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One of the most significant contributions that scholarship can offer is to call attention to something that everyone sees but no one has yet noticed. Malcolm Feeley’s work with Terrence Halliday, Lucien Karpik and Setsuo Miyazawa on the liberal legal complex falls into this favored category (Halliday, Karpik and Feeley 2007; Feeley and Miyazawa 2007). Judges and lawyers are among the most visible members of our society, they are known to play important roles, and their interactions are sufficiently familiar to serve as the subject matter of movies, television shows and popular fiction. But it is only recently, as a result of Feeley’s work with his colleagues, that the relationship between judges and lawyers has been recognized as a functional component of political liberalism.
Although American scholars sometimes consider European legal scholarship as old-fashioned and inward-looking and Europeans often perceive American legal scholarship as amateur social science, both traditions share a joint challenge. If legal scholarship becomes too much separated from practice, legal scholars will ultimately make themselves superfluous. If legal scholars, on the other hand, cannot explain to other disciplines what is academic about their research, which methodologies are typical, and what separates proper research from mediocre or poor research, they will probably end up in a similar situation. Therefore we need a debate on what unites legal academics on both sides of the Atlantic. Should legal scholarship aspire to the status of a science and gradually adopt more and more of the methods, (quality) standards, and practices of other (social) sciences? What sort of methods do we need to study law in its social context and how should legal scholarship deal with the challenges posed by globalization?
In Failing Law Schools (2010), Brian Tamanaha recommends that law schools respond to the current economic crisis in the legal profession by reducing support for faculty research and developing two‐year degree programs. But these ideas respond only to a short‐term problem that will probably be solved by the closure of marginal institutions. The real challenge lies in the powerful long‐term trends that animate social change, particularly the shift to a knowledge‐based economy and the demand for social justice through expanded public services. These trends demand that law schools transform their educational programs to reflect the regulatory, transactional, and interdisciplinary nature of modern legal practice.
During the coming decades, the digital revolution that has transformed so much of our world will transform legal education as well. The digital production and distribution of course materials will powerfully affect both the content and the way materials are used in the classroom and library. This collection of essays by leading legal scholars in various fields explores three aspects of this coming transformation. The first set of essays discusses the way digital materials will be created and how they will change concepts of authorship as well as methods of production and distribution. The second set explores the impact of digital materials on law school classrooms and law libraries and the third set considers the potential transformation of the curriculum that the materials are likely to produce. Taken together, these essays provide a guide to momentous changes that every legal teacher and scholar needs to understand.