Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ph.D.s for Law Professors?

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

There's an interesting thread over at PrawfsBlawg (where I am guest-blogging this month) on the questionSimonfacultyphotophp whether it takes a Ph.D. (not a village!) to teach a lawyer, touched off by a post from Jonathan Simon (Boalt, left).  I'm simply going to replay here my comment about one of Jonathan's observations:

As for whether police officers or corporate compliance officers might compete to teach at law schools, even without a JD, its an interesting proposal. The question would be whether they have the capacity for a sophisticated and reflexive view of their own practice worlds, and the tools to unpack that view.

Having just recently written about what it would take to make the jump from the practice to the academy, I think this observation cuts to the heart of it.  There's probably a continuum between pure theory and pure practice arts, and the Ph.D. is no doubt a good signal that one has passing familiarity with the former.  Whether that leaves the teacher unprepared to deal with the other end of the spectrum is an interesting question.  But I think that the difference between, say, a CLE class and a law school class is the introduction of some meta-consideration to the practice matters under consideration, at least to some degree.  When the long-time practitioner is trying to persuade law professors that she is appropriate professor material, it's the presumption that the ability to have a sophisticated and reflexive view and the ancillary tools has atrophied that is one of the major hurdles to overcome.


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