Social Science Theory and Legal Education: The Law School as University, 33 J. Leg. Ed. 437 (1983)
I should like to address some implications of what I believe to be the most important development in legal scholarship of the past fifty years. Over this period, scholarship in the law, like scholarship in other intellectual fields, has undergone a tremendous specialization of interest. The direction this specialization has taken, however, is sharply different from the one that might have been expected fifty years ago. In 1930, prior to the realist revolution, future specialization in legal scholarship might have suggested increasingly detailed and narrow treatises addressing traditional legal subjects. Today, authorship of the legal treatise has been cast off to practitioners. The treatise is no longer even a credit to those competing on the leading edge of legal thought. Instead, legal scholarship has become specialized according to the separate social sciences. Specialization according to the social sciences has broken down older conceptions of distinctive legal categories. No modern scholar can usefully distinguish the various subjects of civil liability. The agency, corporations, and securities fields are only the most current subjects of this form of intellectual reorganization.
The most significant implication of this development is the change in the position that law and the legal system occupy as subjects of research. It is accepted today, virtually universally, that the legal system can be best understood with the methods and theories of the social sciences. It follows from this view, however, that one must abandon the notion that law is a subject that can be usefully studied by persons trained only in the law. Furthermore, it follows necessarily that one must reject the notion that the legal system is somehow self-contained or self-sufficient instead of simply another setting for the expression of whatever are the deeper determinants of human behavior. As a consequence, the importance of law and of the study of law is radically transformed.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Priest, George L., "Social Science Theory and Legal Education: The Law School as University" (1983). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 574.