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Professor Lawrence Solum Installed as Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law

November 3, 2014 — On October 29, before a capacity crowd in Gewirz Hall, Professor Lawrence Solum was formally installed as the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law.

In his inaugural address, “The Jurisprudential Gestalt,” Solum described his early desire to be a law professor and how he taught himself law by reading cases and journal articles while he was still in high school. “By the time I started my first year of law school I’d been reading law for a dozen years,” he said. “I grew up in the law, therefore, as a wildling, untutored and untrained, putting together a picture of the law from the raw materials without the expert tutelage of the legal professoriate.” 

This unusual background gave Solum the perspective to do pioneering legal research on character, virtue and the law and to create a new body of law on virtue jurisprudence that is recognized by legal scholars, political scientists and philosophers.

Defining a “jurisprudential gestalt” as that which provides “the framework, the lens and the perspective from which and by which we organize thought trends, history and theory into a coherent whole,” Solum took listeners on a tour of legal realism and its adversary formalism and described how the latter has endured despite efforts to subvert it. “Originalism, the constitutional form of legal formalism, had legs. Like the walking dead, killing it did not stop its advance,” Solum said. 

“Can we imagine a world … where judges and scholars agree that the plain meaning of statutes governs except in extraordinary circumstances?” Solum asked. That’s already happening, he said, but the fact that it’s imaginable does not mean it will come to be. “That depends upon politics and culture, on institutions and ideas.” 

In his welcome, Dean William M. Treanor called Solum “a brilliant scholar, great teacher and wonderful colleague,” and Professor Randy Barnett introduced Solum by summing up his career and influence: “There really is no other professor who so richly deserves the title of Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law as does Larry Solum. For that is what Larry Solum is and what he has always dreamed of being — a true professor of law.”

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