November 14, 2011
Commentary - Scholars' Briefs and the Vocation of a Law Professor
"At least within the loosely defined domain of public law, any law professor who does not get asked to sign a "scholars' briefs" is not much of a scholar. Scholars= briefs, in which collections of professors appear as amici curiae to support a party in litigation before a court, appear to grow more common each year. During the 2010 Term, in which the Supreme Court decided 85 cases, it received 56 briefs on behalf of groups of self-identified legal scholars or law professors, with at least one such brief being filed in 30 cases, or more than a third of the total..The subject of scholarsí briefs, and the standards that law professors ought to apply in determining whether to sign them, has received almost no attention in the literature. Yet the topic is an important one. Besides forming an increasingly significant component of many law professorsí professional lives, scholarsí briefs open a window onto broader questions about law professorsí professional roles. We are long past the day, if there ever was one, when most law professors thought their sole professional contributions should come through traditional scholarship and teaching. Modern law professors familiarly participate in law reform initiatives, take on paid and unpaid client representation, and write regularly for non-scholarly audiences. Indeed, many law schools now boast in their alumni magazines and on their websites whenever their faculty publish op-ed articles, appear on radio or television programs, or even post comments on blogs."