An exchange between Ethan Leib at Prawfsblawg and Kate Litvak in the comments to Ethan’s very interesting post on political science in the academy raises some interesting questions about the status of law and economics in the legal academy. Ethan kicks off the exchange by noting that:
“[Y]ou’d have to be blind to ignore that plenty of qualitative work continues in political science departments (indeed, in almost every subfield too!) and that the dominant paradigm in the nation’s best law schools is ‘law and economics….‘”
Kate questions whether law and economics can truly exist as a dominant paradigm when the vast majority of law school faculty at top law schools are not versed in economics, and goes on to suggest that there is a actually a good bit of hostility towards L & E in most top law schools. While I tend to agree with Kate that L & E cannot be a truly dominant discipline at a top law school if only a small minority of faculty “speak the language,” I don’t want to revive that particular debate here.
However, the underlying issue interests me in part because L & E is most certainly the dominant paradigm here at George Mason, and a currency exchanged by the entire faculty. For instance, a quick perusal of our faculty reveals nine econ PhDs (this is not to say that a Ph.D. is a necessary condition to proficiency or even greatness in law and economics, i.e. Mason’s own L & E giant Gordon Tullock). But there is also an impressive degree of economic proficiency throughout the entire faculty. One of the great benefits of this dynamic for a junior L & E type is immediate access to useful feedback on scholarship from a number colleagues. There are also, of course, costs to this approach. But the takeaway lesson from the George Mason experience, owed in large part to Henry Manne’s belief that legal education should not be immune to the benefits of specialization (see, e.g. here), has been that the dominant paradigm approach can be quite successful.
Casual empiricism, however, leads me to believe that this approach had not been widely adopted elsewhere (though I admit I do not know much about what is going on at various law schools outside of L & E). All of this leads me to the question in the title of the post. Does your (or any) law school have what you would consider to be a dominant paradigm, L & E or otherwise? What about a “leading” paradigm, or primary viewpoint regarding the approach to legal scholarship?