a late post on legal education

Last week, I was busy and so I tried to follow the discussion; in fact, I had a few discussions in “real space” with colleagues about some of the posts. But I did not post anything; so here goes, a little late.

It’s been a fantastic discussion on a wide array of issues. Deven noted in his concluding post that the idea was “many people with many views would mix it up and push the limits of what we know and think about legal education.” Well, I think that was what we got. And that idea itself seems to capture my basic thought on the future of legal education: diversity in approaches. Continue reading

Mobblog Wrap-Up

The Madisionian Mobblog comes to a partial end today. The blog will now return to a mix of pieces on law, technology, and society. Nonetheless, there may be additonal posts on the topic so stay tuned for those.

In addition, I want to take a moment and thank all involved with this event. I had a simple goal: a round of intellectual rugby about the topic “What Kind of Institution Do We Want A Law School To Be?” The idea was that many people with many views would mix it up and push the limits of what we know and think about legal education. With the help of everyone who posted, commented, and came here to read that has been achieved. The folks here at Madisonian and I thank you for a fun and most satisfying event.

On a personal note, the generosity and commitment to our profession exhibited by all of you sets an example for me as I continue to develop. I offer my personal thanks for that. In addition, I would be remiss if I did not again thank Mike Madison for helping me shape my idea and offering the blog as a space to explore it. I give further thanks to all my Madisonian colleagues for their feedback and support for the event. So although it is not enough, I say thank you here.

Last, there is more to do. I think the mobblog shows that legal education has real challenges ahead, but it is in good hands; hands that want to identify real problems, to gather facts, to develop and apply theory, and to discuss and debate solutions so that we can improve the institution we call law school. I look forward to seeing how we meet the future and the possibility of helping shape it.

Best regards,

Deven Desai

Renaissance Education

In reading the posts in this mobblog one thing comes through: right now many factors push on law and legal education. One could say the game is over. One could say stay the course. One could say radical change is required. Whether such positions are accurate or apply to all depends on the facts. Nonetheless, it seems that an underlying theme emerges from these posts: law may be able to stake a claim as renaissance education or it may fall into disrepair or irrelevancy.
Continue reading

…Because things are not so bad the way they are…(on the law review front)

Perhaps appropriately on the last day of this fascinating stream of mobbloging, I thought I would try and offer a partial defense of the-way-things-are-right now on the law review front:

  1. Don’t romanticize the alternative: When one begins to publish in the peer-reviewed world, the whole romantic notion of blind review becomes somewhat tainted — in all of the fields i am familiar with — psychology, economics, business, political sci, history and sociology reviews (and also in the fields i am less familiar with, according to my hard scientist friends) there is still A LOT of noise in the system: because of conferences, networks, ssrn and the like, it is VERY easy to figure out for reviewers who the authors are; there is a lot of tit-for-tat — same folks publishing and editing in the A-journals in their fields. To think that a top name (the Cass Sunstein equivalent in any one of those fields) does not impact the decision of her peers is naïve. And even more so because the double blindness from the author’s side is also often tainted — at times, people can guess pretty easily (or hear about it in the process) who the reviewers are. At least with law review editors, the repeat players problem (which of course has many strengths as well in terms of expertise and knowledge about the field and quality of scholarship).
  2. There are in fact quite a bit of law or law related peer-reviewed journal so we are already live in a world of choice and a world of competition.
  3. Law reviews themselves do consult quite frequently it seems with faculty advisors on accepting pieces. It is also my understanding that some of the top law reviews, like the Harvard Law Review, do really have blind review process, and their process is a multi-layered, multi-tiered serious on.
  4. The law review kids actually offer a lot of good editing after the article has been accepted, often better, and most of the time involving more eyeballs, than those of peer-reviewed journals.
  5. I suspect us law professors, like other faculty, would not like Ann’s suggestion to take away the prestige, the wins and losses of the game, of sending out one’s article to journals outside one’s own institution. Our work is intangible enough to not want to give away some passing rewards and signals of success however noisy they are. This is similar to suggesting that we do away with rankings – we should keep rankings, just make them far more meaningful. Remember, type A people strive on competition.
  6. There is something really cool about the speed and timeliness in which law reviews make decisions and then publish articles. Peer-review articles often take years upon years to come out, the review process may mean that things are not relevant by the time the article sees the light of day.
  7. There is also something cool about law review editors having some productive ignorance. Its ok if they sometimes get things “wrong” – its part of what shakes things up, puts some off ideas on the frontlines and disrupts some of the inner-breeding and self-referential work that at times stales the legal academy.

Bottom-line, the baby water and the baby have some advantages.

Institutional Pluralism

The conversation here at Madisonian about law schools and “what kind of institution” they should be has been fascinating.  I regret coming in so late. 

I have probably spent more time thinking about what kind of institution my law school — Notre Dame Law School, a Catholic law school — should be than about what kind of institution “the law school” should be.  This is probably one reason why I welcomed, and was provoked by, Dean John Garvey’s speech — “Institutional Pluralism” — at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the AALS.  (I have not yet found a link to the full remarks, which were published in the March issue of “aalsnews”, but here is a report on the talk.) 

Dean Garvey said, “My wife and I have sent our children to Catholic colleges because we want them to be able to integrate their faith with their understanding of art, literature, philosophy, politics, and science.  I think there is a place for this kind of comprehensive wisdom in legal education, too.”  I agree. 

Now, this might not be the forum for thinking-out-loud about what a “Catholic law school” should be, what precisely should be its distinguishing features, etc.  In my view, the project of building such a law school — an engaged, open, critical, and distinctively Catholic law school — is not an exercise in nostalgia, reaction, or retrieval.  The project is, in my view, a new one.

It’s also, I think, an exciting and worthy one, and I’m inclined to think that it should be regarded as such by the legal academy generally, not just by co-religionists and the like.   It is not just “not a bad thing”, it is a good thing, that there be distinctive law schools.  Our commitments to diversity need not, and should not, lead us to insist on homogenization at the level of institutions.  Quite the contrary — the same commitments that push us to respect and learn from diversity in many academic settings might also push us — and the AALS, and the ABA — to stay our hand from requiring that each institution look and act in precisely the same way. 

Garvey fleshes out a number of reasons — reasons that I find persuasive — why we might think that institutional pluralism in the academy is a good thing.   It seems to me that we ought not to resist, but instead should welcome, not only law schools that have focused on serving underserved populations, or law schools with a particular strength in a specific subject-matter area (for example, Lewis & Clark in environmental law), or even law schools with a particular animating point-of-view (Law & Economics at George Mason?), but also law schools that are distinctive in being meaningfully animated by a shared — even if contested — religious tradition.