Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Too Smart

Over on Moneylaw and elsewhere a discussion has started about the relevance of legal scholarship. Maybe there is a bigger issue. Other than teaching, how much of what law professors do is only relevant only for each other? Sadly, I woul say about 57%.

Here is the catch. Being a law professor is only in part about teaching, research, and service in the interest of making others better off. Instead it is an exercise in self justifcation and one-ups-man-ship. Something along the line of "I must be important because Professor Jones at Elite Law School spoke to me at the annual meeting on Post-Natal law." Ego, that is.

The fact is that you de not have to be very smart to be a good law professor. Just being a little smart and preparing for class will be fine for the teaching part. Most students will be far behind. Not all mind you, but most. On the scholarship side . . . Can we talk?? There are no concepts in law that tax the brain like those found in economics, math, physics, engineering. Zero. Any halfway decent law teacher can teach any law course given enough time to prepare. There are very smart people in law but what does that mean? It means they need to write really smart articles in order to impress other people who are also smart -- way smarter than necessary to do everything a law teacher needs to do. And so there is a awful lot of self-indulgent ultimately irrelevant writing.


Anonymous said...

Professor Harrison,
Do you think UF Law's drop in the US News rankings is really attributable to a "temporary statistical anomaly," or is there more to the story? Or do you even bother with the rankings? Interested in your thoughts.

harrisonj@law.ufl.edu said...

I beleive that the main reason for the drop is the initiation of the 400+ person entering class. UF law used to admit 200 in the fall and 200 in the Spring. It reported LSAT and GPA for only for the fall 200. Obviously if it admits 200 more in the fall, the numbers will fall.

I do not know the statistical anomaly reason but that is possible too because the total score separating school 25-70 or so is tiny. So tiny that a slight fluctuation can cause a school to go up or down subtantially. It's like ranking 50 people who are all about six feet tall by millimeters.

Finally, I think the ratings are a pathetic way to sell magazines. They are deeply affected by a reputational good ol' boy system and subject to manipulation.