Last week, Elie and I debated the subject of liberal bias in legal education. Does it exist? Does it matter? Many of you continued the debate, in the comments.
Since our discussion, a number of notable thinkers have also tackled the topic. They include what we’d describe as the legal world’s answer to the McLaughlin Group, a small gathering of highly opinionated and outspoken pundits: Richard Epstein, Elizabeth Wurtzel, and John Yoo. (This same trio recently debated the bar exam and its utility.)
So what did they have to say about liberal bias in legal academia?
Professor Epstein has a post over at Ricochet. He agrees that there’s liberal bias, but notes that its effect is muted somewhat in the more technical areas of the law (a point that I also made in our debate):
Law is a profession, and you have to know such things as the civil rules of procedure and corporations. The subject matter requires technical knowledge. There are right and wrong answers. The gap therefore among law professors may be large on such questions as do we believe in constitutional originalism. But by the same token, the technical and professional anchor tends to bring the two sides closer together, for the great benefit of the profession.
Professor Yoo, commenting on the Epstein post, is less sanguine. He notes that the Berkeley study may understate the number of conservative law professors (a point that Elie and I also raised), and he views this possibility as exacerbating rather than ameliorating the problem of liberal bias, due to the problem of self-censorship by right-leaning law profs:
I know conservatives at other schools who try to avoid writing on anything remotely controversial — this is bad for scholarship and teaching, because it discourages our best minds and fullest debates on the most important subjects.
And some conservatives never even make it into the academy, according to Yoo:
Conservatives may not even be entering the job market because of perceived bias. I know young conservatives who would make excellent teachers, but don’t want to go through the hassle of a biased hiring and promotion process. I can’t blame them, especially when they are forgoing millions of dollars in lifetime income from big law firm practice.
But the liberal Liz Wurtzel — John Yoo’s college pal and former colleague on the Harvard Crimson, by the way — is unconcerned. First, she questions whether conservatives are actually unwelcome in law schools. From her Twitter feed:
@DavidLat: Law has actually been a refuge for conservative thinkers. Amazing that constitutional scholarship barely changed by New Criticism.
And if there is a liberal bias, perhaps it is warranted, Wurtzel suggests:
Re: liberal bias in academia: Shouldn’t the fact that intellectuals tend to be drawn to liberal ideas tell us that liberal ideas are smarter?
Readers, what do you think?