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January 11, 2008

Relevance, Audience, and Legal Scholarship


RatWithin the legal academy, there seem to be two competing impulses regarding scholarship.  On the one hand, scholarship has become more important as a marker of personal and institutional status, and law professors now have to produce scholarship to succeed.  On the other hand, the scholarship produced is often condemned as being too long, too derivative, and too irrelevant to the practice of law.   To my mind, both impulses reflect a truth.  The tension between these impulses may lessen if we start focusing more often on the audience for our scholarship.

Most decent scholarship argues for a change of some type—a change in a law or rule, a change in the way we conceive of an issue, or a change in the actions people take.  Unfortunately, this scholarship is rarely conveyed to those who can make that change.  Articles about legislation aren’t read by legislators; articles about administrative policy aren’t read by administrators, and articles about societal change don’t make it to those able to implement such changes, such as foundations or governments.  Instead, we publish these things for one another.   When we mail out reprints, we professors may just mail them to other professors, instead of to our proper audience, those who can make a change.

Too often, what we lack is an institutionalized nexus to decision-makers.   In this regard, we have a role model in Washington think tanks, which specialize in connecting ideas to power.  It could be that we have too many conferences with one another, and not enough with legislators and others with the power to make the changes we seek.   If scholarship is to mean something in the sense of a lawyerly and scholarly discussion, we cannot exclude those outside the academy who design the machines we critique.

-- Mark Osler

January 11, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 9, 2008

The Carnegie report cheatsheet for deans

Judith Wegner, one of the co-authors of Educating Lawyers (the Carnegie report) was kind enough to share with me the slides she used for the Dean's Section at the AALS annual meeting last week. I thought this would be useful/interesting for anyone who wanted a quick download of the report's main findings and recommendations:

Carnegie Report on Legal Education: Perspectives for Deans

As for the role of law school deans in pushing change, I would love to hear Jim weigh in, but one strong point I took away from Martha Minow's presentation on the panel was that (a) the Dean must be fully invested and bring everyone else on board, and (b) the effort should focus on an actual process that will lead to meaningful, even if incremental, progress. I've posted this before, but I continue to believe that a movement approach can work if there's enough commitment. And based on the buzz and turnout last week, I think the will is there, if only a few of us start believing that change is possible.

Also, please note that you can now download an MP3 recording of the plenary panel on law school reform.

- Gene Koo

January 9, 2008 in Deans and innovations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Destinations in the Blogosphere's Legal Education Reform Space

The Best Practices for Legal Education Blog has joined Law School Innovation in the blogosphere's U.S. legal education reform space. See also the UK's Transforming Initiative. The Best Practices and Transforming Initiative web destinations are extensions of recent legal education reform publications. Details at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

January 9, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 8, 2008

Is Open-Source the Future of eBook Legal Publishing?

Details (and add your comments) at Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

January 8, 2008 in Technology -- in general | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 7, 2008

The Complete Lawyer on Law School Reform

The Complete Lawyer has published a series of articles on law school reform. Details and links on Law Librarian Blog. -- Joe Hodnicki

January 7, 2008 in Reform | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 6, 2008

More on "Rethinking Legal Education"

Like Gene, I was at the AALS plenary session on "Rethinking Legal Education for the 21st Century," and found it quite fascinating.  My notes largely track his reflections in the posting below.

As usual, though, some of the real fireworks went off during the question-and-answer period.  Several of the presenters had emphasized a beefed-up curriculum in international law, properly noting that law has become globalized, and that this must be reflected in our classes.  A questioner, however, posed this challenge:  Have we gone to positioning our students among global communities while jumping right over the minority communities in our own country?  I thought it was a provocative question that still deserves a thorough answer.  I’m not sure that I have a good one, though I do see the questioner’s point.  Within my home state, legal practice in largely Hispanic South Texas is often very different than in Dallas, but that is not a topic which fits into any of our classes in a whole and real way. 

One thought I did have after the session was that there is the possibility of bridging these issues in some (but not all) cases.  The different legal cultures in Texas, for example, are in large part an extension of, and linked to, international migration and interaction.  For those situations, at least, it might be worthwhile to consider these issues by broadening the idea of international law to include distinct communities within our nation-- perhaps we should be thinking about inter-cultural law as much as we do inter-national law.  I suspect that one reason we are loath to do so may be that such a project would force us to recognize the segregation that continues to pervade our society at many levels.

-- Mark Osler

January 6, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack