But I'm bringing it up now because on Prawsblawg, Matt Brodie and Paul Horwitz are writing about it. I should say they are "engaged in a dialogue on" this topic, which may or may not be "compelling." Matt says:
In the traditional law review article-and-response, the article is sent out, read, and then responded to by another academic.... But the original author did not pick her interlocutor; the review did....Wait. Isn't pro-wrestling entertaining? Shouldn't it be "it will look really good but the whole thing will be scripted ahead of time"? The use of "but" seems to demand a contrast. And no, I'm not trying to start another grammar and usage thread. Yesterday's is up to 56 comments. If I wanted to do that I'd also call attention to "scripted ahead of time."
If the "debate" comes as a pre-arranged set, I worry that it will be "conflict for show." Like a musty vaudeville act, the combatants will have all their moves choreographed ahead of time. ("Two law professors walk into a talent agent's office . . . .") Having chosen each other, the two sides have to have some degree of agreement. The natural human tendency will be to pick a sparring partner who is good but doesn't level any really dangerous punches. Knowing this, the two sides will be encouraged to amp up the level of combat, at least on the surface, to make it look sufficiently contentious. In the end, the debate will be less like a true match and more like pro-wrestling: it will look really bad but the whole thing will be scripted ahead of time.
Paul says it's an "excellent idea," especially if it were done by lower ranked law journals:
For many legal scholars, who desire above all (well, almost above all) to be read, it might well be worthwhile to forego a more prominent placement in favor of a somewhat less prominent journal that guarantees that one's article will be given the serious treatment of a response (and that offers the original author a reply opportunity). This is also an excellent opportunity for those law reviews to promote the professors at their own school, since these professors would be among the natural candidates for the job of writing the response. I've been pushing this idea on my home institution's journal for a while; sorry to see that Yale, which doesn't need the extra lift, is as brilliant and thoughtful about the law review publication process as I am.I don't see why the presence of a response, especially from the journal's own school, would stimulate more readership, aside from the close reading the responder himself would give it. And I really don't think a lawprof would go with a lesser law journal to expose himself to a critique.
The charm of the Yale idea really is in picking your partner. It doesn't have to be about getting a really intense critique. It merely needs to be two lawprofs speaking to the same subject from different angles. You should pick someone you want to debate about the issue with as you work on the material over the summer. You engage, you talk, you disagree, you learn from each other. It's really not at all like the problem of scripted wrestling versus a fair fight. It's about dialogue. You have a dialogue with someone who's good to talk with, not a hostile opponent. You don't need two enemies facing off. It's better to have two interlocutors who respect each other and can engage and use each other's ideas to produce something new: a dialectic -- to use Henry Hart's word. And it would be even better if the writing were in Henry Hart's form: a dialogue.