What does it take to be a good legal scholar?

Friday, October 6, 2006

Said prof Solum in his blog, in order to be a good law scientist one must master:

1. Normative legal theory--every legal academic should be able to understand the structure and assumptions of normative legal arguments.

2. Law and economics--every legal academic should understand the basic concepts of contemporary law and economics (including basic microeconomics).

3. Empirical legal methods--every legal academic should be able to interpret an empirical study, grasp the meaning of measures of statistical significance, understand the limits of basic empirical methods such as survey research, and understand the basic statistical tools, such as multiple regression analysis.

4. Positive Political Theory & Attitudinalism--every legal academic should have a solid grounding in the quantitative & formal methods that political scientists use to study law.

5. Social Science & History--This is a residual category designed to capture the idea that there are important ideas from sociology, psychology, anthropology, and history with which legal academics need a basic familiarity.

If anyone can comprehend all of those concepts above, I am more than certain that the Law will never be left behind tech developments. I agree with Prof Solum that most legal education today are aimed to produce law clerks and not scholars.

He then continued:

That is, I am not arguing against specialization and for some extreme ideal of the law professor as omnicompetent generalist.

I think specialization is OK, they are inevitable but must be responded with alertness. Why? First, because I think good ideas comes from analogical thinking. Great economic theories comes from biology and physics. Second, hyper specialization is dangerous for legal development. One of the reason why IP law is dull is because the lawyers are dull too. When it comes to the reasonableness of IP regime, I'd appreciate a computer programmer's opinion rather than a lawyer. Lawyers only cite statutes and that's it. Third, let's not forget the trend toward defragmentation of sciences! People do chemistry, biology and physics and all of its branches but when molecular nanotechnology is born, lots of fields may be reduced only to physics and computation!

What I do believe is that every law professor needs core competences in each of these areas. That is, we should not be producing legal academics who have never heard of the Coase theorem, never read H.L.A. Hart, have no idea what a standard deviation is or what a measure of statistical significance is, have no clue what the phrase "positive political theory means," have never read any legal history, don't know what the word "deontology" means, haven't a clue what the debate over "functionalist explanation in the social sciences" was about.

Hmm, I'd really agree to that. I even think that a judge should be able to decide things based on ethical principle, deontology, or towards any theory he is inclined to, so long as it is wrapped in the language of the law.