Every Day a Legal Revolution: The ATL Effect
David Post argues that heightened perceptions of political extremism are a function of more coverage, not more extremism.
I call it the ESPN Effect – mistaking filtered reality for reality . . . My very, very strong suspicion is that there has never been a time when there weren’t truly crazy people on all sides of the political spectrum doing their truly crazy things. Maybe 1% or so, or even 0.1% — which is a very large number, when you’re talking about a population of, say, 100 million. They didn’t get through the filters much in the Old Days, but they do now. All this talk about how extreme “the debate” is becoming – how, exactly, does anyone get a bead on what “the debate” really is? In reality?
I wonder if the same effect is in play with respect to complaints about law schools and the state of the employment market. That’s not to say that the former are effective or the latter anything but abysmal. But the question is whether law schools are worse today at their core mission than they were a generation ago, or the legal job market materially different than it was in the last bad recession (1991). One possibility is that they are: the academic turn in law school, and the outsourcing turn in practice, combine to make today just worse than yesterday. I don’t buy the former claim – at all – but am open-minded about the latter.
Another possibility: Above the Law didn’t exist in 1991. Neither did the clerkship notification blog. Or the Prawfs thread on the academic market. Or various law school boards. Each site provides tons of useful information, but may enable us to mistake filtered reality — it’s the end of the law as we know it – for reality – it’s bad, but it’s not distinctly or structurally bad. Call it the “ATL effect”: all legal market news will seem more dramatic today than it did in 1990. From bonuses to layoffs, every day is more special than the last.