HE PAST THIRTY
years have witnessed a curious development
American legal academy. Thirty years ago almost all legal academic
engaged in something that could be called "doing law." They were w
articles identifying true and correct rules of law. They were working w
official legal materials put out by courts, legislatures, and agencies. The
respectful attention to new judicial opinions, tried to make sense of the
tried to integrate them into their own understanding of the law.
Generations of legal academics-and not a few lawyers-have looked
not merely as a way to coordinate transactions and resolve disputes, b
source of moral or ethical guidance. They have sought to conduct their l
accordance not only with particular laws but with "the law" -with a
aesthetic, a lawlike frame. They have taken cognizance of ethical and p
issues in a lawlike way. They have used lawlike techniques to identify and
problems. And they have employed lawlike arguments to achieve lawlik
tions: norms, prescriptions, recommendations, and so on.
It was easy for the legally trained to fall into such habits. It was allu
well, for the law promises to its practitioners all manner of good thi
promises a solid form of analysis (called "thinking like a lawyer").
promises that if its practitioners live by its spirit, they will act according
fundamental authoritative principles of their culture, including, but not l
to, justice, fairness, order, due process, notice, neutrality, and impartialit
But something has happened.
Indeed, a great many leading American legal thinkers have now mostly
doned "doing law." Instead, they are pursuing enterprises that they mig
"legal theory" or "interdisciplinary studies" or some such thing. Thes
thinkers are no longer "doing law" in the sense that they are no longer de
their professional lives to canvassing and systemizing the sundry acts of A
can officialdom. On the contrary, leading legal thinkers now try to d
themselves from the uninspiring world of bureaucratic decision making
do so in various ways. For some the flight is into abstraction. The det
official bureaucracy are left behind in the course of an ethereal abstrac
law-one that renders it much more pristine and elegant. For others the f