Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Leiter from Texas to Chicago

So it’s been a complex six months or so, but my family and I have finally decided that we are moving to Chicago next summer, where I will take up a Chair at the University of Chicago Law School and Direct Chicago’s new Center for Law, Philosophy, & Human Values, which will support “the reflective, critical and philosophical study of human values, with a particular emphasis on the conceptual, historical, and empirical foundations of the normative systems—moral, political, and legal—in which human beings live.” In addition, my treasured part-time colleague here at UT, Leslie Green (who is now Professor of the Philosophy of Law at Oxford) will switch his visiting professor stint from Texas to Chicago, starting in 08-09.

This has been such a difficult decision because of my great colleagues in the Law School at Texas, and the tremendous support from our wonderful Dean, Larry Sager, and our former Dean and now UT President, Bill Powers. The University of Texas School of Law has been an extraordinarily stimulating place to teach and write about law and philosophy for the past dozen years. The University of Chicago Law School is, of course, renowned as the leading center for law and economics in the country, and now, with the generous support of Saul Levmore, the Chicago Law Dean, and my new colleagues there—especially Martha Nussbaum--I am hopeful we will be able to make Chicago as strong a presence in law and philosophy and, in particular, make Chicago the top choice for philosophically-minded law students, especially those thinking of teaching careers.

Martha Nussbaum and I will continue to offer the Law and Philosophy Workshop at Chicago (which students take for credit); sometimes we will do it jointly, sometimes only one of us will do it with the new Law and Philosophy Fellow that the Law School will host each year.  I’ll be offering a basic jurisprudence course every year (similar to what I do here), as well as a new course covering from a philosophical point of view topics in moral, political, and social theory of interest to lawyers and legal scholars. Martha and I will both continue to offer a variety of seminars on topics in moral, political, and legal philosophy, as will Les Green when he visits each year, and the new Center will sponsor additional speakers and conferences. I suppose the main thing that will distinguish Chicago from the other leading law-and-philosophy centers in the country is that Chicago will have both a stronger historical orientation than is typical among those working in law and philosophy (whether it is attention to Aristotle or Mill or Marx or Nietzsche) and a more interdisciplinary conception of philosophical work. Interested students should feel free to contact me.

The attractions of Chicago are, of course, substantial: the city itself is one of our favorite ones in the US; Hyde Park is transformed from twenty years ago, when I last spent substantial time there (but it still has great new and used book stores!); the University’s Lab School for our children was a significant attraction, as was the college tuition benefit; and the Law School is, with Yale’s (where I visited almost a decade ago), one of the most intellectually engaged communities of faculty and students in American legal education. The law schools at Yale and Chicago are probably most like graduate school in a PhD discipline among American law schools, so a particularly welcome environment for a scholar with my interests—especially since Chicago has also long been, depending upon the measure, one of the top three or four producers of new law teachers in the country. Dean Levmore also deserves credit for turning Chicago’s quarter system to the advantage of the Law School, and establishing one of the most attractive teaching loads of any law school of which I’m aware. The University as a whole is notable for the ease with which faculty and students cross disciplinary boundaries in their teaching and research, and there are several scholars I already know in other units at Chicago whom I very much admire, like Michael Forster (one of the preeminent scholars of German philosophy of the 18th- and 19th-centuries in the English-speaking world) and Jonathan Lear, who wrote a splendid volume on Freud in the Routledge Philosophers series I edit.  I look forward to working with them and others in the years ahead.

I am also hopeful that my appointment—given my, shall we say, “out of the American mainstream” political views—will put to rest, finally, the myth of Chicago as a “conservative” law school. (One might have thought Martha Nussbaum and Geoffrey Stone would have already put that myth to rest!) As I said to many of my friends after visiting last fall, one of the most attractive features of life at Chicago is that people are happy to argue all day long. Willingness (and ability!) to mix it up in vigorous intellectual combat is the hallmark of the school, not political ideology. This is as true for the faculty as the student body.

Texas, as many readers may know, has been the victim of its own hiring success in the last year, as we have become a target for other law schools to raid. It’s worth emphasizing, though, how very strong UT’s position remains, and how remarkable the school’s recruitment success has been in the last five years, having hired Sager from NYU, Jane Stapleton from the ANU, William Sage from Columbia, John Deigh from Northwestern, Derek Jinks from Arizona State, and Bernard Black from Stanford, among others This fall, Dan Rodriguez, the hugely successful Dean at San Diego and, before that, a member of the Boalt faculty for a decade, also joined us (turning down, in the process, offers from Duke, Vanderbilt, and Southern California). (And that’s not to mention all the rookie hiring success, or the retentions of faculty.)  I suppose I am entitled to assert even more strongly, now that I am moving, that Texas is the most preposterously underranked law school in US News—only seven of the law schools ahead of it in US News have better faculties, and a couple of the others ranked ahead of it are, as any insider would know, inferior.

I will deeply miss my many treasured colleagues and friends in Austin, as well as the laid-back Austin lifestyle.  But we are excited and optimistic about what the future holds in Chicago. Thanks to all who have inquired and offered good wishes over the last several months.

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The move is announced and discussed in detail on his Law School Reports Blog here. An excerpt is available below the fold. So it’s been a complex six months or so, but my family and I have finally decided that we are moving to Chicago next summer, ... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 1, 2007 10:55:34 AM