Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 26, 2022

What Is The Legacy Of A Law Professor?

Legacy, what is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.
Alexander Hamilton, in The World Was Wide Enough, in Hamilton

Following up on the previous post by Patricia Sun, widow of Law Prof Andy Taslitz (American), who died of cancer at age 57:  Thoughts on Law Prof Work-Life Imbalance From Those Left Behind:

Lawprofblawg (Anonymous Professor, Top 100 Law School), The Legacies Of Law Professors:

Death has been on my mind lately. I’ve had a few friends and family in the hospital. I’ve also seen several notices of prominent law professors across the country who have passed away.

Which makes me wonder: How will you be remembered, law professors? How do you want to be remembered? Because it won’t be about your scholarly impact or SSRN downloads.

Sure, I and a co-author have written about the law professor’s search for meaning, but this is not that question. That’s a question of why law professors seek to leave their mark. This blog is about how a law professor will be remembered versus how they wish to be remembered. ...

When a law professor talks about their legacy, they look to that which they leave behind. That could be articles, but I suspect (and I plan on researching this) that the shelf life of a law review article isn’t long. How many articles are still cited from the 1990s? What was the top SSRN download from 2010? In many disciplines, the wheel is being replicated because there is so much out there that no one has ever read. When law professors die, I would hope they are not pinning their legacy on their writing.

So when a law professor dies, articles are not the thing that typically gets remembered. It gets mentioned, but the things that really are remembered are how the professor helped others get jobs; how they mentored people; how their door was always open to students; lovable quirks in the classroom. ...

Academia tends to feed the egos of youth at the expense of the elderly. It is yet another one of the discriminatory hierarchies. A friend of mine is at a school where one colleague who had cranked out numerous great articles for decades didn’t receive nearly the respect of junior folk who had published about the same amount over a shorter span of years. But junior folk get older, and soon will be in that same boat. They will be slighted. Ignored. Forgotten.

So, my proposal is perhaps that we appreciate people while they are with us. Even if we disagree with them. It doesn’t mean we have to like everyone and forgive the unforgivable stalwart Nazi. And it doesn’t mean we have to be doormats for narcissists. But, for the most part, I think it will make academia more humane if we started with some compassion.

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