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Friday, September 29, 2006

In Defense of the Research Agenda

Although many of Bill's points against the research agenda are worth considering (though I confess that I'm with Kate (!) about the suggestion that it has gendered/class/racial effects), let me say something in defense of the research agenda:  It forces candidates to think seriously about how their work contributes to larger conversations and problems in the legal academy.  The point of making a candidate submit a research agenda from my perspective is to see if the candidate can articulate how their work is of interest beyond the narrow subject matter of any particular article, whose focus may be extremely circumscribed.  Of course, the agenda also helps assess whether a candidate has any real ideas beyond the particular article on which they happen to be working -- and the statement requires candidates to do more than put on a line on their resume listing "works-in-progress" or "forthcoming" with parentheticals.  I think it is reasonable to require of candidates that they show some inclination to think broadly about their subject matter and that they think in a real way beyond the particular project on which they are working during a given hiring season.  Even if the candidate thinks she is bullshitting, there is much that one can learn from how candidates speak about their work and their plans.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that the agenda is a binding statement of what the candidate needs to do upon being hired.  Rather, the agenda gives an appointments committee a flavor of the sorts of problems and concerns that drive the candidate's research, gives the committee a sense of likely areas of teaching and writing in the future, and gives the committee a sense of whether the candidate is a fox or a hedgehog.  That gives committees very useful information that the FAR form, previous publications, and a resume does not. 

Posted by Ethan Leib on September 29, 2006 at 10:54 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Folks, it's worse than you have ever thought. I've been secretly agreeing with Ethan for a while. Like, his crusade to allow men refuse unwanted paternity is right on the money.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | Sep 29, 2006 1:26:48 PM

Quick, Kate, set the world right and slash Ethan's post to shreds. I'm getting freaked out by this whole Litvak/Leib lovefest. First Kate only mocks half of one of Ethan's arguments and actually agrees with the other half. Then, Ethan trumpets his agreement with a comment of Kate's that can only be described as ultra-Litvakian in both tone and substance.

Head for the hills, folks. Armageddon must be well nigh upon us.

Posted by: anon | Sep 29, 2006 11:54:34 AM

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