT-Law. But when I was the book review editor for the law review, he was one of my favorite faculty resources — good-naturedly sharing on request (and my requests were frequent) his opinions about which just-released books were worth reviewing and who, among the law faculty members of the country's best law schools, might be an appropriate target for us to solicit to write a particular book's review. He never steered me wrong. Indeed, I'm confident that "You should talk to Bobbitt, a lot" has been advice handed down to generations of incoming Texas Law Review book review editors by their immediate predecessors.
A gregarious intermingler with the law student body, it was common to find Professor Bobbitt sharing (and occasionally even buying) pitchers of beer at the Posse-East near the law school. And when I was touring Europe after graduation and clerkship with a fellow UT-Law grad, my late and dear friend Craig Youngblood, we dropped in — unannounced, or maybe announced with a phone call that resulted in an immediate invitation, but in any event on little or no notice — on Prof. Bobbitt at his summer flat in London, where he served us a quite passable afternoon tea. (My recollection is that we talked about the then-just-concluded SALT-II missile treaty, which is to say, by the end of the session Craig and I had learned a great deal about an important topic on which we previously had known essentially nothing.)
Professor Bobbitt is a vivid individual, the sort of person who's clearly remembered decades later by even those who, like me, had only a somewhat passing acquaintance with him.
Congratulations and best wishes to Philip Bobbitt and his new bride, Maya Ondalikoglu Bobbitt!
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Here's how valuable an asset Bobbitt was: When he would recommend some particular law professor as a potential reviewer of a particular new book, I'd ask whether I had his permission to "drop his name" when soliciting the review. As in: "Dear Prof. Top-Name, Philip Bobbitt of our faculty here at Texas Law School mentioned your name to me as a potential reviewer of _____, and said he'd be particularly interested in your reaction to the author's position that _________ is ______."
Not only would Prof. Bobbitt always help me craft the pitch, and not only would he authorize me to drop his name if it would be helpful, he would also often suggest someone else on the UT-Law faculty who might know the suggested reviewer much better than he (Prof. Bobbitt) did. Then I could ask that UT-Law prof for his or her recommendations for a reviewer (without necessarily mentioning that I'd already spoken to Bobbitt; I'd ask, and follow, Bobbitt's advice on that too.) Typically that would generate the same name that Bobbitt had recommended, or if it didn't, I'd ask about that person. And if, as expected, our faculty member embraced that potential reviewer, I'd ask our faculty member for permission to name-drop his or her name, which was usually given. Then I'd have an even more eye-catching name to drop when I wrote the solicitation letter.
Our success rate with these solicitations — measured in terms of how often we persuaded our top choices to agree to write a review — was excellent, in no small part due to Prof. Bobbitt's subtle but vital advice and support. Maybe that's not the kind of intrigue that earned him the nickname "The James Bond of Columbia Law School," but I thought it was awfully cool at the time, and I still do.
(2) DRJ made the following comment | Feb 4, 2012 7:17:53 PM | Permalink
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
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