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March 19, 2015


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Did you learn that your fellow JDs in the law school, posing as economists, etc., and pretending that law school prepared them to speak with authority on any of the disciplines addressed by actual departments of the University, are pale comparisons of those who have paid their dues garnering the actual credentials and experience and leaning over years in the faculties of other departments necessary to engage in their respective disciplines in actual, valid and credible "knowledge generation"?

Michael Risch

Way to take a nice post and turn it nasty, anon. Thanks for that. Actually, what I have learned is that my colleagues are willing to help others improve their work and patient in answering questions. That said, I didn't need to sit on a faculty governance committee to recognize the difference between good work in a particular field and bad work, and that good work in a field is more likely to be done by those trained in that area.

One irony of this anti-law school kick is that half the people are screaming that law schools keep hiring PhDs who have no experience practicing law, while the other halve are screaming that law schools keep hiring lawyers who are acting like they are PhDs. Talk about a catch-22! Perhaps the answer is that there is a great diversity of skills and experience on law school faculties, which leads to a diversity not only of types of scholarship, bot also quality.



Sorry you interpret an honest question as nasty. It is a fact that this is a concern shared by many folks.

Rather than respond in kind, I'll simply repeat the question/comment/observation, on the merits.

You are conflating arguments, and I believe, misinterpreting them.

There is nothing inconsistent about "screaming that law schools keep hiring PhDs who have no experience practicing law" and simultaneously contending that law schools should stay in their lane. Law schools of late have taken to posing as "mini universities" that engage in "knowledge generation" in "every discipline." I thought this point fit with your observation that "there's something to be said about breaking out of the insular cocoon" and learning "how the rest of the university works ... about the differences between the colleges, and about how great my colleagues in other departments are." More of this might convince insular law school faculties that they are not appropriately attempting to create "mini universities" in the law school under the guise of "law intersects with everything."

Secondly, there is nothing inconsistent with the above in objecting that "law schools keep hiring lawyers who are acting like they are PhDs." As you know, some have contended here in the FL that "law intersects with every endeavor" and therefore law profs can quite appropriately opine, in a "scholarly" stance, on subjects that are more appropriately addressed by experts in these other fields of study. JDs rarely have acquired anything like the training appropriate to their claims of authority in these respects. Again, this is all of a piece with a notion that law schools should focus on being better law schools, not "mini universities" housing scholars and pseudo scholars in every conceivable field of study.

Lastly, you speak of "quality." Let the chorus of observations, from every quarter, on this subject speak.


Here's my observation about anon. Why? Why would someone respond to a post about encouraging faculty members to serve on university wide committees with a needlessly argumentative and obnoxious comment about a completely unrelated topic? MR's post didn't mention anything about "knowledge generation", "mini university" or anything you bring up.

Just stop.

Michael Risch

anon - Even honest questions can be nasty, both in placement and in tone, and yours was both. Your reframing in your second comment is far less so in tone, though probably still in placement. In general, you are right that hanging out with those with more education and skill in an area tunes you in to the shortcomings of your own approach in the same area. It also helps you realize when you need a coauthor.

But you are wrong that only folks with PhDs get to do that research; there are plenty of folks who have obtained training and learned the skills to do good research without the PhD. And those folks are well advised to seek advice from others who have the experience. You are also wrong that the degree magically makes the scholarship good. I have read awful, awful work by those with PhDs and really great work from those without the degree.

That others try and fail - sure to be your retort - is something I don't have a strong view on. Peer review would help, but we don't have it.


Sorry Anonymous, but "Just stop" is, again, just an emotional response because you don't like criticism.

You say the post had nothing to do with the insular nature of law faculties and the potential that because of that insularity, it may be more easy for them to pose as the peers of those in other departments of the University.

Michael stated: "I've learned an amazing amount ... about how the rest of the university works ... about the differences between the colleges, and about how great my colleagues in other departments are." Yes. And, in that positive sentiment, Michael concluded: "There's something to be said about breaking out of the insular cocoon."

THis struck me as consonant with an observation that learning more about the other departments of the University might help to turn the trend in evolving law schools into something other than law schools by recruiting Ph.D.s and supporting JDs posing as experts in every imaginable field, whether the latter have paid their dues or not.

Sorry you don't agree with that hope for another benefit of law profs "breaking out of the[ir] insular cocoon." You, like Michael, perhaps take it as some sort of insult.

Enrique Guerra Pujol

Anon should at least have the courage to tell us who he (she?) instead of hiding behind a generic label. By the way, why do so many commentators on this site hide behind anonymous names?



FL was to propound a policy on the matter of posting comments anonymously, but so far, I have not located it. Of course, every participant would be bound to abide by any such policy.

In the meanwhile, most people posting comments in the FL do post anonymously, for quite obvious reasons, and this seems to be especially so in the threads that garner the most comments. See, the many threads that have discussed this issue.

You say "hide" ... I suppose that is a fair way of demeaning anonymous comments in your view, but you are sweeping up in your generalization many comments that you would support, one suspects, that would not otherwise be posted.

Erik Girvan

Great suggestion Michael. The way that you raised it, however, makes me wonder if this is uncommon. Most of my law faculty colleagues (and I) regularly serve on, or rotate through, university-wide committees. One of the law faculty is the outgoing president of the university faculty senate. In my experience, law faculty have a lot to contribute in terms of governance. (We are, for example, more likely than those without legal training to work explicitly to clarify standards that such bodies use to make their decisions, have particular expertise that can be relevant in thinking about university policies on issues like sexual harassment, etc.) And it is also a great way to connect with those, and the intellectual life, outside the law school.

