The Prestige

I haven’t done a careful inventory, but all of the law blog chatter that I’ve read regarding Adam Liptak’s recent Times about about judges (not) reading or citing law reviews points in the direction of my “Economy of Prestige” piece [pdf] from late last year.  Mark Osler’s comment is representative. 

One of the more optimistic notes is this one, from Nancy Rapoport.  She concludes:  “The real issue: is our scholarship of use to some community, whether that community be other academics, judges, legislators, attorneys, or students? If it’s not, why not?”

That’s an interesting question, and I like the “community” focus, but I would reframe it more broadly.  It’s unwise, I think, for law professors (or professors in any discipline) to focus exclusively on their own disciplinary communities.  For law, those are fellow law professors; judges; practitioners; other law and policy decisionmakers.  I sometimes think of how my writing — both “scholarship” and blogging — connects me to other communities, some academic, some not, in the strictly pragmatic sense that I read different people’s stuff, and I meet different people, and they read and meet me, and I think that on balance these are good things.  Is my work “useful” to them?  I hope so, and I write with that broadly communitarian sense in mind, but it’s hard to know.  It’s especially hard to know in the short term.  Is connectivity itself a goal worth pursuing? 

2 thoughts on “The Prestige

  1. I like your framing of the question even better than mine, and I’m often surprised when people who aren’t law profs have (1) said they’ve read something I’ve written and (2) said they liked it. I think that we (law professors) spend so much time with our heads down, writing, that we forget to look up and see the rest of the world.

    And I think that we have many reasons to write, some of which are better reasons than others. I write now because I think I have something to say and–now that I have my free speech rights back (I’m no longer a dean)–I can’t seem to shut up. (Grin.) Others write to play the “my brain is bigger than your brain” game that they learned in law school. Still others write because they’ve been told that they must. And a few write because they have truly original things to say.

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