Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Too Smart?

This is just a theory (so don't get all bristly) connected to the discussion of whether what we write is relevant. Maybe there is a bigger issue. Other than teaching, how much of what law professors do is relevant only for each other? Based on the study I conducted about five minutes ago, not that long ago when you really think about it,I would say about 55.2 % -- give or take 1 or 2 %.

Here is the catch. Being a law professor is only in part about teaching, research, and service in the interest of making others better off. Instead it is an exercise in self justifcation and one-ups-man-ship. Something along the line of "I must be important because Professor Jones at Elite Law School spoke to me at the annual meeting on Post-Natal law." Ego, that is. It's got to be that way or a fair percentage of law professors would be very very bored. Hell, I 'm bored already writing this and I am not all that smart -- just ask my wife.

The fact is that you de not have to be very smart to be a good law professor. Just being a little smart and preparing for class will be fine for the teaching part. Most students will be far behind. Not all mind you, but most. On the scholarship side . . . Can we talk?? There are no concepts in law that tax the brain like those found in economics, math, physics, engineering or philosophy. Zero. Any halfway decent law teacher can teach any law course given enough time to prepare. On the other hand there are very smart people who end up in law teaching. So what does that mean? They can be bored to death writing for state and federal court judges or they strut their stuff for other smart law professors. It means they need to write really smart articles in order to impress other people who are also smart -- way smarter, in fact, than necessary to do everything a law teacher needs to do. And so there is a awful lot of self-indulgent ultimately irrelevant writing. But it does make those who can do it feel better.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You hit on the problem of the convergence of the "research university" with law schools. Law professors don't generate scholarship that has immediate monetary value, and so the value is determined by how it plays in the "in crowd." Unlike scientists, our work need not be validated by an external check (i.e., reality). This doesn't mean that legal scholarship is meaningless or worthless, or that we should measure its worth only by the degree that it is incorporated by courts or regulators (i.e., legal reality). But it does mean that we ought to have a healthy scepticism about the proud trumpeting by those who are "leading scholars" about how valuable they are to the enterprise.

3/21/2007 9:38 PM  
Blogger Marie Reilly said...

Oh Jeff:
"And so there is a awful lot of self-indulgent ultimately irrelevant writing. But it does make those who can do it feel better."

Modestly proposed or not, this goes way beyond whining. This is a shout from the crowd that the emperor may indeed by nude.

And now it is I who cannot wipe the grin away.

3/22/2007 6:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blogging, on the other hand, is very serious business indeed. Right?

3/24/2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger Marie Reilly said...

No. Blogging is self-indulgent and with rare exception ultimately irrelevant writing. It's fun, and makes some of us feel better.

3/26/2007 8:05 PM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I see that Mr. Mouse had inferred from my criticism of legal scholarship that I am also making the point that blogging is good scholarship. Let me see if I can understand the logic here. Legal scholarship tends to be irrelevant and self-indulgent ergo, blogging is relevant. Yes, I think I understand now.

Now let's continue this line of reasoning. Smoking is bad for you ergo smoking weed must be good for you.

Hopefully Mr. Mouse is not a law student.

4/10/2007 9:24 AM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

I see that Mr. Mouse had inferred from my criticism of legal scholarship that I am also making the point that blogging is good scholarship. Let me see if I can understand the logic here. Legal scholarship tends to be irrelevant and self-indulgent ergo, blogging is relevant. Yes, I think I understand now.

Now let's continue this line of reasoning. Smoking is bad for you ergo smoking weed must be good for you.

Hopefully Mr. Mouse is not a law student.

4/10/2007 9:25 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home