Thursday, June 15, 2017
Frank O. Bowman III (Missouri), Days of Future Past: A Plea for More Useful and More Local Legal Scholarship, in The Fate of Scholarship in American Law Schools (Cambridge University Press 2017):
Legal scholarship is at an inflection point because the legal education industry, to which legal scholarship is merely an internally overvalued appendage, is passing from a period of affluent abundance to a period of relative austerity. Scarcity stimulates self-examination.
This essay describes how the population explosion in American law schools during the 1990s and the simultaneous rise of the U.S. News rankings mania created a kind of tulip bubble in legal scholarship — a bubble that is rapidly, and properly, deflating. I make several concededly retrograde recommendations for dealing with a post-bubble world, including changing law school hiring practices to favor professors with more legal experience than has long been the fashion, assessing scholarship more by effect and less by placement, and devoting more of our scholarly attention to questions of state law and practice.
These suggestions all flow from the basic premise that we should more consciously encourage, even if we do not limit ourselves to, producing legal scholarship that has practical value to legal and business professionals and to policy makers at every level of American government. That premise, in turn, is based on the conviction that a modestly more pragmatic approach to the scholarly project is good for society and is, in any case, a sensible response to the parlous state of the legal education industry.
I even go so far as to suggest that increased pragmatism and localism in legal scholarship will assist law schools in the U.S. News rankings wars.