As suggested earlier, changes in the legal industry may create a need for changes in the legal education system as we know it. Let me propose one such sweeping change: abandoning the rigid adherence to “publish or perish.” Academia, in general, places a premium on publication; the legal academy, however, is particularly fixated on publication. Indeed, hiring, retention and advancement all depend on publication—the extent to which one is published, as well as the journals one is published in are almost certainly the most important factors utilized in determining who gets to teach the next generation of lawyers.
But why place so much emphasis on publication? The purpose of law school, as we are constantly told, is to “learn how to think like a lawyer.” Ostensibly, classroom performance—how engaging the professor is, whether the professor can relate to the students, and whether the professor inspires his or her students to work hard—is a better barometer by which we can gauge a professor’s capacity to impart these (crucial) skills. In fact, it is probably the best means to do so. I have never selected a class or thought to select a class based on a professor’s publication pedigree; I, like almost all of my peers, pick classes based on the professor’s ability to teach.The focus on publication is a fixture of legal academia, and some 918 journals have sprung up to facilitate it. Perhaps a change in priorities is in order?