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Writing, Teaching, and Blogging

Keeping up with the “Why I Write” meme: Orin Kerr notes that Eric Muller is “honest about a gap that I think many youngish law professors feel: the difference between scholarship written for the purposes of career advancement and scholarship written because the writer feels he or she has something important to say.” (In a sure sign that the credibility of legal scholarship in some quarters is hanging by the merest of threads, some readers apparently didn’t realize that Orin was joking when he described his current project as “From Critical Theory to Abu Graib: Akhil Amar, Paris Hilton, and the Reconstruction of Due Process in Cyberspace.”)

Siva wonders about the fuss, though he’s not a law professor, and so he knows that we march to a slightly different drummer. Our self-absorption is implicit in all the time we’ve put into these “why we write” posts.

As one commenter asked Eric Muller, why not ask: Why do we teach? rather than Why do we write? And why blog?

I’ll answer the first question: Why I Teach

Originally, I taught because it came with the territory of being a law professor. As the profession of legal academia is constructed right now, there are few rewards for anyone who loves to teach but puts up with the writing; there are lots of rewards for people who love to write. (The simple secret to getting ahead, as Bob Clark once said to me, is to “write like a bandit.”) I wanted to become a law professor because I wanted a job where I could write and think for myself and be paid pretty well for doing both. As a practicing lawyer I was paid (much better) to write and think for other people.

When I got into a classroom for the first time, I discovered that at its best, teaching gives me the same kind of adrenalin rush that being in a lively courtroom argument gave me. The point is that I want to get my students as excited about the subject matter as I am (that’s not so tough with copyright law, but I once had to teach Article 9). Classroom transcendence of this sort doesn’t happen all the time, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of other things going on beforehand. Teaching doesn’t just happen in the classroom. It’s not all that often that I come out of a class thinking “That was great!,” but when I do, it makes the mediocre class sessions worthwhile. (And even when I do, there’s no assurance that my students don’t come out of the same class thinking, “That sucked!”)