Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Justice Scalia's Advice To Law Profs: Your Legacy Is Not Your Scholarship; 'What Endures Is What Happens In The Classroom'

Scalia 2What endures is the human spirit, and if I have any legacy, anything that really endures, it is in the preserving and passing on of that spirit.

I say much the same thing to law faculties when I have the occasion to speak to them at faculty lunches. They are obsessed with publishing. They think this is going to be their mark on the law, their legacy. I tell them how foolish that is. The shelf life of the great American law review article is about five years, and of the great American treatise maybe 25; after that, they're just of historical interest. What endures is what happens in the classroom. I still have people come up to me who were my students at the University of Virginia, in the 1970s for Pete's sake, who are full of gratitude and say, you know, I was in your contracts class and you lit a spark in me for the love of the law and I never lost it. Some of those people have passed it on to others. So I tell the law professors, that's where you make your mark. That's where your legacy will be, in passing on your spirit of the law to others who will pass it on once again.

Antonin Scalia, The Legacy of Judge Howard T. Markey, 8 J. Marshall Rev. Intell. Prop. L. (Special Issue) 1 (2009).

Legal Education | Permalink


JM, I agree with you. But ask an nontenured professor what his or her priorities are and the honest answer will be, "Whatever it takes."

Posted by: Dale Spradling | Feb 18, 2016 6:04:50 AM

Public service hardly represents disordered ambition.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Feb 17, 2016 12:20:25 PM

@ Dale.Spradling,

I don't think schools need to shift focus in order to get better teaching (although it's not a bad thing). They need to eliminate school-sponsored scholarship so that faculty can teach twice as much, and costs can be cut accordingly.

Posted by: JM | Feb 17, 2016 10:31:09 AM

Once again, you get what you measure. Want mo pubs, measuring pubs as part of tenure will get you more pubs. Want better teaching, measure ...

Posted by: dale.spradling | Feb 17, 2016 8:52:39 AM

And yet he left law teaching, twice, to pursue his own ambitions.

Posted by: SB | Feb 17, 2016 4:54:40 AM

Something we can (mostly) all agree on

Posted by: mike livingston | Feb 17, 2016 4:05:25 AM

It would be wonderful.

Posted by: Jeff Harrison | Feb 16, 2016 9:34:34 AM

I'd venture that most, if not all, problems law schools now face would vanish if they eliminated faculty publishing as a school-sponsored activity. If faculty members want to publish on their own time to advance their profile, that is perfectly fine, but schools need to embrace the idea that their money comes from students, and that is where 90% of their effort should be devoted.

Posted by: JM | Feb 16, 2016 7:45:37 AM