Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Scholar or Producer: The Pi spot

Tomorrow I  am scheduled to be on a panel discussing the future of legal scholarship. This led me to think about scholarship. There are two distinction that can be made. One is between scholarship and advocacy. Many law professors write advocacy. The difference is this. You are an advocate if you start out to prove something. In effect, you know the outcome of your research before you start and you gather support and use many "for example," cites.

You are a scholar if you do not know the answer. Your research is designed to learn, discover or test a hypothesis and you report the outcome no matter how disappointing it may be to you personally.

Another division is between scholars and scholarship meaning actual printed pages. (Since so many law profs do mainly advocacy this is not about them.)  Some of the most interesting people I  know are simply scholars. The are  thinking and searching but do not write very much.  In fact, for those people the actual time spent gathering 200 footnotes, ratcheting up the article and going back and forth with law review editors is just too boring and detracts from the process of being a scholar. They live in a world of ideas. And some people are so "productive" that they write plenty but really have few insights that engage others.  The system rewards these pseudo scholars. On the other hand the true scholars who do not communicate their ideas are neglecting what they are paid to do.

I have know a few people who have hit the sweet spot of being a scholar and also writing when they actually had something to say as opposed to keep the dean off his or her back or to be noticed. Those folks are the best. My last count is that there are 56.314 law professors who have found that spot. Let's call it the Pi spot


Fred said...

When you wrote your article on the value of legal scholarship was it advocacy?

Jeffrey Harrison said...

That question misses the point. We did an empirical test, We did not know how it would come out. we would have reported any thing we found. That is what scholars do -- report the results even if they don't like them.Advocates have a position before the research starts. We could not know the outcome ahead of time.

Jeffrey Harrison said...

However, Fred. I have written advocacy in other instances.