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Friday, January 13, 2012

Olin-Searle-Smith Fellowships for would-be Prawfs

I thought some readers might be interested in the Federalist Society's Olin-Searle-Smith Fellowships for "top young legal thinkers the opportunity to spend a year working full time on writing and developing their scholarship with the goal of entering the legal academy."  Some super-able relatively junior prawfs have been launched by these Fellowships.  More information here.

Posted by Rick Garnett on January 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM in Rick Garnett | Permalink


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I'm curious about the ideological component of this fellowship, and disappointed at the Orwellian phrasing of the requirement that applicants be committed to "intellectual diversity." Does this mean conservatism? (Does conservatism mean Republicanism?) What else could it mean? Is this a concession that without affirmative action to promulgate conservative ideas they cannot sustain themselves in the life of the legal academy? Such a concession seems uncalled for, and diversity seems clearly the wrong word for the goal.

Since universities usually mean 'diversity' to refer to immutable identity markers, not characteristics of ideas, I think this phrase is imprecise. Moreover, I think the Federalist Society should not be shy about its predilections, and should state up front exactly what ideological commitments are required, in plain English.

Jim von der Heydt, 2L

Posted by: Jim von der Heydt | Jan 14, 2012 11:17:41 AM

I'll just offer my own two cents. I have never been a member of the Federalist Society (whereas I was once and am now, more out of laziness than anything, a lapsed member of the American Constitution Society). That said, the Faculty Division of the Fed Soc has been nothing short of generous to and respectful to me as an academic. I say this as someone who was awarded a Searle faculty fellowship this past year, and was recently selected as one of the winners of their young scholars paper competition.

Anyone who knows me (as you do) or my blogging or scholarship knows that I'm not a Republican or a conservative or even a libertarian--not at least in any doctrinaire sense. I am committed to intellectual diversity and the rule of law, but I view those as labels as the sort that would probably encompass the overwhelming majority of legal academics.

Fed Soc has been knocked before by progressives, and probably for good reason in some cases. But most intellectually honest and center-left academics would acknowledge that the Fed Soc is one of the best things that has happened to intellectual life in the legal academy over the last 3 decades. And that's why so many of us belonging to that camp are happy to participate in Fed Soc events when invited. (The food's usually pretty good too.) I might be wrong but I also think there's a generational gap that's relevant too: most of us too young to be scarred by the traumas of the 60's and the crazy academic world of the 80's are less fearful of the Right and the Left respectively, and I see lots of my (our) peers (who all vote Dem) eager to find or share wisdom where one can, and sometimes the Fed Soc is such a place.

So to answer your question and challenge in a longwinded fashion, I don't think their stating an interest in intellectual diversity is Orwellian or code for a desire to support only conservatives. My sense is that such diversity is sometimes in short supply at various law schools and it takes real effort to try to find many libertarian and (especially) socially conservative voices at law schools, and at some law schools, it's also hard to find critical voices of various sorts from the left.

And since I don't think there's a Republican or conservative litmus test that's applied (at least not against me?), I'm not sure what such ideological commitments would look like if they were to be more straightforwardly advertised. It's possible they made a mistake with me, but what I know indicates to me that Fed Soc (or at least the parts I have familiarity with) deserves plaudits for intellectual pluralism.

That's my sense of things. As usual, I'd be keen to hear other perspectives that are in the form of signed, civil and substantive comments.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jan 15, 2012 1:15:15 PM

I had assumed the fellowship was for pre- or recent entry professors? Is that not true? How many years must one have been teaching to be ineligible?

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Jan 15, 2012 3:05:04 PM

Paul, I *think* the Olin is for pre-tenure-track folks, and the Searle is available to (relatively) junior scholars.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Jan 15, 2012 3:06:26 PM

Actually, I was told (by Richard Epstein fwiw) that the fellowship I got as a faculty member (searle) is no longer being offered to young faculty anymore. I think the ones Rick linked to are all for pre-prawfs.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jan 15, 2012 3:14:03 PM

Any sense of how a Fed. Soc.-sponsored fellowship might affect a candidate on the market (assuming a candidate whose cv and work doesn't already scream conservative, republican, libertarian, etc.)? See, e.g., Iowa. (Yes, Olin fellowship ≠ picketing against Roe, but still.) All things equal, would one be better off with a "neutral" fellowship, or is this just not an issue at all with these fellowships?

Posted by: anon | Jan 15, 2012 3:21:22 PM

I guess the best thing to do would be to ask Fed Soc itself for lists of people who took the fellowship and got jobs and people who took the fellowship and didn't get jobs...
I'd be somewhat surprised if they weren't forthright about it.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Jan 16, 2012 3:45:55 PM

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