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Thursday, May 17, 2007

One, Two, Three Many JSP's?

The fall of '08 will mark the 30th year since the Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program (JSP) was founded at Boalt Hall to be the first and depending how you count still the only Phd program to be administered by a US law school.  So here's a conundrum.  Looking back one can see a stunning story of success (or at least good luck).  Compared to 1978, law schools are filled with the kind of scholars that Philip Selznick and thirteen other UC Berkeley faculty and graduate students  described in their 1975 memo to the Berkeley Graduate Division advocating the creation of the program:

Graduates in law and society should have acquired a comprehensive intellectual background as well as specific research skills.  They should be prepared to meet the challenge of studying law as a basic social institution; they should be prepared to deal with issues of legal policy; they should be prepared to teach law as a phase of liberal education.

If you add "and teach at least one or two courses essential the professional curriculum for future members of the bar" you've got a pretty decent description of many people now teaching on US law faculties (including some of our own graduates). 

As I sat on the stage at the Greek Theater during Boalt's commencement this past weekend (fantasizing as I usually do about how it looked to Jerry from up there), seven JSP students received their doctoral hoods, most of them off to excellent tenure track jobs (two at Hastings), I was feeling the reflected glow of that success.

But while this culture shift has made law faculties generally much more like what Boalt began to create in 1978 by opening the doors of the "firm" to a dozen or so scholars from other disciplines (mostly non-lawyers), few or depending how you count the NYU Institute for Law & Society Phd program - which is not fully administered by the law school- zero other US law schools currently have a dedicated  fully embedded Phd program.  (The "embedded" quality - although no one used the word in the 1975 memo- was the subject of a powerful dissent by UC Anthropology Professor Laura Nader and the three graduate students on the committee; the whole thing is a good read and I will try to have it up on our JSP website for you to read soon).

Perhaps JSP will be like the University of Chicago's famed Committee on Social Thought, a unique jewel of a program  never to be fully replicated (although no JSP drop out to my knowledge has ever written as dark or compelling an account of the program as Robert M. Pirsig gives of the CST in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). But if so, why?  It seems strange given the fact that the larger field of legal knowledge production has gone very much in the direction its founders predicted. 

I suspect many of you have your own answers to this conundrum, and over the next few postings I'll offer my own view.  Before I do I want to offer a  prediction.  By the time we celebrate our 40th anniversary in 2018,  I would expect to see 10 or more such programs at research universities, linked to one or more academic departments (or perhaps free standing), with substantial organizational ties to a law schools. They may not replicate JSP's fully embedded organizational structure. They may to a greater or lesser degree hide their interdisciplinary quality and identify with one or more distinct external discipline (economics or political science).  But they will all provide a framework within which both JD and non-JD holders can obtain a Phd degree from a faculty engaged in socio-legal studies, and expect to send a substantial portion of their graduates into law school teaching (as well as to teaching in the disciplines and many specialized programs).

Posted by Jonathan Simon on May 17, 2007 at 05:21 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I would agree with your prediction that more Berkeley-like PHD programs will bloom -- if it weren't for the fact that the JSP program has been around a long time, and thus far no one has replicated it. why do you think that is, given that it *does* make so much sense given the large numbers of profs entering law schools with both JDs and PHDs in the social sciences?

Posted by: anon | May 17, 2007 10:42:51 PM

Well you've queued up my next post nicely, but give me some hours as I have kids to put to bed. It seems to me that it has to do with an irony unavailable to the drafters of the 1975 memorandum. They viewed themselves as investing in a new model of legal knowledge production that would accommodate the New Deal/Great Society state (and its agenda of socio-legal reform) as well as some of its principled critics (from Wechsler on). Little did they know that Governor Ronald Reagan, who had just finished two terms as governor of California, bashing but not really altering that model of governance, was about to usher in a very new approach, one with grave and immediate consequences for the value of socio-legal knowledge, particularly empirical knowledge.

Posted by: Jonathan Simon | May 17, 2007 11:22:23 PM

Hasn't Vanderbilt started a PhD program in law and economics situated in their law school? I don't recall the details well enough to say for sure but my understanding was that this was a program run entirely out of the law school offering a PhD in law and economics and that it didn't require or necessarily lead to the JD. Perhaps I'm not remembering correctly, though. (I don't know if it's up and running yet, either.)

Posted by: Matt | May 18, 2007 12:23:34 AM

Matt remembers correctly. Vanderbilt has started a PhD program in law and economics, in the law school. It does not require or lead to a JD, although some students will either have or be simultaneously obtaining a JD. It is up and running -- the first students will start this summer. You can get more information about it at http://law.vanderbilt.edu/academics/academic-programs/phd-program-in-law--economics/index.aspx

Posted by: Suzanna Sherry | May 18, 2007 12:24:04 PM

There seems to be a sceptical ring to the reference to NYU's Law and Society programme - would you care to amplify on that?!

Posted by: Ehsan Bajwa | Jun 29, 2007 10:00:18 PM

I am currently seeking a Ph'D in the JSP program and have some experience with this anomaly. A major strength of the JSP program, not mentioned thus far, is the undergraduate curriculum. I was first exposed to Jurisprudence through the Legal Studies program at UC Berkeley. Without this exposure, I would not have developed this sort of interest in pursuing my Ph'D in Jurisprudence. I believe the strength and development of such programs partly comes from a greater exposure and more resources to undergraduate studies.

Posted by: Patrick (P.J.) | Oct 1, 2007 2:54:55 PM

Northwestern also claims a law and society program, although it really just consists of a formalized J.D./Ph.D...with full funding.

"'No other JD/Ph.D. program in the country is providing students a full ride for law school as well as their doctoral studies along with a streamlined administration process to minimize bureaucratic problems,' said Donald Rebstock, associate dean of enrollment at Northwestern University School of Law.

Both the program's full funding for six years and the carefully integrated doctoral and law studies are designed to attract, nurture and help retain scholars capable of doing innovative research on law and society at the cross section of disciplines."



Posted by: Steve | Nov 14, 2007 2:08:01 AM

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