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“whatever the devil else legal scholarship is”


Writing and reading for pleasure: I’ve been reading Edward Tufte’s “Beautiful Evidence” and it reminded me of this other masterpiece:

Leff, Arthur:

And, of course, for all that, legal scholarship is also something that produces pleasure. I do not want to end this symposium on a note of pure Yellow-Book aestheticism, but I defy any of the symposiasts (and at least many of the readers) to deny that they’re also in the game (as, I suspect, were Adam Smith and Karl Marx) for those occasional moments when they say, in some concise and illuminating way, something that appears to be true.

Oh, I concede that people who write about the law also have other reasons for doing what they’re doing: getting promoted, illustrating the economic rationality of the common law, turning off the fishy stares of prolific colleagues, explaining to practitioners what article 9 is now about, illuminating the necessary incoherence of the infrastructure of the late monopoly-capitalist state so as to hasten its eventual destruction. Whatever. But isn’t it also true that what we all also want is the rush that occasionally comes from doing something very well which is very hard to do at all?

Legal scholarship is what legal scholars do. Like all craftsmen, some are luckier than others. Some, I suppose, never attain the grace of doing something particularly well. Most do sometimes; some do more frequently; none does very often. But to have crafted on occasion, something true and truly put-whatever the devil else legal scholarship is, is from, or is for, it’s the joy of that too.

from, Arthur Leff, 90 Yale L.J. 1296 (1980-81), which I located via HeinOnline, a specialized legal database available free at many libraries.

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