April 22, 2004

Define "Law Professor" Please. Seriously.

by Nick Morgan

Some random website that Instapundit points to wants to identify (through the tainted sampling of email solicitation) the 100 most influential law professors, as voted on by law students, law professors, and law school admins.

Consider: If you were conducting a poll for which most of the responding group were legally trained, you'd probably want to avoid major equivocation, yeah? If so, then I wonder why the poll has failed to define "law professor."

Must the professor be alive? That would exclude the hugely influential Christopher Columbus Langdell (pioneer of the case method and major force in legal formalism), among many, many others. May the professor have gone on to become a judge? (Richard Posner, Oliver Wendell Holmes, countless other members of the Supreme Court, etc., etc.) To push this inquiry into silliness, how about fictional professors (who may have been inspired by real ones) like Professor Kingsfield from The Paper Chase, who, since the seventies, may have influenced more students' decisions about going to law school than any other professor?

April 22, 2004 11:37 AM | TrackBack

If a fictional law professor truly has "influenced more students' decisions about going to law school than any other professor," then I believe that that explains, in part, the sad state of the profession, and why so many law students and young attorneys are so disgruntled with it.

Posted by: Geoff Brown at April 22, 2004 12:13 PM

Geoff, I don't see why that's necessarily true. If anything, it might speak to the fact that movies speak to a broad portion of society, while law professors generally speak only to a small segment of it: to those people already in law school. Is it a "sad commentary" about the state of our military that Maverick, Iceman, and Goose have probably influenced more recruits' decisions about joining the Air Force than any other (real) pilot?

Posted by: Alan Robinson at April 22, 2004 10:10 PM

... and Atticus Finch with regard to trial lawyers.

Some thoughts on the law profs:

Langdell is definitely key, along with Holmes and Brandeis. Roscoe Pound. William Prosser (I think he passed away; I can't find a d.o.d. on him).

Sam Dash. Lawrence Tribe. Alan Dershowitz (hey, his public status does mean something, and he can teach, I hear). Nadine Strossen. Robt. Posner. Alan Coase.

Posted by: TPB, Esq. at April 23, 2004 12:38 PM
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