McGeorge School of Law

Osborn Serves As Distinguished Author/Advocate

March 14, 2011

John Osborn

John Osborn, the author of The Paper Chase

John Osborn, the author of The Paper Chase, a 1970 novel that was turned into an award-winning movie and a television series, served as McGeorge's first distinguished author/advocate in residence last month and delivered the 40th Annual Lou Ashe Symposium on February 16, 2011.

Osborn, a Harvard Law School graduate whose book chronicled the experience of a student struggling through the first year of law school, spoke on the topic "Does Law School Really Have to Be Bleak House - or, Why Do We Still Teach Jarndyce v. Jarndyce?" His remarks focused on how literary critics and law professors view Bleak House differently. Literary critics see the Charles Dickens' novel as a story about a young woman who must learn to trust her own voice. Law professors see it as about a 100-year lawsuit and "miss the point that we must learn our own narratives." Although a law professor himself for nearly three decades, Osborn puts himself firmly in the role of law student and believes many law professors fail in the law school class room to hear their students, who often have their own stories that are relevant to the study of the law.

A former law professor at the University of Miami, University of California at Berkeley, Cardoza University, and the University of San Francisco, Osborn also worked in several advocacy classes during his week as distinguished author/advocate and spoke at length in informal faculty gatherings.

Osborn's appearance was sponsored by the Center for Advocacy & Dispute Resolution. The Lou Ashe Symposium is named for the late Lou Ashe, a partner in the San Francisco law firm of Belli, Ashe & Choulos whose pioneer work in the 1956 Cutter polio vaccine case set the precedent for strict liability in defective drug cases. In 1972, Ashe founded the annual Lou Ashe Practical Legal Symposium at McGeorge and guided it over a 10-year period until his death. His many friends and colleagues established a memorial fund to help underwrite expenses of an annual lecture in his honor. Over the years, well-known presenters in the series have included Gloria Allred, Robert Shapiro, Marvin Mitchelson, Richard Haynes, Vincent Bugliosi, Pierce O'Donnell and Tony Serra. In July 1995, Ashe was inducted into the American Trial Lawyers Association Hall of Fame.