Wright & Solum on the Future of Law & Economics:
On Legal Theory Blog, Larry Solum is on a roll. He has an interesting take on Josh Wright's blog post at TRUTH ON THE MARKET on the future of law and economics. Here is a taste of Wright:
One consequence of the increase in formal theory and empirical work is increased specialization in economics, and therefore, in economic analysis of the law by economists. Most young economists graduating from top programs either model or do empirical work, but not both. It is also the case that the economics discipline has become specialized across fields in the sense that many disciplines do not "talk" to one another or across their respective literatures. I had this discussion with a financial economist the other day who was lamenting the lack of sophisticated in that field with respect to industrial organization economics. I suspect increased specialization has resulted in a similar detachment between many other fields in economics as well. There are many benefits from this sort of specialization. But I think it is now clearly the case that most job market candidates in L&E are either theorists or econometricians, not both. I suspect that law departments will tend towards hiring the econometricians because many lawyers are able to at least understand the intuition of regression models and read results but very few are able to read and understand theoretical models of the type published in top economics journals. But I suspect the days of the "general L&E" scholar who does theory, empirics, and dabbles in some legal doctrine are numbered.
Here is a portion of Solum's reaction:
Over time, this orientation (towards the "home" discipline of the interdisciplinary scholar) results in the issues that Wright identifies--the increasing disconnect between law and economics scholarship and the interests of the legal academy. One possible effect is that "informal law and economics" will be crowded out. But this is not the only scenario. The alternative is the gradual decline of the interdisciplinary model and a turn towards multidisciplinarity as the alternative. (A word on that below.) This movement could be manifested in a variety of forms. For example, as the work of law and economics scholars becomes increasingly inaccessible to even their "informal law and economics" colleagues, it seems inevitable that their work will be considered increasingly marginal to the mainstream of law school faculties. This could result in the "sophisticated law and economics scholars" moving to tighter affiliations with Department of Economics. The path of migration might go: courtesy appointment becomes quarter-time appointment becomes half-time appointment with the end point being "zero time" in the law school. This path offers the "sophisticated law and economics scholar" the opportunity to interact with colleagues who understand their models and methods, and relieves law schools of the opportunity costs of supporting work that increasingly has no "cash value" except within the community of subspecialists. Rather, that "crowding out" informal law and economics, the result might be to make room for economic work that is accessible to the legal academy.


A second path is the mutlidisciplinary model. One way of thinking about multidisciplinarity is by looking to political science. Poltitical scientists who develop formal models are trained in political science models: there are is "Positive Political Theory" or "Formal Political Science" and not "Political Science and Economics." Graduate students are trained in the basics of the major methodologies, including political theory, institutionalism, positive political theory, and so forth. They then specialize in one of the methodological approaches within political science. If law were to follow this path, it would require the creation of multidisciplinary PhD programs in law that introduced future legal academics to empirical legal studies, positive legal theory, formal legal models, normative legal theory, advanced doctrinal methods, and so forth.

A third path leads back to the professional school model, with all of the attendant advantages and disadvantages of the academic-lawyer generalist, whose only rigorous skill sets are case crunching, code crunching, and clause crunching. Such generalists translate the work of other disciplines (sometimes with egregious errors), but they do not generate new interdisciplinary knowledge. If this path is taken, then interdisciplinarity will gradually fade into the background, with legal philosophers, empiricists, and economists slowly disappearing from legal academia as they migrate to other departments or retire.
If you are interested in law and economics you should read both posts.