Has Legal Scholarship’s Lonely Genius Moment Passed?
posted by Dave Hoffman
Check out this magazine piece by Jacob Hale Russell of 02138. Russell pulls an old chestnut from the fire: professors at Harvard Law School are (gasp!) using research assistants to draft sections of articles. According to Russell, HLS “is particularly known for this practice, probably because lawyers are used to having paralegals and clerks who do significant research and writing.”
Forgive me, but this is an unbearably silly argument. To the extent that HLS professors have practice experience, it isn’t at firms where paralegals do much (if any) substantive legal work. Plus, the hit job on Dershowitz is very undersourced.
But the real kicker is at the end, when Russell seems to argue that using RAs has reduced the aggregate quality of professors’ work:
Harvard professors writing quietly and alone have penned some of the most significant books of the last century. At 538 pages of dense prose, John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, first published in 1971, could hardly have been designed to be a bestseller, but his concepts, like a “veil of ignorance,” have permeated modern politics and law. Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, published in 1977, before he left Harvard for the Institute for Advanced Study, is now in its fourth edition and stands as one of the most significant ethical analyses of war. More such great and lasting books will surely emerge from Harvard. But will we really know for sure who wrote them?
Russell seems to imagine a past consisting of a brave cohort of lonely geniuses working in Langdell’s stacks. Today, by contrast, professors are, at best queen bees in hives of workers slowly advancing the ball.
Does this feel like an accurate representation of the current state of the world to you folks?
(Image Source: Wikicommons)