On September 27th, Professors John G. Culhane and Andrew L. Strauss led a moderated discussion among members of the faculty about the challenges inherent in modern legal scholarship. Much of the lively dialogue focused on the increasing role of social science research in legal writing and how that has changed the landscape. The faculty discussed a variety of other topics including the perceived value difference between articles aimed at a national audience versus those aimed at a local audience, the divide between academics and practicing lawyers, the role of advocacy in legal writing, and how to generate ideas and inspiration for articles.
Several faculty members touched on the idea that the legal writing being produced by top scholars shows a trend towards empirical research rooted in social science disciplines such as economics. After they debated the value of such cross-discipline scholarship, faculty members considered whether the nature of legal scholarship was being narrowed and subverted by other disciplines. Professor Alicia Kelly suggested that perhaps the answer to this dilemma would be collaboration with scholars from other fields, noting, "It doesn't make sense to shy away from data heavy analysis if the subject will be better served by it." Other faculty members expressed concern that some scholars were using statistics without having a firm grasp on what that data meant.
Faculty members also discussed whether or not legal training leads to a pessimistic outlook and creates a desire to always look for problems. Professor Erin Daly noted, "Students say that all we ever do is complain about recent court decisions." This conversation, however, brought up the idea that critical examination of court decisions could be used to illustrate positive aspects of the law that are in contrast to the judgments being criticized.
The event raised a number of important considerations regarding legal scholarship and writing, and provided a forum for faculty members to share ideas and techniques that will prove useful to future writing efforts.