Reply to Orin on Standards in Legal Academe

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 15 2008 2:09 PM

Reply to Orin on Standards in Legal Academe

Having just emerged from a period of reading many more law review articles than is no doubt good for my health, I guess I just have to dissent from 


, that "what makes Yoo's memos so remarkable is precisely how much they resemble con law articles that you might read" in legal scholarship. Yoo's memos certainly fit what one might describe as bad legal scholarship. But unless there's some law-faculty oath I don't yet know of, it sure doesn't seem to me like that's the "prevailing academic standard."

Part of our disagreement may just be identifying what's wrong with Yoo's work. You suggest that all of legal academe is filled with "result-oriented" work, as if this is the central failing of Yoo. The memos are indeed result-oriented. But it seems to me quite possible to write a memo/article that reaches a result the author prefers while still making a useful contribution to scholarship—either because the article sheds useful light on the historical, philosophical, pragmatic, etc. underpinnings of the theory she supports, or because it honestly engages an existing debate and makes an original case for her side's view, or for a host of other reasons.  Electing to pursue research one believes will ultimately support one's views—as long as the research itself is honestly pursued and contrary results accounted for—doesn't necessarily doom the work.

It's thus your later criticism that's the key—i.e., that the work isn't "real, honest, or serious." By that metric, Yoo's memos just don't fly. I haven't read everything in the law reviews this year (heaven forbid). And I'm willing to buy results-oriented as a descriptor. But do you really think the prevailing standard is also dishonest or false? If so, we may be in the wrong business here.



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.