Professor Jessica E. Slavin recently posted concerning Professor Michael M. O’Hear’s well-deserved receipt of the Eastern District of Wisconsin Bar Association’s Judge Robert W. Warren Public Service Award. Through the resources available to me as dean, I have been able to secure a copy of Michael’s brief and well-stated acceptance remarks. Professor O’Hear describes his basic belief that law schools can act as “bridge builders” — first, “between, on the one hand, the world of legal practice, judging, and lawmaking, and, on the other hand, the world of rich and diverse learning contained in the modern university” and, second, between “the local and the national” (the latter being, Professor O’Hear notes, “a two-way street”).
These remarks bring to mind — but are not identical to — somewhat more pointed comments delivered by a renowned Marquette lawyer, Aaron D. Twerski (pictured above), who is the Irwin and Jill Cohen Professor at Brooklyn Law School (and former dean at Hofstra). Twerski is an extremely well-regarded law professor (as is O’Hear, although they are at different points in their careers) and received the prestigious Robert C. McKay Law Professor Award from the Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association. Professor Twerski used the occasion of his award to lament the seeming lack of interest of many law professors in saying things of interest to judges and practicing lawyers.
Among his milder comments:
[T]he idea that the legal academy is a closed club whose members speak only to each other and not to the bench and bar is decidedly not healthy. If interdisciplinary work is to have an impact on the changing face of the law, it must be made accessible to the lawyers and judges who are not schooled in other disciplines. And the scholars must demonstrate that the theories they set forth have real-world relevance — that they make a difference.
He also had this memorable comment:
I often wonder whether William Prosser would be tenured today at a great law school. And I am almost certain that his article, “The Assault upon the Citadel,” published in the Yale Law Journal in 1960, would not grace its pages today. It would be viewed as “too much case-crunching.” Never mind that it accelerated the demise of privity and the adoption of strict tort liability in less than a decade.
Professor Twerski’s remarks are available in the most recent issue of Marquette Lawyer, and both his and Professor O’Hear’s are linked to above. Both seem to me worth reading as academics around the country head into summer, where they will spend much of their time pursuing scholarship — and in doing so, I admit my hope, will consider the relevance of their work to the bench and bar.