BrianTamanaha has a post entitled Why the Interdisciplinary Movement in Legal Academia Might be a Bad Idea (For Most Law Schools). Here are two passages:
Interdisciplinary studies are currently the rage in legal academia. An increasing number of law schools are touting their interdisciplinary programs, which include offering courses from other academic disciplines (economics, statistics, anthropology, etc.) in the law school curriculum, creating law and social science institutes of various sorts within the law school, offering joint JD/PhD programs, and hiring JD/ PhD faculty.
It seems evident that one can be an excellent lawyer without knowing any of this interdisciplinary stuff, while it is not obvious that learning this will make a person a better lawyer. A stronger case can be made that this information might improve the performance of judges, but a more efficient way to deliver this benefit is to set up classes (in economics, statistics, etc.) for sitting judges—programs which now exist.
Certainly knowledge of rules and doctrine is important for law practice. But in many cases, the doctrine is unclear or is subject to interpretation and debate. It is the ability to make persuasive arguments about the doctrine that separates the great lawyers from the mundane. A good legal argument often touches upon policy implications; it examines the downstream consequences of rules, slippery slope problems, etc. A good lawyer might realize that there is a body of sociological, empirical, or psychological knowledge that supports a particular interpretation of the law. More indirectly, a lawyer steeped in a broad humanistic understanding of the law might think more creatively and might see issues and arguments that others without such an understanding would not.
And this from Ethan Leib:
But there are two more points to be made. First, Brian's argument proves too much. If he is right about interdisciplinary scholarship, you might run his argument to discourage hiring scholars more generally. That is, what do students care whether their teachers do research and writing? And good research can be expensive to support. Finally, hiring practitioners might be the best way to train our students for practice. The answer to this extension of Brian's argument is also an answer to help explain why he is wrong on his more modest claim about interdisciplinary scholarship in particular. In short, the value of students' JDs (whether at elite or non-elite schools) is often tied up with how the faculty at the school is perceived in the academy and the profession. When faculty are at the forefront of their fields -- thanks to their exciting research and writing (and sometimes their practical and clinical work, too) -- that value for the school translates into enhanced prestige for the students' JDs.
And you should check out the good discussion at Leiter's Law School Reports. Lot's of good points made. Rather than addressing Tamanaha's point directly, let me try to approach these issues from a different perspective:
The "Trade School Model" of Professional Education
One of the most profound changes in legal education was move to require a bachelors degree (usually a B.A. or B.S.) as a prerequisite for the a three-year LL.B. (Legum Baccalaureus) program. Before the change, the law degree was targeted at undergraduates and postgraduate study of law was limited to specialization (the LL.M.) or (in some cases) preparation for the legal academy (the LL.D. or S.J.D.). The story of this transition is complex, but it is clear that the organized bar played an important role. One part of that story may a desire to exclude immigrant groups and minorities from the legal profession, and to increase the cost of legal education and hence to decrease the supply of lawyers, but the motivations and rationales for the transition are not my interest here. One more preliminary observation: in most of the common-law world, the first degree in law continues to be a Bachelor's degree.
I'm interested in the move to "professional schools" as a shaping influence on the academic culture of the law schools. There are surely differences between what might be called the "professional school model" (with positive connotations) and the "trade school model" (with negative connotations), but both labels express a common theme--the idea that the primary role of the law school is service to the legal profession and the practical training of lawyers.
The trade school model exists in an uneasy and tension-filled relationship with the role of research as a core component of the legal academy's mission. If the purpose of law schools is to train practising lawyers, then why should law teachers (I use "teachers" rather than "professors" or "academics" to emphasize the point) do any research at all. It is my impression that research and publication played only a marginal role at most American law schools through at least the early 1970s. Of course, there was research--especially at the elite law schools, typically law schools that were parts of elite research universities--roughly the members of the Association of American Universities. But I am fairly sure that the following two statements are at least roughly true: (1) at many law schools research (including doctrinal research) was actively discouraged through the 1960s, and (2) research played a somewhat marginal role even at some law schools that were part of major research universities through this period.
During this period, it might have been possible to classify law schools as adhering to either the trade school model or the professional school model of legal education. At trade schools, research not considered a part of the core mission. Some trade schools may have tolerated or mildly encouraged research; at other trade schools, research was actively discouraged. Trade school faculties would not hire scholars. New members of the faculty would be "warned off" scholarship by their senior colleagues. The rationale was simple: the point of a trade school was to teach the doctrines and skills that prepared young lawyers for legal practice. Any resources devoted to research would detract from that mission.
