The Touro Law Review has published a symposium, “Perspectives from an Associate Dean: Scholarship and School Visibility,” coordinated by Associate Dean Fabio Arcila. A theme running through the five essays is not only the balancing of resources in legal education to continue to promote scholarship for a multitude of reasons, but the broadening of the definition of what constitutes appropriate and desirable scholarship, engaged scholarship with a purpose, and broadening the community of scholars as well as the audience to receive the work. This broadening can enhance a school’s visibility and impact – and not simply inside the academy.
Arcila of Touro Law Center offers an introductory piece, The Future of Scholarship in Law Schools, beginning with a discussion of the scholarly obligation to engage in research and scholarship noting that despite the waves of anti-intellectualism, scholarship “…influences public and academic discourse, legislation, and judicial decisions, all of which guide our conduct.” He asserts that even with the increased emphasis on experiential legal education, scholarship deserves prominence not only because it is “central to the role of institutions of higher education as creators of knowledge and fonts of ideas about law’s role in society, government, and business,” but also because such efforts also help to inform our teaching role by deepening knowledge and thinking on the subject matters we teach. He acknowledges the challenges of promoting and encouraging scholarship given the tendency to downsize or eliminate budgets to support this effort coupled with time demands on faculty members to focus on other competing priorities, and calls for finding new ways to support research at the same time as supporting pedagogical reforms. His ideas include a realignment of teaching schedules for productive scholars – not necessarily always less time in the classroom (although he asserts faculty less interested in scholarship may assume a heavier teaching and/or student load) but offering a more compact teaching schedule to accommodate blocks of time for research and writing; using titles as a form of recognition for prolific faculty; and encouraging alternate outlets for shorter pieces (e.g., blogs, commentaries and essays).
A. Benjamin Spencer, the Earl K. Shaw Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law, who served as Associate Dean for Research and Director of the Frances Lewis Law Center at Washington & Lee University School of Law, focuses his contribution, Supporting and Promoting Scholarly Life in Turbulent Times,noted that at Washington & Lee, an independent endowment was specifically created to fund scholarly life and his role included strategically investing those funds in faculty to promote scholarly pursuits. The fact that such an endowment exists, he observes, is what has insulated scholarship support from the economic realities facing legal education. Spencer describes other strategies he employed in his associate dean role such as the sponsoring of scholarship roundtables where books and other significant work were vetted by inviting thought leaders in the field to the school for a day to offer critiques in the development of the work; junior faculty exchanges and faculty workshops – both involving sharing faculty by sending junior faculty to other schools and inviting scholars from other schools to present at colloquia; “incubator lunches” where faculty can bounce off ideas at the early stage of development; and hosting symposia including participants from outside the school. Spencer concludes with describing ways in which he helped faculty to get their work published and then how he helped to promote the work for others to read.
B. Jesse Hill, Laura B. Chisolm Research Scholar and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Research at Case Western Reserve University School of Law contributed an essay entitled, The Associate Dean for Research in the Age of the Internet. Hill focuses on how the internet has created new opportunities for research but also outlets for scholarly work and vehicles to more easily share the scholarship produced, noting of course, that a law school’s visibility is tied to the visibility of its faculty. Her essay offers a number of ideas on how to use the internet to promote faculty research and scholarship. For example, replacing the expensive glossy scholarship pieces received in the mail with electronic newsletters, such as Case Western’s Scholarly Impact. She offers important insights into the differences between Digital Commons and SSRN, two platforms most often used by law schools to make faculty scholarship more widely available due to the free nature of the search engines and the ability for many more people to discover the work. Although admittedly not a regular blogger herself, Hill acknowledges the intellectual exchanges that can be spurred by blogging, as well as the name recognition that can develop for bloggers. Hill concludes by reminding associate deans that they should lead by example and maintain their own scholarly profile (something I think all deans should do).
The next piece in the symposium is from Christine N. Cimini, Associate Dean of Research and Faculty Development at Vermont Law School. She begins her piece, Scholarship with a Purpose: The View from a Mission-Driven School, by reflecting on how she got this decanal appointment given her fairly recent entry into the academy and her background as a clinical faculty member, however, this can offer refreshing perspectives (and as she later observes, “can bridge the divide between theory and real-world application.”). Cimini ties her observations to the unique mission of Vermont Law School, opining that effective associate deans will tie their actions to the mission of their schools. She quotes the Vermont Law mission, “we are committed to developing a generation of leaders who use the power of the law to make a difference in our communities and the world because the status quo is no longer acceptable.” She describes the culture of faculty and students engaged in scholarly exchanges that advance the mission including through the auspices of centers and institutes at the school. She describes how a faculty can connect scholarly exploration with real world impact offering a range of examples of how faculty prepare testimony for legislative hearings, write amicus briefs for significant court cases, publish op-ed pieces in major newspapers, are columnists, bloggers, and write, among other things, transition papers for high-level governmental offices – all important work and mostly left out in the tradition connotation of scholarship. Cimini correctly notes that traditional law review placements may not always reach the intended target audiences and that at times, industry, technical and profession journals prove much more valuable to getting out the message in a particular body of work. She also reminds us that student scholarship can be an important part of a school’s scholarly culture. She concludes by stating emphatically, “Engaging in meaningful scholarship is critical because it makes us better teachers, better citizens in the world, supports our students and provides them role models on how to use the law to impact the world in positive ways.”
The symposium concludes with an article, Encouraging Engaged Scholarship: Perspectives From an Associate Dean for Research, by Sonia K. Katyal, Associate Dean for Research and Joseph McLaughlin Professor of Law at Fordham Law School. It is a fitting end to the symposium as she recounts passages from a 1996 article by Robert A. Williams in the Michigan Law Review, Vampires Anonymous and Critical Race Praxis, making the point that publishing work, that should count as scholarship, in various formats and for a, reaches more people and different types of people with the writer’s messages. Katyal uses this as a jumping off point to assert that, “one of the most glaring failures in legal academia today: our romance with ‘serious scholarship’ – the ‘top’ law reviews, the ‘top’ scholars in the field, the ‘top’ law schools – has obscured the potential breadth and value of legal scholarship, overshadowing the impact of what legal scholarship can become.” She recounts how Williams described how he wrote in bar journals, newsletters, encyclopedia-type publications, casebooks, applied for grants and engaged in clinical projects, all of which would not have been considered serious scholarly pursuits by his colleagues, but Katyal notes that by following Williams’ example, we can vastly improve and extend the audience for legal scholarship. Katyal next explores opportunities and complex challenges for today’s associate deans (challenges identifies include social relationships on faculties, race, gender and class; as well as support for librarians, clinicians, students, clinicians and other categories deserving of greater support to encourage and build a broad scholarly community). She writes that after her first year in the role of associate dean, she realized the importance of valuing the “broader constellation” of writings as legitimate scholarship – e.g., peer reviewed papers, work in clinical publications, books, reports, white papers, blogs and essays – all different from the “traditional” view of scholarship. In the next section, Katyal proceeds to discuss the important benefits of engaged scholarship. Turning to methods of scholarly engagement, she suggests “building a scholarly community by chipping away at the ivory tower,” by, among other things, actively bringing in parts of the law school community often left out. She offers practical ideas on how to do so, how to share substantive news of community scholarship, mentoring and distributive considerations in supporting research visibility. She concludes her article and the symposium with these words, “…the task of an Associate Dean for Research is to find methods to broaden the law school community, increase its visibility and vibrance, while maintaining a healthy commitment to innovation, inclusion, and self-critique.”
Thank you Deans Arcila, Spencer, Hill, Cimini and Katyal for opening a new dialogue and saying what needs to be heard.