Regarding anon, if I understand the objection, it is not about university committee service but rather a concern about law faculty dabbling in interdisciplinary research without the appropriate formal training, presumably more than those in any other discipline dabble outside the strict confines of their professional degrees. I am not sure that this is so. Economists, for example, now frequently draw on or "do" psychology without acquiring dual degrees. Some of this work comes off, to professional psychologists, as amateurish or hopelessly derivative. Similarly, there are psychologists and sociologists who purport to do legally relevant research without JDs and their lack of in-depth knowledge of the appropriate institutions or procedures makes the results seem irrelevant to those more familiar with the legal system. But, as with many things, within group variance is larger that between group variance and, lack of dual degrees notwithstanding, some of this sort of work is also quite good. If law faculty tend to have any failing in this regard, it might be the (definitely changing) single author norm and under-collaboration. I have a JD and PhD (and a reasonable amount of practice experience) and am very supportive of the value of meaningful interdisciplinary work, defined according to the criteria identified by the National Academy of Sciences. I also know that, as an empirical matter, dabbling on all sides notwithstanding, it is rare to find scholarship that meets those standards anywhere in the disciplinary silos of most universities, not just among law and ____ scholarship, suggesting that it is quite difficult. Even so, I don't believe it requires that two disciplines be in one head. At some level, however, two disciplines on one research team may be necessary -- and it certainly can't hurt.

terry malloy


I write in pseudonym for the same reason Publius drafted the federalist papers.

I don't want a certain philosophy professor trying to contact my place of employment in an attempt to bully me. I don't have tenure, and until recently had 143,000 in non-dischargable debt hanging over my head.

[m][@][(][k] has to use a second pseudonym to get through the filters designed to stifle dissent.

It's easy to shout "identify yourself, coward!' from a seat of power and privilege.

Michael Risch

1. I don't know how common such participation is. I know some of my colleagues sit on committees, but I also know that the law school has been very separate at Villanova governance-wise for many years, though that is changing. I was more reacting to the unexpected benefit/responsibility of interviewing provost candidates.

2. Your view of cross-disciplinary attempts at scholarship mirror my own. Sometimes folks should get coauthors, sometimes they don't need them, sometimes they do. I should add that these types of boundary maintenance issues are not limited to different disciplines; they also occur within specialties in the law school.

Michael Risch

While I don't do it (and did not while untenured), I don't begrudge people feeling like they have to post anonymously. That said, I think there is little dispute (and research backs up) that anonymity tends to lead to the same ideas being expressed less pleasantly. But that's the world we live in.

That said, the idea that Mack is filtered as a troublemaker is ridiculous. This site has high spam filter. Mack is filtered either because of the alternate meaning of the word (to mack on somebody) or the closeness to spam "mac." I don't know which because I don't control the filter. And I assure you that I will have to fish this out of spam to make it show up, just as I have fished other comments out of spam by Mack and others.

Indeed, posters have the ability to depublish comments. If there were a conspiracy against Mack then no parsing of the name would save him/her. Either the IP address would be banned, or the comments would be deleted manually. So enough already.



The idea that my name is filtered because of an obscure piece of urban slang is very credible. I mean I believe it. Just as I believe that no one gave a certain Law and Philosophy professor my e-mail.

Speaking of jargon - have you heard that the strategy of "p!ssing down my leg and telling me its raining" rarely wins cases.

Michael Risch

You can believe what you will. I don't know how your email was learned by anyone. Or even if your name was specifically added to the list. But I do know that you're still here commenting and everyone knows who you are, and that says a lot more than whether a word automatically puts something into a spam filter

James Grimmelmann

"Spam filter" is ambiguous, because Typepad moderates comments in two different ways.

First, it pipes comments through Akismet, a third-party spam filter. ( Akismet is a black box that works in mysterious ways (I wrestled with it for years at my own Movable Type blog). If it's flagging comments it shouldn't, there isn't much anyone at the Faculty Lounge can do to teach it better.

Second, Typepad blog administrators can use the Block List feature to filter comments by IP address or by keyword ( If it's one of those settings, then the Faculty Lounge administrators could modify them to let comments through.

I don't know which of these two the case. The Faculty Lounge administrators could put this matter to rest by clarifying whether it's Akismet or the Block List that's trapping some comments.

terry malloy

"I don't know which because I don't control the filter."

Have you asked the person who controls the spam filter?

It's just a coincidence that the m word got filtered during the discussion of one philosophy professor who will not be named.

The administrators of this blog are not know to close comments when the discussion veers from a narrow range of opinion.

To think anything else is ridiculous.


I'm sort of troubled by the "everybody knows who you are" comment.

How is that?

An explanation of policy and practices would be very much appreciated, though I know, Michael, that you are likely not responsible to provide that explanation.

I know that many on this site have expressed concerns about the "nasty" nature of anonymous comments. Others have expressed concerns about vindictive retribution arising out of comments made sincerely but anonymously on a blog. (There is evidence to support both concerns.) It seems important to many to either stop allowing anonymous comments or state some sort of policy.

Some alternatives: stop allowing comments altogether, allow only filtered comments (so that only positive comments or very mildly stated criticisms are seen), allow only "signed" comments thru a registration process, or continue to allow anonymous comments (but with assurances in that regard). There are probably others.

To be sure, this comment is not on topic. However, others have commented above and it seems that many moons ago it was promised that a discussion would be allowed and a policy derived. Again, I have been able to locate that discussion or the policy.

Former Editor

Actually, regarding closing comments when unpopular ideas are expressed, I think something else and I'm as paranoid a commenter as they come. I've been part of a number of extended discussions where the topics have been, shall we say, less than flattering to the legal academy and law schools that were not closed (or at least not closed before there had been a robust discussion).



Who is everybody and how do they know?

Kyle McEntee

Maybe somebody can tell me who (M)([a)(c)(K) is so I can solicit him for a donation? I kid, but not really.

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