The professional school model was essential to justification of the role of the law school in a major research university. If law schools were trade schools, they simply did not belong in the academy. The model of a professional school was based on the premise that doctrinal research complemented and enhanced the training of practising lawyers. "Academic lawyers" were more effective teachers because they had a deeper knowledge of legal doctrine. Doctrinal scholarship, especially the treatise (and most especially the multivolume treatise, e.g, Wigmore on Evidence), provided a service to the legal profession--learned synthesis of the cases and other legal materials.
The story of the modern legal academy is largely untold, but as I read the tea leaves, it seems to me that one of the stories of the 1970s and the early 1980s was the simulataneous triumph and disintegration of the professional school model. Triumph: starting in the 1970s, the trade school model began to distintegrate. Even "bottom tier" law schools began to consider publication in tenure decisions. Of course, there are traces of the trade school model even today--especially at stand-alone law schools (institutions that were once proprietary for-profit legal trade schools). It is a commonplace of informed opinion that there are some excellent scholars at law schools that were once "mere trade schools." By the the end of the 1980s, it might have seemed that the professional school model was triumphant. But paradoxically, at the very moment of its triumph, the professional school model was on the verge of disintergration.
What was the threat to the professional school model? That story goes back all the way Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.. His formulation is still the best and certaintly the most striking:
For the rational study of the law, the black letter man may be the man of the present, but the man of the future is the man of statistics and the master of economics.
These words were written in 1897, but the conditions for their realization did not come until much later.
Legal Realism and the Disintegration of the Professional School Model
Holmes (and others) represented the vanguard of American Legal Realism--a complex and multifacted movement in legal thought. Realism and realists emphasized a cluster of interrelated and perhaps not fully consistent ideas about the law. Law is instrumental. Legal rules are indeterminate. Formal legal arguments are window dressing--the real work of decision is done by judgments about policy and social interest. Whatever legal realism was, we can be sure about one thing that it was not--legal realism was most emphatically not legal formalism.
American legal realism was an embarassment to the professional school model but not for the trade school model. Trade schools could be perfectly comfortable producing lawyers who were effective legal rhetoricians and bar politicians--even if the legal rhetoric was ultimately hollow, a mere fig-leaf that covered the exercise of political power. But realism posed a real threat to the professional school model. If legal formalism offered a true account of how judges do and should decide cases, then doctrinal scholarship is (at least) one valid methodology for the study of law. But if legal doctrine is a mere fig leaf, then doctrinal scholarship has no real place in a serious research university. It is not the business of scholars to engage in systematic deception.
One way of understanding the legal process school, with its emphasis on "reasoned elaboration of the law" is as an attempt at synthesis of legal realism and legal formalism that could save the professional school model and provide intellectual foundations for what might be called "sophisticated" or "policy-oriented" legal scholarship. Reasoned elaboration of legal doctrine was premised on the notion that there could be a distinctively legal approach to questions of policy and principle implicated in purposive interpretation of legal texts. There many different stories that could be told about the emergence of legal process scholarship, but one such story would emphasize Hart and Sacks famous unpublished materials, The Legal Process: Basic Problems in the Making and Application of Law. The intellectual revolution (or counter-revolution) of the legal process school gave rise to a new generation of teaching materials--the policy oriented case-books that began to emerge in the 1950s. I like to think of Laurence Tribe's treatise, American Constitutional Law as the both the apogee and the exhaustion of legal process methodology.
The legal process school promised the salvation of the professional school model of the legal academy. Law schools would train lawyers with an understanding of both doctrine and policy. As judges they would guide the reasoned elaboration of the law based on the values and purposes imminent in the law itself. As advocates, they would possess the skills to craft arguments that integrated policy and doctrine--skills that would (presumably) make them more effective lawyers. Legal scholarship would be built around doctrine, but at crucial junctures--where the law was vague, ambiguous, gappy, or contradictory--legal scholars would bring arguments of policy and principle to bear, translating economics, sociology, political science, and philosophy into the language of the law. Indeed, for at least a brief shining moment, it was possible for legal academics to convince themselves that legal scholars were the masters of all disciplines, uniquely suited to translate ideas generated accross the academy into legal arguments that would shape the law and hence the future.
