Research Canons for Various Legal Topics:

Matt Bodie (PrawfsBlawg) is starting up a great project, which should be useful to incoming legal academics, to experienced academics who are thinking of writing in a new subfield, and to non-academics who still want to write serious legal scholarship. I don't have the answers, but I wanted to alert people to the questions:

Unlike other disciplines, most law academics do not have an advanced degree in "law." For students pursuing a Ph.D in areas such as economics, history, or social psychology, they must pass comprehensive exams showing that they have a broad knowledge of the most important works in the field. It is only after comps that students go on to complete their specialized dissertation research.

Legal academia assumes that entry-level candidates and new scholars have done the background research necessary for their area of expertise. But it is left to the individual to get this knowledge. Certainly, the J.D provides a baseline, and mentors are helpful in providing further direction. But there is nothing akin to comps that sets forth a comprehensive listing for new folks to follow. Many of us have heard the question, in the AALS interview, in the job talk, or as a new scholar presenting a paper: "Well, of course, you have read the work of Prof. X in this area, right?" Failure to respond appropriately to this question may raise eyebrows and cast doubt on the scholar's research.

The Research Canons project is intended to fill this gap.