Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Oldsters, Charity, and Innovation
Two things I have seen on blogs lately seem to me to be related. One is this great post in the tax prof blog about the inverse relationship between innovation and the pressure to publish. It is about scientists and how the pressure to get something into print discourages risky and innovative work because it may not produce anything publishable. I have to think this goes triple for law professors who have the same pressure and have to write on topics and on a level that second and third year students do not think is too risky (especially if you teach at a mid ranked or lower law school). It helps explain why the vast majority of law review articles are irrelevant.
The other thing that pops up from time to time is the call for older law professors to step aside and give the younger folks a chance. I guess this is based on some notion of charity or the "right thing" to do. Actually, many law profs would not know the right thing to do if it bit them in the ass. Yes, the same folks asking the old folks to do the right thing are likely teaching two days a week, minimizing their course loads, confercating ten times a year, running scams on foreign programs, and bragging about their influential articles that no one reads. "Do what is best for the community is a great idea when someone else is doing it" is the rule they live by. Of course, I do not mean you personally.
But back to the connection. I really do think the pressure to churn out yet another article does cut down on risk-taking and innovation. So who are the folks who are most inclined to co author yet another 20 page article in order to put another notch on the old resume -- those at the beginning or at mid career. And who are the ones who can take risks and actually attempt to do something meaningful -- the oldsters who are not worried about career building and getting tenure. That's not to say there are not loafers at every level but the clutter now found in law reviews can largely be attributed to those who are on the make and just want to get something placed somewhere.
My solution to the law review clutter problem. Each law school will only consider one article a year per professor for the purposes of any merit decision. And my solution to the no innovation problem. Fire everyone under 50. Thank you very much. And, I too have tired of hearing about your damn emails.