The Rise of Interdisciplinarity
But the legal process school had, in fact, sown the seeds of its own destruction. By the early 1980s, the difficulties were already beginning to become evident. The core of the difficulty is an obvious but sometimes overlooked assumption at the very heart of legal process methodology:
The Translation Assumption: The content of arguments (about facts or values) drawn from other disciplines is preserved when they are translated via reasoned elaboration into legal discourse.
The translation assumption is false, for many reasons, but two are crucial. First, the audience for legal arguments (legal practioners, defined broadly to include adjudicators, other officials, laywers, and in some cases citizens) does not have the background comprehend the interdisciplinary argumentation without substantial simplification. Such simplification results in a loss of content. Judges don't understand regressions. Most lawyers have never read Locke, much less Stephen Darwall, Rosalind Hursthouse, or Brad Hooker. Few members of Congress have ever heard of Postive Political Theory, much less pivotal politics models of legislation or judicial selection. Second, legal academics whose post-graduate training is limited to the JD program are similarly ill-equipped to make rigorous arguments based on economics, statistics, philosophy, sociology, or political science. (There are, of course, exceptions--the PhD is not a magic wand conferring a mysterious power that cannot be obtained in any other way.) Translation by legal scholars is likely to involve both simplification and error that results in loss of content.
An interesting fact about the translation assumption is that its failure was not easy to discern from within the practice of legal process scholarship. Legal-process style arguments of policy and principles seemed sound (or to be more accurate had a range that included a zone of soundness) to those who were engaged in the practice. If there were occasional critics from other disciplines, they could be dismissed, because "they don't understand what we do." And in fact, many of them didn't understand the law with sufficient acuity to make their criticisms compelling. But the isolated self-satisfaction of academic lawyers was not to last, for many reasons, including the rise of law and economics and the critical legal studies movement.
The critical legal studies movement like legal realism, was a conglomeration of many ideas, and it relates and related in complex ways to critical race theory, feminist jurisprudence, and an older tradition of Marxism, Frankfurt-school critical theory, and the law and society movement. For our purposes, their role in the story was their extension of the the realist critique of legal doctrine to the legal-process school's reasoned elaboration of policy and principle. Legal-process style economics, philosophy, history, and empiricism was vulnerable. At least sometimes, probably most of the time, law professor economics, philosophy, history, and empiricism was vulnerable to the charge that it was "results oriented." Critics saw Chicago-school law and economics as a post-hoc rationalization for results reached on political grounds. Philosophy? You like Rawls; I like Nozick. And so on. It was all too easy for CLS to make an at-least-plausible case that the legal process emperor had no clothes.
The law and economics movement assaulted the legal process school from another direction. As law and economics progressed from the seat-of-your pants, informal or simplified economics of Richard Posner (this is not meant as a criticism by the way) to fuller integration with mainstream departments of economics, the gap between legal process style arguments of policy and rigorous economic argumentation became increasingly apparent. Law and economics increasingly was practised by young scholars with newly minted PhDs from elite departments. A similar trend (or continuation and expansion of an old trend) occurred in other disciplines. Law and philosophy was increasingly done by PhD/JD philosophers. Empirical work was influenced by PhD/JD sociologists, political scientists, and economists. Legal history began to be dominated by those with JDs and PhDs in history.
By the 1990s, interdisciplinarity was in full swing. Indeed, a "tipping point" had been reached, such that an aspiring legal academic might be told, "you need to get a PhD" even though the majority of new hires and even the most elite and interdisciplinary of law schools were probably JD only candidates at this time. Some institutions, however, clearly were on the interdisciplinarity bandwagon. Today, one can point to Northwestern, with its strong emphasis on empiricism and positive legal theory, or Illinois with more eclectic mix of economists, philosphers, psychologists, political scientists, and historians--as exemplars of the interdisciplinary approach to the legal academy.
Interdisciplinarity and the Professional School Model
But interdisciplinarity poses a threat to the professional school model. JD/PhDs and their cousins (those with SJDs that have an interdisciplinary focus and some JD only academics who have retooled to acquire mastery of an adjacent discipline) are increasingly likely to reject the assumptions of the legal process school and the self-conception of the legal academy that informed the professional-school ideal of the legal academic as translator. There are many reasons and manisfestations, most of which are familiar. Let me just list a few:
- JD/PhDs are motivated to publish in the peer-reviewed journals of their other discipline. PhD economists want to publish in economics journals. PhD philosophers would love place in Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs or even "J Phil" (that's the Journal of Philosophy). PhD Political Scientists want to place in APSR.
