Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reflections on Campos v. Leiter: The Purpose(s) of Legal Education and Legal Scholarship

In the grand scheme of things, it is not very important whether one "likes" Professor Campos more than Professor Leiter, or vice-versa. But the question of what ought to be taught in law schools is important.


Although I (now) personally prefer to pursue scholarship that makes some difference to the practice and administration of the law, in my preferred scheme of things there would be no single answer to the question of how law should be studied and taught at law schools. "All other things being equal," I would make scholarly & pedagogical diversity an important value; "all other things being equal," I would let different law schools pursue different pedagogical and scholarly objectives.

But if law schools are to be given the latitude to decide how their faculty members are to study and teach law, it is critical that law schools be up front about what they do and do not do for their students. Then students who have no interest in Rorty and similar matters could avoid law schools where Rorty's philosophy or whatnot is emphasized. But the hooker is the phrase "all other things being equal." For example, it is fair to ask if law schools are capable of transparency about what their faculty members do and do not do. And it is fair to wonder how prospective students are to judge the importance of Rorty and similar matters to the study of law before they know much of anything about Rorty, similar matters, or the law.

I also put to one side the important and troublesome question of whether publicly-funded law schools fall into a special category -- whether, because (and if) they receive (large amounts of) public money, such law schools cannot go whichever way they please and must do whatever (someone thinks, but who?) best prepares their students for work as legal professionals -- as practicing lawyers, judges, legislators, and so on.
  • N.B. The word "best" adds a inherently tricky wrinkle to the stated hypothesis about the obligations of state-funded law schools: "best" in what sense(s)?

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