Thoughts on Plagiarism and Legal Scholarship
David Frum has some provocative thoughts on the current state of legal scholarship, prompted by the recent Harvard plagiarism scandals:
I've often wondered whether American legal education is not a vast waste of time and money. Yes certainly law is a great intellectual discipline and there are genuine scholars of law out there -- but many, many fewer than are needed to staff the faculties of the top law schools. I often wonder whether the supposedly lower-tier schools -- with their emphasis on practical training and direct connection to the workplace -- don't do a better job of educating young lawyers than the Harvards, Yales, and Stanfords. I really wonder what people like Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz are doing at a university at all.One quibble is the line about "scandalously little time" devoted to the "education of students." From all I heard from classmates, Dershowitz actually did spend a good deal of time teaching class and seemed to be very responsive to student questions/concerns. (I simply don't know what Ogletree's reputation is in this regard, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was similar.) That said, the conventional wisdom among those in the know is that Dershowitz is simply "not a scholar," and the latest scandal reveals that Ogletree isn't either.
They devote scandalously little time to the education of the students who pay to associate with them. But neither are they off in the library producing the next edition of Wigmore on Evidence. It would make a lot more sense for Ogletree to be a partner in a criminal-defense firm, for Dershowitz to host his own television show, and for schools like Harvard to use them as occasional guest lecturers.
This outcome would not entirely protect such individuals from the temptations of plagiarism. But by denying them the nimbus of intellectual authority earned by the scholarship of others, it might heighten their awareness that the rules that apply to all apply also to them.