- JD/PhDs acquite their "academic values" from their PhD program. The reason for this is obvious. In graduate school, they were learning to be an academic. In law school, they were learning to be a lawyer. The socialization and professionalization process of the PhD program is aimed at the academy. The similar processes in law schools are aimed at the profession of law.
- JD/PhDs form their research agendas around their dissertations. They are told to do that, and it is just good common sense. But the dissertation was written to please their committee and advisor and not the legal academy, much less judges and lawyers.
These phenomena have consequences for the way that interdisciplinary scholars think about the legal academy, and they have given rise to a new and still somewhat inchoate self-understanding, which might be called the interdisciplinary model.
The Interdisciplinary Model of the Legal Academy and its Discontents
My hunch is that the interdisciplinary model of the legal academy is still emerging from an inchoate stage. Let me sketch just one version of the model--with the explicit caveat that there are alternative visions. The interdisciplinary law school might consist of a faculty that was dominated by JD/PhDs. Although some might argue for an emphasis on a single discipline--economics, for example--let us instead focus on the ideal of law school that draws from multiple disciples, with significant numbers drawn from economics, political science, sociology, philosophy, history, and much smaller representatoin from a scattering of other disciplines such as psychology, anthropology, policy studies, public health, medicine, mathematics, the hard sciences, and engineering.
Interdisciplinary legal academics would publish primarily or exclusively in peer-reviewed journals, the majority of which would follow the model of The Journal of Law and Economics or Law and Philosophy--with an explicit focus on a single adjacent discipline. Generalist journals might focus on projects involving mutlidisciplinary collaberation--the new journal at Harvard might be a prototype for this alternative publication venue. These would be supplemented by the journals of the other discipline for articles that involved major theoretical developments or topics of general interest to non-legal academics. Tenure would be contingent upon publication in peer reviewed journals. The AALS annual meeting would either transform or whither away, to be replaced by ALEA, Law and Society, the Analytic Legal Philosphy meeting, and similar interdisciplinary events.
But the world of the interdisciplinary model would not be a happy one, for reasons that are commonplace of faculty lounge conversations, because this model is not a truly good fit with the source of the income stream of law schools--law students who plan to become practising lawyers. One young JD/PhD legal academic at a top-ten school recently said something like, "I try to pretend that my students aren't going to be lawyers." A senior JD/PhD at a major research university similarly complained, "My colleagues asked what the job candidate's talk had to do with law, but I thought to myself that the talk was great economics." The interdisciplinary academic has a self-understanding that puts legal doctrine and the practice of law at the periphery rather than the core of the law school's mission.
Of course you can try to adapt the rationalization strategies associated with the professional school model to the interdisciplinary law school. You can try to argue that rigorous economics, philosophy, political science, history, and sociology will make law students into better lawyers, because they will be able to make the argument of policy and principle that really drive judge's decisions. You can try, but I am far from sure that this strategy will be successful in the long run. In the short run, of course, it is likely to work like a charm. Big donors and law firm recruiters who attended elite law schools grew up on legal process rhetoric and internalize professional school values. They can easily rationalize interdisciplinarity as a minor adjustment in the legal process model, and make the assumption that what is going on in the classroom and in the law reviews is not too distant from what they experienced as a 1L or law-review editor. But that won't last. Eventually the partners and donors will be those who were 1Ls that had some professors who tried hard to teach doctrine and others who didn't even try and yet others who turned torts into microeconomics.
The discontent at the heart of the interdisciplinarity model is the disconnect between its conception of scholarship and the functional imperatives of legal pedagogy. Doctrinal scholarships fits the role of training practising lawyers like a glove. Legal-process scholarship fits that role like a comfortable but slightly baggy sweatshirt. Interdiscipinary scholarship is two sizes too small or three sizes too big. You can squeeze into it. Or you can make do with it. But it isn't comfortable and it doesn't look good.
There are alternatives that compromise the interdisciplinary model. One can imagine the hybrid law school. (In fact, you don't have to imagine, since it already exists.) The faculty consists of two groups--JD only legal-proces types and JD/PhD interdisciplinary types. Perhaps they can coordinate on the appointments equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line, splitting new appointments, numerically or by subject-matter domains. (You get a PhD for antitrust; we get a JD for contracts.) Such compromises can be unstated and incompletely theorized, and perhaps the hybrid model is here to stay.
