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August 28, 2008

Scholarship and Wilderness


Legal scholarship, at its best, is a creative endeavor.  Even when the writing is largely technical, the best articles and books are based on big, strong, creative ideas.  The best writers, of course, are those who have those ideas-- whose creativity causes us to challenge the way we think, whether it is about the very idea of law or the contours of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16.

If that essence of art is at the core of what we do, we have a built-in advantage over some of those in other fields.  For most of us, our schedules can accomodate time in which we can leave work behind, escape the day-to-day deluge of student questions, emails from colleagues, and the rigors of a syllabus.  As a practicing lawyer, this was not the case-- I was tethered to work always, even if only by the strong leash of the telephone. 

For many of us, I suspect that good scholarship is linked to these "fallow" periods, when we can have the clarity of mind to think of a big idea or quietly contemplate the way a part of the world, however small, might be.

I know that to others in the legal profession, the fact that we have the "summer off" of classes may seem like an unearned luxury.  Perhaps that is true.  I also think, though, that there is a link between that true change of season and the ability to return to work with what the academy, at its best, offers to the world-- ideas, challenge, and a broader view of an issue born of contemplation and insight.

-- Mark Osler

August 28, 2008 | Permalink


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