Academia and Practice: a long-divorced unhappy couple

An American article, advanced for interest’s sake, so adjust for that. I make no Canadian comparisons: “Why Don’t Law School Professors Have Practical Experience These Days?“.

That said, it has been many, many, many years since I found any academic article useful in litigation. I recall citing some early in my career, but the ones available now are generally so arcane and abstruse and theory-driven that they are of near-zero use compared to the blunter, more functional work produced by practitioners.

Those few academic articles that are of use are generally those (a) directed outward to the profession rather than inward to academia, (b) available online and not paywalled or require hardcopy subscription, and (c) that increasingly small number that address matters that practicing counsel actually run into. The UofT Law Journal, for example, boasts that it is “a leading journal for theoretical, interdisciplinary, comparative and other conceptually oriented inquiries into law and law reform”. Does ANY of that sound like 99.99% of the real world?  The word “conceptual” itself is a tell for “earnest discussion of the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin”.

I find that there’s a very useful tip-off for an academic who is uncomfortable with the real world.  If he is dealing with, Theory or Holding X, then he will discuss the seminal case that defined it, (say, Jones v. Smith, 1922), but he won’t address the currency of that holding.  In other words: is it still good law, in whole or in part (with the provision of the most recent citations)?  If he doesn’t bother to address that, you should take Dorothy Parker’s sound advice: “this is not … to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force”.

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