Ackerman notes that the incentive structure in legal education is hardly set up to generate excellence in scholarship. This is driven by the two incentives -- fame and freedom -- and the custom of granting tenure very early relative to every other discipline.
Two results are as follows:
1. "Legal academia will be full of full professors who fail to fulfill the promise of of one or two "promising" articles published at an early age." (Obviously due to friendship and the market for review letters we label the works as promising, but are they?)
2." Even those law professors who continue to produce scholarship after tenure will not stray from 'the logic of the opinion or the series of opinions that they are examining.' "
Ackerman notes the fame from citation as being, in part, responsible for relative low risk projects. According to Ackerman, early tenure means the professor, "has not even developed the basic scholarly skills: the knack of defining fruitful topics, the ability to spend lonely hours seeing one's ideas fall apart, the sense of when to junk a project and when to trudge along in hope of inspiration."
In this age of SSRN download counts, symposium issues, self-promotion, books composed of old articles, casebook churning, and writing within the confines of one's preconceptions, I wonder if Ackerman may have understated the problem.