Monday, December 07, 2015
The Best v. the Most Useful Scholarship
I've had my say on the huge wasted investment in fancy scholarship. On the other hand, if I had to rank scholarship in the basis of difficulty it would go something like this. There are caveats and another bigger problem.
1. Single authored full length books that are not primarily descriptive. (This assumes carefully done research, not advocacy dressed up as scholarship, and certainly not a compilation of previously published articles.
2. Single authored full length articles that are not primarily descriptive. (This assumes carefully done research, not advocacy dressed up as scholarship, and certainly not a compilation of previously published articles.)
3. Treatises. Purely descriptive I know but there is something to be said for the ability to fit it together in a meaningful way. (I do not mean yearly updates, supplements, and the like)
4. Single authored casebooks that are widely accepted. Actually, I've only seen two casebooks I would regard as scholarship at all -- the old Kessler and Gilmore Contracts book and the Areeda and Turner Antitrust book. On this, though, I have seen only a few casebooks and certainly there may be more that can be regarded as scholarship. I rule out casebooks that have multiple authors since this is mainly a marketing tool. It guarantees multiple adoptions and the casebook publishers will publish (and have published) even the worse casebooks if the adoptions are guaranteed. Also ruled out are editions beyond the first.
5. Articles that are advocacy. The equivalent of briefs only with far more irrelevant material.
6. Nutshells and all the new versions of Nutshells. I have to admit, though, that some are quite good at doing what they are intended to do.
7. Edited books of readings. I do not mean any essays by the editors but otherwise it is an administrative task.
This is pretty simplistic because within each category there will be variations in quality and low quality may mean a work in a higher category is no better than works in a lower category.
I do not know if anyone agrees with this list. Nevertheless, now I will list the same works in terms of the actual impact or influence they have on others.
3. Nutshells and all the new versions of Nutshells
4. Articles that are advocacy.
5. Single authored books.
6. Single authored articles.
7. Edited books of reading.
So here is the problem. First, focus on a law school The first ranking is probably the ranking one would go by if the goal were the enhance the reputation of a law school. The second ranking is the one to go by if the goal were to increase the actual impact of a law school.
Now focus on faculty rankings within a law school. If you go by the first list, you will rank highest the most difficult and the most useless work. If you go by the second list, virtually everyone in the law school is the same -- none of the top impact types of "scholarship" are difficult.
It's a problem. What does a law school want to be? How do you rate faculty?