In Praise of Law Books and Law Reviews (And Jargon-Filled Academic Writing)

Cass R. Sunstein*

Many people, including many lawyers and judges, disparage law reviews and the books that sometimes result from them on the ground that they often deal with abstruse topics, of little interest to the bar, and are sometimes full of jargon, including excessively academic and impenetrable writing. Some of the objections are warranted, but at their best, law books and law reviews show a high level of rigor, discipline, and care; they have a kind of internal morality. What might seem to be jargon is often a product of specialization, similar to what is observed in other fields (such as economics, psychology, and philosophy). Much academic writing in law is not intended for the bar, at least not in the short-term, but that is not a problem. Such writing is meant to add to the stock of knowledge. If it succeeds, it can have significant long-term effects, potentially affecting what everyone takes to be “common sense.”

* Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University. I am grateful to Martha Minow and Adrian Vermeule for valuable comments on a previous draft. Many thanks too to Patrick Grubel for excellent research assistance.

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