Friday, December 18, 2009
So there were over 500 votes cast, but unfortunately, there was also a spurt of strategic voting for #2 on the list, which had lagged at the bottom of the top ten for much of the polling--so much for Internet polling science! Here are the results:
|1. U.S. News ranking of law schools (Condorcet winner: wins contests with all other choices)|
|2. Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Biology & Law loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 244–198|
|3. Interdiscplinary scholarship generally, at the expense of traditional or doctrinal scholarship loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 310–163, loses to Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, Biology & Law by 258–202|
|4. Cyberspace generally loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 334–133, loses to Interdiscplinary scholarship generally, at the expense of traditional or doctrinal scholarship by 240–198|
|5. Blawgs loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 331–133, loses to Cyberspace generally by 216–212|
|6. SSRN loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 337–131, loses to Blawgs by 218–211|
|7. "Empirical Legal Studies" loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 336–143, loses to SSRN by 213–208|
|8. Behavioral Law & Economics loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 360–109, loses to "Empirical Legal Studies" by 240–166|
|9. Proliferation of VAPs and Fellowships loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 374–91, loses to Behavioral Law & Economics by 212–170|
|10. Economic downturn in the job market for lawyers, especially at the biggest firms loses to U.S. News ranking of law schools by 381–76, loses to Proliferation of VAPs and Fellowships by 193–174|
The idea that "cognitive science, neuroscience, biology & law" was the most important intellectual development in the legal academy is obviously silly; perhaps it may prove to be in the decade ahead, but right now, it's still quite marginal, and some of the work done in this vein is extremely confused. Still, as an aspirational model, one may hope that law professors will become better versed in developments in cognitive science (and not just the now-outdated situationism in social psychology!).
Contrast with the situation of Empirical Legal Studies: every year now, every leading law school is seeing multiple candidates doing empirical work (whereas I can't think of any candidate we've seen doing work in 'cognitive science, neuroscience, biology & law"). I would say ELS has a more plausible claim to have been the most important substantive trend in legal scholarship, though the verdict is out on whether this is for good or ill. Far too much of the work is clearly driven by the existence of a dataset, rather than a clear analytical or theoretical purpose. The common currency of what law professors do--whether doctrinalists, or economists, or philosophers--is discursive reasoning and argument, and that is not obviously at a premium in a lot of ELS work. But hopefully the quality will trend upward, and the best of this work has obviously made a substantial impact in legal scholarship.
The economic downturn in the job market for lawyers is probably too recent to qualify as an important event for the decade ending--but it may well prove to be the major event for the decade to come. Unles the market rebounds, we are going to see significant changes in the legal academy--some law schools are going to fold, and salaries and research support, long the siren's call of law schools, are going to stagnate or decline.
I was surprised at the strong showing of "interdisciplinary scholarship," not because it hasn't displaced (not always for good!) traditional doctrinal scholarship, but because one might have thought that battle was won in the 1990s. But the strong showing here suggests to me that the revolution in the legal academy that began in the 1970s is now complete.
For legal scholarship, SSRN has obviously been more important than blawgs, though I suspect for law students, blawgs have loomed larger as a window into the legal academy. Without a doubt, though, Cyberspace came into its own as a force in legal education--through SSRN and blawgs especially--during the last decade.
The proliferation of VAPS and Fellowships has had a significant impact on the job market for new law teachers--their success, and increasing importance, is no doubt connected, in significant part, to the triumph of the interdisciplinary model of legal scholarship. Whether economic developments will permit law schools to sustain this new system remains to be seen.
And, finally, there is U.S. News, which probably has become more pernicious in its influence during the last decade, as we have had occasion to note. Until journalists stop treating the U.S. News rankings as news, or until more publications and evaluators enter the market for comparative evaluations, U.S. News will continue to be the tail that wags much of the legal education dog. Alas.
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