But I have my doubts. I believe that the hybrid model is unstable, not because of the infeasibility of political compromise or the impossibility of devising institutional arrangements that accomodate legal-processors and interdisciplinarians. I doubt the stability of the hybrid model, because I believe that the demise of old-fashioned doctrinalism, doubts about the legal process school, and the emergence of intersciplinary legal scholarship have been driven, first and foremost, by intellectual substance. Legal realism, CLS, law and economics, and the emergence of sophisticated interdisciplinary scholarship from various perspectives and disciplines have created real intellectual doubts about the continued viability of the kinds of scholarship associated with the professional school model. Loosely constructed arguments of principle and policy, without rigorous foundations, simply don't "cut it" anymore--not in a post-realist world. No tacit compromise or institutional arrangment seems likely to succeed--in the very long run, anyway--if it is not supported by intellectual substance.
Of course, long run stability and short run realities are two different beasts. The short-run reality is that the legal process approach to theory and the professional school model have enormous institutional and social capital. Amost all (but not all) law school faculties require the consent of those who do not fully accept (or even reject) the interdisciplinary model. Hybrid approaches may not have a future, but they certainly do have a present.
A Thought Experiment: What if . . . ?
Academic institutions, like others, are subject to path dependency. Much of what we take for granted about the legal academy is a function of the institutional move to three-year post-graduate programs, accompanied later by the substitution of the J.D. for the LL.B. But what if . . . ? What if this change had never occurred and law schools had followed political science rather than medicine.
Politics is a practical activity like law. Many political science majors hope for careeers in politics. But no one thinks that political science departments should be exclude undergraduates from the study of politics or that the model for post-graduate study of politics should be a professional school like the Kennedy School of Government. I don't know much about the institutional history of political science, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that at some juncture of the history of the discipline, there was resistance to a social-scientific, theory-laden, and academic approach to politics--precisely on the ground that such an approach does not meet the practical needs of real-world politicians and students who want practical preparation for a career in government or electoral politics.
What if law had remained an undergraduate major? What if the academic study of law had developed along lines similar to those followed by political science, e.g., a multiplicity of approaches. Political science departments include empirical studies, rational-choice game-theoretic formal modeling, comparative politics, and political theory and apply these methods to a variety of topics including political institutions such as the presidency, voting, and law and courts. That is, political science has as a practical matter been committed to methodlogical pluralism that borrows from multiple adjacent disciplines.
What if law had developed along similar lines? Legal studies departments might have evolved with a multidisciplinary approach to the study of legal doctrines and institutions. Undergraduate majors would be required to take courses that explosed them to the basics of public and private law and to core methodologies, with some advanced electives with a focus on doctrinal areas (Antitrust, the First Amendment) and others on methodologies (game theory, normative legal theory, empirical methods). Graduate study of law would likely have included a year that exposed graduate students to the core methodologies at and advanced level, with specialization in one method reflected both in subsequent coursework and in the method chose for the dissertation.
What about the practical training of lawyers? Perhaps there would have been post-graudate practical training on the model of what is currently done in the UK or Australia. Or it might have been something completely different--a practice oriented LL.M., taught by a mostly distinct skills and/or clinical faculty.
Beyond Interdisciplinarity: The Mulitidisciplinary Model
The point of the thought experiment is not to suggest that we are about to return to undergraduate legal education. The current system of legal education is, at least in part, a product of path dependency. Even if things might have been different, it does not follow the possible world of an alternative status quo is a practically possible future of the actual world.
The point of the thought experiment is to suggest that our imagination need not be limited to those models of legal education that are currently on the table. It is not necessarily the case that we must choose between old-fashioned doctrinalism, a retooled version of legal process, and the interdisciplinary model. There is at least one other possibility, and surely more.
The multidisciplinary model of the legal academy is premised on the idea that the academic study of law can adopt methodological pluralism without committing itself to the proposition that it must rely exclusively on other disciplines for methodoligical tools. Why should this be true of the academic study of law when it is clearly false of the academic study of politics? I do not mean to suggest that multidisciplinarity does not involve borrowing and cross-fertilization. Formal, rational-choice models in political science may borrow from economics or mathematics. Similar theories in law (including law and economics as well as positive political theory based legal theories) would surely continue to borrow as well. Political theory is distinct from but connected to political philosophy; one can imagine normative legal theory emerging as a distinct approach that connects in interesting ways with moral and political philosophy as well as political theory.
