A part of the contemporary skepticism about the value of a legal education and, more broadly, the value of the legal academy is focused on the perceived lack of value in legal scholarship: scholarship that, as currently confi gured, is a part of the legal academy’s mission and, certainly alongside law school graduates, its major product. Legal scholarship is under attack from critics inside the legal academy itself, from the other departments and parts of the university, and perhaps most publicly from the bench and bar. The bill of particulars, unsurprisingly, given the multitudes against it, is lengthy and internally contradictory.
According to one of the various camps of either internal or external critics, much of what we call “legal scholarship” may be scholarship but it’s not “law”—it is too academic, too disciplined, too theoretic, and too detached, of no use to the profession and therefore of no value; or, according to another camp, much of what we call legal scholarship may be “legal” but it’s not true scholarship—it’s nothing but legal writing in disguise, elaborated memoranda for courts, legislators, or regulators, but it’s not scholarship. Legal scholarship, in short, is on the horns of a “normativity” dilemma. To some critics, legal scholarship isn’t scholarship, because it’s too normative, while to another camp, it may be scholarship, but it isn’t legal because it’s not normative enough. For every critique, both inside and outside the academy, one can find its opposite, also forcefully voiced. Legal scholarship does not want for critics.
Here I want to address only one of these complaints, as voiced by critics of legal scholarship in the legal academy, and echoed by critics from other parts of the university: to wit, that legal scholarship is somehow not “true scholarship,” because so much of it is overtly normative.
66 J. Legal Educ., Autumn 2016, at 1, 6–17
Scholarly Commons Citation
West, Robin, "The Contested Value of Normative Legal Scholarship" (2016). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 1910.