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Monday, May 08, 2006

Checking out the ALEA

Even though I am no law & econ guy, I went to parts of the ALEA this past weekend because it was local in Berkeley and I wanted to have lunch with one of our guest bloggers who was in attendance.  More, it was an easy way of staying on top of what is going on in law & econ these days, something I feel I need to do to give my students their money's worth.  And given my recent professional identity crises, it seemed worth attending.

The Conglomerate covered the beat here, here, and here -- and the ELS blog weighs in here.  The summary: there is a trend away from math and modeling papers and toward empirical papers. 

What impressed me, however, was how much I got out of listening to the presentations.  The papers I heard were extremely interesting and addressed questions absolutely central to the study of law irrespective of a scholar's particular perspectives or preferred methodologies.  It was a good experience even though I am clearly an outsider to the ALEA.

Another thing that I realized at the conference was that empiricists get a free pass at needing to have a substantive field of expertise in the law; their specialty is their method and technique.  If I wrote, say, a paper on con law, a paper on crim theory, a paper on Chinese democratization, and a paper on the jury, I might be charged with being some kind of dilettante.  If an empiricist wrote four random papers on completely different subject areas in the law, no one would care.

Posted by Ethan Leib on May 8, 2006 at 10:07 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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The only difference between your 4 papers and the empiricist's 4 papers, assuming all 8 were quality work, is that different sets of philistines would be attacking them as the work of a dilettante. Your point is valid only to the extent that traditional legal academia is still ignorant of statistical methods and analysis. Discuss. :-)

Posted by: Guest | May 9, 2006 3:34:47 PM

dilettantism supposed to be some kind of bad thing now? :-)

Posted by: Paul Gowder | May 8, 2006 11:02:26 PM

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