But a truly multidisciplinary approach to law would require changes in institutional form. Just saying, "that's a good idea" is surely not enough. In particular, a truly mutlidisciplinary legal academy will require the emergence of new forms of "graduate legal education," of training for the legal academy beyond the J.D. It is clear to anyone who is watching the entry-level market for law school hiring that the pathway to the legal academy has already begun to change. One sign of change is the emergence of various "post-doc" opportunities, VAPs (visiting assistant professorships) and fellowships (which may involve research support but also sometimes are teaching positions) are increasingly common on AALS FAR forms. These programs offer a year or two for post-JD, pre-tenure-track legal academics to systematically prepare themselves to engage in legal scholarship. Another sign of change is the revitalization of SJD (or JSD) programs. Once the province of those with JDs from low-prestige institutions and foreign students with no ambitions to enter the teaching market in the United States, these programs are slowly starting to transform. Where the SJD program once consisteted of the injunction to "take some JD courses" and "write a paper," elite insitutions have come to the recognition that some of their SJD students are entering the American legal academy in prestigious tenure-track jobs. Moreover, as the quality and ambition of SJD students has increased, they have begun to beg and even demand a more rigorous and systematic curriculum.
One can begin to imagine the emergence of serious PhD programs in law, designed to prepare students who have JDs for the realities of contemporary multidisciplinary legal scholarship. The sad truth is that most law professors enter the legal academy without exposure to even a fraction of what we might call the "canon," the contested and ever-changing set of articles and books that every legal academic should be embarassed not have read. Of course, the gaps in preparation differ from school to school and individual to individual, but I have no doubt that most law professors were never (in the course of their JD curriculum) systematically exposed to the Coase theorem, the distinction between property rules and liability rules, the idea of an externality, the distinction between consequentialist, deontological, and aretaic normative theory, the idea of a test for statistical significance, regression analysis, and so forth. It was not that long ago that I met a young faculty member at top-twenty law school who did philosophically informed scholarship in her or his doctrinal field and asked whether it was worth reading H.L.A. Hart's The Concept of Law. I recently heard an oft-repeated story--of someone who was teaching a second-semester first-year course and learned that her or his students had never been introduced to the ex ante/ex post distinction.
I list these examples, not because they point to a deficiency in the training of practising lawyers. (They may or may not.) The sad truth that most legal academics are not systematically introduced to the canon of legal scholarship or the basic ideas of the most important methods for the academic study of law is a problem for the legal academy itself. Law professors should not have to train themselves, but that is what we make them do. It is not surprising that success is sporadic and usually partial.
The truth is that interedisciplinary training is no remedy for intradisciplinary ignorance. No PhD program is economics can guarantee exposure to the canon of law and economics, much less to the core of positive political theory, normative legal theory, and all the rest. Only a PhD in law can provide the study of law with an intellectual core.
But even if you believe that I am correct, it does not follow that the legal academy will change. Yale and Harvard already dominate the legal academy--what incentive do they have to make the costly investments that it would take to get a mutlidisciplinary legal education program off the ground? Even if it is true that such a program would succeed like gangbusters, quickly becoming an enormous success in the entry-level market, is this prospect sufficiently attractive to attract an entrepreneural faculty and dean at a major research university?
We live in interesting times--a blessing and a curse. I came of age as a legal academic in the 1980s. Critical Legal Studies rose and fell. Other critical perspectives began to emerge. Law and economics was on the cusp of its currently (and some would say dominant) position in the elite legal academy. Dworkin's star was in the ascendency, and with it, there seemed to be great promise for philosophically rigorous approaches to normative legal theory. There was a time in the late 1980s when it seemed like a major new theoretical approach was appearing on a regular basis--a phenomenon that was mocked by the term "theory of the month club." Sometimes, I hear my colleagues who were formed during this period express nostalgia for those more exciting times--and occasionally I find myself agreeing with them.
But in truth, I think the passage of times has made things more interesting and not less. I think that legal scholarship in 2007 is more vibrant than it was in 1987, and that there are more exciting young scholars today than ever before. These are interesting times, but with the intellectual ferment and strife comes uncertainty. How will the legal academy look in 2027? I don't know, and although I am just foolish enough to guess, I won't do that on this occasion. I will simply say this. I will be surprised if the typical entry-level professor at an elite law school in 2027 has the same profile as an entry-level professor today. It seems to me inevitable that something will be different.