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Friday, December 11, 2009

(Don't?) Look Back in Anger

Our discussion of the most significant development in legal academia this decade has turned up some thought-provoking answers on this blog and others. Most nominees seem to fall into three categories—(1) changes in hiring (e.g., more VAPs and PhDs); (2) changes in the communication of ideas (e.g., blogs, SSRN); and (3) changes in the ways we evaluate ourselves and each other (e.g., U.S. News rankings and SSRN again). Changes in the job market for lawyers represent another big category, about which I’ll have more to say next week. And then there are the truly revolutionary developments that have fundamentally transformed not just legal academia, but the way we live our daily lives. As to the latter, of course, I’m referring to Paul’s enthusiastic vote for the Snuggie.

Based on straightforward head-counting and with no effort whatsoever to control for relative importance, the nominees seem to represent a fairly even mix of “positive” and “negative” developments. I imagine that most folks don’t endorse the influence of the U.S. News rankings, for example, but are generally comfortable with blogging and maybe even SSRN. I imagine that people's judgment about other developments - the increasing importance of VAPs and PhDs, empirical legal studies and so on - is divided and probably dependent on whether they wave those flags themselves. Does that mean that overall (and maybe holding aside the market collapse of the past two years) this wasn't a bad decade for legal academia?

Gordon Smith and the folks at Conglomerate are continuing the debate over which of these developments was the most significant, and as usual Brian Leiter has done us all one better by making use of those very developments (blogs, rankings, empirical analysis, etc.) to help select one. You can vote here

The poll closes on December 16. And the time period for consideration in this discussion (i.e., the decade) closes about two weeks later, so if you’ve been sitting on any genre-defining ideas, now’s the time to share them.

Posted by Joseph Blocher on December 11, 2009 at 11:40 AM | Permalink


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