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What’s in Your Wallet?

From Brian Leiter’s new law schools blog:

Anthony D’Amato (Law, Northwestern), observing an AP headline, “Integra Tops 2004 Most-Stolen Vehicle List,” writes: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a ‘Most Plagiarized Law Professors List’? (Professors who should have been cited but weren’t.)”

Who would be on it?

No comments yet. Hmmm. Are law professors like automobiles? If I were a car, would I want to be an Integra? Is being stolen a lot a mark of value? Lousy theft-prevention? A good market for chopped parts? Or does it mean that there are a lot of Acuras on the road?

I’ll steer clear of exploring the metaphor. Intead, maybe the question should be broken down differently:

— Who would be on a list of professors whose work is plagiarized frequently?

— Who would be on a list of professors whose work should (or could) have been cited but was not, but whose work wasn’t plagiarized? What exactly does “should have” or “could have” mean here (and in the original question)? It probably means something more than word-for-word copying without attribution, but at what point does an intellectual debt accrue?

Such a difficult, Mertonian question.

Let’s turn those questions around a little bit, to change their focus and a bit of their content as well, and to make them a little easier. These are lists that I think would be worth assembling, even if I’m not sure whether or how it would be wise to publish or distribute them. Giving credit where credit is due is not only a remedial principle; it’s a constructive one, as well:

— A list of high-quality articles whose quality (or whose influence, a different matter) isn’t measured by downloads or citations.

— Lists of intellectual “fellow travelers.” This is the most interesting list to me. I keep my own mental roster of academics and other writers who “think like I do” (more or less) even if they work in different disciplines, or — if they are working in law — if they work either in a different field or rely on different analytic tools. I enjoy reading what they write; more than most, their work tends to push my thinking in new directions. That leads to this tip for people going on the law teaching market this Fall: It was Michael Froomkin (I believe) who noted somewhere that you may be asked whose scholarship you admire, even whose scholarship you want to emulate. Instead of conceptualizing the question as which car you’d most like to have, think of it as asking what intellectual resources you want to work with.