Friday, August 12, 2011

Inside the Law School Scam: Publishing

The blog Inside the Law School Scam has received a lot of attention lately, as it is a "tell-all" about the failures of legal education written from the point of a tenured law prof at a top tier university. The blog is well-written and worth reading. I want to focus on his writing about legal scholarship, especially from this post:
Even more problematically, despite all the changes in legal academic life over the past few decades, the law school world has done next to nothing to create a system of peer review publication. 99.37% of legal academic work is still published in student-run law journals, of which, because of the increased emphasis on publishing, there are now several hundred. The system, in other words, is hardly designed to reward and encourage genuine academic rigor.

In more than one way, American law students are currently getting the worst of all worlds. Law schools have become somewhat more academically serious places, but quite incompletely (as always all these observations apply to greatly different degrees across the hierarchical spectrum of schools), and in any case most law students are not interested in paying $200,000 for an academic experience. Meanwhile, law schools remain as uninterested as ever in anything resembling actual vocational training. They remain largely dominated by a doctrinal model of teaching and scholarship that is neither academically serious nor of much practical vocational value. In short, students at the contemporary law school end up paying enormous amounts of money for something that they aren't getting, and in many cases wouldn't want even if it were being provided to them.
Exactly this. I went to law school after having worked for a cardiology journal, and I was shocked to learn that law journals are not blind peer-reviewed.

Instead, students, sometimes with consultation from staff, pick the articles that are published. Those who know the least about the law and have the most tenuous grasp on the subject are in the position of deciding what is published and what is not. It's a completely irrational system and an offensive one.

Law school isn't a training ground for lawyers, and it doesn't have intellectual rigor. It's full of shit and really expensive.

Also interesting is the author's identity. According to Inside Higher Education:
The author identifies himself only as "a tenured mid-career faculty member at a Tier One school." He agreed to reveal his identity to Inside Higher Ed, and his description is accurate. He teaches at a law school that doesn't make the "top 10" lists, but that is generally considered the best in its state and is well regarded nationally.
That description fits, I'm sure, several law schools, but it caught my attention because it accurately describes my law alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis.

No comments: