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What Do Law Professors Believe about Law and the Legal Academy? An Empirical Inquiry

Martínez, Eric and Tobia, Kevin, What Do Law Professors Believe about Law and the Legal Academy? An Empirical Inquiry (August 5, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

“Legal theorists seek to persuade other jurists of certain theories: Textualism or purposivism; formalism or realism; natural law theory or positivism; prison reform or abolition; universal or particular human rights? Despite voluminous literature about these debates, tremendous uncertainty remains about which views experts endorse. This Article presents the first-ever empirical study of American law professors about legal theory questions. A novel dataset of over six hundred law professors reveals expert consensus and dissensus about dozens of longstanding legal theory debates. Law professors also debate questions about the nature of the legal academy. Descriptively, which subjects (e.g. constitutional law) and methods (e.g. law & economics) are most central within the legal academy today? And prescriptively, should today’s legal academy prioritize additional areas (e.g. legislation) or methods (e.g. critical race theory)? There is great interest in these questions but no empirical dataset of experts’ views; this results in 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 legal theory and legal academy findings support implications for legal scholarship, education, and practice. Clearly, debates about law and the legal academy’s evolution should not be settled by a survey. Nevertheless, insofar as law professors are experts about these issues, it is instructive to discover and carefully examine what views those experts hold, so as to help determine which views are most likely to be true and how the legal academy ought to develop.”

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