In the two weeks since I started this blog, I've gotten many emails from practicing and former attorneys, unemployed law school graduates, current law students, and even several law professors, praising the project the blog is pursuing. I've found this response very encouraging, although of course not every correspondent has agreed with all my substantive arguments, or with what it would be fair to describe as the blog's less than deeply respectful tone towards the current state of the legal academic enterprise.
And it's good to see that in just the last day a couple of law professors whose work regarding problems in contemporary legal education I was already familiar with, and admire, have engaged substantively with issues I'm discussing (I will have more to say about the relationship between student loans and law school tuition shortly). The whole point of this blog is to help continue a conversation that should have started much sooner than it did about the financial viability, educational and professional value, and ethical status of contemporary legal education. This is a conversation that requires contributions from all parts of the legal profession in general, and the legal academy in particular, and again, it is heartening to note that, despite the substantive disagreements which exist on these subjects -- which are of course considerable -- and whatever reservations people may have about matters of tone and professional etiquette, that conversation is starting to take place in a sustained and serious way. (I chose initial anonymity in an effort to keep the argument focused on the substance of the debate, rather than on the hierarchical status and personal qualities of those participating in it.)
It is thus with a certain sadness that I note one of the leading lights of contemporary legal academia,
Professor Brian Leiter, the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence and Director, Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Value, at the University of Chicago Law School, has, I have been told, chosen to point out to the world that, in comparison to himself, I am a poor scholar and have reprehensible work habits, rather than responding to any of my arguments about the state of the contemporary law school. This is unfortunate, as who could doubt that someone with Professor Leiter's extensive training in the analytic philosophical tradition would not have many valuable contributions to make regarding such questions as precisely why law school costs have increased exponentially, even as the job prospects of law school graduates have declined? (When I was doing background research for this piece I was reminded that the law faculty on which Professor Leiter currently serves includes several legal academics whose own professional work is in every sense admirable. I can only imagine how pleased they are to have acquired someone with Professor Leiter's unique set of talents).
Nor can anyone doubt that Professor Leiter would add a valuable voice to the debate regarding how much contemporary legal academic scholarship is actually worth the remarkably high price students are required to pay for it. One must admit that it would be unrealistic to expect someone as busy as Professor Leiter to take time away from the rest of his many professional obligations to note the substance of this blog, let alone that he should be expected to put in the effort necessary to evaluate the academic talents and personal character of its author. Professor Leiter already makes a significant sacrifice of his time and talents by maintaining a blog that catalogs in exquisite detail the professional comings and goings of legal academics and professors of philosophy. He also devotes his remarkably wide-ranging abilities to constructing and maintaining a set of law school rankings (as well as another one for philosophy faculties), that does a far more rigorous job of determining the precise academic quality -- or at least prestige -- of the publications of law school faculty than the rightly-reviled set published by U.S. News & World Report.
Without Professor Leiter's exemplary work on the subject, legal academics and the world at large would both find it much more difficult to determine whether, for example, the faculties of the NYU and Columbia law schools have had the fifth and sixth greatest scholarly impact on their fields over the past five years, or vice versa. (Professor Leiter's deans and faculty colleagues must find it especially gratifying that his rankings consistently discover that whatever school currently employs him deserves a a higher spot in the legal academic hierarchy than is assigned to it in the USNWR rankings).
Nor can anyone blame Professor Leiter for refusing to bring his expertise and experience to bear on such matters as the extent to which law schools actually train students to engage in some aspect of the practice of law, given that he has never held any professional position for which a law degree (let alone bar admission) is a requirement. On this subject, his silence reflects a becoming and characteristic modesty.
I am hardly in a position to dispute Professor Leiter's evaluation of the quality of my scholarship, both because I haven't seen it, and because, as I believe Freidrich Nietzsche observed (or perhaps it was Lord Coke), no man should be a judge in his own case. That Professor Leiter's scholarship, touching on such complex and important subjects as those explored in "Rorty and the Philosophical Tradition: Comment on Professor Szubka." 25 Diametros 159 (2010)," and in "Explaining Theoretical Disagreement." 76 University of Chicago Law Review 1215 (2009) (also published in Spanish in Analisis y Derecho), neither of which I have read, but which I plan to give my full attention as soon as time permits, is of both the highest quality and the deepest relevance to the mission of the contemporary law school is a proposition that surely no one qualified to evaluate the question would bother to dispute. As for a comparison of our work habits and moral character, I have never met, let alone worked with, Professor Leiter, so I must regretfully leave such comparisons to the tools employed by others.
All of which is to say that I welcome substantive discussion and disagreement about the issues raised on this blog, but have no interest in pursuing evaluations of personal character and the like. No reasonable person can deny that, in the course of what to all outward appearances is a brilliant career, Professor Leiter has played the legal academic game superbly well, and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors (assuming, of course, that those endeavors do not involve any actionable statements regarding the targets of his ire). For the moment, it is enough to note that the kind of work he does has its rewards, and that which I do has others.
"And now it really is time to depart, I to be executed and you to
continue living. But which of us goes to a better life is unclear to everyone except to the god."