Washington Law Review


The evaluation process requires new perspectives to enhance our writing, reading, and formal evaluation of legal scholarship. The diversity of modern scholarship invites us to engage in a more flexible and more reflective reading and evaluation process that appreciates multiple perspectives and gives explicit attention to the different values, purposes, methods, and contexts of each individual work. This evaluation process would recognize and promote the legitimacy of pluralistic modes of research, analysis, and writing, thus improving the fairness of evaluations and possibly the quality of much contemporary scholarship. These improvements could affect both scholarship which is designed to assist legal practitioners directly and scholarship with a more academic cast. In general, we need to construct a new language or understanding of contemporary legal scholarship. This essay is a step in that direction. To avoid begging some important questions, I employ a rather broad and open-ended definition of scholarship. "Legal scholarship" will refer to any writing about the law or legal process that is printed in a form generally recognized as "a legal publication." This practice-based definition is consistent with the basic theme of this essay: that readers of legal scholarship should become more flexible and more explicit in considering the diverse values, purposes, subjects, and methods of contemporary legal writing. This essay is in five parts. I consider first the diversity of social and personal values that scholarship can serve. I then analyze the more specific purposes of legal scholarship, the methods by which these purposes may be achieved, and a variety of perspectives from which evaluators assess or should assess legal scholarship. Finally, I shall try to explain why our evaluation of scholarship lags behind the development of the new pluralism in legal scholarship. In sum, if we are to understand and to assess our evaluation practices, we must consider the complex values, different purposes, diverse methods, shifting perspectives, and any social or political obstacles to the effective evaluation of contemporary legal scholarship.

First Page