First the Super Bowl, then the NFL combine. Mike Madison imagines how legal academia might emulate the drills by which National Football League scouts evaluate rookie talent:
Passionate followers of professional football know that the National Football League is just now concluding its annual “combine,” the camp where would-be draftees get timed, tested, and measured by pro scouts in anticipation of draft day. There are speed tests, jumping tests, “position specific events,” measurements, and the famous or infamous Wonderlic intelligence test. . . .This is a fun parlor game, and there are at least two ways to play. The first is to run drills that emulate law school teaching and legal scholarship. The second is to imagine the types of skills that lead to superlative academic performance (however you choose to define that) and then to imagine tests that would test those skills.
One of the goals of the NFL combine is to identify diamonds in the rough, fabulous athletes whose professional potential was obscured by a mediocre college team. Law school faculties, it is well-known, sometimes engage in the related practice of “best athlete” hiring. Schools that undertake “best athlete” searches aren’t looking for fill specific substantive needs, but are instead bound — if at all — only by the mandate that they hire raw talent.
In the spirit of this older post about a Fantasy Law School League, what would a law faculty combine look like? I mean the question both in its obvious semi-serious sense, but also in a MoneyLaw sense. . . . [W]hat tests should “best athlete” faculty candidates be made to run, who should run them, and where and when should they take place?
Read the rest of this post . . . .Mike Madison's original post hints at ways to run industry-specific skills. In commentary to Mike's post, fellow Madisonian blogger Frank Pasquale, despite his "dislike [of] anything that makes the enterprise more “game-like,” offered these suggestions:
- Construct a syllabus incorporating a new pedagogical technique. (note–interviewers could learn a lot from this, too!)
- From Bowie to Thomas Kuhn: Assess whether your field is in a state of “normal science,” or needs to undergo a “paradigm shift.” If the former, how do your projects contribute to answering the key questions. If the latter, what new questions need to be asked?
- Write a blog post about some news item from the past thirty days that shows how your work illuminates the issues raised in the news item.
Frank Pasquale's suggestions drive at the core of what it means to evaluate rookie talent in legal academia. We need people who can organize classes for the benefit of students, identify and perhaps even challenge conventional wisdom, and communicate in a variety of contexts. I confess, though, that my immediate reaction to Mike's original post contemplated an altogether different format for legal academia's rookie combine. I contemplated tests of pure, raw intelligence.
This is where my knowledge of football got in the way. The NFL combine consists of fourteen distinct drills:
- 40 yard dash
- Bench press
- Vertical jump
- Broad jump
- 3 cone drill
- 20 yard shuttle
- 60 yard shuttle
- Position specific drills
- Physical measurements
- NFL team interviews
- Wonderlic test (intelligence)
- Cybex test (flexibility)
- Injury evaluation
- Urine test
Long ago I speculated about ways in which legal academia might assess the multiple intelligences of would-be rookie professors. I had in mind the work of Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind (1983) and Intelligence Reframed (1999). Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences identifies eight distinct dimensions of intelligence:
So, I continue to wonder. When we evaluate rookie talent, should we do so on the basis of the applicants' ability to perform complex tasks approximating what veteran academics are expected to do? Or should we take aim at raw intelligence? In an ideal world, where neither football teams nor their scouts nor workers in less physically exhilarating enterprises are ever "on the clock," I suspect that we'd measure both.