July 20, 2010

Brian Leiter thinks lawprofs are doing "too much empirical work... simply because it looks 'empirical.' "

"[T]here is the danger that ELS scholars may be on their way to replicating an aspect of the CLS phenomenon of yesteryear, namely, forming a self-reinforcing mutual-admiration society, one which the rest of the legal academy (even we interdisciplinary-minded scholars!) finds increasingly mysterious and disconnected from the central normative and conceptual questions of legal scholarship and legal education."

ELS = Empirical Legal Studies.
CLS = Criticial Legal Studies.

I found that via the Empirical Legal Studies blog, which declines to offer any comment other than "Interesting." Okay. Nothing like defending yourself. Here's what I think: Academics have an interest in getting people to believe that what they do is central.  Others — others who don't provide them with reinforcement and admiration — are over there, out of the mainstream — mysterious and disconnected.

Italics = Leiter's words or derivations from Leiter's words.

The ELS scholars mean to put themselves at the center and thereby make Leiter seem mysterious and disconnected, even as he would do that to them.


Brian Leiter said...

Sorry, Ann, law & philosophy is *already* mysterious and disconnected as far as most of the legal academy is concerned!

former law student said...

Empirical stuff looks scientific, but the legal academy is not set up to evaluate scientific work. The law is the only field I have run across where one can be totally innumerate while still being analytical.

Richard Dolan said...

"Academics have an interest in getting people to believe that what they do is central."

Academics, particularly those without tenure, also have an interest in getting others to believe that what they do is new and different. So every generation of scholars has to come up with a new angle.

I don't know what the "central normative and conceptual questions" are in LawProfLand these days. But I'm pretty sure that any practicing lawyer would find them completely "mysterious and disconnected" -- so much so that lawyers (and judges) ignore the law reviews where academics publish their articles exploring those "normative and conceptual questions".

The only "other people" who might possibly be persuaded that what legal academics do is "central" to anything are other legal academics. Even that is likely to be a tough sell. I'm afraid that the profession at large has long since completely lost interest. With respect to CLS, I don't think the profession ever had any interest even when it was the newest and latest.

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adam said...

Merriam-Webster online offers these definitions of "empirical:"

1 : originating in or based on observation or experience
2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory
3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment

So until this hot new craze came along, legal scholarship was not based on observation or experience? I find not entirely surprising.

traditionalguy said...

Legal practice has its hard and fast rules, and sometimes a rule of the case develops procedurally. But there is also a lot of discretion that the Judge throws into a case. At that point the relationship between the Judge and the attorneys can spell the difference. Judges are men/women and have their favorites among the practicing Bar. How that gets taught in law school, I cannot imagine. It must remain the stuff of men's souls that dominate Judge interractions when humans are in the courts.

Lem said...

This post only got 6 comments thus far..

Maybe it needs to be refutiated. ;)

T J Sawyer said...

"...Fox and the Tea Party..." 253 Comments.

"... ELS Scholars ... CLS phenomenon ..." 6 Comments

No wonder Althouse only "sometimes writes about law."