Who should the audience be for legal scholarship?

June 4th, 2012

Today I spoke with a close friend that is a tenured professor at a top-ranked law school. I told him about my idea to write a book about the ACA litigation. He loved the idea and my angle. He asked if this was something I should consider doing pre-tenure. He said that I should focus on a few pieces of scholarship, and writing a book for the general public would not help my tenure application. Honestly, that is a thought that does not often cross my mind. Most of the things I do, I do irrespective of whether it would help me get tenure. I do them because I have certain ideas about how our system of law operates and I seek to convey those ideas to others. I try to communicate that idea to other profs, but (through blogging) I aim to also speak to the broader public.

This raises an important point. What is the correct audience for legal scholarship? Orin has some thoughts on just this topic:

The goal of legal scholarship is to offer insight into the legal system, and it can do so in different ways. Some insights happen to be ones useful to practicing lawyers; others to academics; others to judges; others to the public. In my view, it’s short-sighted to say that any one of these audience is the “right” audience. It’s human nature to think that one should be the focus, I suppose. Everyone in the legal system thinks that they should be the audience: Judges want more scholarship relevant to judges, practicing lawyers want more scholarship relevant to practicing lawyers, etc. In my view, though, the field of law serves too many roles for that. The proper audience for a particular idea about the law depends on the idea. As long as the idea offers insights into the legal system, then authors should pick the audience most interested in that insight and address that audience.