Volume 112

What Do Law Professors Believe About Law and the Legal Academy?

by Eric Martinez & Kevin Tobia

Legal scholarship is replete with debates about competing legal theories: textualism or purposivism; formalism or realism; natural law or positivism; prison reform or abolition; universal or culturally specific human rights? Despite voluminous literature about these debates, great uncertainty remains about which views experts endorse. This Article presents the first dataset of American law professors’ views about legal theory. A study of over six hundred law professors reveals expert consensus and dissensus about dozens of longstanding debates.

Law professors also debate questions about the legal academy. These include descriptive questions: Which subjects (for example, constitutional law) and methods (for example, law and economics) are most central within the legal academy today? They also include prescriptive ones: Should the legal academy prioritize different areas or methods (for example, critical race theory)? There is great interest in these questions but uncertainty about which views experts endorse. This Article’s empirical study also clarifies these questions, documenting law professors’ evaluation of over one hundred areas of law. The findings from both parts provide unique insight into legal theory, education, and practice.

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