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PhD/JDs: Fads or Future?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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4 Responses

  1. Matt Bodie says:

    Dave, you seem to be saying that Ph.D. = empirical expertise. Roberta Romano has counseled against an econ Ph.D. because she thought it was empirical enough. As she wrote in “After the Revolution in Corporate Law”:

    “[T]he building blocks of the revolution in corporate law originate most prominently in modern finance, which (as hopefully is clear) is a specialized field of economics. As a consequence, there is a highly imperfect match between the body of knowledge imparted in an economics Ph.D. program and that which is critical for analyzing corporate law issues, and particularly for the direction in which the field has been moving, using quantitative methods.”

    I’m curious — which Ph.D. do you think is most appropriate for the new empiricism? Economics? Finance? Statistics? Political Science? Social Psychology? Sociology? If any of these could be appropriate, isn’t the basic statistical methodology, paired with a grounding in law, enough to do the work of the new empiricism?

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    Maybe Matt could be more explicit about the meaning of “appropriate” — appropriate for getting hired, or appropriate for shedding useful light on the problems at issue?

  3. Dave,

    I understand one of your areas of expertise is ELS, but a few points (I am a JD/PhD):

    First, I know you are cognizant of this, but it’s critical to avoid making the common error of equating empiricism with quantitative analysis. IMO, this is neither what early modern natural philosophers understood in their attempts to reclaim the term “empirick” nor does it cover the incredible variety of methods used to investigate facts about the state of the world. Obviously, doctoral training for quantitative analysis may or may not be important (though such methods are not my AOS, I tend to share your views that it is), but the various skills and methods one can learn in doctoral programs to do empirical studies is assuredly not reducible to numbers.

    Second, and probably more important, what of the many, many different kinds of doctoral degrees and training that really have little to do with empirical studies? Reading your posts on this subject, it sounds as if the case you are making is that Ph.Ds will grow in importance to the legal academy concomitant with the increasing need for empirical analyses. I don’t really disagree with this, but submit that there might be something important about the sustained study and practice of knowledge modalities and methods that are not focused on empirical investigations in the narrow sense of the term.

    This is my ox, most certainly, since my Ph.D is in the humanities, but my sense is that whatever the importance of the latter in enhancing legal teaching & scholarship, having legal scholars trained in, e.g., history, ethics, literature is no less significant than having legal scholars trained in economics, political science, etc.

    There are methods to the humanities disciplines, and there is no good reason, IMO, for thinking that the kind of training and rigor one (ideally) learns in the pursuit of a Ph.D in those fields is any less significant or important than that needed for fields intended to promote empirical (quantitative?) data.

    I still prefer Rick Hills’s post on a closely related subject.


  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Daniel, you make an excellent point. Not only the humanities but also the social sciences rely on qualitative methods of research. For example, without qualitative research it’s not possible to support the causal explanations that ELS folks seem to love to toss around. Qualitative research can even help you to generate hypotheses you can examine statistically, but that you might not have been able to imagine on your own. People say, and do, the darndest things.

    Further to Matt’s comment, there is some discussion of Romano’s POV here that may bear on your question. The cynicism of my earlier comment in this thread wasn’t directed at you, but at the hiring committees that might share Romano’s view of the profession.